I picked up a copy of Elly Blue’s fabulous book “Bikenomics” at Denver’s Tattered Cover Bookstore this past weekend. When I was last in Denver, the Tattered Cover was down in Cherry Creek. Now it’s located along slightly more bike-friendly East Colfax, not far from where Jan and I got married way back when. I like the new location.
Enough about that…I’m getting off the subject. One thing I really enjoyed about Bikenomics is how Ms. Blue encourages those of us who love cycling to think outside the box when advocating or evangelizing. It got me to thinking about some of the ways society unintentionally makes it more difficult to cycle versus drive a car. I wanted to share some of these with you today.
I’ve heard motorists refer to bike lanes as an entitlement, a form of special treatment for cyclists. This is because they don’t have to use them. If they did, they’d discover that most are narrow and filled with debris. Sometimes people park in them….something they wouldn’t dream of doing in the fast lane on the freeway. They’re often unsafe and expose us to risks like dooring.
All things considered, perhaps motorists should get the special treatment. They can have their very own lane and we cyclists can use what’s left over.
This past weekend while riding in Pueblo Colorado, I ran into a dismount zone. Nothing discourages cycling quite like a dismount zone. These are areas where we cyclists are expected to dismount and walk our bikes, for our own good, of course.
Dismount zones are the result of a mindset that says bicycling is just recreation or play, and as such it’s no big deal if you have to get off and walk for a little while. All well and good until you’re trying to get to work or the grocery store. Then they become unreasonable.
Most motorists have no idea what a sharrow is or what it means. This is in part due to the fact that the people responsible for putting them down provide virtually no explanation as to what they are or how they’re supposed to work. But it’s more than that. NATCO standards for sharrows are routinely ignored by the very people responsible for putting them in the right place.
All of this frustrates motorist and cyclist alike and that frustration creates needless challenges that must be overcome. There are standards for a reason. Perhaps the professionals should simply follow them instead of improvising.
When you’re out on the road every day you see a lot of things that make you go “Hmmmm.” Over time, you begin to get a clearer picture of what’s going on. In many ways, society still doesn’t take us seriously. The primary reason for this is that there simply aren’t enough of us…not yet. This is what really needs to change. The more people cycle, the more difficult it will be for society to marginalize us.
That’s the whole idea here. So please share your ideas via email or comments. Cycling is a solution that deserves to be an integral part of every community’s transportation infrastructure. It’s time to stop allowing ourselves to be pushed aside.