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Posted by on Feb 20, 2009 in Uncategorized | 6 comments

Cyclist Equity — do they mean it?

At long last. More than a year after the initial article penned by Amanda Eichstaedt and Dan Gutierrez, the League of American Bicyclists has finally made the Equity Statement a official position. I hear there is an article in the league magazine, but I haven’t received mine yet. Looking for evidence of this position on their website requires a magnifying glass. There is no page, no grand announcement, it doesn’t even show up on a search. It’s one small sentence with links to 3 PDFs tucked into the bottom corner of the homepage.

Considering how important equity is (especially in light of recent events), I think it deserves more. So here it is, the contents of the Equity Statement PDFs:

Cyclists’ Equity Statement

Cyclists have the same right to fair and equitable treatment by the government as other road users. The basis for these rights is expressed through the six Es approach that the League supports:

  • Equality – Legal: traffic law and legislation, including movements, access, equipment, uniformity
  • Engineering – Transportation: road and bicycle facilities development, design, and construction, and mobility and funding sources
  • Enforcement – Police and Courts: Equitable treatment of cyclists through citations and trials
  • Education – Schools and Smart Cycling™: Traffic skills education for the public, engineers, enforcers, and legislators
  • Encouragement – Public and private agencies: advertising campaigns, promotions, etc.
  • Evaluation – Public agencies: Measurement of the effects of the other Es using relevant research methods and testing.

The League of American Bicyclists supports equity in the treatment of all cyclists in the
implementation and evaluation of all Es.

EQUALITY – The equal legal status and equal treatment of cyclists in traffic law. All US states must adopt fair, equitable and uniform traffic laws, that are “vehicle-neutral” to the greatest extent possible. Cyclists’ ability to access to all destinations must be protected. State and local laws that discriminate against cyclists, or restrict their right to travel, or reduce their relative safety, must be repealed.

Engineering – Roadways and separate facilities must conform to state and national standards and allow for safe, legal and efficient traffic movements. Construction and maintenance of roads must equitably serve all users. Separate facilities must be maintained at a level not less than that applied to the public roadway. Trip-endpoint and waypoint facilities such as parking must serve bicyclists.

Enforcement – Cyclists must be given equal treatment by police and the courts in the enforcement of traffic laws and in the investigation of crashes that involve bicyclists which reach the threshold for the state or jurisdiction in question. Cyclists must be viewed as fully equal to other parties in the determination of culpability in crashes, the economic value of injuries or death, and non-economic losses that are commonly awarded to crash victims.

Education – Cycling training should be based on the principle that “cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.” This type of cycling is based on the same sound, proven traffic principles governing all drivers, and is the safest, most efficient way for all cyclists to operate. by making them highly visible and their actions predictable to other road users.

Encouragement – Promotion of cycling as a healthy and environmentally sound method of transport and recreation. Encouragement is done via promotional campaigns, incentives for those choosing bicycling rather than another form of transport and promotion of cycling as a healthy activity. The encouragement of bicycling should be inclusive of all types of cyclists.

Evaluation – Evaluation of the other five Es (Equality, Engineering, Enforcement, Education and Encouragement). Evaluation must involve measurement, analysis and research using rigorous, statistically sound methodologies.

There you have it. Not a bad policy statement with Equality as the underpinning of all else. Many thanks to Amanda and Dan for making this happen. If you want to tell the league to act like they mean it, you can do that here.

Fred, and many other cyclists around the country, really need the League to take leadership action on this! Regular roads will always be our primary means of getting to our destinations, we need to have the right to protect our space on those roads without fear of misinterpretation and harassment. Florida (and many other states) have a backwards, misleading law full of exceptions that try to mitigate the damage it does. The poor wording (and malintent) of this law causes a lawfully-traveling cyclist to have to defend his legal right to the road against misinterpretation by authorities (and everyone else). This places an unjust burden on law-abiding citizens.

To make matters worse, Florida even has so-called bike advocates trying to enact a mandatory bike lane law to get public support for more bike lanes. As if we didn’t have enough to do protecting ourselves from external anti-cycling bias.

It will be interesting to see how LAB takes action with this new policy. We’re watching.

6 Comments

  1. I sent an e-mail to The League of American Bicyclists as you suggested. Here is what I said:

    Woo hoo! I am so pleased that the league has adopted equity as part of your goals and mission statement! I hope it it is more than just window dressing and posturing.

    It is time for the league to address the “far to right” (FTR) laws that define where cyclists must ride within a travel lane. No other vehicle class is directed where they may travel laterally within a lane.

    It is a dangerous directive that requires one type of vehicle to share lanes with another. Most state laws prohibit motor vehicles from sharing a lane side by side with another vehicle, unless that vehicle is a bicycle. This leads to an expectation from law officers and the public that a bicycle’s primary directive is to stay out of the way of overtaking traffic- a notion not expected from any other vehicle class and contrary to normal right-of-way convention. Law abiding cyclists are thus subject to abuse from police and the public’s expectation that bicycles must operate out of the way of traffic at all times. Cyclists likewise can think that they must share narrow lanes- even at their peril!

    The inclusion of FTR law on the books has led to Rube Goldberg like fixes that complicate motor vehicle codes, like three foot passing laws. (Motorists are already required to pass slower vehicles with due care and in a safe manner. Three foot laws do not improve this directive.)

    Any law that requires a list of exceptions is bound to misinterpreted by police. Rarely are the exceptions interpreted in the cyclists favor. The cyclist must justify why his use of the travel lane is lawful- an undue burden, surly! Law abiding cyclists are subject to roadside stops and even having the burden of fighting citations in Court!

    Insurance companies have used FTR laws as reasons to avoid liability in claims against motorists who have struck law abiding cyclists.

    Working to repeal any law requiring bicycles to share lanes with other vehicles side by side will go a long way in promoting safe cycling and equitable treatment under the law.

    Tailwinds (My name and address excerpted)

  2. Great letter!

  3. I think the Equality piece needs to be approached carefully because bicycles are different. We pose less threat to other roadway users, we have different stopping distances and average speeds, we have a greater proportional energy use when stopping.

    As such I think the Idaho Bike Laws (stop sign as yield sign, red traffic signal as stop sign) are appropriate, but they are not “equal” by the most strict definition and they don’t meet the vehicular cycling idea of “same laws, same rights.”

    It’s essential that we strongly advocate for our right to be anywhere that we can safely be and to push for greater accommodation, but also to recognize the differences. While some would advocate that separate is not equal in bike facilities, ideally we can achieve parallel (on and off-street) facilities for those who choose them (bringing in new riders) and maintain the right to use other on-street facilities.

  4. While the Idaho law seems appealing, I would gladly trade it for equality. But then I also think that the Yield sign should not have been displaced by the Stop sign in neighborhoods back in the ’60′s.

    The only reason that it happened was that the Stop sign and more specifically the All-Way (that’s the new name) Stop sign became used as a speed control device. Prior to that, Yield signs were used in low traffic areas rather than Stop signs.

  5. I really don’t like addressing surface issues of deeper problems that need to be solved. As Eric says, the overuse of stop signs is the core problem. It’s annoying for cyclists, but it’s also a problem for all of us: increased fuel consumption and emissions are a byproduct of cars having to stop constantly. Using stop signs to work around the problem of irresponsible and inconsiderate driving in neighborhoods also does not solve the core issue with that.

    Anywhere that it’s OK for a cyclist to yield and roll, it should be OK for any other vehicle driver (who actually understand’s the principle… which probably excludes most Americans who have been dumbed down by overused stop signs). Giving bicyclists permission to roll through badly-used stop signs not only doesn’t solve the core problem, it will have all kinds of unintended consequences. There is strength in “same roads, same rights, same rules.” I’m loath to undermine that… especially with a special privilege which would likely touch off a shitstorm of resentment and backlash from those who already think we don’t deserve to be in “their” roads (which itself points to other problems that desperately need solving).

    We have layer upon layer of band-aid approaches to social problems. Every layer has unintended consequences. Sadly, precious few people have the courage, energy or imagination to address the core issues.

    Patrick said: “While some would advocate that separate is not equal in bike facilities, ideally we can achieve parallel (on and off-street) facilities for those who choose them (bringing in new riders) and maintain the right to use other on-street facilities.”

    Ideally, yes. Dan G calls this “inclusive design.”

    For it to work in the real world it is dependent on 2 things: preservation of legal rights of roadway cycling regardless of adjacent facilities; and social acceptance of cyclists on the roadway regardless of adjacent facilities. Without BOTH of those factors, parallel facilities will be compulsory via legal regulation or social coercion. Honestly, I don’t know how we can overcome either when millions of taxpayer dollars are spent on separate infrastructure and cyclists still use the roads.

    Setting aside the significant cost and right-of-way-availability issues for now… It’s important to recognize that parallel facilities (especially side paths) will always have intersection safety issues that need to be solved. Bike lane safety issues are solved by integration at intersections (which is unappealing to timid cyclists). Sidepath safety issues are solved by eliminating right turn on red and creating separate signal phases—increasing delay for everyone, but usually more for cyclists. Cyclists must also use extra caution at driveways and minor intersections which won’t have signals. If you think stop signs are annoying, you’ll hate this.

    The compromises required for safe sidepath travel are rarely acceptable for cyclists who have learned to ride in traffic and are comfortable on the road, so it’s unfair for us to be penalized by legal restrictions or increased harassment. While I thoroughly understand the fears of novice riders, I think we sell ourselves short by trying to cater to it rather than bringing in new riders through education, empowerment… and solving the core social problems that make our roads feel intimidating.

    Roads belong to people, not cars. The sooner we disabuse ourselves of the notion that roads are for the speed and convenience of those driving motorized vehicles, the sooner we can achieve a healthier, more civil and livable community.

  6. “We have layer upon layer of band-aid approaches to social problems. Every layer has unintended consequences. Sadly, precious few people have the courage, energy or imagination to address the core issues.”

    What she said.

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