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Monday, July 02, 2007

I have to hope that Tim Wyse - the name is familiar - might be, say, that white XXX 645 driver who's so often tried to wave me to the bike path on Green (despite the fact that it dead-ends where he's turning right and would cut me off 'cause I'm going straight). He is an obviously well-intentioned soul - like ____ists everywhere - who wishes cyclists would move our shadows out of his way. His editorial is HERE.

He talks about cyclists while talking about things we learned as children, and gives us advice which includes the statement that "bicycles are pedestrian traffic."

Yea, we're working on responses to this fundamentally incorrect assumption - yet this is exactly the kind of mindset that is extremely hard to change. Spontaneous generation and the earth being the center of the universe were ideas which didn't fall easily either; "everybody" "knew" that women couldn't... or Race X is superior...

A marketing question:

Sort of a "side issue" approach to this would be to try to convey that we're not "them" or an odd special interest group - that we are legion and many of us are "normal people." Or, our resumes *looke* normal , or we were until we got on that bicycle ;) Hmmm... I think a marketing brainstorming session might be in order. What trains of thought will lead to [insert positive gut-level response here] reaction from Joe Non-Cycling Motorist? For example, when I'm looking my most homeless and pathos-inspiring [pathetic has too many negative connotations] (in sweats on the one-speed Schwinn with my beer-can rattle in the basket), people tend to give me lots of room and it comes down to being the same thing as respect. Or does it?
Or, woudl true respect be a more effective goal, because while they'll be nice to me when I look pathos-inspiring that may not translate into "yes, we should have bike boulevards, so people like her [and other folks who, though of course they *want* to, don't drive] can travel safely." Should we try to ascend from special interest group to Significant CHunk of the Population? Or should we go for Special Needs interest group?

Here's my spontaneous response to the editorial:
THe obviously well-intentioned editorial writer in Sunday's News-Gazette makes one basic error, and unfortunately a common misconception.

The fact is that - both legally and practically - bicycles are NOT pedestrian traffic. Bicycles are vehicles. Yes, bicyclists should stop at stop signs and obey traffic laws - as vehicles.

Roads were, actually, NOT made for cars (check your history), and a corollary error is his assumption that sidewalks were made for bicyclists. The laws clearly state this in several places by excluding bicyclists from using them.

Bicyclists, on the other hand, *are* included as legal users of our roadways. Bicycling on paths leads to more accidents because of conflicts at intersections and the vehicular speed of the bicycle. Bicyclists have more than "a legal right" to be on the roads; it is often the most sensible and safest place for them to be, even if sometimes another vehicle needs to slow down because they are there. Yes, there are ways to design roads and paths to minimize the conflicts and this is where attention should be given, instead of wishing bicyclists would disappear. Roads can be designed to be "complete streets" so that they are safe for bicyclists and pedestrians and automobile and truck drivers and anyone else trying to get from one place to another.

In our society, we often need to make compromises in our efficient travel and daily lives so that we can all get along. It is easy - but does much harm - to make assumptions without a valid knowledge base, especially when it's because things inconvenience us. There's room for all of us if we are a little patient.

Mr. Wyse seems to think cyclists are like children and talks in terms of what we learned as children. Throughout history, people in a position of power have assumed that those they can harm deserve taht fate, and -as he says- that it is "their responsibility" for their safety. If gangs were to move into his neighborhood tomorrow, I could say "those guys are armed. Fact is, in a conflict, you lose. Your safety is your responsibility." Would he feel the same way? I think not. But when he's the guy in the potentially lethal weapon, I'd just better get out of his way.

I believe in the American dream of giving the "little guy" room on the planet, too. God Bless America.

Good response to a real bonehead editorial. Sadly, his perspective is shared widely across the United States.
This morning taught me about riding as a pedestrian versus a vehicle. While on Bradley Ave I chose the left side sidewalk. As I approached an intersection, the car that had just pulled up stopped without blocking the crosswalk. Assuming this meant that she saw me, I crossed the street (like a pedestrian). However, as I was passing in front of the car, it began to pull forward and almost hit me. Apparently, she hadn't seen me and the pitiful cry of "sorry" out the window did little to aswage my feelings about almost getting hit. Soon after that experience, I rode the rest of the way to campus as a vehicle on the road and had no further near death experiences.
Thanks for the heads-up to the column! Good response as well -- Wyse needs to hear from many of us.
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