Why sharing the road will never work

Background Reading:

Summary

The cycling advocacy scene has lots of Elmer Gantry’s running around making money off the fear and loathing that pervades the cycling world. And these charlatans are never so effective and underhanded as when dealing with urban cycling communities. Evidently we have gone from a “Share The Road” mentality to arguing against the idea altogether, and that is the problem. We have broken faith with ourselves and the motorists who live among us.

We are more like the Fascists and Communists of previous generations than we really care to admit to ourselves. We have a collective “bicyclists as victims” narrative that runs through every of consequence dealing with either accidents with automobiles or competitions for scarce resources. And the two articles cited above illustrate the problem.

Closer to home the ChainLink Forum thread regarding the “Yet Another Cyclist Was Killed Last Night” demonstrates the problem even more clearly:

Reply by Andrew Bedno 13 hours ago

Thanx for posting Presley! Excellent scene of incident photos. And we got to hear at length from a local, as I’d hoped might happen. I’m a raving car hater and even I’d just guess miscalculations, and not crossing at a corner, and darkness. Probably a helmet lesson. But I shouldn’t guess more. We seemed to be the first decorators there, though more than 24 hours post. I was worried that TCLer’s might hate the balloon, it was a hard trade-off, possible perceived frivolity vs. ease of installation. Weird thing about taking rides to incident scenes is, they always involve streets that are PROVEN risky. I would never have gone to that nasty corner on bike otherwise. Though the drivers on Main were very tolerant. It’s at the far south west corner of the garage (Main Auto Service), on Southbound Skokie Hwy/Bvd about 150 feet south of Main. R.I.P.

Reply by Pedal To The People 13 hours ago

This is a problem begging for solutions people. Why is Chicago becoming a “ride at your own risk” city?
I have been a courier, food delivery, racer, and now our business has been created to help people and grow cycling as a way of life for everyone! Yet as it becomes more popular(thank goodness!) to ride, more people are dying! We can’t point fingers at anyone! It’s all our duty to create a solution to this problem! We have to stick together and talk! Everyone must be at an event to meet and discuss from all points of view and approach the city with solutions. They have millions of problems to deal with. Now is the time for revolution! I love you all! and we can’t see another die because they chose to ride their bike in our streets. The undeniable beauty of cycling is more important than ever. Let’s put our heads together and really solve this issue or at least bring something to the table worthwhile.

Bringing Out The ‘BogeyMan’

Every movement needs to paint its participants as victims. In our most recent election Evangelical Christians were galvanized on the basis of “Defending Religious Liberty”. Supposedly we were all going to be walked in chains into the bowels of Hell should Obama win a second term. So we swallowed our differences with Catholics and Mormons and girded our loins against the onslaughts of Same-Sex Marriage and Abortion.

When we lost many of my fellow Evangelicals were dismayed. How could this have happened? We were told that God Himself was involved in this election and the monies being poured in by billionaires was sure to free us from the possibility of losing. We had entire states aligned to dismiss voters of color from the polls, but for some reason the judiciaries across the country put these draconian measures on hold. But never mind, we would prevail simply because God was on our side. Poppycock!

In similar fashion urban cyclists (Evangelical Christians) and their suburban counterparts (Catholics and Mormons) are agreeing to overlook their differences in order to slay the Great Satan, automobile dominance. And so the battle shifts from the quasi-political arena to the quasi-environmentalist arena in the blink of an eye. And in both cases there are those who are more than willing to serve as side show barkers that promise us victory over what we fear. Poppycock!

Cyclists Are Like “Climate Change Deniers”

Let’s face it. Many in our ranks simply do not want to see automobiles get cleaner, safer and more numerous. It is not part of the collective narrative that we repeat each month as we ride along (shoulder-to-shoulder) in the service of all things holy at the worship service we call the Critical Mass Ride. Never mind that our European brethren have abandoned this practice. Never mind that they refuse to wear the holy garment we so lovingly refer to as the Cycling Helmet. Never mind that our bible does not include the same passages (oops, segregated bike lanes) that they enjoy, we are all marching towards that collective reward in Bicycle Heaven where despite our fundamental differences the God of Cycling place upon our heads crowns of titanium spokes and set under us fixed gear bikes of extraordinary beauty but still no brakes.

We poke our heads down into our Chrome bags (worn by only the most elect in our midst) and refuse to see the twin dangers of:

  • cleaner automobiles capable of driving themselves and thus eliminating traffic congestion
  • internet connections which might eliminate the need altogether to congregate in offices on a regular basis

Never fear though our bicycle evangelists have spoke cards (i.e. prayer cloths) and chain lube (i.e. anointed oil for use by priests) for every believer who is willing to follow them along the protected bike lane. And if any of these talismans should fail us our female priestesses are prepared to parade themselves naked to bring the heathen motorists to a Saving Knowledge of the Bicycle.

Can I get an “amen“, brother?

Admitting That “Carmageddon” Is On The Horizon

If we continue to work in the service of the cycling advocacy mavens who are hell-bent on bringing us solutions that may not work, we will have to gird our loins in preparation for that battle of all battles, Carmageddon. That is unless we stop following these knuckleheads and begin thinking for ourselves again.

We already know how to deal with traffic. We are also not wrong in understanding that “cycling is dangerous“. We also know that our biggest fears and concerns are correctly placed on the interactions of motor vehicles and bicycles. It is an unfair fight. The problem was and always will be the fallibility of human judgment and physical response. We are also quite aware that when we as cyclists behave in unpredictable ways we add to the problem.

Just as having motorists ignore traffic controls is dangerous, we too in danger of further contributing to the mayhem that plagues our streets. There are solutions out there that are needed. First and foremost we need automobiles that are intelligent enough to avoid collisions with us or each other. We also need cars that can drive themselves and thus reduce congestion to almost nothing.

The next most difficult problem is to create vehicles that are clean and efficient. We are working on that problem and have made great strides.

Rethinking the Bicycle of the Future

Velomobiles are what I see as the future of bicycling in the northern climes. They are nearly enclosed and can be outfitted with electric assist motors that make it possible for people to travel up to 35 miles at speeds approaching 20 MPH in just about any kind of weather. The bicycle lanes we are currently producing will probably not handle such vehicles alongside the traditional upright bike. The speed differentials are too great.

So we should prepare for realizing that there are pressures from all side to change the transportation landscape. But our cycling advocates are not always capable of understanding these nuances. They are often too focused on trying to raise monies for their organizations to do things to thwart the continued advancement of automobiles. That to me is silly and counterproductive.

We need thinkers who are less likely to soothe our fear and loathing with the mantra “we are victims” and instead are willing to share with us the unvarnished truth. Until that time I will continue to serve as one of many itinerant preachers who despite our unkempt look and foul smelling breath are nevertheless trying to tell the truth.