bike lanes & rider safety/responsibility

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bike lane safety and rider responsibilities…

The above photo is taken from @SharkDancing’s twitter feed. I want to make sure as a reader you know I am not specifically targeting @SharkDancing or any other rider who feels their safety is not being take seriously but I wanted to take a moment to look at what is right about this photo:

First of all the bus has not pulled over to the curb to let its passengers disembark. The bus driver is respecting the bike lane. I am a veteran cyclist, putting in roughly six to ten thousand Km per year. I’ve seen cars, trucks, tractor trailers, buses, police, ambulance, vendors, runners, motorcycles and anything pretty much you can imagine impede on a bike lane. When you consider that a bike lane is by law protected from impediment and in the event a vehicle violates that law they can be ticketed and/or criminally charged for injuring a cyclist in a bike lane. This alone elevates you on a silver podium and solicits jealousy and remorse from not just motorist but the entire transportation community.

Along with the bus having not impeded on the bike lane. Pretend you are a car, which is not that far fetched, you are bound by the same rules of the road for the most part. A car and driver would be expected to be aware of his/her surroundings and stop for the transit vehicle to ensure passengers can safely disembark and cross to the sidewalk. Just because there is space for them to pass doesn’t make it safe to pass and the driver is expected to use sound judgement. A good example is the Toronto Street Cars. And should a motorist choose to ignore the obligation to stop he/she may be ticketed and or charged if there failure to yield resulted in injury.

Lets also not forget the pedestrian. Most of us are taught from childhood by our parents or early childhood educators to look both ways before crossing the road. In like kind the pedestrian seen in the above picture should be checking that it is safe to disembark from the public transit system he/she is utilizing.

I wholeheartedly agree that separated bike lanes are a good idea. It is safer. But when you consider there is no protective fence between the sidewalk and the road on easily 80% of roadways to physically stop a car from rolling up onto the sidewalk. And only on high speed highways are there separators between lanes of cars to protect motorist from colliding into one another.

As a cyclist consider the fact that you wield a multi edged sword. We have bike lanes protected by law from impediment by any other vehicle (though poorly enforced) and when your lane is occupied, by law you are considered a vehicle and may occupy the roadway just as a motorist does and even in some instances should you be riding a bike with a wheel size of 24″ or less you may even been permitted to ride the sidewalk in situations considered a risk to your safety. You are practically the only omnipresent vehicle on the road considering your mobility options.

Road safety is everyone’s responsibility. Separating a bike lanes I feel sometimes is a bit of an overkill. Playing the devils advocate here consider the resources required to implement a separated bike lane with barriers. Someone needs to lobby for it, someone needs to city plan for it, someone needs to do all the physical labor, Sidewalks may need to be reduced in size in turn reducing pedestrian traffic capacities. Then all the natural resources need to be farmed, processed, and consumed to ultimately construct an environment where the minimum attention and accountability on behalf of a cyclist can be achieved. We want our lanes, we want them protected from impediment by any other form of transportation and we think that greater measures than that taken for any other type of transportation on our common roadways are necessary.

I say, lay down the paint. Do more if you can. But I am a cyclist, aware of my vulnerabilities and aware of my responsibility to follow the rules of the road like any other vehicle I share space with. This is ultimately what keeps me safe, it is the reason why I am still alive. Not because a four inch curb between my bike and two tons or more of steel makes me invulnerable to the accidents that are inevitable when logging up to ten thousand Km per year.

To me riding a bike is good for my health, its good for the environment and its good for the community. But… Only when it doesn’t require soo much infrastructure to implement and maintain that every ounce of fossil fuel and people power I save the planet is completely negated by mining, processing, planning, labor, waste of already present infrastructure that needs to be rejigged.

Any reduction I’ve made in my global footprint feels moot.

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