Right Idea, Wrong Approach

There’s this sign at the entrance to Ogden Canyon that rubs me the wrong way.  I’m willing to give the people who placed it the benefit of the doubt and assume that their motive was safety.  This might be too generous, but I’m willing to do it anyway because I am passionate about keeping cyclists and other vulnerable users safe on America’s highways and byways.

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Not recommended?  Huh?

That said, this sign is all wrong.  It doesn’t bar cyclists and pedestrians from this stretch of road because that would be illegal in Utah.  Instead, it discourages us.  It tries to scare us.  In doing so, it emboldens the bottom quartile of the motoring gene pool.  We have been warned.  If they run us down, it’s our fault.  Can’t we read?

I know that’s not what the sign says, but that’s what it says to me.  I’m willing to bet it also says it to more than a few motorists as well as law enforcement officers and other public officials who still have this antiquated notion that roads are exclusively for cars. They’re not.  They never were.

Let me offer a different perspective.   This road snakes up Ogden Canyon to Snowbasin ski resort.  Snowbasin is a playground for the rich and wealthy, some of whom drive exotic Italian sports cars that can take these corners at high speeds.   If you’re in a family sedan, you’re slowing these nice folk down.  Where do you get off?  So let’s replace the words “Peds and Cyclists”  with “Toyotas and Chevrolets” instead.    Why should those in Lamborghinis and Ferraris have their progress impeded by mere plebes?

Back to the present.  Maybe you’re thinking there’s an easy solution like, say, an alternate route.  There is, sort of.  It’s Interstate 84, a road that in every respect is far more dangerous to cyclists than this road.  It also has narrow shoulders and tight curves.  Speeds are much higher.  It also includes a 20 mile detour.    There’s great irony here because cyclists are generally prohibited from using interstate highways unless an alternative route exists.  In spite of all this, I-84 is the “recommended route” for cyclists who want or have to cross from the Wasatch Front to the Wasatch Back.  This lays bare the “cyclist safety” fairy tale some officials try to advance in justification of this nonsense.

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This is about cyclist safety. Sure it is.

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The “recommended” route for cyclists.  There are big trucks, narrow shoulders, high speeds and all sorts of problems to deal with here.

I hope I’m not being too harsh.  In general, Utah does a pretty good job and is far ahead of most states when it comes to providing access to cyclists.  In this particular case, the state has dropped the ball.  These signs aren’t about safety.  They’re about intimidation.   They’re about putting us in our place.  They’re about emboldening the most aggressive class of motorist, people who in general need a padded cell more than they need more emboldening.  These signs need to come down and they need to be replaced with something else.  Here are a couple of suggestions.  Officials should drop the speed limit, too.  So it takes folks a few minutes longer to get where they’re going. It’s not the end of the world.

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Motorists and bicyclists both have a right to access our nation’s inventory of roads and streets but neither we nor they have a right to unimpeded access.  We have to share the road with other classes of road users.  That’s what the law says, and it doesn’t matter at all that some other class is bigger or faster than us.  It doesn’t matter that they have more political power or clout.  If it was all about safety, this would be a no brainer.  That it isn’t speaks volumes.

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