If a bike lane is a privilege that bicyclists are allowed to use, then it is as welcome as a car-pool lane. If a bike lane is a restriction that bicyclists are expected to stay within, then it is as welcome as a ghetto.
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- Pete -- I agree with you about the general principle. And I agree with your statement that if we want to increase the number of people who bicycle then treating bicyclists as pariahs is not the way to go, and I agree that increasing the number of bicyclists is in general a desirable goal. However, I was specifically addressing Michael's comments about bicyclists and automobiles sharing the road. While I agree in general that responsible motorists and bicyclists can share the road, and that responsible bicyclists should be able to use the road in a fashion that they deem to provide safety for all, I take opposition to the idea that one must restrict the behavior of motorists because they are in cars, but that if bicyclists are erratic that's OK whether they are restricted to bike lanes or not. It may be that Michael did not mean to imply that, but I fear that there was enough ambiguity that others might take it that way. Thus my analogy with pedestrians in parking lots -- both pedestrians and drivers should bear responsibility for making sure nobody gets hit, but too often today you find that people walking in parking lots simply pay no attention, and if they get hit because of this then they still are not convinced that they bear any part of the blame.
Also, I'm going to retract my earlier statement. I do not agree that erratic cyclists are only hurting themselves, although that may be the most common outcome. Erratic cyclists may hit pedestrians, and thus cause harm to others. If an erratic cyclist causes a car to swerve, and that car hits another car or an object, the cyclist has caused harm to others.
Last, and I admit this is a little bit picking nits but I hate imprecisions of this type -- I too experience many more irresponsible drivers than irresponsible cyclists -- in magnitude. As a ratio to the whole, I'm not so sure.Nov 17, 2011
- I agree that I don't know whether there are more idiot bikers than drivers as a ratio to the whole, and I agree enthusiastically that drivers and bikers share the responsibility for making sure no one gets hit.
I don't think anyone is arguing that bicycles should be blameless no matter how dumb they are acting. Michael was responding to previous posters who were responding to my reference to a youtube video about New York's law saying that bicycles face a $50 fine for being outside the bike lane, which is applied even if the bike lane is blocked. I assert that establishing bike lanes like that discourages bike riding, even if "establishing bike lanes" sounds positive.Nov 17, 2011
- I'd like to make it quite clear that when I referred to the hypothetical "erratic cyclist", I made no statement, nor intended any implication that I approve of such behavior on the part of any road user. I was, in fact, comparing the "erratic cyclist" with the "inattentive motorist"; both are failing in their responsibilities, and both could be charged with reckless driving (or some such moving violation) under most state laws, as far as I know. Merely riding a bicycle outside of a marked bike lane does not, on its own, constitute "erratic cycling".
Furthermore, while it is of course possible for a reckless cyclist to injure a pedestrian, or cause automobile collisions (in which motorists are injured), these events occur, if at all, in vanishingly small numbers. Can you find even three examples of either type of incident?
Regarding the problem of increasing the cycling rate beyond just a small percentage of the population in a place where people can afford to buy and operate automobiles, there is plenty of evidence showing what is necessary, and on-street bike lanes with no real separation from motor vehicles just doesn't do it, regardless of laws or their enforcement. To become more than a marginal mode of transportation, any mode needs to be safe, convenient, and comfortable. The biggest problems with on-street bike lanes such as we have in most places in North America are that they don't feel safe to most potential cyclists, and that there is effectively no way to enforce their boundaries, and prevent motor vehicles from straying into and blocking them. It's about infrastructure, not the law, and no North American city has anything approaching high-quality cycling infrastructure.
You all might find this video interesting: http://blog.ronconcocacola.com/2011/06/02/nyc-goes-three-ways.aspx
The message is a variation on "can't we all just get along?", but the problem is that this is an unrealistic expectation. Really, we can't. See the following essay for an explanation better than I can write myself. The author is a British expatriate living in the Netherlands, who writes extensively about cycling infrastructure.
http://hembrow.blogspot.com/2011/06/three-way-street-chaos-in-new-york.htmlNov 17, 2011
- Nov 18, 2011
- Ha, ha. Try actually following those links. The first one shows statistics for cyclists injured (actually "mortality" seems to be selected) in collisions with "pedestrian or animal", over some time period that I can't be bothered to explore further. The number for the United States is two. The second link is a British blog, citing a UK report that indicates that "as a pedestrian you are 263 times more likely to be killed by a motor vehicle than by a bicycle". Again, no examples. The third one is a cycling forum from the UK, which actually links to a story of one runner injured in a collision with "three boys" riding bicycles. Three more of the links in that first group are about one incident in Toronto, and the last one is a case in New York City. Give the man a prize! Two of these events even occurred in North America! Wow! Other results are references to reports of crash data, some of which even include numbers of pedestrians injured by cyclists, most comparing that number to the number of pedestrians injured by motor vehicles, which seems to be about two orders of magnitude higher -- far outstripping the difference in transportation mode share. One goes on, "It would probably also make sense to note, that the pedestrians who were hit by cyclists, although hospitalized, ultimately lived and without any debilitating injuries. I wonder if the same can be said for those hit by cars?"
So, lets do a Google search for "pedestrian killed by cyclist"...
Five of the top ten results are all stories about one incident in San Francisco. One refers to an incident in Toronto, and one in the UK. Notably, the youngest of the three victims in these stories was 68 years old.
Now do a Google search for "pedestrian killed by car", and see what you get. The point is that there is an enormous difference in the lethality of a vehicle that weighs thousands of pounds, travels at 40-60 miles per hour, is relatively wide and long, and frequently isolates its operator from the sounds (and to a lesser extent, the sightlines) of its environment, and a vehicle whose mass and size are nearly insignificant comared to its operator, and travels at 10-20 miles per hour.Nov 18, 2011
- OK, before we get all 'these results are ridiculous', remember that we are talking about 'harming others'. Not all people hit by cars are killed (in fact, according to a NYC billboard at 30 MPH there is a 70% chance of survival). But having to take your afternoon and spend it in the emergency room is not any fun either.
I acknowledge that you didn't mean that erratic cyclists were not a problem, and in fact I believe I only said that what you had written could be interpreted in such a way. HOWEVER I claim that in our 'not me-based' responsibility-avoiding society of today, there are many who would subscribe to the theory that it doesn't matter what the bicyclist was doing, the car was at fault. These are the same people who would subscribe to the theory that it doesn't matter what the pedestrian was doing, the car was at fault.
You know, I hit a dog while riding a bicycle once. Fortunately, the dog was only scared, but I was riding on a bike path, at a decent but not unsafe clip of about 12-15 mph, and came around a curve. The owners of two dogs had stopped to chat, and while the owners were off the path, both dogs were politely sitting on the path. The lane next to me was blocked by another cyclist, and I was simply unable to brake in time. So tell me, who was at fault? -- which is not, of course, to say that I didn't feel terrible.
Here is a summary of my opinion:
1) Encouraging cycling is good
2) Providing infrastructure to enable cyclists to feel safe and reduce conflicts between motorists and cyclists is good
3) Providing "infrastructure" to enable cyclists to feel safe and reduce conflicts that does not actually accomplish that purpose does not, actually, solve the problem, and blindly insisting that the problem would be solved if only the cyclists would stick to the "infrastructure" (or trying to regulate it that way) is stupid.
4) Trying to make a case that any one group (cyclists, motorists, or pedestrians) has less of an onus on them to follow the rules of the road that are designed to keep us all safe because the 'outcome' of that particular group's failure to cooperate is less catastrophic is a myopic position. Even if the premise that the outcome is lesser is true, it doesn't build reciprocation and respect between the groups.Nov 18, 2011