Sunday, April 19, 2015

Topic of Debate

If you want to have a discussion about me (and other cyclists) being a wanton scofflaw, or you feel the need to accuse me of not giving a damn about "sharing" the road, then please direct your comments here:

This comes from a place of love... Honestly! However, I am very much in favor of having an intellectual debate so if that too is your desire, then please contribute what you feel is worth saying.

I tire of the constant bickering however, especially when it is perpetuated by those who do not ride bicycles, i.e., motorists. Which was the case as of a few nights ago after I published the last post.

Now, since no one is (for whatever reason) willing to have a conversation in the comment section at the bottom of each of these posts, it is hard to take stock in who is reading this, and how they perceive it. When they take to my (or other) Facebook walls that shared the post well, that is where the debate really begins because as we all know, Facebook is where the keyboard Cowboys come out of the woodwork.

In response to my blog, shared by a friend, a person called out several cyclist behaviors at the same time identifying himself as a "motorist in one of the busiest bike towns in the US."* Essentially calling me a Heretic that would be "burned at the steak by my fellow commuters if they saw me behave that way."* Those comments have since been deleted by their owner as have several other minutes of conversation by both parties. *Which is why they are paraphrased. 
This logic is flawed in some very specific ways but chief among them is his frame of reference; here you have this person who does not cycle at all... who's experiences come from being a motorist who has to make concessions for cyclists. What I have noticed in my travels is that, nothing angers a driver more than being required to make room for bicycles. Listening to someone in his position tell me what is best for me is like listening to someone lecture me on the "Dangers of Marijuana" without ever having experienced it.

This conversation ended cordially but with a "agree to disagree" attitude towards it.

Yet during part of the discussion, I asked one of my friends (who was the commenter's friend) that rides in this city too, how many cyclists on average, he sees on his daily commutes. His answer was "ZERO, Unless it's a bum over by [Local Business]" which is pretty sad. Personally, I do see a guy ride by my house everyday in day-glo and lycra and at least ONE of my co-workers commutes as well, so I know FOR A FACT that there are at least three, possibly even four commuters in this town at any given time!

In all seriousness, I don't know that anyone has an accurate number of how many commuters there are here, but over by Campus or our sweet river walk trail, there are perhaps as many as a couple hundred bicycles on it when the weather is nice. As much as I don't want to ride a bike on a shared use path, in the interest of being safe, I would probably use it if it were even possible. There is a problem with that though as my commute takes me north, away from all of that infrastructure.

(the bike paths are shown in green)

So I have no choice but to "mix it up" with the chuckleheads and the cars they drive. Since there are no real laws to protect cyclists (like in the commenter's "biggest bike town in the US") and only "traffic laws" that I am forced to uphold, it means that I often must make choices that keep me safe whether they are against the law or not. 

Ironically, I made a statement in the last post which was something along the lines of "... If it were a local cop, or one who bikes, it wouldn't have been an issue at all." The very next day, two local boys walked in the bike shop, one, a fresh faced rookie right out of the Academy, the other, a seasoned veteran.

(Dead ringers... No joke)

Long story short, we had a very frank discussion about the situation and a couple of things came to light. The Veteran had no idea that the law existed and Rookie did. This makes sense because the law is fairly new and having just graduated, it was fresh on his mind. 
Confirming my suspicions, the Veteran said bluntly, "hell, I had no idea, and if it had been me, I would have been like "WHY ARE YOU JUST SITTING THERE?! THE LIGHT'S NOT GOING TO CHANGE, JUST GO!" We shared a good laugh but I told him to "remember that when when you are sitting behind me at a red light." 

So for me, this is how it boils down... When there is no infrastructure to keep cyclists safe, then they are to abide by traffic laws. When they are expected to ride in traffic everywhere, they feel less safe and therefore won't ride which leads to less demand for the infrastructure. If there is no demand, then they won't build it and that leaves cyclists like me without safe passage as we are forced to act like cars. The introduction of Indiana House Bill 1080 was a big win for cyclists here but it is far from enough. In my honest opinion, it needs to be re-worded to include language that says 
"... If the operator of a motorcycle, motorized bicycle, motor scooter, or bicycle approaches an intersection that is controlled by a traffic control signal, the operator may proceed through the intersection on a steady red signal only if the operator:
(1) comes to a complete stop at the intersection for at least one cycle of the traffic control signals; and 
(2) exercises due caution as provided by law, otherwise treats the traffic signal as a stop sign, and determines that it is safe to proceed.

Until then, I will continue to feel unwelcome on my own roadways and will continue to ride like I have been no matter how many butt hurt motorists I leave in my wake.