- Citi Bike Rider Headed For Hospital Can’t Stop Stressing About Time Limit (Gothamist)
- Bike Sharing Can Mean Safer Biking (NYTimes)
- Cycle proficiency classes give immigrant women more self confidence (BeezodogsPlace)
- New Bike Lane Design on Milwaukee Should Reduce Crashes and Frustration (StreetsBlog)
- White Knuckles In The Bike Lane (BeezodogsPlace)
We are about to enter the “silly season” as POTUS Barack Obama likes to call that point in Washington, DC where the two sides get together their bullshit arguments and spend a few Sundays on network television either dissing the opposition or telling outright lies to bolster their sides “talking points“. Except we are not talking here about the nation’s capitol but instead about the Urban Cyclists day of reckoning where they have to admit that “pretty green paint with PVC bollards” just does not “cut it” when the folks riding the bikes are either untrained (which is usually the case) or inattentive or both. And the same can be said of the motorists who are unwilling to obey or ignorant of the laws designed to help them help cyclists survive.
This is that period of time when you would imagine that a “group of racists were out hunting niggers“. But instead it is just a group of folks in highly buffered four-wheeled frames with very powerful motors against a group of folks on bicycles who are both afraid of the traffic and often ignorant of how to ride in it successfully. Either way it ends up the same way. Folks are dead on the pavement. And the “niggers” get together and bemoan the death of yet another of their group and hold vigils and all manner of memorials and the like. And the Liberals in the media ramp up their efforts to spotlight the problem in the manner of Liberals more than a half century ago (during the Civil Rights Movement).
But it is going to take at least one death of a very notable person before any of this gets resolved.
So What Exactly Is The Problem?
Well in the days of the Civil Rights Movement it was deemed that the Voting Rights Act was enough to ensure a “level playing field” for everyone. The premise was that if everyone could vote then Blacks could eventually elect a candidate who would serve their interests and that would make everything work just fine. Southern Whites understood this problem and decided to gerrymander districts to ensure that there would never be a majority Black district from which one of these upstart “niggers” could make trouble for them.
In this analogy Bicycle Infrastructure is being compared to the “Voting Rights Act“.
But there were some folks who understood that voting alone was not enough. So eventually it was deemed necessary to have an “Open Housing Act“, “School Busing” and an “Equal Employment Opportunity Act“. It also became necessary to make certain that public institutions of higher learning allowed folks who were paying taxes to attend those very schools. Bill Clinton grew up at a time when the schools in Little Rock, Arkansas were being integrated.
In this analogy Vehicular Cycling is being compared to “Access To Public Education and Housing“.
If you understand the problem of cycling for adults who have been away from it for decades and are suddenly thrust back into it you know that the one thing they lack is “instruction on how to effectively navigate streets“. Now the Dutch seem to understand this problem. They have training classes for immigrant women to unlike native Dutch did not grow up learning about the “ins and outs of cycling“.
We Yanks are so enamored with the pretty green painted lanes that we are forgetful of the undergirding of instruction that the Dutch children receive or are “willfully ignorant” of it. Unfortunately, after “listening” for months on end to the Faithful members of the Church of Urban Cycling carry on about the wonderful presence of bike lanes, it seems clear that they are “willfully ignorant“. The ChainLinkers who take this position are like their anti-helmet cousins in that they are embarrassed about Vehicular Cycling and want to jettison it as soon as possible in favor of simply having lanes do all the work. You can tell this because now that they realize that the Dutch and Danes are not “helmet-friendly” they feel the need to “keep current” by adopting a similar stance.
Common Sense Needs To Prevail
I’m sorry but the sooner we Liberal Cyclists understand that we need to be treated like motorists and motorcyclists (including scooter riders) the better. We need testing and training in the very worst way. And we need to insist that our children get this sort of training at a very early age in school. It is not enough to have a “Safe Routes To School” movement without having some practical training and classroom instruction of our children. In fact stay-at-home parents of school age children should be involved in the practical training of their children in much the same way that they help out in classrooms during formal instruction of core curriculum.
What the Dutch have done is make cycling a part of the fabric of their society. It is not a “movement” there in the sense that we are attempting to make it here. Instead it is an essential part of the social graces to know how to ride a bike. Immigrant women are a perfect example of folks who the Dutch have identified as having missed out on the formal training everyone else has had. So they have made a special effort to include them.
Americans have this same problem (i.e. folks with little or no formal training in how to ride a bike) but it crosses virtually all ethnic, racial, demographic and gender lines possible. We as a nation are “bicycle stupid“. And well-meaning Liberals who believe themselves to be Pro-Bike are adamantly against any formal education in Vehicular Cycling because their cousins in Europe have given it a “thumbs-down“.
What the Europeans disliked was two things about Vehicular Cycling:
- It placed an emphasis on having cyclists ride on streets along with motorized traffic with “no separation“.
- It place undue emphasis on avoiding bicycle trails in the belief that to embrace them meant an acceptance of a “segregated status” in the traffic landscape
Today we have a hybrid system that should make everyone more or less happy. We now have on-street bike trails that are masquerading as Protected Bike Lanes (PBLs). These have the same issues as John Forester railed against a couple of decades ago in that where they intersect with motorized traffic cyclists are at increased risk. And note too that John was prescient in that it is “turns” where the danger lies. Even PBLs are still vulnerable to right- and left-hooks of cyclists. Riders using PBLs have died from being crushed by trucks turning across them without being able to adequately “see” them. And this sort of thing happens because after years and years of alerting cyclists to things like the “Door Zone” and “Blind Spots for Truckers” we have suddenly gone silent because Vehicular Cycling is no longer popular. So consequently there is an entire generation of folks who are ignorant of the dangers awaiting them.
Getting Angry Is Not A Solution
Urban Cyclists are great at “getting angry“. Methinks that most of the time that is their entire repertoire of emotion. They love to selectively come out and mourn white riders (all the ones in Black Communities are simply ignored) and hastily pull together flyers to “teach” motorists how to look before opening doors. But as everyone should know if you avoid the “Door Zone” you cannot collide with an opening door. That is as certain as saying “the sun will ride in the East“. But what else are you going to do if you deny the need for Cyclist Education and Training in favor of letting the bike lanes do all the work?
And what has happened already is that New York has had turned loose on its streets an increased number of inexperienced and untrained cyclists who are riding rental bikes around the city. Imagine the kind of mayhem that these folks are generating. After all when tourists visit the city and debark from the train the very first thing they do is start staring at their surroundings. That of course means that they stop in the middle of the platform and stare up at the buildings surrounding them or start reading signs.
There is probably not a dimes worth of difference between the actions of these pedestrian tourists and those on bikes. The fact is cyclists on rental bikes will no doubt stop in the middle of the bike lane to ask for directions or to read their maps or fail to notice pedestrian, motorist or even other cyclist traffic because they are gawking. And guess what they collide with either a car or the pavement. And add to this the urgent need to check these rental bikes back in every 45 minutes (New York) or every 30 minutes (Chicago) and you have distracted tourists who are also clock-watching, inexperienced cyclists who are ill-prepared for what urban cycling has to throw at them.
The Strategy Is T0 Have ‘Universal Education’
If you train children in the Rules of the Road where bicycles are concerned and offer them Vehicular Cycling strategies you accomplish two thing simultaneously:
- You teach children how to safely get to and from school on their bikes.
- And by extension you are training the next generation of motorists how to empathize with cyclists and pedestrians as well.
In the short term however you need to train adult cyclists on navigate these streets in a safe manner. In the suburbs of America bicycle clubs have always been a place where people could learn how to ride by example. Many of these cyclists are also League Certified Instructors (LCIs). These clubs provide experience in group riding (which should be safer) as well as an opportunity for those who wish to lead to do so. Most clubs have folks in them who drive to what are known as “remote starts” and they ride from there to various destinations on either trails or streets.
Males and females alike are welcomed in this clubs and both learn to not only ride their bikes but how to maintain them and even how to dress effectively in inclement weather. What is more members learn what routes are safest in their local areas when riding alone.
Cycling and Baseball
We Liberals are about to fight it out again over an Immigration Reform bill. It is not enough that immigrants (largely Hispanic) get to stay in our country and contribute to our economy (think Protected Bike Lanes) but if their children are to thrive higher education (think Vehicular Cycling) has to be part of the mix.
Think of it this way. If you want children to learn to play the game of baseball you need three things:
- A baseball field with perhaps chalk lines, a home plate, bases, dugouts, fences and maybe even a scoreboard.
- Their parents have to buy them equipment such as uniforms, cleats, bats, balls and gloves.
- Adults who understand the game have to work with kids to understand the rules of the game and strategies for developing their baseball skills.
Now if we know these things to be true for baseball, why do we Liberals imagine that cyclists are any less needful of that third component?
An Accident Waiting To Happen
Just as I was finishing this piece I came across some of the “Happy Talk” that is so prevalent in the Urban Cycling Community:
New Bike Lane Design on Milwaukee Should Reduce Crashes and Frustration
The new bike lanes on Milwaukee Avenue between Elston Avenue and Kinzie Street were completed Wednesday, adding bike lanes separated from traffic with parking and flexible posts. Other features include green striping before intersections and the city’s first two-lane bike lanes allowing faster cyclists to pass slower ones on the bridge over the Ohio Street ramp to the Kennedy Expressway.
What I noticed upon re-examination of this video clip was that the order of precedence between motorists and cyclists is 180 degrees opposite of that usually preferred by cyclists. Over the years cyclists have come to believe that “getting through an intersection as quickly as possible” is their ultimate defense. This may be the result of hearing about the increase incidence of injury and death at intersections. But at this juncture in the video (Milwaukee and Elston?) the right turn is executed first by cars. I predict that the reality is cyclists who are the impatient type will not tolerate this ordering. They will want to move through the intersection first.
(Note: It might be that the CDOT has decided to establish this ordering “on purpose“. But from an accident-reduction perspective, I fear it may have been a wrong-headed decision.)
The implication here is that the lanes themselves are the cure for the crashes and frustration of Milwaukee Avenue. But take a look at the way in which cars have to cross over the Protected Bike Lane (PBLs) in order to make a right turn. This is going to inevitably result in a “right-hook” at some point in the future. Cyclists not familiar with the concept and thus not alerted have a less favorable chance to avoid collisions. And certainly motorists who are making turns at these intersections without understanding this issue as well as going to assume that the cyclists are aware of the problem and they will adjust their behavior.
And as long as both groups labor under this misunderstanding things will not go well.