Wednesday, March 4, 2015
Moser Column: When enough is enough: throwing in the towel
“I used to ride my bike all the time up north but it hasn’t been out of the garage since moving here because of what I see on the roads and in the news.” “I’d never let my kids ride their bikes to school, or anywhere for that matter, because of what I see on the roads and read about almost daily in the news.” “I commuted to work by bike almost every day for many years until the latest close call due to a driver’s inattentiveness, cluelessness or aggressiveness. Whatever the reason, I decided to give up my bike and drive instead.”
These are but a few examples of the kinds of statements I’ve heard from readers and others I communicate with far too often, the last being the most recent. That one was most disturbing, considering that it came from someone who was walking and not on a bike when the life-changing close call occurred. Having been in law enforcement, this person doesn’t scare easily. In fact, even a hit-and-run crash that resulted in serious injuries wasn’t enough to make him throw in the towel on his commuting by bike once he recovered. But, apparently, the daily decision to be a vulnerable road user in an environment that has proven to be so inhospitable over the years just isn’t worth the risk when other options are available. That option, at least for him, is to drive to work and everywhere else. Unfortunately, it’s not an option for everyone.
Over the decades I’ve been involved in the bike/ped world and have been approached by folks making these kind of pronouncements — most with their own personal tipping-point stories, I usually do my best to convince them to get back out there or give it a try, especially if they are relatively new to our area. I would relate my position that being part of traffic is only as safe or as dangerous as one makes it. I’d tell them that improving one’s skills by taking a course such as CyclingSavvy is vital for the confidence needed to be a legitimate part of traffic. I’d tell them that following rules is important; that being prepared for the unexpected and other’s misbehavior is key. But hearing from someone who I know to be an experienced and skilled bike rider and who operates safely and legally leaves me little ammo to make a case for putting oneself at risk day in and day out. Or even occasionally, for that matter.
Writing about this person’s decision is not something I relish, considering my role as an advocate and professional who deals with this situation on a regular basis. But I believe it’s necessary because it’s a sad but telling example of our failure, as a community, to accommodate at least 30 percent of our population in terms of providing safe access to the public space that is our transportation network for anyone who doesn’t drive their own personal motor vehicle. And that 30 percent doesn’t even take into account those who would like to use their public property (i.e., the public right of way) for non-essential purposes or as an option rather than driving for commuting, shopping or other practical purposes. Even with improvements made over the years in terms of bike/ped facilities and treatments, we still put the efficiency of moving motor vehicles — not people — first and foremost. And it’s almost always at the expense of vulnerable road users, with design speed being the primary culprit and killer.
This “car sewer” philosophy hasn’t been very good for those of us inside our armored vehicles either. We do, after all, have a horrendous overall traffic crash/injury/fatality record. And that’s been the case for as long as those who approve and design our roads with this mentality have been doing so, which has been since Southwest Florida joined the post-war boom in the 1950s. What’s worse is that it’s pretty much agreed upon by most of our decision-makers that the status quo is OK.
Personally, I’m not throwing in the towel. But I’ll probably be less inclined to encourage those who have given up or are unwilling to even try riding a bike here to reconsider their decision. That is, until our collective leadership — both elected officials and senior staff — show through action and not rhetoric and by throwing fiscal crumbs at the problem that they are willing to make things right and implement Complete Streets. Read more about this at bikewalklee.blogspot.com.
Until next time, I’ll look for you on the roads and pathways. ¦
¦ Mission Nutrition 5K & Health Fair, Sunday, March 8, Fort Myers(endurancesportstiming.com)
¦ Scope for Hope 5K, Saturday, March 14, Hammond Stadium, Fort Myers(ftmyerstrackclub.com)
¦ Lehigh SpringFest 5K, Saturday, March 21, Lehigh (ftmyerstrackclub.com)
Cycling and other events:
¦ Royal Palm Classic, Sunday, March 22, Gateway (caloosariders.org)
¦ Miracle Limbs Ride, Saturday, March 21, Naples (miraclelimbs.org)
— Dan Moser is a long- time bicycle/ pedestrian advocate and traffic safety professional who cycles, runs and walks regularly for transportation, recreation and fitness. Contact him firstname.lastname@example.org or 334- 6417.