Lawless Cycling on High St.Oct 9th, 2009 | By Jeff Stephens | Category: Leadership Musings
Last Friday I sat for four hours at our PARK(ing) Day display at Paradise Garage on High Street, in the heart of Short North. See the picture for how we easily accommodated 14 bikes in the space of 1 car.
I was dumbfounded at the illegal behavior of the overwhelming majority of bicyclists riding on High Street. For the last 18 months, I’ve spent an average of one hour per week, defending our bicycling community against the “you’re all lawless scofflaws…running red lights…etc” rant. My defense that 95+% of cyclists are law-abiding drivers of their bicycles, was based on my experience while riding throughout our region, and across our country, for over 20 years. My defense was based on the similar experience and 95+% number referenced by my bicycle advocate peers across the country.
Sure, I’ve always conceded that there were a handful of cyclists in our urban core, that demonstrated illegal (and downright stupid) behavior. But, my perspective was based on my vision as a moving cyclist throughout the urban core. When I sat still for 4 hours….I was dumbfounded to discover that 95+% of bicyclists (that day) surfed the parking lane and ran red lights.
My level of disgust increased by the hour. It was like a 2×4 to the head. All of the sudden, I actually have empathy for the motorists on High Street. My cycling brethren….you’ve made me a liar. You’ve made me angry.
I’ve been sticking up for all of us…trying to say there were only a few bad apples. Do you know how hard it is to gain the respect of City officials, engineers & planners, the media, and most importantly…the volatile humans piloting those 2,000 lb. moving missiles? You’re not making it any easier with the behavior I witnessed last Friday.
Why are you riding this way? Are you so self-absorbed, that the world revolves around you? Are you just opportunistic since the bicycle gives you the opportunity to cheat traffic? Are you “expressing yourself” with your nonchalant coolness, hipness, whatever? Or, do you just not know any better? Do you just follow the example of the guy/gal in front of you because you’re new to urban bicycling? (I think it’s the latter.)
And don’t give me the “loss of momentum” or “it’s safe because there are no cars” or “cars break the law too” arguments. I’d heard them all ad nauseum. We ought to be better than that. Hold ourselves to a higher standard.
My general optimism for humanity suggests that this beahvior stems from a lack of education and, perhaps, the modeling of the wrong leaders on that stretch e road.
Consider Biking has always advocated City leaders to enforce bicycling behavior. After my rude awakening last week, we’ll push harder than ever to educate cyclists, and bring the strong arm of law enforcement down on wreckless cycling behavior.
Let’s nip this behavior in the bud, before our community leaders give up on us. We’re biting the hand that feeds us. Perhaps serendipitously, we’ve convened a group of downtown business leaders to develop a broad-based share the road campaign. After last week’s observations, I’m convinced we’ll need to allocate significant efforts to educating “our side of the street” first.
Its not that hard. Drive your bike like a vehicle. Don’t put your bike where an automobile couldn’t fit…and stop at the stop lights. It’ll make it easier to sell the City & the motoring public, that we’re worthy of respect & investment.