I have become an avid cyclist in the last 4 years. I ride city streets despite the risk of being killed by an inattentive, inconsiderate or even homicidal motorist. Life has risks. I have studied bicycle safety extensively and ride defensively to minimize risk. So often, when cyclist rights issues come up one hears “until cyclists follow the rules of the road like everyone else…” as if that justifies the vehicular homicide of cyclists. But everyone else does NOT follow the rules of the road. Often when I am waiting on my bike in the right hand lane of an intersection I look behind to see if I should scoot over a little bit to let someone turning right on red go around me. Over 50% of those that eventually do so do not signal. All motorists speed. Far more motorists text while driving than cyclists text while riding. When I used to go stock car racing in Killeen I would come back from my Saturday night program about 1-2:00 AM Sunday morning and I swear I was the only sober driver on Mopac. “All you pedestrians…” ignore “Don’t Walk” signs, and cross in between intersections often snaking around stopped traffic. The list could go on and on, but to what purpose? Pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, ALL break the law on a regular basis, but cyclist slaughter is all too often excused because of cyclist red light and stop sign running. Of course it is really stupid and suicidal for a cyclist to run a red light playing chicken with traffic which is proceeding through with the right of way. Stopping at a red light, looking around, and proceeding through an intersection with no cross traffic or traffic that can turn in front of you is illegal but not particularly unsafe to the rider or anyone else. Traffic law violations by pedestrians, cyclists and motorists alike range from dangerous and incredibly stupid to illegal, but “no harm, no foul.”
Even with an element of suicidal cyclists that don’t use lights at night, blow red lights in a kamikaze fashion, etc., all, if not most, of the cyclist fatalities of 2012 were negligent homicide on the part of motorists.
And to set the record straight, cyclists pay for their share of the streets like everyone else — and more. License plate fees and gasoline tax do NOT go to city streets, but support a small percentage of the interstate highway system. In fact, given that they wear the road surfaces to a negligible extent, use none of our finite fossil fuel resources to travel, take up far less parking space, produce negligible exhaust, (there was a actually a politician who recently complained about cyclists’ CO2 foot print because they “breath harder”) it would be appropriate to agressively subsidize cyclist travel as opposed to motorist travel.
I have an issue with people in their teens and 20s touring Austin sidewalks on motorized transportation. They are too weak to walk? I have a REAL issue with the fact that I and my 78 year old buddy, who has two artificial hips, were on a park sidewalk headed to rollerderby at the Palmer Even Center, and a Segway tour came at us with the attitude, “Excuse us, move over, coming through!” It really didn’t kill us to step aside into the grass while they didn’t even slow down, but if I had any iota of respect for them their actions pretty much killed it.
The Segway is brilliant technology serving an almost nonexistent need. I wrote a letter to the Statesman about this once and it was the last letter to the Statesman I will ever write. In my letter expressing contempt for Segway users, I expressly excluded from my contempt Segway users who, because of disability, would otherwise be less mobile. The Statesman edited that out making me look like an insensitive jerk and I got a bunch of letters from irate people who had an uncle or whatever who was disabled and relied on a Segway to get around.
Recently my wife and I visited for several days. She spent most of her time in art museums — which are all excellent and all free! We arrived at midnight Wednesday, and the next morning I was waiting at the door of a family-operated bike shop for them to open so I could pick up my rental bike. The owner of the bike shop, Penny at Light Street Cycles, was one of two people who comprise 95% of cycling advocacy in Baltimore. Sunday, I went on a 40 mile ride with the other, Bob Wagner. Both were very warm, hospitable and delightful people. The city was fascinating to ride in, with lots of history and much older buildings and homes than what you see in Austin. “Bike-friendly” like Austin? Not quite….maybe 2 miles of trails total, few and random bike lanes, far fewer people on bikes, and sewer grates everywhere with the bars running parallel to the curb! Drop a front wheel in one of those and you can expect to break the fork off our bike and do yourself some major hurt!
So, fascinating as Baltimore was, as much as I wish Austin could get it together and repair its broken down and disconnected trails, as annoyed as I am at so many of Austin’s bike lanes rendered unsafe due to parked cars, I returned home with appreciation of what we are doing well re’ cycling here in Lance’s home town.
Penny and Bob have a standing invitation for a guided Austin “urban century” courtesy of Don.
Despite still being in final recovery from a cursed winter cold and sore throat, I am anxiously waiting for warm weather later today to ride the new custom bicycle I just finished. It has a Shimano Alfine 11 speed hub which is difficult to obtain in the US — marketed primarily in Europe and Great Britain. Shifts like a dream, and can be shifted while motionless! Joe Riley did some KICK ASS pin-striping work on it.