Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bike Share vs. "Car Share"

Via BikePortland Commissioner Fritz: No to bike share until "dangerous" bicycling subsides we read about a City Commissioner in Portland who is against a bike sharing program there because it will produce - more bicyclists! Isn't that the point?

But she thinks that this would cause all sorts of trouble.

I may support a bike sharing program downtown when I see bike riders using downtown streets and sidewalks in a safe manner. Daily, I see cyclists in the Light rail and bus lanes in front of my office. I see cyclists riding on the sidewalks, endangering and harassing pedestrians.
I see cyclists running red lights and making illegal turns off the bus mall. And these are presumably experienced cyclists. I believe a bike rental program downtown would only add to these unsafe behaviors.

I'm trying to sort out the theory here. Until the people who *don't* need a bike share satisfy her, she wants to prevent anyone else from picking up a bike.

Part of her theory is that the people who don't normally ride (and thus own a bike) would be more likely to be troublemakers than people who do. Got it. They aren't experienced operating a bike, so we don't want to encourage it.

I wonder how the same gut reaction isn't applied to flying into say - SFO - from say - rural Kentucky - and renting a car. While the rules of the road are nominally similar across the US, California does have some different rules, for example you are not very likely to see someone in Kentucky splitting lanes on their motorcycle in heavy freeway traffic. And San Francisco can be a somewhat daunting place to drive for "locals" coming up from the Peninsula, let alone someone from Tinytown Kentucky.

Taken to the next level - let's say the person renting the car is from say, Germany - where the rules of the road are different. Apparently they aren't used to big signs - three of them - that say "NO RIGHT TURN". Especially if they are written in a language other than their primary language. Why do we allow drivers inexperienced with our roads to rent cars here? Why is there a presumption that they will behave with a dangerous piece of equipment but we don't give that same presumption to someone who wants to ride 10 blocks across Portland? Frankly I'd prefer someone who is clueless to be on a bike.

I know from where I speak. The first time I rented a car in France, it took me roughly 3 city blocks to run a red light. I had pulled up to an intersection, looked up to where I would expect a stoplight to be, saw none (in France the lights are on the closer side of the intersection), decided that I had the right of way since there was no traffic control device telling me I didn't and entered the intersection, right in front of a French Gendarme. I pulled over, he came over to my right window, at which point I spent about 2 minutes trying to figure out how to open the window of our rental car. He made the point about the red light and said something about the fine being 5000 Francs. That was about $700 dollars if I recall, but I had no clue, so I started to grab my wallet so I could pay the fine. The Gendarme said "This is a present this time, but do not run the red light". I thanked him and we sat there for several minutes familiarizing ourselves with the vehicle before once again terrorizing the French roads.

The rest of that trip was mostly uneventful, save for a time we stole a tank of gasoline. I was so used to paying at the pump with a credit card and then driving off, I filled the tank and never went in to pay. To this day I wonder if there is a warrant out for me in Grenoble.

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