Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Will compliance with laws get better cycling infrastructure?

In any debate on the internet about cycling, eventually some random person from outside the usual suspects for the given forum will chime in with their theory on cyclists and stop signs. Namely that no cyclists ever stop for stop signs.

This will then be followed with a rebuttal from someone who is a standup citizen when they are sitting on their bike, claiming that they stop at all stop signs, and that they hate the other N-1 cyclists who do not stop at stop signs. And that if only all cyclists obeyed these laws, then non-cyclists (a.k.a. drivers, or "cars") would respect the cyclists and cyclists would get more bike lanes.

This is, of course, a bunch of junk. History is littered with examples of populations that got short shrift and were told that if only they behaved, they'd be treated better. Don't believe it for a second.

Humans are inherently selfish, it appears, as well as short sighted. It doesn't matter how well cyclists behave, they won't get overwhelming support for bike infrastructure unless they specifically pay every penny for it without any subsidy from non-cyclists. Those non-cyclists of course, aren't asking for subsidy at all!

To make my point clear, let's reference another example that is tangentially related. The Golden Gate Bridge is considering raising their toll from the current $6 to $8. The toll for the bridge pays for maintainance of the bridge as well as subsidizing the fares of people who ride the ferries and buses operated by the Golden Gate Bridge District.

Unlike the hordes of stop sign running cyclists, whom are observed by the aggrieved gas-tax paying motorists as being scofflaws who hate civil society, bus and ferry riders are a genial lot, slogging their way onto shared transportation and pretty much not getting in anyone's way. It's nominally clear to almost anyone that the riders of the buses and ferries are reducing traffic by their choice to not drive over the bridge, so generally this group should be viewed as one that has a positive behavioral profile. Except for the fact that they are leeching off the toll paying public for their party-extravaganza on the crowded buses and ferries, of course!

I've ridden those buses and seen US-101 in Marin at rush hour. Without the people on transit, it would be a disaster. And the Bridge District, who runs these things, knows it.

"We're famous for the bridge," he said. "But in reality, we're really operating a regional transportation service."

The district's 2003 mission statement calls for it to provide transportation services within the Highway 101 corridor. Its buses and shuttles, officials say, take about 25 percent of the vehicle traffic off of the bridge.

"If you think traffic is untenable now, imagine it with 25 percent more cars," Mulligan said.

But don't tell that to the suffering motorist paying for the party

But many commuters don't think it's right that their bridge tolls should be helping to pay for someone else's bus or ferry ride.

"For people who don't ever use the buses or ferries, it seems a little ridiculous," said Simon Myatt, a 23-year-old Santa Rosa resident who crosses the bridge at least twice a week. "I know that, as a community, we need to stick together, but it's not exactly fair."

It is often noted that there are ancillary benefits to cycling usage - lower traffic, reduced competition for parking, reduced wear and tear on roads, reduced pollution. But these can be murky to someone not adept at looking at the big picture. But for the roadways from San Rafael to the bridge, there is no question that the fleets of buses and ferries are making the driving commute possible. Doesn't matter. No matter how much benefit the driver recoups out of their tolls via providing an incentive for others to take the ferry, the fact they are putting a penny into a ferry service that they don't directly use is "unfair".

Same goes for bikes. So spare me the argument that some crackhead riding the wrong way down Market Street is the reason you don't get a bike lane.

2 comments:

Richard Hall said...

There's some leaps of logic here. I agree that arterial transit (on highly trafficed routes where ridership keeps buses full) is a very good idea and deserves credit for making travel cheaper, more convenient and can reduce emissions. The reality check is that there are many getting from A to B where A and/or B are not on arterial routes, or they need to get kids to school or do shopping so the car is the only viable option.

Regarding bike scofflaws. What galls the most is that there is considerable enforcement of cars, and a perception (open to debate on this) that there is zero enforcement of bikes. If motorists perceived cycling laws were being enforced this would achieve a better balance. It's tiresome having grown up in the UK and watched countless public information adverts about how to turn across traffic, how when using a pedestrian crossing *you must be on foot* to see salmoning and routine disregard.

"Holier than though" kind of sums up the author's viewpoint. Laws should only apply to car drivers and we should be making massive unquestioned investment in bike trails. Perhaps that investment should blend in public information ads (as it did in the UK in the 1970s) together with lessons at school.

But a bit of genuine enforcement of bike laws would be a good start.

Peter Colijn said...

I'm not sure about enforcement. I've gotten a ticket for rolling a stop sign on my bike, but never for speeding in a car. When I drive on the freeway, I am almost always speeding at least a bit, as are most of the other drivers there with me.