Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Misconceptions about cyclists

At lot of people oppose cycle infrastructure on grounds related to cyclist behavior or that they don't pay for roads. Let's debunk those now.

First, about the cyclists running through stop signs and not stopping completely at traffic lights, sometimes not obeying them at all. This is so easy to explain. Cyclists hate stop signs because it takes a huge amount of effort to recover from a full stop, while slowing to something maybe 15 km/h still lets them understand who goes first and whether it is safe to cross. Motorists also go through stop signs, mainly because they are also just as capable for the vast majority of stop signs to just yield instead. And many stop signs really should be changed to yield signs or roundabouts. Not stopping at traffic lights can be explained by that cyclists often don't have confidence that the waiting times will be reasonable, and stopping again for any reason zaps your energy, Sometimes if there isn't cross traffic, then riding ahead of traffic parallel with you that is not moving can even be safer than following the traffic lights.

People often claim that cyclists should be licensed/taxed/registered, or a combination, or all of the above. First, why would you do any of this? People don't need to be a licensed pedestrian to get a jaywalking fine, one of the few offences specifically related to traffic operations that pedestrians are capable of committing. So why should a cyclist need to be licensed to do this? And what about the fact that many children ride bicycles? Are you suggesting that they need to be licensed/taxed/registered? That doesn't make sense. First, children don't usually have that much money of their own, so even a nominal amount of $25 would be a considerable expense for a 7 year old. What good would it do anyway? Dutch cyclists aren't licensed, neither are E bike riders, mopeds and scooters are though. And their system works well. Don't see any reason why this wouldn't work? And in fact, many cities that have tried to license cyclists have failed, due to poor compliance, the expense of the licensing compared with the revenue, and the lack of improvement of enforcing laws for cyclists. I believe that you will not be able to enforce a law well unless natural reasons for obeying it already exist. You don't murder people because it would be very inconvenient and messy most of the time. Also because it would be a very high profile crime with a large punishment.

The taxed argument also doesn't make sense. Where something often called a road tax does exist, it is charged for either the damage caused to the road, or the damage to the environment. This is why many electric cars don't pay road tax. A bicycle does nothing to the state of the road/path itself, weather like rain and snow causes more. Charging them for either would be pointless. And besides, the cost of actually building the cycle paths is cheaper than building the roads we have today. By that I mean for equal capacity you could have a pair of 3 metre wide roadway lanes, a 1 metre verge between them, and a 3.5 metre wide bike path and 1.5 metre wide verge between path and roadway, plus a 2 metre sidewalk, and that would be cheaper than building a regular four lane divided arterial.

Plus a lot of the taxes you do pay in relation to bicycles goes towards ineffective cycle routes or actions related to them. Paying for helmet promotion, paying for bike lanes not wide enough and not safe enough, etc. Lets assume that we could either have 9990 vpd plus 10 cyclists per day on a road with no cycle tracks or 6500 vpd plus 3500 cyclists per day on a road with cycle tracks, well the smaller cost of building the cycle tracks compared with a roadway lane, and the savings elsewhere (healthcare services treating disease for example), means that it makes more logical sense to build the cycle tracks. And cyclists just like drivers for the most part do have a professional job, which means income tax for the province and federal government, some of which does go towards building transport infrastructure, but almost never does it go towards cycle infrastructure, and many people who cycle, along with many who drive, both own houses and other property, which goes towards property taxes. And for the amount of money cyclists pay, assuming they didn't take public transport or drive, and didn't own a car, they are actually being cheated out of money that should rightfully be going towards bike lanes, cycle tracks and 30 km/h zones.

Onto some other arguments in relation to how cyclists behave.

That they ride on the sidewalk. Duh. Of course they do. What's the alternative? Riding on a 4 lane arterial or even a busy collector lane doesn't feel safe does it? Why don't you compare the two options and come back if you are still unsure. Every location where a high enough quality cycle track is built, or a high enough quality mixed road is built, cyclists don't use the sidewalk because it's more convenient to ride on the road or cycle path. To the Dutch, if they ride bikes on the sidewalk, it is a sign of a massive failure on the part of road managers to provide safe, subjectively safe in this case, cycling space.

That they run down pedestrians, especially children, the elderly and disabled. Again, this is part misconception, and bad design of the road. Shared use paths don't work. The Dutch do sometimes have cycle paths without a sidewalk, but only where pedestrians are insignificant, rarely present at all. And sometimes they are forced into conflict in other ways. When cyclists are forced in some way, by snow not being cleared for the road but is clear for the sidewalk is an example, they have to conflict with pedestrians. And even when they do, the vast majority of cyclists don't want to hurt other people. Don't make people guilty by association. Just because Hitler was Austrian doesn't mean you should deport Austrian people from Canada. Some associations with results makes sense, for example saying that all KKK members are racists, which makes sense, given the entire goal of the KKK.

I walk, drive, take buses and of course, ride bicycles. And I do what I can to prevent collisions, and overtake pedestrians on pathways by using the other side of the path if I can. Drivers do too. When was the last time you heard a driver yell out "Today would be an awesome day to run over some pedestrians!"? If you live in a functioning society, you haven't heard that. If you interview and get to know my uncle who often cycles, you'll find that he is just as good of a guy as any other ordinary person. Would the fact that he rides his bike a lot make a difference to you? Does the action of a minority justify denying the majority safe and reasonable speed travel? A minority of car drivers blow through school zones at 120 km/h, a speed only suitable for divided highways and freeways both well away from schools. So you you think that justifies making drivers feel and be acted upon as if they are collectively responsible for that driver who blew through the school zone?

A lot of people tend to apply these mainly to those cyclists wearing spandex/lycra and using a bike with dropped handlebar and a hunched over riding position, or those wearing the high viz, bright helmet and a hybrid bicycle. They probably wouldn't associate it with a little kid in a bike trailer would they? Would you try to impose these rules on the cyclists in this picture. The objection most people might have with that picture is the lack of helmets, but aside from that, would any of your demands before make sense? And how much of an impact, no pun intended, would helmets make now on the cyclists in that picture? Someone did yell at me to F off the road, and I think that he or she, I can't remember, was angry mainly because I was in the middle of a lane, too narrow to overtake within the same lane. It takes guts to cycle under those conditions with 5 cars behind you. Especially at my age. If a car driver said to do that to a pedestrian who pressed the button to cross the street at a traffic light, would others accept that? Probably not. Bravery is not the act of yelling towards a much more vulnerable person, it's standing up or doing something despite the danger. We call soldiers brave for infiltrating an enemy camp full of guards waiting to kill you, we don't call them brave for the times when they sit by the TV eating food. If you are still angry after all this, please, do yourself a favour. Go to the nearest anger management program and use a foam punching bag as your scapegoat, not cyclists.

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