Saturday, March 08, 2008

Yield to Life

In the past month, two Tour de France "stars" have come out publicly in favour of bike commuting. Lance Armstrong has decided that cycling with traffic is too dangerous for the average cyclist and the answer to making the bike more prevalent in North American society is to give it it's own place -- the bike lane.

Dave Zabriskie on the other hand is of the belief that bikes belong on the road but that we need some sort of societal shift that sees vehicle drivers yielding to other more vulnerable road users.

Which side is right?

I have bike commuted for well over 20 years now. For most of those years I can't remember thinking that I would rather be in a bike lane. Over the past few years I must admit I have had pangs of wishing I was a bit more separated from traffic. Are bike lanes the answer?

In North Vancouver City there seems to be a push for bike lanes. In North Vancouver District there is a campaign for "sharing the road". I am not going to step into the "which is better" battle that I won't be able to win, but I must admit there are times when it is nice to be a bit separated from traffic. Having said that though there are times when I have been in a bike lane and thought, "I'm going to get a flat at any moment" simply because they are never very clean or well maintained.

So what is the answer? Armstrong or Zabriskie? For the Armstrong camp to win we just need to throw money at them. Money pays for bike lanes and keeps cyclists out of the way of drivers. I'm sure most motorists would love this. They can maintain their "I'm more important than you" attitude that seems entrenched in our society.

For the Zabriskie camp to prevail it is going to take a major change in North American society. North Americans are not ones to sit back and yield. We are taught at a very young age that we must win or get ahead at any cost. This is all too evident on our roads and highways. There is little or no "good will" to others. This is what the Zabriskie camp is up against. The me first North American attitude. This will be difficult to change. I'm with you Dave. Let's Yield to Life

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  • I grew up drinking the "vehicular cyclist" kool-aid from fellows like John Forester and will say I'm now firmly in the segregated cycling infrastructure camp.

    My observations over many years of cycle commuting suggest that people have no desire to ride in traffic. People look at me with an interesting mixed emotion of envy and pity, something akin to looking like I have four heads, when they find out I ride almost daily to work. And who can blame them? There are days I question what the hell I'm doing riding. North Vancouver District (and City) are prime examples of anti-cycling. No safe route yet exists for riding east/west across the North Shore, especially with your family. Riding through a toxic waste land like the Ironworkers bridge, sucking lead air, ridiculous noise, silly traffic signaling systems (must keep the cars moving) to name a few, require a strong constitution.

    There will never be a perfect solution, until cars go away (the end is nigh). Initiatives like the Burrard Bridge lane closure trial in Vancouver must go ahead. The time is now and the message clear; clean, safe, livable communities.

    Stop throwing money at infrastructure for personal luxury cocoons. We'll have to stop soon anyway with the converging catastrophes looming.

    Efficient, well-planned, segregated cycling facilities can still send the message bicycles are legitimate transportation. Let's get serious and let's get started. Fine bicycle facilities exist around the planet. We don't have to invent anything.


    By Blogger rinsecycle, at 4:26 PM  

  • I think a combination of separated bike lanes and increased driver awareness and respect for cycling commuters is a viable long-term solution. Increased awareness and respect would help cyclists everywhere, regardless of the presence of the bike lanes. Extra bike lanes, would, however, provide a means of safe cycling in areas where cyclists would otherwise be taking their life into their own hands, as on freeways, expressways, and other busy arterial roadways where wide semi's traveling at a high rate of speed can make cycling dangerous. (Particularly where the roads aren't designed to accommodate side traffic, such as bikes). Thank you for your posting! I just found your website today after reading your review on the Banjo Brothers commuter backpack, which I also found very helpful - thanks!

    By Anonymous Michael, at 1:47 PM  

  • Why the cultural self-hate? Is there some other country where this "me first" attitude does not exist? Human beings are remarkably identical worldwide. You should travel more.

    By Anonymous NVanH, at 8:50 AM  

  • NVanH, I travel enough to know that we are more courteous than some and less courteous than others. There is no "cultural self-hate" here just questions.

    Read the post and don't give me B.S.

    By Blogger pedalmaniac, at 9:10 AM  

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