Something we must talk about!
I just finished reading the article that appears below and most all of the comments as well and I guess I have a few responses.
The first is to congratulate Tim Blumenthal, Founder of People For Bikes for having the guts to start this much needed conversation, even though it wasn’t a popular one from the point of view of some of his peers. And, while I can see their point of view, we don’t just teach our kids to walk without teaching them the dangers of streets, how to avoid them at first… Then how to navigate them as their learning levels allow. We don’t give teens, young adults the keys to a car without first talking about the dangers inherent to that mode of transportation and teaching them how to drive as safely and skillfully as we can. So, similarly, we can’t have people riding bikes while not talking about safety issues because it might make people less likely to ride. It hasn’t stopped people from driving all these years or walking either. However, I do agree that we must talk about these issues in an empassioned but emotionless discourse… Leaving our personal feelings aside from those times when we feel we’ve been “wronged” by a cyclist, an auto driver or a pedestrian or all of them, in an effort to make it possible for more people to travel safely, no matter how they choose to do so. We must learn what rules are required of us as drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and how we can work together as a community to make travel and the pleasure of riding, driving and walking safer for all.
I’ve been trying to learn the laws in my area as both a cyclist and a driver traveling the roads with cyclists, to better understand my responsibilities, requirements, and etiquette and I’m shocked at a few of the comments on the article. The first being that someone suggests “purposely riding two abreast when a group of cyclists realizes that a car is behind them to force the car to NOT PASS” when this is a clear violation of law in my state as a cyclist. You may ride two abreast UNLESS and UNTIL a car approaches when you must fall back into single file, while staying in your lane, to allow the car to more safely pass. Doesn’t that make more sense for everyone?
The second thing I read in the comments that shocked me is that I didn’t know that as a driver, I’m required to give any cyclist a 3ft berth. I’m trying to learn more about this subject, yet I didn’t know that? Education should be more easily available and more widely distributed. Why are we surprised that two of the most bike friendly countries in the world teach cycling skills first, as a part of routine and required childhood education and then teach the kids the rules of traffic once their riding skills are established. Voila! Future generations in their country will keep their nations bike friendly because they’ve taught their young people that bikes are more than a toy at Christmas or a birthday wish, more than something to be ridden in a suburban driveway or in a dead end road. It’s even more than a weekend fun time shared with family and friends on the bike path. We then start teaching them that this is a new means of transportation, the most efficient self-powered mode of transport invented and a leveler to the playing field of age, economic status, fitness, etc. If only it were to to be taught as a transportation of the people, for the people. You must learn responsibility to ride but once you do, the doors that are open to you! You can get around town with much greater ease and speed with very little ongoing expense and a relatively small amount to acquire a cycle. It’s brilliant. It’s beautiful. It’s fun. It’s a solitary pursuit, or a group one! Cyclists can be anyone, from the CEO of a company to a pauper on the street, from an Olympic athlete to someone disabled like me. Just about anyone can cycle, if they want to and have a bit of creativity.
These are great reasons why we all need to talk about the dangers of interdisciplinary modes of transportation as well as the enjoyment we can ALL share together on the streets and paths of our communities. It’s worth a little work on everyone’s part to ensure a safer place for all of us in this world we share.
Enjoy the article and may it spark some ideas in your head – dreaming of what you’d like to see happen, and the many things you can do to help your community grow into a safer, happier, more peaceful and productive place for everyone.