(Note: the author is home nursing a cold, and so is not in the most positive of moods.)
“Regulation is a signal of design failure.”
The childishness and fear-mongering over cycling continues across the land. It’s stories like these that make me fear for the future of cycling in this country.
The latest insanity comes from Portland, where an Oregon legislator is proposing (just for discussion, mind you) a ban on children under seven being transported via bicycle, either on the back of an adult’s bike or in a trailer. Presumably kids under seven could still ride bikes of their own? There was no mention of that becoming illegal. So evidently parent cyclists are the problem.
Then there’s New Jersey, where a legislator thought bicycles needed to be registered through the DMV. Imaging having to pay $10 per year to register the bicycle-shaped object you bought at Target for $89. She’s since reconsidered.
Not to be outdone are the brilliant folks at the Bicycle Alliance of Washington who have actually endorsed a mandatory bike lane use law in return for a variation on the 3-foot passing law. (In the proposed law, 3 feet would be the minimum passing clearance at less than 35 mph; over 35 mph it goes up to 5 feet.) What’s more, their mandatory use law is extended to paved shoulders, not just bike lanes.
But hey, it’s OK, because they wrote it such that you’re only required to use the bike lane or shoulder if you think it’s safe. I’m not making this up. The actual language reads “…if such use is reasonably judged safe by the bicyclist.” It’s one thing to tell someone they are not required to do something they believe to be risky, but to require someone to do something as long as they believe it to be safe? Also, the well-informed cyclist can (in theory) avoid a citation for not using a bike lane by just telling the officer he thinks it’s dangerous. The uninformed cyclist not using the bike lane just has to suck it up. Or will officers volunteer that, “Well sir, we can avoid having you cited if you just tell me the bike lane is dangerous.”
The 3-foot law/fetish is a lousy trade for a mandatory bike lane use law. Does anyone have the slightest bit of evidence that it improves motorist behavior? Lane control on the other hand is a proven strategy cyclists can already legally use to get motorists to pass safely. If one simply gets rid of all the absurdly convoluted language in the far-to-the-right/mandatory bike lane laws and encourage cyclists to control their lanes, passing clearance would improve for real. More importantly, this obsession with passing distance and bike lanes ignores the fact that most crashes (over 90%) involve turning and crossing movements, not motorist overtakings.
I can just see all the police officers in Washington now, following motorists with one eye on the speedometer and one on some specially designed and perfectly calibrated device that measures the passing clearance, waiting to watch them pass cyclists.
Then there’s this beauty from a Brooklyn councilman.
…in many of these cases the bicyclists were violating the rules in some way. They were either on roads without bike lanes, going through a red light or riding the wrong way down the street.
His argument makes some warped sense if one believes the purpose of bike lanes is to keep cyclists safe, and one keeps seeing cyclists routinely violating the law. Really, why not limit cyclists just to streets with bike lanes. It’s for our safety! Safety first!Posted in Culture, Politics, Safety, Traffic Law