Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Share the Road

The recent incidents in Portland, Seattle, Minneapolis, and New York City demonstrate that we have a serious problem between cyclists and cars. Since all these incidents can't be blamed on critical mass or a few bad apples, we need a national discussion about how to rethink and retrofit our streets not only for cars and cyclists, but also to include pedestrians, transit, recreation, and other human powered modes. Although streets were designed with cars in mind, it seems the tipping point has come with the conflicts over road space and the cost of gas. Newsweek put it this way:
When gas prices surged above $4 per gallon earlier this year, it didn't take Nostradamus to predict that there would be a resultant rush to carbon-free commuting options—especially in a place like Portland, which is known for its ample network of bike lanes. Cyclists in "Stumptown" are spinning their spokes here in unprecedented numbers, trading in their fuel-guzzling SUVs for stylish 27-speeds.

But the cycling surge has created conflict, as the new breed of commuters bumps up against the old, oil-powered kind.

Most cyclists chalk it up to coincidence. But on bike blogs and other web sites, a debate is raging between the two user groups. Drivers charge cyclists with blatant disregard for the law—especially when it comes to stop signs and stop lights. And cyclists (some of whom defend their disdain for such regulations, arguing it's a pain to hop off their bikes at every stop sign) say drivers often act as if they don't exist.

It would be to everyone's benefit if a more equitable approach for streets, roads, and highways are pursued nationally with policy and implemented locally through design standards. If this is going to work, everyone has to be educated about multi-model transportation and respect all users of the street.

EDIT: Here are some current articles about Seattle and NYC

1 comment:

Tom said...

I recently started commuting and am nearing my 1000 mile (yeah!). Early on I decided that obeying traffic laws was not only important for my personal safety, but also critical for the the next influx of bikers who will begin a $5/gallon (a different kind of critical mass). I can't say I have always stopped at every stop sign.... nor do I always wear a seat belt while while driving. But either way bikers who blow off the law will make it difficult for bike commuters yet to be.