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Posted by on Nov 27, 2009 in General | 21 comments

With Friends Like These . . .

Thirty-five years ago nobody gave a damn. Other than the cops, who used to stop me and tell me that what I was doing was dangerous, or detain me to make their point, nobody cared.

Oh, how I long for those days.

Now, unsolicited, I have all sorts of “help.” My new friends tell the City of Orlando that to win their award, the city will have to paint lines all over the place. It doesn’t matter if the lines make any sense.

LAB, you are not my friend. I was better off without you.

21 Comments

  1. Interesting.

    I’ve never been a LAB member. The last few years, I’ve actively avoided doing anything that might cause me to inadvertently become a member. I can’t say I have a lot of respect for LAB as an organization. Now, for some of the very same reasons it’s getting criticized, and watching Richard Wharton try to singlehandedly compensate for LAB abandonment of education (see the Dallas Observer comments, among other things), I’m actually considering it for the first time ever.

    Yes, there are worse things than benign neglect. It is also true that there are better things than benign neglect, and that applies to bicycle advocates as well as to government.

    I’m over 50 now. I don’t WANT to see LAB be a bicycle version of AARP – an organization so wrapped up in ideology that it becomes worse than irrelevant to its membership…

    • Steve, start here: http://labreform.org/

      I put my energy into the Florida Bicycle Association. They’re doing really good things — law enforcement education, revamping cyclist education, civility initiative, developing a legislative presence, forming local chapters, etc.

  2. I met with another local bicycling advocate earlier today. We discussed whether we should remain LAB members and League instructors in the coming year. The consensus was that we’ve worked to obtain our credentials as instructors, and that education and advocacy are mutually supportive. The League may not see it that way, but that’s just too bad. I’m not an employee. I pay them for my membership and to maintain the liability insurance for teaching. It’s like taking out a fishing license, and then being told I have to hit all the speaking points for the state fishery commission.

  3. stop your whining. the lab is not forcing you to do anything you don’t want to do.

    • Not true. Now I get lectures that go something like this.

      “If the government goes to the trouble and expense to do something that makes my foolish activity safer, then I am recklessly endangering myself if I decline to use it.

      It’s like refusing to use a sidewalk when walking — which in this state is illegal.”

      So, I try to avoid the streets that have bike lanes all together. This reduces where I can ride and usually makes my trips longer. Please don’t “help” me anymore!

  4. No advocacy organization will perfectly mirror my views. Politics is the art of the compromise, and failure to compromise is the mark of the fanatic.

    I am a member of the Toronto Cyclists’ Union. We have many disagreements over how best to achieve a car-free Toronto, what the best infrastructure treatments are for co-existing with public transit and pedestrians, etc, etc.

    Yet at the end of the day, what unites us is far more than what divides us and what we agree upon is far more than what we disagree upon. We try to be united in pushing for a better Toronto.

    We were successful in packing Toronto City Council chamber with hundreds of members when they took the vote earlier this year on taking away a car lane on Jarvis Street.

    Toronto has the largest urban car-free zone in North America and we’re looking to expanding that to make Kensington car-free.

    Next year sees the launch of a Bixi-style public bike-sharing system, patterned upon the successful programmes in Paris and Montreal.

    There is a lively debate on tolling all the roads in Toronto for car traffic, with the tolls rising to such high levels on poor air quality days that car traffic would be substantially reduced. I personally view this as an important step to the City going car-free, since the tolls can be steadily increased to progressively eliminate cars. It also achieves the goal of “temporal denetworking” of car traffic. In other words, if cars cannot be used on poor air quality days, this makes much more attractive transportation modes that can be used 365 days of the year.

    Working together in solidarity with the Union has achieved positive results on the ground. Where I live in The Riding of Toronto Centre, the current commuting transportation mode share is:

    Public transit: 38%
    Cycling and walking: 34%
    Motorists (drivers & passengers): 26%

    Source:
    http://www3.thestar.com/static/googlemaps/starmaps.html?xml=080830_commuters_walkandbike.xml

    We’re working together to steadily push down that 26% to zero, and the Cyclists’ Union is an important vehicle to achieve that goal.

    • “We have many disagreements over how best to achieve”

      That’s the difference. I don’t care about any of that. If, tomorrow, everyone gave up riding bikes, it wouldn’t bother me a bit. If everyone took up riding, that wouldn’t bother me, either. If people want to ride, that’s fine with me, if they don’t, why would I care?

      My new “friends” though, care so much about putting butts on bikes, that they are going out of their way to make my life more “interesting.”

      There is only one thing that LAB has ever done for me and that is to educate me as to how awful their “safety” program is by handing out awards to cities that promote the unsafe activity of riding too close to parked cars and forcing a cyclist to weave in and out of oncoming traffic.

      • PM Summer said, in the comments to this post on cycleSMARTdallas:

        You want me to be tolerant of those who espouse a dangerous style of riding, one that not only endangers themselves and others through fearful ignorance, but mandates that style for me as well.

        You want too much.

        When they change the roadway to coddle ignorance in an effort to lure the uninformed, they not only endanger the innocent, they force the competent to choose between using crappy infrastructure or harassment for not using it. They punish the people who have made an effort to better themselves, as they race to the bottom to “enable” the lowest common denominator.

        Why not race to the top? Nurture confidence and excellence rather than fear and dependency? Those who claim it doesn’t work, know darn well it has not been tried.

  5. Eric wrote:

    “If, tomorrow, everyone gave up riding bikes, it wouldn’t bother me a bit”

    Kevin’s comment:
    It would bother me. Not only would we lose the “safety in numbers” effect, but there would quickly be no suitable infrastructure for cycling.

    I am now imagining a city in which I am the only cyclist, and everyone else got around by walking or public transit. It seems to me that cycling would quickly be banned from both sidewalks and streetcar tracks, leaving me exactly nowhere to ride my bike.

    I’ve been in cities in the USA and Australia where it sure felt like I was the only cyclist. What an unpleasant experience! I’ve also been in Groningen where the bike mode share is 55%. What a much more pleasant place to get around!

    Every day I walk out the door where I live and onto streets where the car mode share is at 26% and falling fast. We’re not Groningen, but it is much, much more pleasant cycling in Toronto than in the USA or Australia. Here, I’m part of a steady flow of bicycle traffic and it just feels good.

    One particular example is the “shared space” or “naked streets” movement. This only really works if car traffic is in the minority. Otherwise motorists use their tons of steel to bully everyone else into submission. For an example, look at this video and tell me that this would work if I was the only cyclist:

    http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2009/11/den-bosch-at-high-speed.html

  6. Here’s someone else with the same opinion:

    “My one and only cycling complaint about Toronto… There are not enough cyclists in Toronto!”

    http://bikingtoronto.com/duncan/

  7. “I am now imagining a city in which I am the only cyclist, and everyone else got around by walking or public transit. It seems to me that cycling would quickly be banned from both sidewalks and streetcar tracks, leaving me exactly nowhere to ride my bike.”

    Correct. First cars are outlawed, then bicycles and horses — this is what happens when people take ideological positions.

    I have none. As long as I am left alone to pursue my particular form of transportation, I don’t care how others decide to move themselves.

    That is why advocates are not helping me — they are too ideologically driven.

    Go away and stop “helping” me!

  8. Kevin’s comment:
    “It would bother me. Not only would we lose the “safety in numbers” effect, but there would quickly be no suitable infrastructure for cycling.”

    What an absurd comment, one that goes straight to the self-loathing inferiority that far too many cycling advocates bandy about as entitlement justification.

    Remove every cyclist but me from the streets of Orlando, and I’ll still have thousands of miles of suitable infrastructure to ride on. I am not a victim of the automobile, I am a willing partner. Segregated infrastructure doesn’t prevent a “Rosewood” of car vs. bicyclist… it encourages it.

    Your comment about naked streets (and Woonerven) needing a low percentage of automobiles is incorrect. The proof is right before your eyes. Go to any shopping mall in Orlando this American Mid-Winter Shopping Orgy season and watch how the cars and peds in the parking lots interact. Without pathways, paint, special lights, or body armor, outnumbered and outweighed pedestrians easily hold their own (and even dictate priority) with automobiles. It’s not safety in numbers, it’s safety in context and expectation. The context is an engineering result, while the expectation is an experience result… by both parties in the negotiation of space.

    You do realize, don’t you, that the most dangerous place for a person to be is in their home? More serious injuries and deaths occur as a result of home incidents than any other place. Perhaps if we had bigger families, it would be safer. Perhaps if we had special rooms we never strayed from, we wouldn’t hurt ourselves. Perhaps if we had laws that made it illegal to touch someone else, the emergency room visits would decline.

    What we are seeing now is an example of 21st Century Cargo Cults taking hold, where we mistake the end product for the primal process. Not understanding the effect (lots of people), we misunderstand the cause (bike lanes/streetcars, speaking in Dutch, wearing berets and trench coats).

    And worse, we lie about it… because lies sell.

  9. P.M. Summer wrote:
    “Go to any shopping mall in Orlando this American Mid-Winter Shopping Orgy season and watch how the cars and peds in the parking lots interact.”

    Kevin’s comment:
    Thank you for proving my point. In the situation you describe peds outnumber cars, and every motorist knows he is about to become one of them – so treats them appropriately.

    All I can suggest is that you come and visit and experience where I live in Toronto or anywhere else where the motorist commute mode share is as low as our current 26%. I’ve been to Orlando. Even with our current weather, it is much, much more pleasant and safe to cycle here than in Orlando.

    Just to take one example, I have no qualms about sending my children off every day to cycle to school. Can you say the same about schools in Orlando?

  10. Why is it that some assume being pro-bike necessitates being anti-car? The desire for a car-free city goes hand in hand with cyclists who are afraid to ride in traffic. One of cycling’s best kept secrets is that we need cars to sweep the lane free of debris and to gently abrade the road surface as it weathers, keeping it smooth. Take a look at some asphalt that doesn’t see motor vehicle traffic, and you’ll see how it deteriorates from the weather in a few short years.

    Besides, some of us simply cannot travel by bicycle. I’m presently in that category due to injuries, but I’ll eventually heal. I know some who won’t. Riding a bicycle is impossible or even dangerous due to their health. Would the anti-car zealots happily confine them to their homes as a result?

    • Ed wrote:
      “One of cycling’s best kept secrets is that we need cars to sweep the lane free of debris and to gently abrade the road surface as it weathers, keeping it smooth.”

      Kevin’s comment:
      Perhaps one reason why this “secret” is kept so well is that it simply isn’t true. I’ve seen with my own two eyes the streets in the car-free zones in Toronto and many other places. They all look just fine to me.

      In fact, just the opposite is true. The most harmful of road debris comes from cars. Toronto just got new street sweepers specifically to clean up car crap. From the City’s official website:

      “…a major source of fine particulate matter in our air comes from fine road dust. The source of this fine road dust comes mainly from the wearing down of asphalt, rubber tires, brake discs and brake pads of motor vehicles. The City’s current fleet of street sweepers have only limited ability to remove fine road dust and are even more limited in their ability to contain it from dispersing into the air.

      That’s where the new sweepers come in. They are capable of removing and containing over 90 per cent of the fine road dust from road surfaces. Removing this road dust will lead to a substantial improvement in the city’s air quality.”

      Source:

      http://www.toronto.ca/transportation/environment/index.htm#clean

      • So, I suppose I should believe Kevin rather than my own lyin’ eyes. Let’s see…Toronto is somewhat farther north than Oklahoma, so it would be reasonable to assume that average temperatures are somewhat less. Add to the summer heat with roughly 2-3 months of cloud free summer days that allow ample amounts of UV light to break down asphalt (and tires, for that matter), and then toss in the differences in asphalt composition itself as well as differing government specifications, and we could very well be comparing apples and oranges.

  11. I’m not so sure car free is the way to go. I do think increasing the number of transportation options would go a long way to improving conditions for everyone – not just cyclists. Even in the Gronigen video linked above, I noticed quite a few automobiles including 40′ transit buses – the new shiny wide kind.

    Investing in the infrastructure needed to create a meaningful mode split (>15%) requires a real shift in priorities. That shift is very hard to get people to buy into, particularly in the US and especially in the Sun Belt.

  12. Ed wrote:
    “… toss in the differences in asphalt composition itself as well as differing government specifications…”

    Kevin’s comments:
    That could be the source of the problems that you seem to be experiencing. The car-free zone in Tunis (the Medina) does not seem to have these types of problems, in spite of having no shortage of heat and sun. Also no shortage of asphalt since the government cannot afford “nicer” paving materials for those streets that are not covered.

    Also no shortage of people complaining about how unfair it is that Tunisia is not sitting on an ocean of oil like Libya is so they actually have to work for a living. And pay taxes. The horror…

  13. Fred, everyone knows that all cyclists want bike lanes. It’s just common sense…..just as it was once common sense to believe that the Earth was flat. That most people believed it did not make it so.

  14. It’s flat where I am :-)