Streets are our predominant public spaces in our cities and neighborhoods. If you measure all of our streets compared to that of our parks and plazas, the streets cover far more area. Historically the street was the gathering place for commerce and socializing, not merely a place for transportation. But then came the automobile. And since the earliest auto owners — not to mention the manufacturers and gasoline companies — were rich and well-connected, they were the ones who rewrote the traffic laws in the 1910s to favor speed over access. By the late 1920s, after gasoline taxes had been instituted in many states, people came to think of our streets as commodities to be bought with gas taxes for the purpose of moving motor vehicles at high speed. Only two decades earlier our streets were seen as a Commons that was managed for the benefit of everyone and for purposes beyond mere transportation. One could say that our streets today are ruled by a form of tyranny; the Tyranny of Speed. If you aren’t going or can’t go fast, you don’t belong.
As the London group Reclaim the Streets argued, our streets were taken from us and sold back to us for the price of gasoline. This is true for most aspects of The Commons as technologies have advanced: agriculture became agribusiness, stories became published books, songs became recorded and marketed music, forests became tree farms. Our economy is based in large part on the conversion of The Commons into money.
And today we’re even losing the freedom to use our parks as a real Commons. No sitting, no laying down, you must have a permit to have a gathering. Keep moving people; you could be shopping and helping the economy grow.
Not everyone has the time to occupy a park or plaza; some of us are fortunate to have jobs, even good ones; but we can show solidarity with the other Occupiers by spreading the occupation across time and space in our own more modest ways.
The bicycle is an excellent tool of Occupation. But I am not talking about Critical Mass. Critical Mass presumes (depending on who you listen to) that bicyclists can’t travel our streets safely as they are, that we have to travel in large groups in order to protect ourselves, that cyclists need special accommodation, that motorists are evil and cyclists must be protected from them with special laws, and that the rules of the road were written for motorists, not cyclists.
Let me address this last point before moving on. We have to differentiate between rules and laws. Rules grow out of the culture somewhat organically. Even if one person develops them, we follow them by consensus if they work. There’s no police or formal court to uphold them. Laws are the formalized versions of those rules as they’re implemented by our governments.
The first formalized traffic rules were developed by a man named William Phelps Eno in the early 1900s and adopted by many cities as their official traffic laws. In 1905 less than one in a thousand Americans owned an automobile. Eno didn’t develop his rules for them; he saw autos as a passing fad. No, the rules for vehicular traffic were written for drivers of horse-drawn vehicles and bicyclists.
A number of us have learned that adhering to the rules for vehicular traffic is the best way to drive a bicycle on our public streets, and what’s more, controlling a lane — riding near the middle of the lane — is the most effective way of reducing conflicts and crash risks. I won’t go into the details in this piece; it has been covered extensively elsewhere, especially on CommuteOrlando.com.
While the rules for traffic have remained the same, the laws in most states have been changed to favor motorists over bicyclists. They place motorist convenience above bicyclist safety and comfort. Cyclists have had to fight to ensure they could operate in the safest possible manner, which often entails controlling a lane rather than hugging the edge. In most states today bicyclists are required to keep “as close as practicable” to the right edge or curb, but with many exceptions for safety. The times and places which meet those exceptions are actually more common than the times and places which don’t.
While lane control is primarily a practical safety strategy, it can also been seen as a political statement. It is a way of saying that speed is not the primary rule of traffic; that “first come, first served” is; that the basic right to travel in the safest possible manner must take precedence over the desire to travel at higher speeds. That those wielding power cannot be given so much advantage over those who do not wield such power.
We see the Tyranny of Speed expressed in online newspaper comment sections when cycling is discussed: “If you can’t keep up with traffic you have to get out of the way.” Should speed take priority before liberty, before health, before clean transportation, before a civil and communal public realm? Is getting to one’s destination a few seconds sooner more important than cutting the amount of money we send to oil barons and Middle Eastern sheiks and instead keeping it in our communities? Occupying the Lane is one powerful way to answer, “No.”
Bicyclists and motorists are not “natural enemies.” We’re all simply people who desire to get where we want or need to go in a reasonable time period and in reasonable comfort and safety. Only a tiny proportion of motorists act as bullies, and even that would be reduced if cyclists stood up to them. Most motorists, when lane control is explained to them, understand and appreciate it. They’d be very happy to share the roadways with assertive, predictable cyclists who communicate clearly and cooperate with their fellow road users.
Segregating cyclists into reservations or ghettos (bike lanes and sidepaths) only reinforces the belief that we cannot learn to share. Separation is more often the problem rather than the solution. By putting bicyclists “in their own place,” motorists can just forget about us. Which they do. Until it’s too late. Which is usually when they’re turning at an intersection or driveway.
Just as Occupiers have learned to use the tactics of non-violent protest, bicyclists can learn the strategies of sharing roadways — confidence, consideration, communication and cooperation.
As London’s Reclaim the Streets put it:
The street is an extremely important symbol because your whole enculturation experience is geared around keeping you off the street. Inevitably you will find yourself on the curbstone of indifference, wondering “should I play it safe and stay on the sidewalks, or should I go into the street?” And it is the ones who are taking the most risks that will ultimately effect the change in society.
The “risk” in this case is not a physical one. Cycling as a vehicle driver does not add physical risk, it reduces it. No, the risk is social. It’s standing up to a taboo whose time has come and gone.
The great mythologist Joseph Campbell warned that if wish to make meaningful change in the world, we must define ourselves by what we wish to see, not by what we oppose. I hope those in the Occupy movement will take that to heart, whether they are in a park or on a street; posting on Facebook or Twitter, on foot, in a car, or on a bicycle.
To learn more, go to CyclingSavvy.org and CommuteOrlando.com
Posted in Culture
, Traffic Law
“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”
– UCLA basketball coach John Wooden
I’ve spent the past two decades trying to figure out how make bicycling work better for people. Perhaps instead I should have been trying to figure out how to make our communities work better. As John Wooden implied, when it comes to cycling, I’m a know-it-all, but when it comes to what really counts…
I’ve found I have to refute a number of things I used to believe, or at least wanted to be true. That’s a fancy way of saying I was wrong.
This year the “bike lane wars” have really heated up. The war stories keep coming through my web feeds. New York City is the front line. Florida’s legislature felt the need to control cyclists by passing a mandatory bike lane use law last year. Why so much rancor about something that’s supposed to be so wonderful and benign?
The book “Community: The Structure of Belonging” by Peter Block is helping me get to the root of the problem. Block’s book explores the all-too-common dysfunctions of our communities, showing why, in spite of immense affluence and ubiquitous communication options, we are unable to solve so many of our pressing problems. Reading it I came upon passages which could have been written explicitly for the “bicycling community.” But we shouldn’t feel too special; our problems are practically universal. Here are (for our purposes) the key statements from the most important passage in the book (underlines are mine):
“If we create a context of fear, fault, and retribution, then we will focus on protecting ourselves, which plants the seed of entitlement.
“The retributive context … is based on fear, fault finding, fragmentation … it is more about being right than working something out, more about gerrymandering for our own interests than giving voice to those on the margin. Other than that it is fine.
”The cost of entitlement is that it is an escape from accountability and soft on commitment. It gets in the way of authentic citizenship.
“What is interesting is that the existing public conversation claims to be tough on accountability, but the language of accountability that occurs in a retributive context is code for “control.” High-control systems are unbearably soft on accountability. They keep screaming for tighter controls, new laws, and bigger systems, but in the scream, they expose their weakness.”
Fear is the foundation of much of what bicycling advocates are concerned. “We’ve got to make bicycling safer!” (Or at least seem safer.) Since “safe” is an inherently relative term, it’s the grounds for endless argument. We’ve managed to get people so afraid of bicycling that recently a “bicycle planning professional” on the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals email list was asking about how one might create a designated pedestrian and bicyclist space, segregated from motor traffic, in an alley.
We fixate on who is at fault, rather than on how conflicts and injuries might be best reduced. Once again, this leads to endless argument and finger-pointing. Nobody wants to be seen as being at fault, so each focuses on the faults of the others. Since everyone else is at fault, we become the victims. And since we’re “doing god’s work” (being so green and healthy and all), we must be entitled to special treatment by everybody else: motorists, officers, planners, engineers…. We hold them all accountable for our safety and comfort.
How do we hold them accountable? By enlisting government to control them.
99.999% of motorists do not want to hit us or hurt us. But we try to control them anyway, through laws and engineering; the 3-foot passing law, a vulnerable user law, and bike lanes which say “This is our turf, you’d best keep out of it.” To which some motorists reply, perhaps righteously offended, “That’s your playpen. I paid for it and you’d best stay in it for your own good.” So in retribution they try to control cyclists with a mandatory bike lane law. None of these attempts come close to achieving their intent, because they focus on blame instead of on how crashes actually happen.
Controlling with Paint?
It’s time for some serious and honest research into the effectiveness of bike lanes.
For many years I tried to find the evidence that bike lanes increase cycling without compromising safety. That was my belief, but I’ve yet to find definitive data supporting it. Now I’m finding the validity of that hypothesis to be increasingly unlikely. While they do produce some modest increases, through my own use of bike lanes and observations of the behaviors of motorists and other cyclists, I’ve come to believe they create unnecessary hazards and conflicts on urban streets. They’re particularly problematic on lower-speed streets where bicyclists are often going as fast or faster than the motorists. The reports involving crashes due to conflicts created by the bike lanes are starting to come in. From my informed perspective, the negatives of bike lanes now outweigh the modest benefits.
And now we’re expected to always use them “for our own good.” Look at how New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg responded to the viral bike lane ticket protest video:
“Generally speaking bicyclists are going to stay in bicycle lanes because of public pressure, the same way that smokers aren’t going to smoke in this park; we’re not going to give out tickets, it’s public pressure — the same way you pay your taxes. Most people in America, unlike other places in the world, pay their taxes, and that lets us go after the handful that don’t.“
There you have it; the retribution cycle in action. Fearful cyclists push to get the government to control the “at-fault” motorists by creating bike lanes. Motorists, who see cyclists as unpredictable fools, show their disdain for that control (and loss of operating space) by parking in bike lanes. Bicyclists have to leave the bike lanes for valid reasons, then get ticketed by police who side with the motorists. One cyclist gets retribution by creating a very successful video, and the rest of the cycling community piles on. So the Mayor gets defensive and equates uppity cyclists with smokers and tax cheats. Block’s pattern of community dysfunction predicts it all. Everybody else is wrong, except us. Where will it end?
We try to control traffic engineers with “bike-friendly” policies, and take them to court when they don’t adhere to them, such as in the A1A case.
Of course the 3-foot passing law is not enforced, because officers don’t respect us (hmmm, why is that?). The mandatory bike lane law is enforced (at least socially). And increasingly across the country advocates and planners are saying bike lanes aren’t enough, because they don’t control motorists enough; so barrier-separated bike lanes — “cycle tracks” — must be the answer.
“The concern about street safety and increasing the comfort and quality of the urban experience is of course legitimate. What limits us and undermines our quest for authentic community is the belief that fault finding, legislation, and enforcement can give us the security we seek. … We think more watching improves performance. All evidence is to the contrary, for most high-performing communities and organizations are heavily self-regulating.”
Who is Accountable?
And where is the accountability from the bicyclists? It’s rather hard to find. See them knocking down our doors to take safe cycling courses? Nope. Indeed, the most socially visible bicyclists are hardly accountable at all: Critical Mass riders, pack riders, hipster/fixie riders. Responsible cyclist behavior is so rare that I’ve heard stories of motorists going out of their way to thank cyclists for acting predictably. (Full disclosure: I used to ride with packs, and I’ve attended a handful of Critical Mass rides. Past tense. But I’ve never been hip or ridden a fixed gear.)
All these attempts at control, whether of motorists, bicyclists, planners or engineers, as they get increasingly specific in their intent, are also increasingly subject to challenge by the ones being controlled, because each party finds valid reasons to question the control. This only leads to more conflict, ultimately ending up in our courts. The only solution to this downward spiral is accountability, and accountability must start with me, not you. Us, not them. So that’s why I say, “I was wrong.”
Accountability must lead to commitment. In order for cyclists to be released of the control being imposed on us by others (mostly by the State), we must make the commitment, without condition, to change our ways so control is no longer necessary. That doesn’t mean we do what others want (because what others want of us is based on retribution, not fairness or reason), it means we do what’s best for all involved, including ourselves.
For many years I’ve argued that it’s unfair to expect bicyclists to “police our own,” since pedestrians, motorists and motorcyclists don’t. Now I believe it is our responsibility. Maybe not to “police” our fellow cyclists, but we must figure out how to influence and encourage them to strive to reach a higher standard. Not just to be conspicuous, predictable and the most polite of roadway users, but to work for the safety of all road users as well.
Capacities, Not Deficiencies
“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be “out there” and the person that appears to be “in here” are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together.”
– Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
While there may be a few exceptions, it is possible for any reasonably competent person to bike safely on virtually any road. We know it’s possible because people are doing it. These people are not super-fit or fearless daredevils. They are individuals who have simply learned how to drive their bicycles in a predictable, defensive and strategic manner. If they can do it, most any adult can. Not only does such cycling eliminate the vast majority of hazards and conflicts with motorists, it is also appreciated by many, if not most motorists. Motorists know what to expect of such cyclists.
What should we call such cyclists? I suggest we avoid “vehicular cycling;” while it’s objectively correct, it’s loaded with too much political baggage amongst cycling advocates. Florida Bicycle Association calls its traffic cycling course CyclingSavvy, but a more generic term is probably needed. While it’s essentially defensive driving for bicyclists, the term “defensive” can have a negative connotation. What motorists need from us is to be polite and dependable. So I am proposing we use the term “dependable cycling.” Keri Caffrey likes to tell the story of how she used to have to deal with so many stupid motorists, but after she learned to ride properly, all-of-a-sudden those drivers got so much smarter. By being polite, defensive and dependable, we encourage motorists to be polite and dependable as well.
I’ve made my commitment to make cycling better by first and foremost being a better cyclist. I hope you will do the same. No matter how long you have been cycling, you will learn valuable lessons from FBA’s CyclingSavvy course. The course is all about being accountable and committed, not about avoiding becoming a victim.
“Typically I ride my road bikes between 9,000 and 12,000 miles each year and I ride them anywhere I want to go in daylight or darkness. I enrolled in the three-part Cycling Savvy course. I learned fundamentals I don’t remember thinking about . . . no wonder I wasn’t very helpful to beginners. Convictions that I held resolutely were challenged and shown to be indefensible. This course is wonderful for timid cyclists and a must for those of us who know it all.”
– Larry Gies, Seminole County
“I don’t think there are too many people in the world who have more experience with different kinds of cycling (recreational, commuting, touring and racing) in different parts of the world (five continents) than I have. …When CyclingSavvy came to the midwest in April and June 2011, I took both the Three-Part Course and the Instructors’ Course in St. Louis. I believe that I learned more in these few months about cycling safely and comfortably in traffic than I had learned from my previous 50 or so years of cycling.”
— Gary Cziko, new CyclingSavvy Instructor in Champaign-Urbana, IL
Please don’t take these quotes as chest-thumping. Keri and I didn’t approach the development of this course with the thought of “We have all this game-changing information to share with cyclists.” Instead, we were focused on simply getting more people comfortable cycling in traffic by changing their beliefs and doing a better job of explaining key concepts. In the process we learned a ton of new things ourselves. It’s said one learns more by teaching than by being a student. I think one can expand that to: one learns more by developing a new curriculum than by teaching. And the most important thing we learned was that when we communicate politely and clearly, drive assertively, and act dependably, motorists treat us with respect. No bicycle facility, traffic law, t-shirt message, YouTube video, or protest ride can come close to the effectiveness of being a dependable cyclist.
Who Are You and What Can You Contribute?
This piece is entitled “I Am Not a Bicyclist.” Yes, I did that to grab your attention. Of course I am a bicyclist. I am also a husband, a reader, a gardener, and a number of other things; and somewhere near the top of that list is a Citizen. I used to believe the fact that we identified ourselves as cyclists was an advantage. It enabled us to come together to develop strategies and implement them to improve our standing in our communities. But by identifying ourselves as cyclists we also set ourselves apart. Since the beginning of the 20th Century, notable social psychologists have promoted the realistic conflict theory, which holds that groups which are segregated from one another — even ones that share core values and common backgrounds — inevitably develop prejudices and discrimination. The Robbers Cave Park experiment is a classic example. Capulets and Montagues. Motorists and bicyclists.
“Bicycling community” is an oxymoron, a dysfunction, as is any “(insert interest group) community.” It’s an idea we should leave behind. Community is about integration and sharing. In functional communities people help one another do the “right” things far more often than they punish those who do the “wrong” things.
Let’s be citizens first, and cyclists somewhere down the list. Let’s be individuals who take accountability for the future, rather than entitled consumers waiting for the government to give us “our own space.” Once again, Block says it best:
“A citizen is one who produces the future, someone who does not wait, beg, or dream for the future. The antithesis of being a citizen is the choice to be a consumer or a client … Consumers give power away. They believe that their own needs can be best satisfied by the actions of others. Consumers also allow others to define their needs. If leaders and service providers are guilty of labeling or projecting onto others the “needs” to justify their own style of leadership or service they provide, consumers collude with them by accepting others’ definition of their needs. This provider-consumer transaction is the breeding ground for entitlement, and it is unfriendly to our definition of citizenship and the power inherent in that definition.”
The rationale for segregation is deficiency. The rationale for control is deficiency. We call for the segregation of bicyclists and motorists because both are presumed deficient and unwilling or unable to avoid colliding with one another. We call for our governments to control motorists and cyclists with increasingly prescriptive laws and enforcement for the same reason. If deficiency is the expectation we set and the story we tell, then that’s where we’ll go. While the deficiencies are real, so are our capacities for competence, politeness, and dependability. Which story shall we tell?
“What do you want from me — my deficiencies or my capacities?”
– Peter Block
Posted in Culture
, Traffic Law
“We can only liberate our rivers and our seeds and our food, and our educational systems, and redefine and deepen our democracy, by first liberating our minds and decolonizing our minds.” – Vandana Shiva
– apocalypse: a disclosure of something hidden from the majority in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception; the lifting of the veil.
– control mythology: the web of stories, symbols and ideas which define the dominant culture’s sense of normal (including limiting our imagination of social change) and make people think the system is unchangeable.
Bicycling in the United States suffers from a failure of imagination.
Failures of imagination usually grow out of a sense that the current situation is unchangeable. Cultures often create such a sense of inevitability inadvertently, but in some cases it’s due to an intentional effort by some to maintain the status quo. Usually there is a control mythology maintaining that sense of certainty.
The Bicyclist Control Mythology can be described thusly:
A significant number of motorists either will not tolerate sharing roadways, or are so incompetent as to be unable to see and avoid hitting bicyclists who are plainly in front of them in the lane. This control mythology is promoted not to keep bicyclists safe, but to support the belief that bicyclists sharing roadways cause significant delay to motorists. Underpinning that conviction is the belief that bicyclists are second-class road users. This control mythology presumes that motorists need to be changed in order for bicyclists to be safe, but cannot be changed. Since the motorist cannot be changed, bicyclists must be moved out of the way for their own safety.
Read more »
Posted in Bikeways
, Transportation Cycling
Tags: bicyclist control mythology
(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
, Traffic Law
Reed Bates (aka ChipSeal) has been not only cited, but arrested, jailed and convicted for cycling in the center of the right lane on a four-lane highway. The highway has an intermittent 8-foot shoulder with rumble strips (and evidently some significant debris, too).
Many of Reed’s fellow cyclists are criticizing him for not using the paved shoulder, even though Texas law does not require it, and also permits cyclists full use of a lane that is too narrow to share.
If Reed was riding on a roadway with a shared use path next to it in a state that has a mandatory sidepath law, many, if not most of you would support him, even though some of you might prefer to ride on the path. Most non-cyclists however, would not understand why he wasn’t using the “bike path” because riding on the road is “so dangerous.”
If he was riding on a roadway with a narrow paved shoulder or bike lane that was full of debris and was staying out of that shoulder or bike lane, once again, many or most of you would support him, even though you might use the shoulder or bike lane. Most non-cyclists however, would not understand why he wasn’t using the “bike path” because riding on the road is “so dangerous.”
If he was riding on a roadway without a paved shoulder, bike lane or sidepath and controlling the lane, many or most of you would support him, even though you might hug the edge. Most non-cyclists however, would not understand why he was on the road at all, because riding on the road is “so dangerous.”
From the sound of how the Ennis police and Ellis County sheriff’s departments are behaving, I think they could have just as easily cited, jailed and convicted Reed for any of those types of circumstances, because they believe — in spite of a complete lack of evidence — that roadway cycling is dangerous and causes delay and chaos on our roads.
When I was pulled over for controlling a narrow lane in the City of Orlando, I heard the same kind of absurd and ignorant arguments from the cop who pulled me over. Fortunately, there was no bike lane or paved shoulder present, and I was able to talk my way out of it. Last week an off-duty sheriff’s deputy told me to get on the sidewalk. Many will say, “Well that’s different,” but it’s really not; all of these police actions stem from the same bogus belief, not from their understanding of the law.
The real problem we face is not so much how our laws are written, but what people believe about cycling. When we cyclists criticize Reed for cycling in the way he does, we are reinforcing the belief that roadway cycling is dangerous, and therefor irresponsible.
A note about impeding traffic. I looked up the traffic counts for the road Reed’s been using at the Texas Department of Transportation website. It gets about 18,000 cars per day; rather low for a four-lane highway. Reed’s first arrest happened at about 2:30 p.m., which is well “off-peak.” Using standard traffic planning estimates, I’d guess the road was seeing roughly 3 to 4 cars per minute per lane, or one car passing ever 15 to 20 seconds. How can one possibly think changing lanes to pass a cyclist is any sort of problem in such a situation? By comparison, the street I ride to work during rush hour is a 3-lane one-way. Each lane sees about 12 to 13 cars per minute, or one every 5 seconds (of course they actually come in platoons). But even with much heavier traffic, motorists rarely have to wait more than a few seconds to pass me, and most don’t have to wait at all; they see me early and change lanes.
Posted in Culture
, Traffic Law
, Transportation Cycling
“Don’t we have a deal with the pigeons?”
“Of course we have a deal. They get out of the way of our cars, we look the other way on the statue defecation.”
- George Costanza and Jerry Seinfeld
The tyranny of speed rules over nearly every road in this great nation. Florida is perhaps the tyrant’s most resolute stronghold. It’s as if gravity or latitude or the warm climate (or perhaps the convergence of the three) have funneled that power into our peninsula from all across the land. Hemmed in by the Everglades, the tyrant’s power concentrates even more as one moves into Broward and Miami-Dade counties. It then squirts out along US 1, the Overseas Highway that runs from Key Largo to Key West. The Highway is now mostly overwhelmed by the tyrant; its miles of ugly strip commercial development making it look like nearly any other four-lane highway. If it weren’t for the palms and tropically-themed signs you might think you were outside Atlanta along some stretches.
N. Roosevelt: sidepath on the left side; destinations on the right.
One-hundred and two miles down the highway you enter the Conch Republic, aka Key West. It’s the end of the road. The tyranny of speed has pushed its invading wedge westward into the island along US 1, and its commercial minions — fast-food purveyors, big box retailers… — have come in behind to claim territory. At its ironic intersection with Eisenhower Drive, it loses nearly all its power as it changes names from N. Roosevelt Boulevard to Truman Avenue and becomes a narrow, two-lane street.
Read more »
Posted in Bikeways
, Traffic Law
, Transportation Cycling
Last night PBS aired the two-hour NOVA special “Darwin’s Darkest Hour,” about Charles Darwin’s struggle to finally decide to complete and publish On the Origin of Species. Part of his struggle was trying avoid running afoul of his wife Emma’s faith in God. In an early letter to Darwin, Emma wrote, “My reason tells me that honest & conscientious doubts cannot be a sin.”
My wife, who was believer when we met, expressed a similar sentiment about my agnosticism.
Respect for honest doubt would go a long way towards mending the huge rifts among the two main bicycling “camps.”
Bikeway proponents must respect the doubts of vehicular cycling proponents about the benefits of facilities, because there is significant objective evidence to support that doubt. Since decisions about bikeways are done by governments, objectivity is essential.
Vehicular cycling proponents must respect the doubt of others about the effectiveness of vehicular cycling. While vehicular cycling can also be measured objectively, it is experienced subjectively. There is significant subjective evidence to support that doubt; those many personal experiences in traffic which reinforce our culture’s taboo about cycling. Since cycling itself is done by individuals, many of whom are not trained, comfortable with, or prone towards objectivity, we vehicular cycling proponents must take a softer, subjective approach.
Respect and caring are the foundation.
“Certainty divides us; doubt unites us.”
– Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Laughing Jesus
Posted in Bikeways
“If you don’t stand up, you don’t stand a chance.”
– Genesis, Squonk
A woman walks into a marketing and public relations firm and sits down to talk with their lead strategist.
“Our organization has a fun, safe and healthy activity we wish to promote, but we’re struggling to figure out the right approach,” she says.
The strategist thinks for a moment, then responds, “I recommend the approach bicycle advocates have been using for the past 20 years; reinforce the public’s fears about your activity.”
The woman is taken aback, pauses for a moment, then says, “Oh! You had me going there for a moment!”
“What do you mean?” asks the strategist.
“Well, you were joking, right?…”
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Posted in Politics