Wednesday, February 6, 2013

You can't be world class without giving bicycles 3 feet of space

Last week, with an article once again placed behind the pay wall, new-ish Chronicle transportation writer Dug Begley informed Houstonians that one giant impediment in our fair city's move to world class status is our lack of share the road laws for bicyclists.  This is disturbing stuff, I mean, how can we possibly continue to function knowing that a driver of an automobile can come within two feet of a cyclists without any fear of repercussion from police officers, or that a long-haul commercial vehicle can come within 5 feet of the same cyclist and be well within his/her right to the road?

Of course, the reason given for Houston not having a law in place is that no one has really raised the issue before now, so thank goodness we have the good folks at the Houston Chronicle willing to bend an ear toward the silent super-minority in favor of an ordinance that, seemingly, no one really wants and which will affect a select few.

Naturally, the all-natural fiber wearing, vegan population of a complete streets persuasion think this idea is grand. The key word here being "activists" who are the sort who doggedly ride their bikes to work in the Summer despite the fact that their offices don't have showering facilities and who can frequently be seen in the bathroom, toweling off with patchouli oil and lilac.  Of course, they would see the benefit of the law because they view bicycling as their great grab against the ugliness that they find in every aspect of American life.

How about for the rest of us?  Those of us who are OK with capitalism and automobiles but do enjoy occasionally heading out on the old bicycle for a bit of fun and fitness?  What should we think about passing yet another law to solve a problem that's very rare and possibly won't do anything to solve a problem that might only marginally exist?

If you go and read the article, and you probably should, you will find that Houston has a pretty good master plan for bike trails and the lot which are perfectly sufficient for most to enjoy their bit of two wheeled exercise without needing (too often) to plunge into the traffic main lanes and play chicken with a poultry delivery truck. You also might think "well, most people are conscientious around cyclists on the road" and you'd be right there as well.  The problem is, most people are going to do what they can to NOT hit a bicyclist because their blood would clash with the color of paint on their car.  Well, that and there are sure to be some legal issues if they hit them, and hurting a fellow citizen (even one in a biking outfit) is not a part of our social DNA.  That there are people out there who deliberately try and run cyclists off the road is another matter entirely.  As a matter of fact, passing such a law might just double their resolve because then they might feel they're losing the war.

But the point is, we already have laws to deal with the idiots among us, those who would deliberately hurt a fellow citizen on a bike, and it's typically not the case that more laws deter those with a leaning toward jerk-dom.

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