D. Dowd Muska

 

Walkers, Cyclists, Drivers: We Can’t All Get Along

April 26, 2012

Pop quiz! (Relax, it’s multiple choice.)

Which of the following have you seen:

Bigfoot

Little green men

The Loch Ness Monster

A cyclist obey a stop sign

Okay, that fourth item is preposterous. You’re far likelier to have encountered a reclusive hominid, extraterrestrials, or Nessie than a DayGlo-adorned Cadel Evans wannabe who abides by traffic laws.

Acolytes of the Cult of Two Wheels never tire of lecturing drivers that state statutes are clear: Roads are for both mechanized and human-propelled transportation. Their critique can be legit. As the cycling infestation grows, motorists are lashing out. Hollering, horn-honking, and fist-shaking are at times understandable, but some confrontations have proven deadly. (Go beyond exasperation, and approach depraved indifference, and you’re asking for a stint in a prison cell.)

But cyclists are rarely willing to acknowledge the recklessness of their kind. A sense of superiority, noted columnist Brian McGrory, “leads them to … swerve into traffic with the entitled expectation that everyone else will screech to a halt, [and] glide the wrong way down streets, across sidewalks, through pedestrian malls, constantly yelling, ‘Watch it, dude!’” It’s irresponsibility that often has grisly consequences. According to the National Safety Council’s computation of “lifetime odds of death for selected causes,” bicycles are riskier than accidental gun discharges, electrocutions, bee/wasp/hornet stings, dog attacks, earthquakes, lightning, and floods.

Cyclists don’t limit the carnage to themselves. A 2011 report by the Stuart C. Gruskin Foundation, a charity named for a man who was killed by a wrong-way bike messenger, found that 1,000 pedestrians are velo victims each year in the Empire State. In November, the New York Post reported that a “beautiful Brooklyn stage actress who was mowed down last summer in a near-fatal collision with a bicyclist is suing the city for $3 million, claiming Prospect Park has become a hazard … due to speeding cyclists.” (Reach for your wallets, Big Apple taxpayers.) A few weeks later, Manhattan attorney Meghan Rohan filed suit against cyclist Sabine Von Sengbusch, who struck her in Central Park. Rohan was countersuing, actually -- Von Sengbusch filed first.

Scofflaw cycling has gotten egregious enough that Boston, a city so moonbatty that candy and soda are banned from municipal property, recently announced a boost in its enforcement of traffic rules. “Bicyclists have a right to share the road and they should command respect from other drivers,’’ said police chief Thomas Pasquarello. “At the same time, they need to show respect for the rights of pedestrians and vehicle drivers.’’

Even elected officials in what’s been called the “biking-est city in the country” have taken action. In February, Boulder enacted several ordinances aimed at enhancing safety. A speed limit of 8 miles per hour for cyclists traversing crosswalks was set. Councilman Ken Wilson called the measure “a step in the right direction,” adding that “bicyclists need to pay attention more.” (Dangerous comments in the city with the highest percentage of two-wheeled commuters in the U.S.)

All this kerfuffle stems from three widely ignored realities. First, automobiles and trucks cannot “share the road” with bicycles. Second, sidewalks are for pedestrians. And finally, cyclists aren’t going away.

It’s lunacy to allow small, spindly, pedal-powered vehicles alongside fast-moving subcompacts, sedans, pickups, SUVs, vans, and tractor trailers. Injuries, deaths, and civil and criminal actions are inevitable. Yet cyclists, including those who understand the threat they pose to themselves and others, will never relent. Their religion -- i.e., apocalyptic environmentalism -- requires rituals to atone for man’s use of hydrocarbons. Marinating in smugness over their miniscule “carbon footprints,” the hostility they engender from motorists validates their piety. If Mother Gaia demands an occasional human sacrifice, so be it. This is bigger than all of us!

Cars own the roads. Pedestrians occupy the sidewalks. Cyclists need their own thoroughfare.

The solution is simple: Dedicated lanes. (Where necessary, elevated tracks? Well-lighted tunnels?) Cyclists must be made to pay for a separate infrastructure. They’ll be safer, as will walkers. Drivers will rejoice.

State and local governments should experiment, and find the best tools to fairly and efficiently raise the appropriate revenue. An annual bicycle-registration fee is one possibility, as are electronic tolls. (Mandatory odometers, checked by roving bureaucrats who tax by the mile, might go too far.) Velo weenies will wail and pout and insist that their greeniness should absolve them of any assessment attached to their treasured method of transit. Let ‘em grumble. They’re already a pretty miserable lot.

Cycling silliness is, alack, enduring. Time to minimize its damage.

D. Dowd Muska (www.dowdmuska.com) writes about government, economics, and technology. Follow him on Twitter @dowdmuska.

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