Sunday, June 25, 2006


pedaller said, "...just because cycling infrastructure gets built... there's no room for complacency, what gets built can just as easily be destroyed."

While I'm certainly not a fan of bike lanes, I can relate well to the idea of becoming complacent. When the city of Tulsa designed their on-road bicycle routes, there was a stipulation from Public Works that none of them be along arterials. So the routes are laid out along quiet, low-traffic neighborhood streets. And of course, someone complained about cyclists using 'their' streets. I could envision someone using environmental laws to delay the construction of just such a plan, and given the litigious nature of some Americans, it's probably only a matter of time. If lawyers make a big stink over an issue, regardless of its merits, there's a good chance a city will kill a project rather than go through an expensive court fight. Cyclists need to be aware of these possibilities, stay on top of planning issues, and be prepared to take the moral high gound when vocalopposition is necessary.

But here's another aspect to complacency that popped up last week. The story about Anna, Texas, prompted some local cyclists to comment that it's a Texas issue, not one for Oklahoma. The presumption is that it can't happen here. No one would seriously consider banning bicyclists from an area road, particularly with the transparently bogus agrument that it's being done for their own safety. (Would someone advocate banning motor vehicles from a particular intersection because there are lots of crashes there? From a safety standpoint it would be sensible.)

It can happen here. It can happen anywhere. Cyclists are banned from bridges and roadways all the time. All we have to do is piss off the right person: the mayor, an influential councilman, or a major campaign donor.

A few years ago, some Texas legislator introduced a bill to bar bicyclists from ALL farm-to-market roads - essentially every county road in state. And I've been reading Steven Robert's "Computing Across America: The bicycle Odyssey of a high-tech nomad" . He encountered bridges, tunnels, and entire communities that banned bicycle travel. Try crossing the Mississippi River when the only bridge for miles is closed to cyclists.

It can happen here. It can happen anywhere.

Most of the time, cyclists receive little more than benign neglect from local law enforcement. Motorists - themselves almost universally guilty of routine speeding on our roads - complain that cyclists threaten public safety by ignoring stop signs and other traffic devices. Yet the cops aren't interested in enforcing the laws that cyclists break (Except in Paul Tay's case, and even then, some of their reasons for stopping him are suspect).

The best way to avoid getting banned from our roadways, a draconian 'solution' to cycling safety, is to ride legally and responsibly. That would seem to indicate that cities with a CM ride could be expected to attempt to ban cyclists. Or some places that have large group rides may make a similar attempt. Yet, riding legally and responsibly seems to have had no influence on the city of Anna.

There is no easy, one-size-fits-all solution. But when cyclists act like complete, road-going idiots, flouting traffic law and generally becoming a pain in the ass, we make it easier for those bigoted, pro-motoring interests to legislate us off the roads.