From the Colorado Springs Gazette, 05.26.07:
Consider a gas-saving commute on a bikeMotorists fear other motorists, so many opt for large vehicles such as SUVs. They persist with these gas-guzzling monsters, in spite of high costs, out of fear. This fear of motorists also prevents many Americans from bicycling, a transportation mode they perceive would increase their vulnerability.
Bike Month in Colorado Springs kicks off Friday with a variety of events and rides designed, in part, to promote commuting by bicycle.
John David Norton thinks that's great. Really. The 54-year-old father of five and grandfather of two has been riding a bicycle in Colorado Springs for 30 years. He's been commuting to his job at Atmel--nine miles one way--for the past 10.
He said commuting isn't something newcomers to the sport should take lightly, especially in this town. On July 4, 2005, Norton was hit from behind by a hit-and-run driver, an incident that left him with a concussion, deep bruising of his hip and lesions on his spinal cord.
Over the years, he's been hit by a rock, fast food and drinks. He's been flipped off and screamed at more times than he can count. He considers himself a courteous rider who doesn't blow stop signs and never takes more of his lane than he needs.
The fact is, he said, if cyclists are thinking of commuting in a town with its fair share of impatient, mean-spirited, cell-phoneyakking motorists, they’re going to need their wits about them.
"For the most part, it's been a great experience," he said of commuting by bike. "And motorists, for the most part, are very kind and courteous. But there are a certain percentage who are not, and that exaggerates the danger." (Read more.)
Cars are a menace, killing more than 40,000 people each year in the U.S. and injuring another 2.7 million. Motorists pursue individual solutions to enhance personal safety, buying vehicles with abundant air bags, braking capacity, and metallic mass. However, what is needed are social solutions.
This is where Complete Streets comes in, pushing government to design roads that are safe for all users. This means, above all, reducing vehicle speeds to lower safety risks. Slowing down traffic also reduces the relative advantage of cars over other transportation modes, making bicycling, walking, and transit more attractive.
For most of the past century, government transportation agencies have prioritized vehicle mobility above all else. The result has increased both vehicle speeds and motorist sense of entitlement. And traffic danger. Turning this situation around--to prioritize safety rather than speed--requires more than courtesy and responsible behavior. (Bicyclists being "nice.") It requires advocacy.
This article suggests that Colorado Springs lacks strong bicycle advocacy, which can increase bicycling awareness and legitimacy, and reduce motorist hostility and irresponsibility. "Newcomers" to bike commuting shouldn't feel threatened; streets should welcome everyone regardless of mode.
Image: Web capture.
Visit: Bicycle Colorado
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site