Monday, April 15, 2013

City of Houston to discuss passage of safe-passage law for bicyclists, which most will also ignore.

Groups like BikeHouston want room, lots of room.  Up to three feet when passing and six feet when trailing ($$$) (actually they want more than that but it looks like this is what they're going to get) from automobile drivers who have the bad taste to think roads are designed for automobiles as well.  As you might imagine, this is not going over well with those who prefer cars (see comments) the biggest issue being (rightly) that many bicyclists don't view vehicle laws as applicable to themselves. Judging from the comments (even from some bicyclists themselves) the biggest offender (in Houston) is the 'inclusive' group Critical Mass.

My feelings on safe passage laws dovetail with my feelings on no-texting-while-driving laws.  You can pass all the laws you want, but they're worthless if people ignore them and the police don't enforce them.  Also, the idea that we can pass a law/ordinance/edict/directive etc. and solve a problem is a symptom of the Something! Must be done. attitude displayed by too many of our local, state and federal elected officials.

Bicycles, which I enjoy riding for recreation, are classified as vehicles.  As a result they're subject to the same laws & regulations (in theory) as are automobiles.  This means that you can't bike/drive distracted, you have to obey the rules of the road and you have to follow various laws to ensure safe operation.  Ideally this would mean that minimum/maximum speeds are enforced, people would yield the right-of-way, safe following distance would be maintained, and passing would be done in a safe manner.

As we all know, this is not the case.  If only bicycles had license plates the City could have made a ton of money when the red light cameras were active due to the number of bikers who run read lights.  If a police officer really wanted to help the city, he/she would stake out on Allen Parkway and get all of the bicyclists who run up between cars at red lights as well.  Aggressive driving/biking?  Never ticketed.  Distracted driving/biking? Phaw!  So while the police are ignoring these laws, what's left to make people think that just a few more laws would change behavior?

Short answer: It won't.  What it will do is aggravate the already aggravated band of militant Houston bicyclists who feel that every car passing them, whether at a safe distance or no, is committing an aggressive act.  The police will yawn and then those who are against cars will advocate (even more strongly) for complete streets, which cost a lot more money while reducing automobile capacity.  If you're shooting for a Inner Loop grid that's as congested as Rome, Paris or London, you might be onto something.  If you were seriously trying to improve the lives of those who enjoy wearing Lycra bibs, vented helmets and the loudest walking shoes ever, then you might give serious consideration to separating the motorized vehicles from the non-motorized ones and building out the bike trail system.

Of course, there's no money for this so it'd have to be a toll-trail, which would prove difficult for bikers because those spandex shorts don't have pockets and their shirt pockets are constantly filled with packets of GU, Cliff Bars and "the stuff that made Lance go." (no, not that stuff, the OTHER stuff)  At least they're not using the stuff that made Landis go right?  All this means that coins are hard to carry when you're cycling.

Still, despite the fact that there's no money for it I believe the best option is to separate the bicyclists from the automobilists.  It may cost some but, as we've seen with Houston's silly little toy train system, trying to intermingle two disparate means of transportation typically ends with a loud crash followed by emergency response sirens and pools of blood.  Of course, those of a complete-streets, sardine-urbanist persuasion don't worry too much about that.  They live in neighborhoods close to the trails, and their chauffeurs will deal with the bits of bone and splotches of blood on the paint job before it does significant damage.

Mao may have told the people that biking was good for them, but you never saw him on one did you?

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