Strategy for a Cyclist Friendly Community — Our Law Departments can Help!!
Keri’s recent (most-excellent) post asked us to think about ways or means by which we can promote cycling by starting at the bottom of the pyramid. We should be working on how to develop, as Keri put it: “Cultural Respect for the Bicycle as a Vehicle/Cyclist as a Driver”. Just a short way down her article, she states: “It begins with the law …”
It begins with the law … and I think with our Law Departments.
What if we had law departments put officers (perhaps in plain clothes) on bicycles and on the streets of Orlando? I mean really on the streets, not on sidewalks or parked at intersections, I mean patrolling on bikes on the street. What do you think these officers would see, and what would happen to them?
I expect they would see pretty much what we commuters see on a daily basis. They would see motorist behavior running the gamut from unintentional close passes to deliberate use of a vehicle as a weapon (bluff or not). They would be subject to harassment via the horn as well as the mouth by not riding fast enough. They would watch other cyclists ignorantly riding their bikes against traffic, and deliberately running red lights. They would see, and feel, the lack of civility on the road.
Now, again hypothetically, what if these same plain-clothed officers started handing out warnings and/or tickets? What effect would it have on motorists and cyclists?
Let’s say that an education campaign could be combined with the enforcement aspect — that if you were pulled over and given a warning, that educational materials could be passed out. If you were in a car, the materials would explain the issues confronting cyclists on the road, and the law. If you were a cyclist, it would explain issues of the legal obligations of riding a bicycle as a vehicle as well as how this aids in gaining respect for cyclists.
More flagrant situations could be addressed via tickets.
What would happen, over time? …I believe good things.
Why Would They?
OK, OK, some are you are saying this is just pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking. What possible incentive would a Law Department have for trying something like this? Well… how about:
- It wouldn’t cost a lot of money. Bicycles are relatively inexpensive (compared to outfitted police cruisers) to purchase and maintain. They could be carried on bike racks on the police cruisers in order to get longer distances away from the precinct headquarters. It saves money on gas and wear and tear on vehicles.
- It gets law enforcement interacting with people, instead of cordoning them off behind their (imposing) vehicles. This is something that most law departments want to do a better job with — interfacing with the public.
- Getting traffic to respect cyclists and getting cyclists to respect traffic laws would help reduce the potential for bicycle-vehicle accidents.
- It helps keep officers in shape!! This could be part of their Health Benefits program — every organization that pays for Health Benefits for their employees is looking for ways to make their employees healthier, thus lowering their premiums.
How to Start?
I’m trying to think “out-of-the-box” here. Law Enforcement has a critical role to play in helping shape the perceptions of people about what behaviors are allowed or not allowed in our society. Having law enforcement see by experiencing will get them working with us to help promote cycling as a healthy and safe way to travel on our streets.
Do you have any ideas on how to approach Law Enforcement with these thoughts?