Saturday, May 22, 2010

Response to Orlando Sentinel Editorial – Make Our Roads Safer

After publishing a very salutatory article about Bike To Work Day and bicycling in general, the Orlando Sentinel chose to publish Make Our Roads Safer, an editorial condemning Florida bicyclist's objections to HB 971 which would require bicyclists to use bicycle lanes. In the Sentinel's editorial, local bike advocates Brad Kuhn and Might Wilson's views were dismissed as being trivial. The Sentinel cited Portland, Oregon's Bicycle Transportation Alliance as recommending the use of Portland's bicycle lanes.

Come on Sentinel. Rejecting local bicycling advocates' views as self-serving is ignoring the real message they are trying to get across, that motorists and police officers have to recognize that bicyclists have the right to use our roads too, and shouldn't be viewed only as obstructions. Every bicycle that is on the road is one less vehicle using a cup of gas for every mile traveled and perpetuating our dependence on Big O - Oil. The bicyclist is riding to work using his/her breakfast for fuel.

Come on Sentinel deux. Comparing Florida's bicycle infrastructure to Oregon's is like comparing buffalo trails to Los Angeles' freeway system. Oregon is light years ahead of Florida with their bicycle infrastructure. With few exceptions, Florida communities are just getting started with theirs. In too many cases, the initial attempts have been, to be kind, misdirected. These attempts at "bike lanes" are substandard and unsafe. It's too soon to force bicyclists onto bike lanes that are unproven at best and downright dangerous at worst. Serious bicyclists will use the lanes when they consider them safe, but in the meantime they need the freedom to act in their own best interest.

Finally, how does HB 971 make our roads safer as the Sentinel editorial suggests? Is there evidence that failure to use bike lanes has caused accidents? Or is this law for the convenience of motorists who want the slow bicyclists out of their way. Certainly none of the other provisions of HB 971 are concerned with safety: New vanity license plates including plates for the governor, senators and representatives; a provision for 3 wheeled vehicles (safe not); new fee structure for vehicle registrations; and a provision to get DUI drivers who've had their licenses revoked back on the road. And I think there's something about kitchen sinks in there too.

What about making it safer and more convenient to use a bicycle to commute to work? Isn't the long-term goal to increase bicycle ridership and use less hydrocarbon fuels? Anyone who uses a bicycle to commute to work deserves a little edge, and a lot of credit.

Come on Sentinel.