Friday, May 16, 2008

Bike to Work Week, A Group Ride & $128 a barrel

Out of all of this week's bicycle related events, the highlight for me had to be decorating the front basket of my townie w/ flowers, drinking a glass of wine, and then riding throughout the neighborhood as the sun set. That is to say, Tuesday's People Power sponsored group ride down Mission Street (above) in the right hand lane in support of installing "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs didn't do much for me. It was assertive but lacked spontaneity, but obviously that wasn't the point of the ride - How else was the city council gonna feel like there was a mandate?

The sad part is, despite hundreds of riders showing up to the City Council mtg, People Power didn't get approval for either of the two signs they were hoping for:

Instead they got a picture of a figure on a bicycle riding in the middle of the road in front of a car. (Sorry, couldn't find a pic but the article about it is here:

I suppose you could make an argument about how a stick figure on a bicycle is more aesthetically pleasing than a "BIKES MAY USE FULL LANE" sign or conversely, how it's important to spell things out for the driving population. Either way, the bureaucrats and lawyers spent many-a-hour detailing the legal nuances of all the sign options and the City Council folks made a decision that People Power will have to live with. I certainly wouldn't call it eating shit but I wouldn't call it getting what you ordered either.

Fittingly, this year's Bike to Work Week festivities also left me w/ mixed feelings and for the same reasons. For all their good intentions, the Bike to Work Week folks' method for getting people out of cars and onto bicycles is the time tested carrot and stick technique only there's no stick. I mean, not for nothing, but if we're going to close down the north end of Pacific Ave for the free breakfasts, why not close down the whole street for the entire day? Because that would be inconveniencing commerce and cars, and we can't have that.

The truth is, we cannot simultaneously create a proper/modern infrastructure for bicycles without cutting into the privileges of cars. As anyone contemplating leaving their car at home and riding a bike will tell you, the fear of getting hit by a car is a huge factor in discouraging people from riding. And yet, if we had more bike paths (i.e. completely separate and buffered spaces for pedestrians and bicycles to move) where cars would be banned, you'd see many more people riding.

I suppose that's why so many bicycle advocates are secretly smiling as oil prices skyrocket - It's accomplishing precisely what we haven't been able to do by asking nicely. Of course, $5/gal is a stick that doesn't discriminate who it hits, so I'm smiling while I can.

1 comment:

Fritz said...

I posted an image showing the "approved sign" to Flickr. And yeah, the decision was a little big dissapointing.