Thoughts from the week

Some of my compatriots in the blogosphere have written about the same topics I’ve been thinking about this week. So I’ll link to their thoughts as well as share my own.

Road Wars: The Media’s Flavor of the Month

Dave Moulton covered the New York Times article, Moving Targets. In his post, What’s Wrong with This Picture?, Dave says:

…possibly, if we get enough of it, people will begin to see how ludicrous the whole “Us vs. Them” situation is. We are all just people trying to get somewhere or other.

Road wars is the current theme in the media. First it was breathless reports about the increase in cycling due to gas prices, then breathless reports about the increase in crashes (along with the requisite bad bike safety advice the media always seems to proffer). Now it’s all about the tensions between cyclists and motorists. Dave says:

With high gas prices, we are seeing more bikes on the road, which is a good thing. Or it would be, except we now have a bunch of people in the mix who often don’t have a clue. [snip] …when people get on a bike and act with the mentality and lack of responsibly of a pedestrian, they are a menace to themselves and everyone else on the road.

Cyclestrians are nothing new, but there are a whole lot more of them now. The mentality of many cyclists that they are not drivers of vehicles who need to follow the rules of the road, not pedestrians subject to the rules that govern them, but some other extra-legal hybrid thing, is really the source of most of their problems. And it’s the cause of much animosity.

Take, for example, this comparison of behavior:

Cyclist A rides down Winter Park Road, upon reaching Corrine Drive, he cuts through the 7-11 to avoid the red light and swoops onto Corrine just as 2 solid lanes of motorists are getting a fresh green light. Now Cyclist A is facing numerous parked cars to the right, he’s in a narrow right lane with 2 lanes of accelerating vehicles bearing down upon him. So he squeezes to the right, riding within striking distance of the parked car doors and being passed with a foot of clearance by a pack of SUVs. How is this cyclist’s ride? Think he feels embattled? I would.

Cyclist B rides down Winter Park Road to the red light. There is no turn on red, so Cyclist B waits for green. When the light turns green, Cyclist B now has the right lane of Corrine Drive all to herself, the few cars that turn right behind her turn into the left lane and pass. By the time the cars on Corrine at WP Drive get a green light, she is well-established in the right lane, and those motorists know well ahead of time that they will need to change lanes, ’cause she’s not slinking along the edge, she’s riding in the lane like she means it. And they do change lanes, giving her a good 8 feet of passing clearance. How is this cyclist’s ride?

To be sure, Cycist B has to put up with occasional BS from selfish motorists. And sometimes they really piss her off. But Cyclist A is the guy on whining endlessly about the horrors perpetrated upon him by the car culture. And the media always finds Cyclist A, because he serves the needs of the infotainment industry so much better than Cyclist B.

The Tragedy of Bike Lane Dependency

My friend John Schubert refers to sharrows as, “methadone for bike lane addicts.” This tragic opinion piece in the Corvallis Gazette Times suggests some people may need a stronger intervention.

It seems the City of Corvallis is planning to remove a section of bike lanes and replace them with sharrows. If I’m looking at the right street in Google Maps, the bike lane is a door zone special, so scrubbing it off and replacing it with anything or nothing can only be a good thing. But the distraught Mary Garrard writes:

Removing the bike lanes will directly affect me and the many other bicyclists who travel 10th/Highland daily, yet it was made without any input from bicyclists or the general public. It will make traveling by bicycle on 10th/Highland less safe and friendly. It will discourage potential bicycle commuters and make Corvallis overall a less bicycle-friendly community.

Then she goes on to trot out a litany of thoroughly disproved nonsense about bike lanes making bicyclists safer and more legitimate on the road.

As I was gathering my thoughts on this one, P.M. Summer pretty much nailed it with his commentary on Cycle Dallas in, The Cowardly Line.

The Op-Ed writer shows a sense of panic that is enlightening. She has placed her entire cycling faith in the safety that a 6″ paint stripe promises to afford her. She reveals by her protest that she is afraid to ride her bike on a street without a stripe (regardless of available road width). [snip]

And herein lies one of the many problems with bike lanes… rather than embolden cyclists to become more proficient and competent vehicular cyclists, as ProBike/BikeFed says they will, they instead inhibit the development of the skills and confidence cyclists need to use a bicycle safely as part of the transportation mix.

I believe in empowering cyclists to be confident and in control of their environment. This woman’s letter illustrates one of the biggest rubs about bike lanes… especially where they are unnecessary or dangerous but installed under the fallacy that bike lane = accommodating cyclists.

More Junk Science Exposed

dumb guys photoWe bicyclists are continually subjected to the results of crappy, self-serving “research” regarding bike facilities. Wayne Pein is our vigilant watchdog. This week, he released a critique of the Texas study, Evaluation of On-Street Bicycle Facilities Added to Existing Roadways.

In case you don’t know what the title means, it means taking a perfectly good wide curb lane and striping a debris-collection line on it so bicyclists can ride through broken glass, then patting yourself on the back for accommodating cyclists.

To get a preview of the silliness of this report, refer to the photo. Wayne says:

The investigators seem to be unaware that the bike lane behind them in the staged photo is substandard width. One would think that the stencil that doesn’t fit would be a sufficient clue.

This nonsense is based on the assumption that cyclists are grateful for any strip of substandard pavement to the right of a white line. “Thank you sir, may I have another?” We must tell them no! You don’t get credit for taking one type of cycling facility (a wide curb lane) and turning it into another. Especially since the conversion is a REDUCTION in quality of service for the cyclist.

Want to see what we’re up against? Put some Armadillos on your rims and roll through Wayne’s report.

OK. I’m done, for now.