Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Ban or restrict cycling?

Brian Potter, a good friend and local bicycling advocate, asked on the Oklahoma mailing list if we thought bicycling should be banned or restricted. This was in conjunction with the statement that local law often varies from state law here in Oklahoma, and most municipalities still have the obsolete "as far right as practicable" language. What follows is my response:

Cycling is already effectively banned on many of our roadways, Brian. When a rider says, "There's too much traffic" or "It's too dangerous" or "all those motorists are out to kill me" he's essentially banned himself from the road. When he rides on the sidewalk or hugs the right-hand fog line thinking that by doing so he's being safe or more courteous, he's accepted second-class status on our streets. When he says he can't get from A to B because there are no bikelanes, he's bought into our societal view of cyclists as inferior road users, with inferior rights and inferior expectations.

And most motorists, city planners, and police are perfectly happy that these cyclists accept their subservient position. It makes driving easier when cyclists get the hell out of the way. Even better, when the city provides a debris-filled substandard bike lane and forces cyclists to use it instead of the roadway, they get a two-fer. First, it gets bicycle riders off the roadway, and second it discourages them from using a bicycle more often.

But what's worse is when well-meaning but uninformed cyclists insist that limited monies be spent constructing poorly designed facilities, apparently believing that ANY project thrown our way is good. This reduces the pitifully small amount that could be spent on bicycle education - you know - the basic knowledge and skill that a cyclist needs when the bikeway ends - and that reduction allows for the construction of more half-baked projects, further reducing the numbers of those pesky cyclists.

It's a plot, I tell ya!

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