The 6 Es: Video from the Colloquium

Presentation by Dan Gutierrez at the 2013 I Am Traffic Colloquium:

The 6 ‘E’s of Bicycling Equity — Equality, Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Encouragement, Evaluation — is a program of bicycling advocacy: one that is more detailed and comprehensive than any other such program now existing. Dan Gutierrez, who formulated the 6 ‘E’s, spoke about the program at the I Am Traffic Bicycle Education Colloquium. He explained the development of the 6 ‘E’s formulation, how previous advocacy efforts were lacking, and how the concepts should be enacted to create equity for cyclists. Video filmed by Tom Cook and edited together with Dan’s presentation by John Allen.

Kirby Beck, founder the the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA), makes a profound comment at 53:42 on rights versus privileges.

Right to Road Challenged in Kentucky

cherokee-short

Recently, the bicycling world has been aghast to learn that a law-abiding citizen is being charged with “reckless driving” in Kentucky…despite all facts to the contrary. Cherokee Schill, a single mother, cut expenses by using her bicycle as transportation to work. Her route to work includes a section of U.S. 27, a high speed limit, multi-lane road.

Schill, 41, said if there were an easier way to get to work, she would take it. Her 1992 Toyota Camry with 360,000 miles is not dependable. To be able to afford housing and food for herself and two teenagers, the divorced mother said commuting by bike keeps her household afloat.

“I’m not putting myself here because I think it’s fun or exciting,” Schill said of the commute. “I’m here because I’ve got two kids to feed and a roof to put over their head. … I’ve got to pay rent, pay bills and buy groceries.”

(Lexington Herald-Leader, “Woman biking daily to Lexington on U.S. 27 ticketed three times for reckless driving”)

The Lexington Herald-Leader also notes that she has not been involved in any crash since she started commuting by bike last June. Despite the fact that Cherokee is operating completely within the local and state laws, the Nicholasville police officers and Jessamine County deputy sheriffs have cited her three times, twice for “careless driving” and once for “reckless driving”, and the Jessamine County Attorney’s office has asked the county judge to prohibit her from riding on U.S. 27.

Reading the news reports, it’s clear that a reverse logic is working here. Instead of holding motorists responsible for inattentive driving, the police and county attorney are persecuting a law-abiding bicyclist.

“It just creates a very dangerous situation when you’ve got somebody on a bike that’s difficult to see to begin with, on a very highly travelled [sic] road, with signifigant [sic] speeds and a lot of people don’t pay attention to what they should be while driving, so it all compounds itself,” said Jessamine County Attorney Brian Goettl.

Goettl says a deputy sheriff responding to a robbery almost wrecked because Schill backed up traffic.

“He was almost in a wreck because of Miss Schill, and so it added to me another element of danger that I hadn’t even thought of before,” Goettl said.

(Emphasis added, WKYT, “Jessamine Co. bicyclist charged with reckless driving sparks court case”)

Instead of persecuting Cherokee, why are the inattentive motorists not being ticketed and targeted for prosecution? Why was the deputy sheriff not paying attention to his own driving? Is the deputy sheriff’s story about almost wrecking even true? Or is it merely a rationalization of his feelings that cycling has no place on that road? Why is the convenience of other road users a higher priority than Cherokee’s right to the road? If a slow-moving tractor were on U.S. 27, would motorists be calling 911 for help? Would the 911 operators and police even give a moment of attention if someone was commuting via horse-drawn carriage (such as many do in Amish and Mennonite communities)?

Randy Thomas, president of the Bluegrass Cycling Club, said Schill is operating within her legal rights and in accordance with safety requirements. Asked if he would ride U.S. 27, Thomas said, “I personally am not going to comment. I ride all over the area, and I’m sure I ride roads that cyclists wouldn’t feel comfortable on. It’s irrelevant what I would do or what anyone else would do, if she’s riding within her rights and what she’s comfortable in doing.”

(Lexington Herald-Leader, “Woman biking daily to Lexington on U.S. 27 ticketed three times for reckless driving”)

While she awaits a trial in August, the county attorney asked a judge to stop her from riding on U.S. 27. Fortunately, the county judge ruled in favor of Cherokee Schill and allowed her to continue to commute to work. The full trial will begin in August.

To hear first hand from Cherokee, take a listen to this week’s podcast from The Outspoken Cyclist.

i am traffic applauds Cherokee Schill, Judge Booth, and local advocates like Randy Thomas who are affirming all bicyclists’ right to the road. Steve Magas, a contributor and friend of i am traffic, will be helping to defend Cherokee pro bono, but there will still be legal fees that Cherokee must cover. We encourage you to donate to Cherokee’s legal defense fund and continue sharing this story. Stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter accounts for updates.

 

Appeal Fund for Cherokee Schill

Reality Check: The Hadley Harassment Case

Eli Damon demonstrating  communication during CyclingSavvy Instructor training.
Eli Damon preparing for a hazardous rail road crossing during CyclingSavvy Instructor training.

Update (Dec 3, 2013): Eli’s case has been settled quite favorably. Read the news as broken on The Daily Hampshire Gazette website: Hadley poised to settle federal case with bicycle advocate; agrees to pay $27,500 in lawyer’s fees

Since August 2009, Eli Damon has been put through the wringer of the justice and legal system, but perhaps most demeaning: Lousy media reporting. All because Eli was looking for a job near his home in Easthampton, Massachusetts. After a series of harassing traffic stops by local police, the town of Hadley began pursuing legal action against Eli for his right to use the road safely. Unlike many states, Massachusetts does not require that cyclists ride “as far right as practicable.” Instead, the Massachusetts General Laws have a requirement for overtaking that is applied frequently to cyclists:

“Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on visible signal and shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.” (MGL 89-2)

Eli is an experienced transportation cyclist and traffic cycling instructor, and well-versed in the numerous safety benefits of visible lane positioning. He also has a thorough understanding of how to facilitate safe overtaking when appropriate (a CyclingSavvy technique called “Control & Release”).

With all of this in mind, I was completely stunned while reading a recent editorial titled “A wise ruling on bicyclist’s use of Route 9 in Hadley” in The Daily Hampshire Gazette. The un-attributed author of the piece shows a complete ignorance of cycling safety, actual laws, and even journalistic ethics.

Imaginary Motivations

Without asking Eli directly or reading any of his online posts, the editor assumes Eli’s motivations and reasoning for (assumptions italicized):

  1. Wearing a video camera while riding. “But by gearing up with a camera, he seemed to expect a confrontation; he claimed what he got was harassment.”
  2. Filing a complaint. “Damon’s 2011 U.S. District Court complaint, by the way, did not seek money. He wanted to prove a point.
  3. Lane position. “Though the magistrate makes clear bicyclists have the right to use roads, too many motorists seem to think riders have no place on public ways. Damon’s decision to ride in the middle of a travel lane pushed back against that, with predictable results.

Perhaps had the editor inquired into his actual motivations — instead of fabricating a narrative convenient to editorial bias — they would have learned how vital unencumbered, safe cycling is to Eli’s livelihood:

“The primary allegedly criminal act on my part is one that I must commit as part of my daily life, namely traveling on public roads in a safe and efficient manner. Indeed, traveling on public roads is almost universally considered to be essential for full participation in society. The effect of this is to place me on a kind of virtual house arrest, since any attempt I make to travel unescorted carries the risk of interference by police officers.” (Eli Damon, “Undue Process of Law”, June 12, 2010)

For additional context, the following is Eli’s CyclingSavvy Instructor bio:

I was born in 1977. I am principally a math teacher and have been teaching since the age of 17. I have a B.E. in computer engineering from SUNY Stony Brook (2000) and a Ph.D. in mathematics from UMass Amherst (2008). In the Society for Creative Anachronism, I am Lord Eli of Bergental, member of The Order of the Fountain. I first learned to ride a bike, in the common sense, at age 7. Due to a visual disability I cannot acquire a driver’s license. I once thought of this limitation as a severe one. I made some trips by foot, bike, and bus, and relied on friends and family members with cars to give me rides for some other trips. For the most part, however, the difficulty I had in traveling prevented me from living what most people would consider a full life. I learned to DRIVE a bike at age 27, and it radically transformed my life. Suddenly, I could go wherever I wanted, whenever I wanted, in a reliable, flexible, carefree manner. It felt as if I was no longer disabled. Now I travel almost entirely by bicycle. I have found that good cycling habits provide me with more freedom and flexibility than I could ever achieve through driving a motor vehicle. I have cycled in ten states and the District of Columbia, on a wide variety of roads under a wide variety of conditions. I have made trips of up to 200 miles.

The unwarranted police interference with Eli’s right to travel safely on our public roads made his only means of independent travel nearly impossible. Eli had been repeatedly harassed by police officers (The Hadley Encounters, The West Springfield Encounters, The Third Hadley Encounter: Relapse), so he should not be chastised for using common video equipment to record the encounters. The justice system holds a sworn law officer’s word in higher regard than that of a citizen. Unfortunately, this favors dishonest officers. Many of us have seen videos that contradict statements made by such officers. It’s a sad reality that citizens (especially ones in a minority) need to protect themselves from some of those sworn to serve and protect us.

Confrontation was not Eli’s motivation for recording his rides. In fact, his motivation was quite the opposite:

When I originally bought my Oregon Scientific ATC5K sport video camera, it was because I wanted capture footage of my bike rides for educational videos. I had seen videos from John Allen, Dan Gutierrez and Brian DeSousa, and Keri Caffrey and Mighk Wilson, and I wanted to do something like they had done. I wanted to show my community our local roads from a new perspective. I wanted to show them that there was no reason to be afraid of motor traffic on those roads, and wanted to show them the benefits of an assertive position, and the absence of the danger that many imagined.

A month after I bought the camera it was seized by Mitchell Kuc, and I was made to feel insecure traveling alone. The camera did come in handy in documenting the encounter. (Eli Damon, On-Bike Video Project, June 23, 2012)

Eli wants to prove a point? At great expense to himself, he is not seeking monetary damages for the harassment, humiliation, unwarranted confiscation of his property or curtailment of his ability to travel—a violation of his civil rights. He is simply seeking the ability for himself and other bicyclists to travel safely on public roadways without continued threat of police interference and harassment. That’s quite a point.

Common Ignorance of Bicycle Safety

Common sense is that which tells us the world is flat. — Stuart Chase

It may not be commonly understood, but as many of our educated and informed readers know, Lane Control is a vital safety skill that cyclists use to improve vantage and visibility and significantly reduce conflicts. Unfortunately, the editor did not see fit to look into why Eli might believe so fully in riding in a visible and predictable manner. Instead, the assumptions and bizarre conclusions set in: “If [Neiman’s ruling] had supported Damon’s claim riders can use the middle of a travel lane, people would get hurt. Even if lawful, it wouldn’t be safe.”

Sadly, the media platform allows the writer to set an authoritative tone to common ignorance and misconception. Since the editor could not be bothered to search out these claims of safety, I’ve collected a few pieces to bring the editor up to speed:

The ruling actually DOES validate lane control.

The editor’s conclusion that the ruling did not support a bicyclist’s right to use the middle of the lane is wrong. In his ruling, Judge Neiman wrote that “Massachusetts law requires a slower-traveling bicyclist to pull to the right to allow a faster-traveling motorist to pass when it is safe to do so under the circumstances.”

There is not enough space for a car to pass this bicyclist without using a significant portion of the adjacent lane (such that that lane would need to be free of traffic). By riding in this position, the bicyclist is creating the illusion of courtesy while exposing himself to risk of being sideswiped by a motorist who mistakenly tries to squeeze past.
There is not enough space for a car to pass this bicyclist without using a significant portion of the adjacent lane (such that that lane would need to be free of traffic). By riding in this position, the bicyclist is creating the illusion of courtesy while exposing himself to risk of being sideswiped by a motorist who mistakenly tries to squeeze past.

The implication of that statement is that bicyclists are not required to ride right by default: they must only move right under certain conditions. While it is, in a sense, a victory to have a federal judge acknowledge the validity of lane control, the editor’s misinterpretation of the ruling demonstrates the same prejudicial misunderstanding that has led to this case in the first place. Therein lies the problem.

In many conditions it is unsafe, or impossible, for a bicyclist to move far enough right so that a motorist does not have to use a significant portion of the adjacent lane to pass. At that point, there is little difference to the motorist versus just changing lanes. Does the bicyclist still need to move right for show? Does the bicyclist have the autonomy to make that decision? Must he repeatedly defend that decision to the police and courts of law?

Who decides when and what is safe?

Our roadways are a cooperative system. In our daily interactions, most road users cooperate with each other in a civil manner — facilitating each other to enter or leave the roadway, make lane changes and pass more easily if we are considerably slower. We also cooperate by discouraging or mitigating each other’s mistakes to prevent crashes. Actual crashes are a mere fraction of the potential crashes that never happen because one party compensated for the mistake of another.

But what is cooperation? It seems to mean different things to different stakeholders. The law is vague on this matter — as it should be — because cooperation cannot be legislated or mandated, especially when it concerns decisions which affect safety.

The bicycle, because it is both narrow and slow, creates a complex problem for the concept of cooperation. The bicyclist’s vehicle provides no shell or buffered space around him. Therefore, the bicyclist must rely upon, or proactively encourage, the drivers of other vehicles to allow a buffer of space when passing. Lane control is an effective tool for proactively discouraging the common mistake of passing dangerously close. In addition, the narrowness presents the problem of being invisible or irrelevant — often overlooked by drivers making conflicting movements; this is a problem that is common to, and well understood by, motorcycle drivers. Lane control makes bicyclists more visible and provides them with vantage to see potential conflicts and compensate for the mistakes of others. But that same narrowness, coupled with slow speed, leads to the prevailing assumption that bicyclists should, by default, squeeze to the edge to facilitate faster traffic — even when that eliminates their ability to compensate for— and prevent—the mistakes of other drivers.

The Burden of Car-Centric Prejudice

Unlike many states, Massachusetts does not have a bicyclist-specific roadway-position law. However, its slow vehicle law uses vague wording for “safe operation” that leaves room for interpretation. Judge Neiman’s ruling did not clarify what is safe and who is to determine what is safe. Unfortunately, it still implies that a bicyclist can be subjected to a level of scrutiny not applied to the driver of any other vehicle.

No one would think to compel the operator of a car, or even a narrow vehicle like a motorcycle, to operate continuously at the right edge of a lane, or to move frequently back and forth to allow faster vehicles to share all or part of the lane for more convenient passing — or, in most cases, the illusion of more convenient passing. Yet, it is “common sense,” according to the Gazette Editor, to compel a bicyclist — who operates the least robust vehicle and is passed with the highest speed differentials — to do just that. This sentiment is nothing less than car-centric bigotry. It is the removal of autonomy and assignment of second-class citizenship to the drivers of a particular class of vehicle.

sandusky road c1910In reality, the language of MGL 89-2 is very old. It is a vestige of the early days of narrow, unlaned and often unpaved roads. These roads were typically crowned with steep or soft edges, making it prudent to drive in the middle of the road (not lane). As common practice was to drive in the middle, all slower drivers were required to move over to accommodate passing. The current slow vehicle law in most states (based on an updated Uniform Vehicle Code which MA did not adopt) requires the drivers of slow vehicles to operate in the rightmost thru lane (except when passing, avoiding a hazard or preparing for a left turn). This reflects current roadway design, and (absent bicycle-specific discriminatory laws) applies equally to bicycles as to other slow vehicles. Since the parts of Route 9 where Eli was stopped have multiple lanes, there is no rational reason to expect the driver of any slow vehicle to accommodate unsafe same-lane or lane-split passing, nor to operate on an intermittently-unusable, debris-filled and conflict-ridden shoulder.

Deafening Silence

The most disappointing and frustrating part of all of this is that Eli has been almost completely alone in this battle. Despite repeated pleas for assistance and advice to MassBike and the League of American Bicyclists, Eli has been turned down and ignored. The very least that these organizations could have done is publicize his case and situation. If these organizations cannot rally around someone who must use his or her bicycle on a daily basis for their sustenance, what is their basis for existence?

Currently, I Am Traffic is a loose coalition of volunteers and educators. We hope one day to be an organization with the resources to support bicyclists like Eli in the effort to allow all bicyclists safe, unhindered travel on our public roads.

This post was co-authored by Keri Caffrey.

Sharesplosion

What an amazing week for I Am Traffic! When we woke up on Tuesday morning, we had no idea that our message would be shared so far and wide in just the span of a few days. To give you an idea of what’s been going on, I wanted to share some data with everyone.

Before Tuesday, our Facebook page had around 500 “likes” and many of our posts were being seen by an average of around 800 people. Then, on Tuesday, Keri Caffrey posted this image:

How wide is that lane?

 

Total Reach

We all watched in a little bit of awe as the “Share” ticker started flying up. As of the writing of this post, the total reach of the image is at 25,312 people, there’s been 4,184 shares of the image, 36,688 people are “engaged” with it, and it has received 1,300 likes.

That same day, I posted the image to reddit’s bicycling community. Pretty quickly the post moved up to the #1 spot on /r/bicycling and right now has gained 96,005 views, 1,449 upvotes, and 519 comments.

The image has been re-shared by several bike gear groups, a few blogging lawyers, and many local bicycling organizations.

The 245+ comments generated a lot of common questions and discussion. I will be working next week on distilling a lot of our answers into a FAQ for the site so that we can have a quick reference for common bicycling concerns.

For our total page reach…. we hit a high of 344,378 people this week. Unbelievable.

Page Reach

Global

One of the most interesting things that we’ve been watching is the international response. From the very beginning of this site, our focus has solely been the US. Little did we know that our message would resonate with cyclists all over the world. To name just a few countries that we’re getting a lot of response from:

  • Saudi Arabia
  • Portugal
  • Ireland
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Australia

We are in talks with several groups who are willing to provide time and resources for translating our infographics. Internally we cannot set new translations on the graphics nor maintain them. However, if you are interested in working on a local translation that is true to our intent and message, AND  have graphic design resources then drop us an email.

Polite Discussion

While watching the conversation unfold on Facebook, we realized that we needed to step in and provide a “rules of engagement” and some strict moderation. None of us are interested in seeing our efforts turn into a platform for the same, tired arguments of the anti-cyclist and anti-motorist rants. We’re trying to do something different with I Am Traffic. We want to be a positive change agent. Allowing derogatory, hateful, and downright dumb comments does not foster a Better Conversation™. With that in mind, we decided to enact a Policy for Polite Discussion. Our goal with this policy is not to squash differing opinions, but to silence idiotic and hateful comments. It’s a difficult path to ride, no doubt about it.

The Colloquium

It’s very energizing to have such a positive reach just a few days before our very first Colloquium. Cyclists from all over the country are flying, driving, and biking into Orlando, Florida this weekend to discuss exactly what the future of this organization will look like.

I’m excited about where we’re going and I hope that you’ll join us in this journey. Be sure to Like our page, follow us on Twitter, or sign up for our email updates. And feel free to keep on sharing that image!

Update on 2/23/2013: Facebook had a bit of a delay on the statistics. I should have waited until today to write this post to get all the big numbers to you. Forgive my early excitement… the new numbers are far larger than I originally posted yesterday.

Of Reality and Dreams

Our Current Situation

Bicycle advocacy in America today is a funny thing. We have lots of statistics—old and new, dubious and true. We’re long on emotions, opinions and flared tempers, but we’re pretty short on reasonable discussions and smart, practical policies for the long-haul. I guess it’s not unlike politics today.

As a CyclingSavvy instructor, I am wary of jumping into bicycle advocacy. I don’t want potential students or potential partners to be turned off by my opinions on bicycle advocacy. I just want folks to get a good, solid education and use CyclingSavvy techniques in whatever way that they are personally comfortable. I put aside my politics when I teach, and I don’t want to disenfranchise anyone who might otherwise support adult cycling education.

Demonstrating a CyclingSavvy exercise
Demonstrating a CyclingSavvy exercise

However, I’m frustrated with the advocates that we currently have for bicycling in America. They are too willing to sacrifice safety and equality in the pursuit of increased participation. In other words, they seem to be scheming to woo people who are not cycling at the expense of those who are. They ignore their own logic blunders: promoting flawed ideas, then demanding fix upon fix for the predictable consequences. The result is a Rube Goldberg mess that confounds our entire system of movement and undermines the defensive driving practices I teach to enhance my students’ safety.

What?
What?

We need better advocates. We need advocates that promote Equality first, supported by infrastructure that is intuitive, useful and attainable. So, despite my reservations to jump into the fray of bicycle advocacy, here I am working every spare moment I have to help launch I Am Traffic.

Vehicular Cycling 2.0?

Some have been quick to deride I Am Traffic as “Vehicular Cycling 2.0.” Uninformed people think that about CyclingSavvy, too, so I’m not surprised. As 21st century Americans, we’re desperate to put things into buckets, whether they truly fit or not. For American bicycling, the default buckets are “Infrastructure” vs. “Vehicular Cycling.” [ref]Vehicular cycling has become a derisive term. Advocates for segregated facilities use the term to marginalize–as elitist and out of touch–those who disagree with their strategies. Folks like myself no longer use the term because it confuses the human driver with the inanimate conveyance.[/ref] In the mind of most folks involved in advocacy, there’s simply no third way.

However, I believe we have a valid third way. Instead of simply focusing on one broken tool to transform our cities, we have a portfolio of efforts that we call the 6 E’s. We envision our cities as places where a Culture of Respect flourishes and all citizens enjoy the use of our public roadways equally, regardless of chosen conveyance.

Living in the Now

Today, American cities have roadways that connect to all points. Even in the most “bike friendly” cities, bicycle-specific infrastructure is a small fraction of the total roadways. If today—right now—I would like to ride my bike to work, to the coffee shop, to school, to church, or to lunch, a bicycle-specific facility is likely not available to get me there, so I need to use the existing roadways in the safest manner possible. In most states and cities, I have the legal right to do this. Additionally, I would like to travel in the most direct manner to my destination as possible, and I would like to be treated with respect no matter what route that I choose.

Dallas Bike Routes, Today
Dallas Bike Routes, Today

Streetscapes such as those found in Amsterdam and Copenhagen are often pointed to as models for American cities to adopt. Riding in these cities is a (mostly) pleasant experience, and it would be incredible to have the high bicycle ridership rates that these cities boast. But it’s important to recognize that the high ridership is not entirely the result of the infrastructure. There are numerous other factors: cost of driving; geographical features; land use; availability of transit; historical reliance on bicycling and sociopolitical disposition that drive both mode share and enthusiasm for quality infrastructure. I have personally spent a lot of time riding in Amsterdam. It’s a great city that I would definitely enjoy living in. However, the reality is that my city, Dallas, won’t be transformed overnight, next year, or even my lifetime with a complete bicycle-specific network that reaches all destinations. I live in the now, and I want to use my bicycle today.

“We have to start somewhere!”

The “start” that is pushed by urban planners and bicycle advocates is bicycle lanes on existing streets. However, most bike lanes are not better than nothing. They have safety implications that cannot simply be wished away. Bike lanes dramatically increase risks of intersection conflicts: right hooks, left crosses and pull-outs. They are often painted in the door zone of parked cars — a fatal hazard for bicyclists. There have even been numerous cases of “drift” crashes, where a distracted motorist drifts into the bike lane and hit a bicyclist who was previously irrelevant. I find it morally reprehensible that planners find it acceptable to install  facilities that put bicyclists– especially their primary target: inexperienced and unaware bicyclists–at risk.

Open car door kills bicyclist Marcus Ewing, 27
Open car door kills bicyclist Marcus Ewing, 27

Given my opinion about bike lanes, some people might be surprised to know that I love well-designed separated shared-use paths. Shared-use paths can provide direct connections to important parts of town, help avoid steep hills, and are relaxing, rejuvenating, beautiful additions to our cities. If well-designed at intersections and crossings, no traffic patterns are violated and new cyclists and children have a low-stress route to get their bearings.

A relaxing ride on a neighborhood path
A relaxing ride on a neighborhood path

Where current advocacy fails is at the end of the path. There’s no doubt that it would be splendid to have door-to-door shared-use paths for every possible route, but that doesn’t exist today, nor is it likely in our sprawling suburban cities or crowded urban cities. Advocates who are focused on facilities simply have no answer–besides fear–for those who’d like to ride their bicycle today.

The solution for today, right now, is driving my bicycle on roads that are comfortable for my skill level. It’s not impossible, doesn’t take super human bravery, and is simpler than skeptics believe. Educated and empowered cyclists don’t have to wait for someone to roll out the green carpet to enjoy their city today. They can use paths as desired to expand their route options, but they are capable and confident to continue to their destination without worry if there will be special facilities along the way. Educated and empowered cyclists have chosen Possibility.

Ending the Culture of Speed

While Education is a powerful force for individuals, I know that it can’t stand alone to make our communities better–especially in cities dominated by the Culture of Speed. Harassment by even small numbers of motorists and rogue law enforcement can be a real, and scary, reality in many cities. Dallas suburbs, for instance, are built for high speed traffic with no low-speed grid network. Motorists in these areas are grumpy, angry, and short-tempered (often from their miserable commutes). Law enforcement rarely supports or protects the bicycling minority, and instead tends to support speed-centric beliefs, regardless of the actual laws. These are not pleasant places to ride in the street, no matter how confident you are as a cyclist.

I do not believe the solution for these cities is to relocate slow moving traffic out of the way. Segregation reinforces two ideas that the Culture of Speed holds dear: 1) the roadways belong solely to high speed motor vehicles, 2) only high speed traffic is important. Underlying the Culture of Speed is the attitude that bicycles are toys and the grownups in cars need the toys out of the way so that they can go on about their important work. As we’ve seen repeatedly, infrastructure built for bicyclists by that culture does nothing more than shove us aside at our own expense. (See my Commute Orlando blog post entitled, Second Class in Toronto.)

I believe our cities would be healthier for everyone if we fought for a Culture of Respect. The Culture of Speed accepts an alarmingly high number of fatalities and destruction due to distracted driving, drunk driving, and road rage—over 30,000 Americans are killed each year by motor vehicles. The Culture of Respect, on the other hand, supports and promotes a place that is safe for our families and is a healthy place to live. I believe we need leaders that say that enough is enough, and that our roadways are not battlegrounds. The increasing sense of entitlement to drive motor vehicles has allowed the Culture of Speed to take over our roadways with no accountability.

Healthy Community
Cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen already have this Culture of Respect, and, in my opinion, it’s not because of bicycle-specific facilities. Consistent, logical facilities work well in these places because there is already a great respect for individuals, regardless of mode of transportation. In these cities, good laws and consistent Enforcement put the lives of pedestrians and cyclists in a high regard. From my observations, cities such as Toronto, New York, and London do not have an existing Culture of Respect, so bicyclists are often confronted with anger, violence, and other forms of harassment.

My Dream

The city in my dream is a city that supports and respects all users of the road. It’s a place where my friends and neighbors are comfortable using their bicycles to go to work or the pub no matter what route they choose to get there. It’s a city that offers route choices—respecting bicycle drivers as normal on any type of road while offering a robust network of quiet streets and shared-use paths that connect neighborhoods, schools, parks, and shopping. It’s a city where our leaders make it clear that the Culture of Speed is not welcome and will not be tolerated. It’s a city that isn’t fooled by dangerous and complicated traffic engineering schemes, but one that supports consistent, logical infrastructure where appropriate.

Critical Manners East Dallas