Thursday, April 20, 2006

Sidewalks & Cycling

So much to write about…so little time.

September 4, 2005 I described my reasons for why I choose not to ride by bicycle on sidewalks.

Monday night I pointed out the (un)happy article “Reasons why we have sidewalks” in the University of South Dakota’s student newspaper.

Tuesday afternoon the author of the offending article left me a pretty nice response attached to the post as a comment.

Tuesday night a 12-year-old on a bicycle ran into a police car that had turned into his path, was cited and will be required to attend a bicycle safety course.

Yes, that’s right, riding a bike on a sidewalk, crossing the street in a crosswalk, collides with a police car that turns into his path, and it’s his fault. Why?

According to this news account he was cited for violating this law: “a person driving a bicycle upon a sidewalk shall stop before entering a crosswalk or highway from a sidewalk and must yield to all traffic therein.”

Do you get that? It can be argued that any contact, ever, between a vehicle and a bicycle coming from a sidewalk into a crosswalk, is the bicycle rider’s fault, because of failure to yield.

Add to that, this part of the same ordinance: “a person driving a bicycle upon a sidewalk shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian.”

Put these two laws in a pot and mix ‘em up and what do you have? A good argument that any bicycle, ridden on a sidewalk, has no rights. Any contact between the bike and a pedestrian is the bike’s fault for failure to yield. Any contact between the bike and a vehicle is the bike’s fault for failure to yield.

Sidewalks do not support efficient use of the most efficient vehicle in existence.

Do I think that 12-year-old should have been riding on the road? Not the one he got hit on, but maybe there could have been an alternate choice.

Do I think the car culture needs to change so that the 12-year-old can ride on the road? Yes.

Do I think the car culture will change? Well, there are a lot of reasons I hope for $100/barrel oil.


Anonymous said...

I looked at getting a bike to do some of our errand trips to the store. Sadly what I found was a complete nightmare for anyone attempting to walk or bike from our neighborhood to the nearest group of stores. There were no sidewalks in large sections of the trip. No backroads that connected the neighborhood to the stores. There is also no place at all to ride a bike safely on the street of 45mph crazed traffic. There is also no room to ride a bike on that road, no shoulder, no parking etc.
I have been paying attention to sidewalks around town, things are not any better elsewhere in town.

Anonymous said...

He also got something like a $90 fine. He's only a kid. Does anyone really think it was his fault?

mytzpyk said...

He clearly broke the law. It's likely $86 is the standard fine for such violations.

As far as fault or sympathy goes, I guess it's up to the kid or his parents to decide to pay or appeal to a judge for some sympathy.

Anonymous said...

Existing sidewalks were built for pedestrians (hence the name "side walk"). Yes, we need to encourage cyclists and not penalize them. However, we also need to understand that our transportation infrastructure would require massive changes in order to support a cycling society.

With all the things to hope for in this world, you seem to have chosen strangely. Oil is the the source for so much more than the fuel for your auto. In fact, without it, I find it unlikely that many of us would be walking or cycling anywhere. No soles, no tires, no cladding for cables . . .

mytzpyk said...

"massive changes" - yeah, that's the thing isn’t it.

I don't think $100 oil means the end to shoes or bike tires, etc...although I have caught myself wondering how much carbon needs to be burned to create a bicycle.

I think $100 oil will require some serious change in priorities...priorities that I think, for myself, are worth changing.

Of all the things I hope for in the world, reduced oil consumption is one on a list. Of all the things I openly hope for in The MinusCar Project, oil is one on a much shorter list.

Hoping for $100 oil has little effect on the actual price. Similarly, openly hoping that humanity can adjust its behavior to reduce carbon emissions has little effect on actual reductions.

Peas (and carrots)

mytzpyk said...

Speaking of massive changes...

We have a very good transportation infrastructure. There are well defined rules for road and intersection behavior, there are roads that criss-cross the whole country...

What we don't have is patient, attentive and sober drivers of vehicles. The vehicles aren't driving themselves, eh?

Anonymous said...

In Ames we have an awesome park that everyone ride/walks/runs in. The (heavily used) main entrance and the (heavily used) path intersect in one spot. At that intersection, there is a stop sign for the path. This is just one example of how much people value car traffic over anything else. The same kind of deal is going on with sidewalks and bike paths, and is why the poor kid has to pay $90. Sigh.

Don't we value safety over everything else? Shouldn't the least able to protect themselves while getting to work be protected to the max by the law so we at least have one thing going our way?