Tuesday, August 19, 2008

And on ...

There are still new and old voices piping up about bicycling around the internet. This was a comment on Pittsblog (reprinted in its entirety):

“Here's why drivers are never going to be happy...

Drivers see no real benefit from cyclists, but clearly are inconvenienced by them.

That's about all there is to it.

Bicyclists need to somehow compensate drivers for the "externalities" related to their decision to cycle.”

Another commenter on the Burgh Report essentially blamed all car-bicycle accidents on bicycles, for engaging in the risky behavior of riding on the street.

I think the objections to bicycles have fallen into two different groups. First are the people who say that all bicyclists break the law. I guess they simply want to get rid of bicyclists, and that is their club. I will say once again that I believe nearly if not all car drivers also break the law, by speeding and/or rolling through stop signs. Obviously they stop at stop signs if there is a car (hopefully they also stop for bicycles) in the way, but at a clear stop sign …

The second set of objections, possibly combined with the first, are that bicycles are in the way. This is more honest, and perhaps sometimes more legitimate. After all, an out of shape cyclists riding a poorly maintained bicycle on a bridge like the Liberty or Smithfield Street Bridge in traffic is likely to hold up a lot of people. That’s where a bicyclist should consider using the sidewalk, even if (s)he has to walk the bike.

But regular commuting on city streets like Negley or Northumberland shouldn’t be a problem for drivers. It should be easy to pass a bicycle after a short time on these streets. Still clearly this is what drivers who complain about bicycles in the way have in mind.

Some people are suggesting bicyclists pass a test. But reasonable questions arise, how do (some low income) bicyclists get to a testing center, and is the a practical minimum age for the test? I myself think some safety requirements should be enforced. All bicyclists should be compelled to wear a helmet. All bicycles should have reflective devices and a bell. But I think the cops should carry, in their cars, reflective tape, a supply of bells and coupons for free helmets (available perhaps at police stations and mini-stations),. Other people suggest licensing, registration and perhaps taxing bicycles as well or instead (like the commenter above). Fine, let’s tax all vehicles by weight, which should determine how much they tear up the road. I’ll match my 35 pound bike with your 8,000 pound Hummer. A penny a pound or a dollar a pound (a dollar a pound might hit my Hyundai Accent pretty hard).

Some people who are riding a bicycle do so because they don’t have the money to shell out for bus fare, much less buy a car. These are people for whom a fee to ride a bike might be enough to make them give up working and go homeless. But they probably weren’t working a particularly important job, it can be filled with another poor person, and that’s one less bike on the road. Result!

I myself can easily toss my commuting bike on a bike rack and drive to a testing center, I can pay a fee to register my bike, the whole thing. But there are people for whom it would be a burden. Maybe in this new bike regime people could bring a copy of a tax return to prove income level and receive free registration a certain level. That is if they’re not working two jobs and can't get to the testing center.

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