- Education and
A Share the Road campaign could well help everyone figure out their role in a more active, healthy community.
In communities, the collective underlying assumptions that need changing generally remain unspoken. Officially or unofficially assessing this collective mindset can save future frustration and conflict for everyone and get more folks active.
Here are three broad questions that can start to tease out assumptions regarding bicycling and walking:
What does it mean to walk or ride a bike in this Community?
- Where do bikes belong?
- Are walkers welcome?
Take the time to observe your community and you will begin to see what is needed to move the place where you live or work toward a more active and livable community model.
Here are a few markers I look for, but feel free to add to this list from your own observations:
- Are bicyclists out on city streets?
- Are people out walking?
- Are destinations accessible to cyclists or walkers?
- Are signals and other elements of infrastructure designed to accommodate cyclists and walkers?
- Do retailers, employers and landlords accommodate cyclists and walkers by providing walks, racks, lockers and showers at destinations?
- Are bikes recognized as more than a recreational device in conversations with advocates and community leaders?
- Do local leaders in the cycling community recognize the transportation potential of bicycles?
- Do bicyclists embrace walking as a component of active healthy transportation?
- Do you see a broad crosssection of cyclist types on the street: utility riders as well as Lycra racers and “lifestyle” cyclists?
When news about walking and bicycling breaks in the local paper or on local blogs, how are the stories categorized: Recreation? Transportation? Community Design?
As they become more Active and Healthy, communities generally move from:
- Little or no bicycling activity,
- To recreational activity in selected corridors–a greenline, a riverfront or a lakefront shared-use path or network,
- To a more generalized use of bicycles across the entire community for both recreation and transportation, and finally
- To a transit connected community where the health and community development benefits of a blend of walking, cycling and transit work to everyone’s advantage.
Don’t get frustrated if your community is not where you want it to be. Just recognize the continuum, (from doing nothing, to recreation, to walker and cyclist friendly, and finally to universal accommodation); figure out your community’s location and work from there. Same for states.
ABOUT THOSE UNDERLYING ASSUMPTIONS:
CHANGING MINDS INVOLVES ADDRESSING THE FEARS AND PREJUDICES THAT DRIVE BEHAVIOR AND SHAPE CHOICE
- Are most of the bikes you see on the street in the community actually on the back of a car or truck being transported to a path or trail?
- Are most of the walkers you see sprinting across parking lots from their cars?
The mindset that many recreational cyclists share with most motorists, and more than a few police officers and other public officials, holds that streets are for cars and riding bicycles on the street is dangerous and maybe even selfish. Same for busy streets and walkers.
Are they all wrong? A majority of cyclists, walkers and motorists alike:
- Underestimate the real dangers found on shared use paths (or sidewalks), where pedestrians ALWAYS have the Right-Of-Way, and
- Overestimate the dangers of bicycling on the roadway where cycles are considered vehicles and generally have a right to their lane.
- Confuse the real danger of crossing conflicts that are in front of the motorist, walker and cyclist for the much less likely overtaking conflict and so support side paths instead of bike lanes and sidewalks. Learn More
RECREATIONAL CYCLIST MAY PREFER SHARED-USE PATHS AND CYCLE TRACKS TO BIKE LANES OR TAKING THE LANE, BUT ALL EVENTUALLY LEAD YOU TO ANINTERSECTION WHERE THE TRAVEL LANE OR THE BIKE LANE (SIDEWALK FOR WALKERS) IS SAFEST
Overtaking crashes (cars hitting you from behind) are a big concern to cyclists, motorists and planners, while walkers can walk against traffic to gain a better sense of where a motorist or cyclist is headed. But, the real dangers of crossing conflicts (cars turning in front of or into you) are generally not as well recognized. Because of these prejudices, many advocates, local experts, and recreational cyclists ask for the wrong facility at the wrong location.
Few people recognize or consider the implications of the:
- Very different vehicle design speeds and operational characteristics of walkers and cyclists and the conflicts inherent in those differences on shared use facilities.
- Near continuous steering and braking inputs necessary for cyclists to operate on busy shared use paths when compared to low-speed, low-volume streets.
- Scanning for crossing conflicts that motorists engage in, where they watch the roadway in front of them for conflicts, and how side paths place cyclists and walkers in locations where motorists are much less likely to recognize or respond to them.
SINCE CYCLISTS, WALKERS AND MOTORISTS “DON’T KNOW, WHAT THEY DON’T KNOW,” WHERE DO WE START?
That is a question that is best answered locally—in context—and in response to teachable moments as they arise.
Click on this text to find the most important bit of guidance anyone has shared to date about cycling and community policy. As this document points out, we need to overcome our own fears and prejudices if we are going to get more people out on their bikes for both recreation and transportation.
Here are two good sources of training/information for cyclists and motorists:
SHARE THE ROAD: EDUCATION, ENCOURAGEMENT, ENFORCEMENT
A comprehensive Share the Road Campaign will include an implementation plan that lays out how your community or group will:
- Encourage, and
- Enforce to help change the minds of ALL road users.
Federal guidance can be a bit overwhelming in its complexity, but it is generally complete:
THE URGE IS TO POINT A FINGER AT MOTORISTS, BUT AREN’T THEY WHO MOST OF US BECOME WHEN WE ARE NOT CYCLING OR WALKING?
Streets are not just for cars and trucks, they are a great place to ride your bike. And, getting off the path now and then gives walkers and other trail users a chance to miss you a little more until you return.
Copyright 2010 Live-Active. All rights reserved.