Thursday 2 January 2014

Cyclists do NOT need to earn respect or their place on the road

Summary: Public roads belong to the people not cars. Cycling is a preferred, modern transport option in cities and cyclists are perfectly entitled to use the roads without deferring to motorists or being treated as second class users. If anything, it is motorists who should be discriminated against in city streets that are used by pedestrians, cyclists and public transport.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Stephen

1. Some motorists in car-centric cities really do believe cyclists have less rights and priority on the road
- This common attitude among some motorists is clearly expressed in click-bait news articles, motorists' comments on news articles about cycling and, most critically, through the way they drive when they encounter cyclists on the road. As just one example:
"We are sick of riders' sense of entitlement and their increasing aggression... We are sick of the dangerous fiction that the road is there to share. In fact, the road is there for cars. Bicycles are there under sufferance... Most drivers grimly endure the inconvenience and additional hazards, taking extra care when they see a bike. A good cyclist understands this is a courtesy bestowed and behaves accordingly. 
The emerging civil war on our roads between cyclists and motorists is fuelled by the hardcore cycling lobby, egged on by green activists who see bikes as a handy weapon. They have created the unreasonable expectation that bikes have as much right as cars to use the road. But the only winner is physics. And what that tells us is that when a two tonne block of steel comes up against flesh and blood and lightweight aluminium tubing, there is no contest."
Miranda Devine: Warne's right when he says cyclists are out of control
Alan Davies, an urban design and transport consultant, summarises this issue of respect and legitimacy for cyclists like this:
"What’s really needed to make cycling safer is more respect and consideration from drivers. The core issue is drivers don’t see cyclists as legitimate road users. I don’t think that’s got a lot to do with cyclists not being licensed, bicycles not being registered, riders wearing lycra, or cyclists flouting the road rules. I think its fundamentally because motorists simply see roads as exclusively for their use and cyclists, like pedestrians, don’t belong on them. That’s what drivers have always been told and that’s what they’ve always believed. 
What we need now, I think, is a clear and authoritative message from the Government that the roads belong as much to cyclists as they do to drivers of vehicles. The traditional view of motorists about who “owns” the road needs to be drastically reformed. The message needs to emphasise that not only do cyclists have an equal right to the road, their vulnerability means they have a further right to special care and consideration from drivers."
The Urbanist: What is the key challenge for cycling policy?
2. Cyclists do not need to be registered to be taken seriously by motorists
- The "not registered" argument is often made to de-legitimise cycling. See Mark Skaife's comments (11:06) in this TV story: > The war on our roads

- Yet, it is entirely legal for cyclists to use all public roads apart from the few clearly marked exceptions (tunnels, some highways). In Australia, motorists are required by law to treat cyclists as vehicles with the same legitimate rights to use the roads.

- Cyclists who wish to restrict cars for good reasons campaign to have laws and regulations changed. Rational motorists would take the same approach if they wanted to restrict cycling - campaigning (with evidence and logic) to change laws and regulations. However, many instead determine they can choose to drive their multi-ton vehicles in dangerous ways that don't treat cyclists as legitimate road users.

- This is illogical (cyclists can't register if it isn't legally possible) and alongside the annual toll of unnecessary deaths and injuries to cyclists and pedestrians, exemplifies why cars need to be restricted, some motorists taken off the roads entirely and penalties for injuring cyclists/pedestrians increased and enforced.

- Registration and its associated fees have a logical purpose for cars (identifying cars, compulsory insurance) but are not useful or feasible for cyclists. See: The Urbanist: Is it time bicycles were registered?, > Bicycle Network: Registration of bicycle, > Crankbusters: Debunking cycling myths

3. Cyclists do not need to pay to use the roads to have their rights respected
- In the TV story - The war on our roads - Derryn Hinch claims (11:15) cyclists don't contribute financially to road costs and thus don't have legitimate rights to use the roads. He asserts these are paid for in Australia by the tax on fuel.

- However, it is factually untrue that fuel taxes are used specifically for road building and maintenance only as opposed to going to general revenue. Also, in every country where the total costs of cars have been compared to total revenues from car drivers, it has been found that the costs exceed the revenues. See > Myth: Motorists pay more in taxes and fees than is spent on roads

- Again this is an illogical position (change the laws if you don't like them, but don't demand cyclists do things that aren't possible - like pay fuel tax). Moreover, there is no rational legal or ethical principle for people to be treated respectfully in proportion to their individual tax contribution. And even a narrower argument that public costs should be recovered via "user pays" methods would, if based on all relevant facts, conclude that motorists have a far greater public cost deficit than cyclists.

4. Cyclists should obey road rules except when their safety is at risk or if they are onerous and illogical
- Road users should ideally all obey the road rules all of the time. And if they disagree with any of them, campaign to get them changed rather than just choose which ones to break. However, the specific risks and potential adverse impact vary considerably based on the circumstances and type of road user, so common sense applies.

- E.g. Pedestrian road rules requiring that they cross roads at crossings and only on the green signal are broken in various ways, every day by virtually everyone. Yet no-one campaigns for strict enforcement of fines because we understand that pedestrians can't directly injure anyone by breaking these rules and can only safely cross without inconveniencing others.

- Conversely, no-one wants car drivers to get away with speeding past schools or through busy pedestrian crossings. Natural self-interest doesn't force them to look out for others so strict enforcement is necessary.

- Urban cyclists fall in between and much further toward the pedestrian end - they aren't a significant danger to anyone other than pedestrians and even then the danger is usually very limited. Road rules and infrastructure in most cities have been designed around cars not cyclists so it is not surprising there are some circumstances where cyclists can safely choose to break them with no adverse effect on anyone else (e.g. turning left at a red light when there are no vehicles or pedestrians in the way).

- Ultimately, it's very simple. There are some circumstances where safety, convenience and common sense result in cyclists breaking road rules but with no adverse impact to anyone else (no-one is hurt or inconvenienced). This is perfectly justified until a sufficient majority of citizens support getting the rules changed. Motorists rationalise their objections to cyclists by focusing on road rule violations. In reality, motorists complain about law-breaking cyclists because they're jealous

- Finally, motorist concern for respecting road rules is rank hypocrisy. Motorists regularly break road rules when they can get away with it (e.g. not giving way, rolling through stop signs, speeding) and when they find themselves in the most serious circumstance (having hit a pedestrian or cyclist) a significant proportion choose to run and leave the victim for dead.
"It's hard to accept the fact when I look out over a sea of cars, that half the drivers, if they hit me, are quite willing to leave me for dead. And even among the minority of motorists who do stop, probably many of them would flee if they thought they could get away with it. Think about that one for a minute.

Put this into perspective the next time motorists complain how cyclists won't get respect until they start following the law. Hit & running someone with a motor vehicle is far more illegal than a cyclist rolling a stop sign, but when was the last time anyone suggested that drivers as a class don't deserve to be on the road until they start acting lawful?"
Bicycle Austin - No justice for cyclists
5. Urban cyclists do not slow down motorists; more cycling infrastructure is the answer
- There are a few cyclists who, despite alternatives, ride on fast-flowing roads and do hold up cars and buses occasionally; these are typically sports cyclists often riding in groups. However, most urban cyclists avoid using lanes on fast-flowing roads as the speed differentials are dangerous. As long as better alternatives exist, reasonable regulations that restricted cyclists from fast-flowing roads (e.g. during peak hours) would be supported by most urban cyclists.

- Typical urban cyclists instead ride on the most sensible routes popular with cyclists, in bike lanes (when safe), share the road and filter past cars when they are backed up behind other cars. It is very rare to find situations where a line of cars is waiting soley on an urban cyclist and that cyclist has a feasible alternative (a better cycling route, riding in a bike lane, riding safely further left).

- In the cases where urban cyclists have no better alternative but to claim lanes on fast-flowing roads, the solution is to provide better cycling infrastructure that eliminates motorist-cyclist conflict. E.g. A segregated bike track, bike path, better connections to alternate bike routes, removing/restricting the parking lane. Most of these measures will affect motorists somewhere/somehow as it is cars that currently monopolise road infrastructure not cyclists.

- Urban cyclists on popular cycling routes ride because it saves time and money and is more convenient and enjoyable. Motorists feeling frustrated at such cyclists should join them rather than try to de-legitimise them. See posts in the Saving Time category for details on how cycling is quicker than driving. These facts and examples prove that cycling is superior to driving for 21st century city transport.

6. A human-centred road user hierarchy would discriminate against inner city motorists
- See the section "Implications of a human-centred road user hierarchy" in > All road users are NOT equal - motorists come near the bottom

Sensible measures against non-local motorists driving in the inner city include:

- Close more inner city roads to non-local motor traffic.
- Introduce and expand congestion taxes on city driving
- Remove parking spaces from the inner city
- Remove lanes for motor traffic and replace with segregated cycling tracks
- Introduce lower speed limits (30-40 km/hr) in the inner city, cycling routes and residential areas
- Make motor vehicles go the long way round in the inner city
- Provide ample parking for everything other than cars
- Implement traffic calming infrastructure
- Increase taxes on using cars. E.g. Via petrol taxes
- Introduce strict liability for accidents between motor vehicles and cyclists/pedestrians

7. People should respect other people and prioritise the most vulnerable
- While urban cyclists do not need to earn respect or their right to use the road, this does not mean they don't need to show respect for other people as road users. All people should be respected by default (no special earning required).

- A rational road user hierarchy based on human and social benefits prioritizes by the most vulnerable and public convenience. This means that cyclists should always look out for pedestrians and also not hold up public transport. See: > All road users are NOT equal - motorists come near the bottom

- While private, non-local motor vehicle use is not desirable in cities if better alternatives can be facilitated, cyclists still have to deal with the present reality of mass car use. Wherever cyclists determine it to be safe and not too inconvenient, courtesy to motorists should be shown including:

(a) Letting motor vehicles get past if the road is clear
(b) Stopping behind motor vehicles to let them turn across bike lanes
(c) Giving way even if not required to, such as if it aids safety or clears intersection
(d) Not always filtering to the front of an intersection if no significant disadvantage
(e) Thanking/acknowledging drivers who show courtesy

Further Info:
- The Urbanist: What is the key challenge for cycling policy?

- The Urbanist: Should cyclists need a license to ride on public roads?

- The Urbanist: Is it high time push bikes were registered?

- The Urbanist: Is it time bicycles were registered?

- The Urbanist: Should bicycles be registered?

- The Urbanist: Is Warne putting the right spin on cycling?

- The Urbanist: Should cyclists stop ignoring red lights?

- The Urbanist: Should cars be subsidised?

- Aust Govt - DIRD: Australian infrastructure statistics—Yearbook 2013

Warne's right when he says cyclists are out of control

- Why do cyclists infringe at red lights? - The main reasons given for red light infringement were: to turn left (32.0%); because the inductive loop detector did not detect their bike (24.2%); when there was no other road users present (16.6%); at a pedestrian crossing (10.7%)