>> Brett you are preaching to the choir on this one. This >> county and primarily this city have such poor bicycle >> infrastructure that I have given up commuting on my bicycle. >> I was averaging three close encounters with vehicles per day >> commuting between Live Oak and the campus. It's a shame that >> there is no political will locally to build the system >> necessary to make bicycling safe for us all. I promise to >> keep working on these issues but there is very shallow >> support for true improvement.
well this member of the choir is singing to a different drummer, so to speak :-) I can certainly agree with Wes that there is shallow support for true improvement, but I beg to differ in the matter of what true improvement would be or how to achieve it.
look, if we had a serious problem with, say, construction workers hassling and insulting women who walk by a site, we wouldn't suggest that we should build special separate sidewalks for the women. we'd say the construction workers need to behave themselves, and it's their employer's responsibility to make sure they do so.
if we have a problem with hate speech and harassment on campus (which we do at present) we don't suggest segregating all the students of whatever ethnicity is being targeted into a separate UC campus to "protect" them: we try to confront the bad behaviour directly and make it unacceptable.
when your neighbours throw a loud rude party and keep you awake until the wee hours, you call the cops and they tell the offenders to shut up -- they don't tell you that you should move to a special "quiet district" (which hasn't been constructed yet, so you'll just have to put up with the nuisance) or that we need to "build a system" of sound baffles to protect your right to sleep. they rightly attribute the problem to its source: rude neighbours.
so why don't we feel the same about careless, dangerous drivers? aren't they disturbing the peace, menacing others, harassing people going about their daily business? when a big guy like Wes feels scared to ride his bike to school, then the neighbourhood bullies are clearly out of control :-)
the "facilities" argument imho is a counsel of despair and a cop-out -- a way to postpone indefinitely a much-needed engagement with the bad behaviour of drivers, the degree of public danger inevitably imposed by the way we use the private automobile, and the need to do something about that.
danger is most effectively reduced at the source, not downstream. an ounce of prevention, as they say :-)
it makes way more sense to control toxic emissions at the smokestack or outflow than to treat thousands of people year after year for cancer, evacuate the region entirely, or issue masks and water filters to every resident. any physician can tell you that it's the underlying syndrome you hope to diagnose and address; if you give up and focus only on alleviating the symptoms, then you're implicitly admitting that the disease is intractable or even terminal -- all you can do is make the inevitable more comfortable.
this is where we are today with the social malaise of automobile supremacy: we're saying that it's intractable, that we're helpless, the car is beyond our control, like a lava flow or a flash flood -- all we can do is move potential victims out of the way of its inevitable onslaught.
but why do we adopt such a position of despair? there's nothing inevitable or absolute about the car problem. it's not a force of nature. it's a clunky, inefficient technology whose hegemony was created in only 80 years; and it could be tamed in 10, if there were "political will" to place a higher priority on the safety and health of the entire community than on the convenience of 60 percent of that community.
I suggest we start asking why drivers get away with dangerous driving, why our police don't do anything about this problem, etc -- instead of pining for a "pie in the sky by and by" paradise in which we can retreat to a separate road/path network of our very own. I personally won't live long enough to see anything like that; heck, they tell us it would take 20 years just to build one bike road along the rail RoW :-)
so I'd like to see practical measures taken now, in the immediate term, to curb the arrogance and irresponsibility of motorists, to make them behave more like members of a community and less like Visigoths just passing through -- and o.c. to make the full costs of driving payable by those who drive. I'm tired of subsidizing people who are rude to me :-)
this is imho where the political will is lacking -- we will do anything (including blaming peds and bikes for being hit by cars) rather than point the finger at the real source of public danger, expense, etc. instead of saying "we have too many cars," we always say "we don't have enough lanes." instead of saying "cars inflict danger on pedestrians and bikes, and so cars are a problem that we need to solve," we say "walking and cycling are dangerous, and so walking and cycling are problems that we need to solve." we've got hold of the wrong end of the elephant here.
case in point:
just this weekend I was passing the semi truck which seems to be more or less permanently parked right by the RR tracks on Fair. there's also, of course, a lot of glass and gravel, bad patches and other fun stuff on that block, so I was taking a goodly chunk of the mv lane; and as it happened I was hauling 3 bags of groceries on the frankenbike (wide load).
someone in a small light-coloured compact blew by me at well over 30 mph with less than 18 inches to spare -- just couldn't wait 10 seconds for me to clear that parked semi, or for a gap in the opposing traffic. no, he (?) had to "squeeze" between me and the oncoming vehicles at high speed, crossing the centerline, forcing them to edge over into the "bike lane" on their side to get out of his way.
did I get the plate? no, he was going fast enough that it was hard to read. it was all over in a second. this is not an unusual occurrence -- it's not exactly everyday, but it's common enough that I didn't feel shocked or deeply surprised, only physically startled by the rocket-like Whoosh and then wearily disgusted. this is the kind of driving that happens every day -- not just on arterials but on residential streets. not just while commuting, but while going over to a friend's house or to get a loaf of bread. there's no "system" that can be engineered to solve this problem. this is a social problem, not an engineering problem.
unless we're willing and able to build a separate dedicated bike road to every single store and restaurant and home where I want to go, and unless we're planning to do that in my lifetime, I have to share the public streets with these people.
what am I supposed to do -- follow Wes' lead and stop riding my bike while I wait for the millennialist facilities vision to materialize? I don't have that many years left to wait for the Messiah, sorry :-) and I don't want to own or drive a car, I don't consider that an option. I want some basic justice now.
it ought to cost less to make drivers behave than to engage in massive construction projects. in fact, it ought to be revenue-generating, given an appropriate fee schedule for infractions :-)
the problem is not the "facilities". it's the drivers: too many, too rude, too arrogant, too fast. it's the cars: too many, too heavy, too toxic, too fast. we won't solve this urgent problem by running away from it.
imnsho. ymmv (literally).