Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Why LA drivers are wrong about cyclists

She'll talk road diet when a vehicle can stock a supermarket
                                    According to one radio host this should be what we all drive on the streets of Los Angeles.

This post is an expansion on my initial reaction to local KABC talk show host Cristina Perez. 

Let me open by saying I like cars. Those who spend time around me know that I currently have three on my short list. There is the entry level Scion FR-S to make up for the Mazda RX-7 I couldn't afford in college. The new Corvette Stingray looks like a dream. I am also happy to welcome Alfa Romeo back to the U.S. with the arrival of the hot 4C. 

With that said I am compelled to illuminate the flaws in the argument against city cycling in a recent segment of the Judge Cristina show. A link to the segment is at the end of this post. 

Each segment she treats like a case. This one was bikes vs cars. Callers are witnesses. The host, a former television judge, presides over the case and renders a verdict. 

Hopefully my response will give anyone examining optimal urban transportation a broader perspective. It's about moving people and stuff for people, people!

Should we give bicyclist and pedestrians more room on the road?

Problem one:You are assuming that whomever makes up WE owns the roads. You are also making a distinction between groups of people trying to get from A to B, as if cyclists and pedestrians are something other than humans moving through the city. Roads are for people. People moving from one place to another. Roads are about moving goods from one group of people to another group of people. Cycling and walking are just as much a form of transportation as driving. Not only that, it is healthier and more, well, human. 

More room for cyclists will increase traffic.

Problem two: In the short run that would most likely happen. Properly protected bike lanes would encourage more riders that may not be giving up a car for a bike to decrease the total number of cars on the road. There is friction with any change. That doesn't me we don't change. 

To make the argument that more bikes equals more traffic ,100% of current drivers would have to continue driving. You can't drive and bike at the same time. Also the rate of new drivers being added to the system each year would have to remain the same. 

National Geographic

Actually fewer young people in the U.S. are taking to the roads via car according to the U.S. DOT. The expense of cars, traffic, lack of power, environmental concerns and Internet have dulled some of the luster of that once coveted first car.

In the long run more cyclists would make the roads less congested. More drivers would eventually want to join in the fun.  This would leave the designated car portion of the road open to those who must use a motorized vehicle.

B-Line PDX delivering the goods!

Judge Cristina also questions the cyclist. She asks "How is the truck delivering the supplies for the cyclist's latte going to get to Starbucks in all the increase traffic due to the proposed road diet?" In the city center who says you need to have a huge truck to deliver most goods? My evidence is a company called B-Line. They deliver all manner of commercial goods in the heart of  Portland. They have even worked with a national brand to deliver in the city center for their clients. I can't stand those box trucks double parked blocking traffic. How about you judge?

Others are right sizing their commercial fleets as well. Haven't you noticed the increase in small cargo vans like the Ford Transit Connect and Nissan NV200? Many of the big trucks are running around the city practically empty. I know, I use to work for a major office supply company. Part of the training was to load  a 20-30 foot box truck and make deliveries with the driver for a day. None of the trucks we loading in those predawn hours were fully loaded. 

It's not safe for bikes to be on the road.

Problem Three: You are absolutely right. Especially when drivers take your position regarding the humanity of cyclist and pedestrians.

I submit that we should treat threats to human health equally. When a product or practice is not safe for the people that use it and those in the general vicinity we seek to remove the product or change the practice. It's funny that when it comes to cars we seek to blame the victim. 

Cars are the problem in city centers not people. Based you your reasoning all people not in cars should not be allow on the roads because cars are too dangerous to be near. I am just going to let you ponder the reasoning of that position for a minute.

Mother Jones Dec. 2014

We have a huge war on guns in the U.S.. Often times the damage people do with guns in inner cities is evidence to further the idea of gun control. Following that reasoning we should be much more concerned with fighting a war on cars because more people die due to cars than by gun fire.

Car drivers pay taxes, bicyclists don't.

Problem Four: Judge, a witness for the car started this portion of the argument with a flawed assumption. It is incorrect to believe that 100% of cyclist do not have cars. Many people have both cars and bikes as a mode of transportation. So bicyclists are paying taxes for road use too. In Los Angeles many pedestrians are walking to or from their cars. Would you have a sidewalk tax as well?

If it is a matter of paying your fair share I would be happy to pay an annual bicycle registration fee. Just base it on vehicle size and how much your vehicle damages the roads. A good portion of road repairs in cities are due to heavy pounding by large trucks and the high volume of passenger vehicle traffic. Bikes on the other hand are so light that roads dominated by bikes would have almost zero maintenance cost for years on end.

Bike & trikes can haul!

There is another tax revenue advantage to having more bicycles on the road. A reasonable scenario is that the majority of transportation cyclist are auto drivers a well. If those auto drivers used their bikes at a ratio of 70/30 for example, the government wins. A driver would pay 100% of their share as a driver through annual registration and gas taxes but drive 70% of the time.

Also, it is funny that during breaks in the segment on the dangers of bikes on the road the lead story is about the Exxon refinery in Torrance that blew up. It refines oil into gas, for cars. Not only did it endanger the people at the refinery the local residents and schools were ordered to shelter in place. Why? Because of the toxic cloud descending them.

The day we can stock a supermarket, Whole Foods, by cyclist is the day we go on a road diet.

Problem five: When I initially heard these comments I thought she said, "When you could bring a load of groceries home by bike we can talk about a road diet." To hear the actual statement unedited is comical. Based on her closing statement the only vehicles that should be on the road are tractor trailers and bobtail trucks. With your reasoning Judge Cristina, people wouldn't be allowed to drive that new Infiniti you were promoting during the commercial break. Drop offs at the local elementary school would be more of a nightmare than it already is today. 

By the way here's a small sample of what can be accomplished on a bike:


Where I agree with the good judge and her callers.

I agree with you, bikes and cars shouldn't share the road. At least not the way American urban street are designed today. Wouldn't it be ridiculous for pedestrians to walk in the lanes with cars? Asking drivers to be responsible for managing a three foot gap when passing or as one caller mentioned, a two hundred yard buffer before making a right turn in front of a biker is not practical. 

St. Albert Gazette

Give cyclist protected bike lanes. Organize modes of transportation on the street by speed and weight. Leave pedestrians where they are, put people riding bikes next to them, then parked cars and people driving in the middle. Add a fixed barrier between cyclists and cars. This will bring peace of mind to everyone. Drivers don't have to worry about bikers and bikers don't have to worry about cars. At least not as much.

Most of my driving, especially on the weekends is within five miles of home. We are in Southern California, there are only about thirty days of weather wet enough to leave your bike at home. People are trying to move about the city. Let's use the best tools for a given task. 

Judge Cristina think about it like this, let' say you brought a framed painting home and asked your husband to hang it, or hung it yourself. You would think he was nuts if he came from the garage wielding a sledge hammer and a railroad spike to hang a picture frame on the wall. 

"Look at your garage as a transportation tool box." - Stephen Mosca, Go-One U.S.A.

Zigo Leader 

The technology is here with cargo bikes and electric assist. You don't need a three to five thousand pound vehicle to move six bags a groceries or two fifty pound kids ten blocks. It can be done by bike and in style. 

If you'd like to listen to the entire radio segment you can find it here.

Judge Cristina Perez can I take you on a bike ride?

How do you work to educate motorist and other citizen on the benefits of cycling for all city dwellers?

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