No Turning Back

Background Reading


Portland is convinced that going forward:

Portland is a city where people travel by car, public transit, walking and bicycling.  All of these transportation modes are viable ways for residents to get around, and each is here to stay.  Charged with examining the current and future role of bicycles in Portland, your committee has determined, after a year-long study, that bicycling has become a fundamental component of a balanced transportation system.  The city should plan for and encourage the continued growth of bicycling as a transportation mode in ways that optimize choice and efficiency, enhance opportunity and equity, address public perceptions and attitudes, and, especially, promote safety for all transportation modes.

Your committee believes bicycling is an affordable and efficient means of transportation that is essential to continued growth in the local economy and overall quality of life for Portland residents.

In short, your committee finds that the right question is no longer “Should we promote bicycle use?” It is: “How should we structure our transportation system to optimize choice, efficiency and safety for all modes of transportation, including bicycling?”

So it is akin to having your child struggle with you over whether or not they are allowed to drive. You blink and now the question is who will pay for the car and how much will it cost and what are the operating protocols you demand. In fact the entirety of the City Club of Portland could have been written by John Kass. Like it or not cyclists are going to have to consider paying a registration fee and getting training. And some of their annual income is going to be taxed to pay for the infrastructure they are using.

On-SarcasmOf course there is a minority report which rails against these ideas but the price you pay for gaining a seat at the table is having to refrain from throwing your food. In addition it means have to decide that breaking the law in meaningless fashion (such as at a Critical Mass Ride) where it is all about “showing what you can get away with” is behind you. It also means that having mandatory training for children and adults is now considered a good thing.

A More Measurable View Of Safety

Until now the notion of reducing collisions has been the gold standard for bike lanes. But it appears that while they may reduce the interactions between bicycles and automobiles enough to decrease the number of collisions what bike lanes fail to do is reduce a far more important measure of safety, the severity of the collisions.

Having bruises versus debilitating head trauma or death is not a difficult choice to make. The University at Buffalo study points to a new notion about bike safety. It turns out that the visibility of bicycle riders and the overall speed at which automobiles are traveling have a far greater effect on real and measurable reductions in injury than anything having to do with special bikes lanes.

There is already backlash from the folks who despite their view of themselves as the avant-garde are rapidly “taking on water” as the “sticks in the mud” they really are. Yep, I just mixed metaphors and I liked it. At any rate you cannot sustain continual largesse from the electorate without them wanting to exact a pound or two of flesh. We have entered that phase.

A Broader Less Bicycle-Specific Thrust Is Underway

Cyclists are going to be looking from the outside in towards the new folks at the center of everything the pedestrians and mass-transit riders. Communities can make a great deal of money from these two groups because they widely overlap. Pedestrians are usually mass-transit riders who have debarked and are now on foot. Their choices are either to walk to their next location or use a Divvy bike here in Chicago. Whether it has dawned on Urban Cyclists or not Divvy bikes are the new competition.

Pavel Prokopchik for The New York Times Amsterdam has more bicycles than people, and although it has thousands of bike racks, demand for them still outstrips supply.

Pavel Prokopchik for The New York Times
Amsterdam has more bicycles than people, and although it has thousands of bike racks, demand for them still outstrips supply.

Divvy represents the chance for the city to make some money. These bikes will have racks in all the choice locations. They will represent for the casual tourist or commuter a chance to never have to worry about fixing a flat or even buying a bike because for $7 per day you can use the device to get where you want to go all day long. The $72 per annum rate is great but will no doubt likely be dwarfed by the per diem purchases.

What the Urban Cyclist is likely to become is the orphan who having gotten his parents to build a child’s room addition onto the house is now sleeping in the garage. Right now Amsterdam is swamped with private bikes that number in the hundreds of thousands in the center of the city.

With Divvy you can clean up all the clutter and allow people to use them as transportation while dealing with the occasional puncture or other technical issue. Bike theft is more or less no longer a problem because the bikes are easily tracked and there really is no re-sale market.

The days of the Urban Cyclist as Cowboy are numbered. As the Portland report indicates targeted enforcement of cyclist routes is coming. You will either learn to obey the Rules of the Road or you will pay a hefty fine. The young kids and the oldsters are about to settle in on your turf. And for that luxury you will have to behave.