Monday 6 January 2014

Enlightened cyclists ARE at war with some motorists

Summary: Most governments claim that urban cyclists and motorists can simply share the roads, obey the rules, respect each other's existing lawful rights and co-exist happily ever after. But existing infrastructure, policies and norms are inequitable to cyclists in car-centric cities and this is the source of the conflict. Radical changes are desirable and many motorists need these to be explained as they don't cycle for transport. Below I detail the ways urban cyclists really are "at war" with the transport status quo, the ideas and actions of some motorists and various existing laws and policies.

cc licensed ( BY ) flickr photo shared by Syria Freedom

Enlightened urban cyclists respect people (unless given cause not to) but not harmful behaviour, laws and policies. It's not only possible to respect people and at the same time actively seek a radical correction to the many adverse impacts of cars on people, it's entirely logical and consistent.

Essentially we want liveable cities where walking, cycling and public transport are the preferred means of getting around. So wherever pedestrians and cyclists belong, we really do want less cars, less space and priority for cars, lower speeds, heavier penalties for infringements, and for drivers who seriously injure and kill to be held accountable by the justice system.

Below are examples of some of the very real disagreements and conflicts of interest that currently exist. These disagreements aren't intractable, but substantial change to infrastructure, laws and social norms is needed to resolve them, not just advertising campaigns about sharing the road and obeying the rules.

Note: Around inner-city Melbourne I've found that 90% of motorists try to drive safely around cyclists, though many would benefit from understanding things from a cyclist's perspective. Only a small minority deliberately drive in ways that indicate they don't believe cyclists belong on the road or merit the same respect as other road users.

1. We ARE at war with motorists who claim cyclists don't pay for road infrastructure and hence don't merit equal respect or improved infrastructure
- Those who support the principle of user's paying for their costs, need to recognise the reality is that motorists do not pay for their total costs (all infrastructure, parking, pollution, injuries, congestion, etc.). Conversely, cyclists are net contributors given their total tax contributions and minimal (or positive) impact on road maintenance, injuries, pollution and congestion. Not only do cyclists not plan to pay extra to keep hypocritical, ignorant motorist's quiet, we want the full, holistic costs of cars and bicycles to be counted and charged.

- These motorists often express their view that cyclists don't belong on the road by abusing them or using their cars to endanger them. Example: > Vic police chief abused while cycling

2. We ARE at war with motorists who complain about cyclists causing congestion
- The reality is that cars are the traffic jamming our cities unnecessarily, including the car of the motorist steaming about cyclists holding them up. Cyclists cruise past traffic jams, which is the real reason motorists get so angry.

3. We ARE at war with motorists who argue adding bike lanes slows them down
- This is often not true, it's just that the normal traffic jam cars cause is extended over fewer lanes. If only 20 cars can pass through a green light at a time, this doesn't significantly change with or without the bike lane.

- However, even where removing car lanes does make driving in the inner city slower, this is exactly what we want. All people who have viable alternatives should be actively discouraged from driving in the inner city. And driving in the inner city should be slow (<30km/hr) to make it safe for cyclists and especially pedestrians.

4. We ARE at war with motorists who assert there isn't room on the road for cyclists
- If there isn't enough width for bike lanes or safe cycling on key inner city cycling routes then car lanes should be removed, or make the street one-way for cars, or remove the on-street car parking or ban private cars altogether. The default solution to inner city space limitations should be to remove it from cars not cyclists or pedestrians.

5. We ARE at war with motorists who want to drive at 60-100km/hr on streets and routes used by cyclists and pedestrians
- Inner city and residential roads aren't safe to be shared with two tonne vehicles driving through at high speeds. We don't want to share the roads with speeding cars; we want to use traffic calming, fewer lanes and speed limits to keep car speeds as low as feasible (30-50km/hr). Alternatively, motorists can campaign for separated cycling lanes to be built.

6. We ARE at war with motorists who want cyclists to be registered and complain about their rule-breaking but also support few penalties for motorists that endanger, injure and kill pedestrians and cyclists
- Cyclists almost never kill and maim people and so no country in the world registers bicycles or licences cyclists. Motorists kill over 1.2 million people and injure tens of millions worldwide each year. In most countries, when they kill or injure pedestrians and cyclists, they typically get away with not going to prison or even losing their licence for years and having compulsory training and re-qualification. We want changes so that road rules, policing, fines and sanctions (including prison time) are geared toward controlling the real danger and harm on our roads - which is from motorists. Motorists should be required to do much more training, lose their licences more easily and for longer due to violations and, if guilty of serious negligence and harm, lose their right to drive indefinitely.

7. We ARE at war with motorists who argue that cycling is not a modern transport method while polluting our cities
- Not only is cycling more convenient, time-saving, sustainable, enjoyable and conducive to liveable cities, but cars emit toxic pollution that affects the health of cyclists and pedestrians. Polluting cars that also injure and kill are the cigarettes of this century - a public health hazard we'll eventually restrict and change. Polluting cars need to be eliminated as much as possible from streets heavily used by cyclists and pedestrians. See: > Cycling is a modern means of transport not just recreation

8. We ARE at war with motorists who support billions being spent on infrastructure and tax subsidies for cars but reject substantial funding for cycling and public transport
- In most countries public funds are heavily skewed to funding infrastructure for cars even though all the evidence shows that building more roads and tunnels doesn't solve congestion. (See: Secret report on east-west link reveals traffic explosion). This wasteful expenditure starves funding of the public transport and cycling infrastructure modern cities really need. We want this funding situation reversed.

- The hypocrisy of these motorists is compounded by the myriad subsidies and tax breaks provided to the car industry and motorists. Again, a rational policy for modern, liveable cities would encourage walking, cycling and public transport use and discourage use of private cars in the inner city.

9. We ARE at war with motorists who believe they have priority over cyclists and pedestrians and intimidate them
- Motorists who believe the roads belong to cars and cyclists and pedestrians should get out of their way have things ass backwards. In a rational, people-centred, liveable city pedestrians (the most vulnerable) are most prioritised, then cyclists and private motorists have the lowest priority of all.
See: All road users are NOT equal - motorists come near the bottom

10. Examples of motorists whose ideas and actions we ARE at war with
- A cyclist, riding legally on the left side of stopped cars, was doored by a taxi passenger. See:
> Car-dooring reveals confusion over bike lanes
> What can be done to stop cyclists getting “doored”?

- The story featured in the media including Australia's most popular TV morning breakfast program: Sunrise. The vast majority of the comments on the Sunrise Facebook page expressed hate and antipathy toward cyclists and reflected ignorance of the road rules. Virtually all of the unjustifiable ideas and behaviours noted above were exemplified by hundreds of mainstream Australian motorists. The same pernicious sentiments come out whenever motorists comment on news articles about cyclists. The Facebook comments are instructive because people are happy to leave their real names alongside their statements.

Sunrise Facebook page

Further Info:
The Stranger: Okay, Fine, It's War