Wednesday, November 08, 2006

bikers vs. pedestrians: scuffles over scraps

The New York Times posted an op-ed on bike-ped conflicts in NYC (login required). The writer, a previous Department of Transporation assistant commissioner, blames the battle on a lack of policy and infrastructure recognizing cyclists as legitimate road users.

Ann Arbor faces similar problems where incomplete bike lanes, mixed messages on where to ride (sidewalk bike route signs, mixed use arrows, University-endorsed sidewalk biking) and street perceived to be unsafe by cyclist lead to sidewalk cycling, bike-ped conflicts, and, eventually, pedestrians cursing "those damn bikers!"

The solution presented in the op-ed is in three parts:

First, we need to establish a clear hierarchy for the use of city streets. Pedestrians come first; we started out as a walking city and it will be our greatest strength going forward. This means bikers must yield to pedestrians — even errant ones. Biking is a superb form of transport we should encourage. Drivers must yield to bike riders — even errant ones.
Second, we must enforce the rules. Police officers should write summonses specifically for “failure to yield” by bike riders (and car drivers). ...
Third, let’s advance the network of bike lanes citywide. I’d even re-introduce physically separate bike lanes. ...
Finally, we need to recognize that our economic and physical well-being are advanced when more people are able to enjoy our streets.

An write-up on streetsblog breaks that op-ed down to argue that cyclists and pedestrians are wasting their efforts in-fighting over the scraps of the transportation budget, instead of recognizing their similar position of disregard and organizing to petition for safer, less auto-centric streets.

While the Good People of Ann Arbor do make an effort to advocate for pedestrians and cyclists (WBWC, getDowntown, and this blog are examples), we still have our share of Letters to the Editor regarding renagade cyclists. Over on Arborupdate, divisions are even forming between yard-rakers and bike-riders over how to manage leaf pick-up in bike lanes.

Of course we'll always have some level of within-group conflict: helmet vs no helmet, power-walkers annoyed with meanderers, law abiding cyclists cursing J-walkers, the list goes on. But hopefully we as a community can keep the larger vision of working to improve policy and infrastructure for all carfree folks.

No comments: