The Urban Cyclist ‘Weight Loss Program’

Background Reading



Now before you groan and click the ‘next button‘ hear me out. Our approach to fixing the ‘bicycle safety issue‘ is a bit like our approach to getting an obese nation trim and healthy.

I can flip to any channel and soon see an advertisement for some pill which when taken by itself (sans exercise and eating changes) will simply melt away body fat. And if I am lucky it will be followed by an infomercial where former actresses are sitting around the table chatting about a diet program which allows me to turn off my brain and receive a weekly shipment of food stuffs that guarantee to make my first 5 days a triumph.

Later that week I will watch a news report in which an expert in health will guarantee that if I don’t eat anything white I can reverse heart disease. And after that piece a game show will appear where the contestant dropped 150 lbs. simply refusing to eat anything made with gluten, animal byproducts or soy.

What Is My Point?

When it comes to solving problems on our roadways we also seem to be ‘stuck on stupid‘.

Over pints of ale and cocktails we like to discuss the latest death of a fellow cyclist by a driver who has had 3 DUI convictions in the past. We bang the table (order another highball and 2 more pints of ale) and get back to trying to solve the problem of alcohol on our roadways. Someone in our midst offers a toast to the return of Happy Hour here in Illinois. We nod ascent and get back to the serious business of solving transportation problems.

Eventually the favorite solution to the problems of the world comes up. The two skinny guys at the end of the bar who write for a local blog shout ‘Road Diets‘. We all nod sagely and move on to a discussion in which every street in the city is reduced to a single lane and every new construction project has only 1 parking space for the entire building. We pound the table and order more ale, cocktails and somebody slips out to buy some more weed.

Finally we are in totally agreement that if the mayor of the city can install just another 50 miles of bike lanes we can have the plights of all cyclists resolved by morning. We just need to figure out where to order all that green paint and whether or not that report in the popular website ‘on things green‘ is going to have a problem with yet more PVC bollards.

Nothing Seems To Be Working

Those diets we talked about earlier seems to eventually fail for everyone who uses them. How do we know? Well for one thing the companies pushing the pills and the food orders are still in business. If this were polio and you kept seeing dispensaries in your neighborhood for the vaccine that would tell you something about the lack of success in eradicating the disease.

We keep seeing more and more lanes installed in more and more cities. And yet the size of the annual ride to memorialize the dead grows. It is not that there are just more riders but the list of the dead keeps growing. And finally it becomes clear that if motorists are not deliberately trying to run down cyclists just for sport then there is something amiss in the roadway designs.

Nobody Wants To Actually Talk To The Dutch

We give a great deal of lip service to our admiration of the Dutch Design of roadways. And we know that the problems with roadways have as much or more to do with intersection designs than the mere addition of bike lanes.

But our national emphasis is on the bike lanes. But our data show us that the intersections are where most of the deaths occur. Something is amiss here. We need to focus on how to design protected intersections. And yet there is only one such intersection (based on Dutch Design) in the entire country. Why is that?

It seems that we treat roadway design a lot like we do diets. We concentrate on the latest fad in eating and completely miss things like exercise and a reduction of diet killers like alcohol. And in fact not only does alcohol kill diets, it has a great deal to do with our inability to keep people alive on the roadways.

We Would Seemingly Rather Be The Darlings of Misery

Frankly I think we have become accustomed to the attentions of the media. It seems to be a great deal of ‘fun‘ to have a microphone shoved into our faces while the camera is rolling. When that happens we get to look dolefully into lens and assume our favorite posture as ‘victim‘.

Never mind that the fact that we too have our own list of ‘dead victims‘. Acknowledging that pedestrians lead the way in numbers of death (well ahead of cyclists) is not something we have time for. And we certainly cannot be bother admitting that we too are killers on the roadways. That spoils the effect of our breast-beating on camera.

Nope. We are going to keep yapping about the lack of bike lanes, about terrible our commute is and how many pedestrians and motorists got in our way during our ride into work.