From the Daily Times (Maryville, TN) 03.31.07:
Bicycling advocates want to put brakes on bad driversThis Tennessee legislation sounds similar to California's AB 60, introduced earlier this year by Assembly Member Pedro Nava (Dem, Santa Barbara). I have previously expressed reservations about this bill--presently scheduled for its long delayed first hearing in the Assembly Transportation Committee on April 16.
As car and bicycle traffic grows heavier in the state, some bike enthusiasts are seeking new laws and tougher enforcement of existing ones to deal with motorists who hog the highways.
State lawmakers are considering legislation sponsored by Blount County and Sevier County representatives that would require vehicles to keep a 3-foot cushion between themselves and a bike when passing.
Drivers will pay closer attention if they receive tickets for endangering their pedaling counterparts, said Shannon Hornsby, executive director of the group Walk Bike, which promotes walking and biking in Nashville and is making a top priority out of prodding police to issue more citations to careless drivers. (Read more.)
The vehicle code is a relatively poor method for regulating motorist behavior. Most motorists base their driving on road conditions, traffic, weather, visibility, prevailing speeds, presence of enforcement, etc.--and not on the minutiae of traffic law. Provide wide, straight roads, motorists will go faster. Better road design--generally summed up as "complete streets"--is a far superior way of encouraging respectful behavior by motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians--regardless of the presence of cops.
And demands for greater law enforcement are particularly frightening in this post-9/11 era of diminished civil and individual rights and a creeping police state. More cops will also likely mean more attention toward suspected violations by bicyclists, teenagers, minorities--and not simply motorist infractions.
Of course, laws against dangerous motorist behavior should be enforced, especially when such behavior endangers bicyclists, children, pedestrians, and seniors. Until we end the motorist monopolization of public streets and sufficiently improve the roadways to be hospitable for all users, law enforcement will remain as an unfortunate but necessary check on driver misbehavior.
Bicycling is about fun, freedom, and individual empowerment. Bicycling enthusiasts and advocates need to be cautious about calls for more laws and more police. We need to demand action on the cause (bad road design) and not simply the effect (dangerous drivers.)
Image: AP Photo. Cyclists in Nashville, Tennessee
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips