Getting a Fair Share of the Road

Today on the Streetsblog Network, we bring you a post from Greater Greater Washington
in which a bus and a bicycle have a bad encounter, leading to a
discussion about windshield perspective (that bus has a mighty big
windshield) and sharing the road. Antonio López writes:

041340.jpgBus and bike (not the ones in the story) coexisting in DC. Photo from WABA.

I
took the S bus down 16th Street yesterday. As the bus driver was coming
upon the stop at 16th and W, he drove up next to a bicyclist who was
also traveling southbound, to the right of the bus. The bus driver
began honking aggressively and pulled more to the right, dangerously
close to the cyclist. This put the cyclist in danger of becoming pinned
between the bus and the curb. Fortunately, the bus driver relented at
the last moment and allowed the bicyclist to move ahead of him, but not
before scaring the bicyclist and compromising her ability to ride
safely. I saw her swerve dangerously close to the bus and heard her
scream, "I’m on a bicycle!"

However, over the prior six blocks, the driver waited
patiently behind at least four cars illegally parked in the far-right
lane. Their drivers were sitting inside, their vehicles idling. But not
once did he bother to honk at them, however civilly, or otherwise stake
a claim to the occupied lane.

There’s a great thread growing out of this
post in which various points of view on sharing the road come up,
including a proposal from a guy named Lance whose solution is — not
sharing it. Asking the odd rhetorical question "Is it even possible for
a cyclist
to really adhere to all the rules of the road?" Lance says we should
consider banning bikes from downtown streets during rush hours (sound familiar?). That draconian suggestion got this reply from another commenter:

No
situation will ever be perfect, but Lance’s solution is to ban bikes.
That’s fine, but I can tell you that the laws will still be broken. I
see it as a great example of why comprehensive, independent cycling
infrastructure has emerged as a necessary component of any responsible
city planning. Separate, but equal. Separate, dedicated lanes; equal,
in that those lanes are created by chipping away at car sewers (which
calms down traffic, as many studies have shown). Ultimately, we as a
city and region have to ask ourselves whether we want to embrace
multimodalism, and if we really believe that adding exclusive vehicular
capacity is really the answer. It may be, but judging from what 495
probably looks like right now, I’d say bike-free zones aren’t
necessarily going to be the bee’s knees for the Hummer set.

Interesting stuff, and a great example of the kind of vital debate that is happening around the country on our member blogs.

More from around the network: Bike Commuting in Columbus
has a post from a woman who would like to use her bike for errands, but
feels that recreational cyclists have created an unsafe situation for
everyone by flouting traffic rules. Transit Miami
has an open letter to the city’s leadership, challenging them to
implement the Miami 21 plan for smart development in that city. And Cincy Streetcar Blog,
in defense of transit subsidies, points out just how heavily subsidized
General Motors is at this point — as are the streets that GM cars
drive on.

  • mcas

    On some level, I’d argue Lance is correct– if streets are built for cars (9-12 foot lanes occasionally with a bike lane (usually blocked by a car or truck anyway), lights that do not respond to cyclists or signalize corresponding to the average speed of cyclists, or provide speeds far too fast for cyclists to safely co-exist with cars, etc.)– why should cyclists be expected to follow the laws? It is like asking someone to cat to abide by the rules of a wild Dog Park– when there are sufficient, safe, dignified infrastructure that works for cyclists, then and only then, is it fair to ask cyclists to follow the law. Responsibility should only come with rights, no?

  • soylatte

    This debate is as old as bicycles — some components of it in fact are older than the automobile itself. The problem has been and is that the cycling community itself is divided between those who would want bikers to follow the law to the letter and those who advocate breaking the law if it keeps us rolling smoothly and safely.

    I’m in the latter camp, but this is just one of the things that matter here. Another consideration is that it is just not advisable to not bike on streets with heavy traffic and buses. Sometimes I see bikers on Van Ness or on Cesar Chavez and I cringe. You can’t ride on those streets without taking the lane, if you don’t want to be doored or clipped. Ride on Polk or 25th instead… Alemany has a long bike lane yet I much prefer riding a block in on a quiet street.

    I’m all for bike rights but safety comes first. And buses, fast flowing traffic, with no chance to position yourself safely just don’t mix. So the woman would have been wise to choose a different path to begin with.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

New SFMTA Safe Driving Video Is Required Viewing for City Truckers

|
The SFMTA has produced the city’s first training video to teach truck and bus drivers safe urban driving practices and highlight the extra care needed to operate in close proximity to people walking and biking on city streets. The video will be required viewing for all truck and bus drivers employed or contracted by the city, as well as companies […]
STREETSBLOG USA

Courtland Milloy’s Bike Hate Gets the Smackdown It Deserves

|
Bicyclists, pacificists, and reasonable people everywhere are up in arms today about Courtland Milloy’s outrageous column, published last night on Washington Post’s website, in which he suggests drivers should go ahead and intentionally hit cyclists if they feel like it. By somehow casting people on bicycles as “bullies” and “terrorists” — for reasons that never become […]