For the “student stories” file.
Jay, a [CyclingSavvy] grad, joined me up for coffee and a social ride this morning. He told me about a trip a friend and him took last weekend to Austin… they brought their bikes and just rode pretty much every day as long as they could. He said he was shocked at how unfriendly the city was. He said he couldn’t figure out what they were doing wrong. He was in the correct lanes, staying away from door zones, using signaling… and they were getting honked at and yelled at constantly. He said he was so happy to get back to Dallas and ride anywhere he wanted without getting honked at. For those who aren’t Texans, Austin is seen as the cycling mecca and Dallas as the “most unfriendly city” for cyclists.
I told him about the retributive cycle and how bike lanes and heavy infrastructure promote “getting out of the way” of motor vehicle traffic. He said that all made a ton of sense with his experience.
I also explained that the “bike friendly” designations are heavily factored by simply how many bike lanes a city has, not whether they’re safe or useful or needed. He thought the “bike friendly” designation meant more about the attitude of a city towards bicyclists.
Tamar, another [CyclingSavvy] grad, was also there and she said she recently had a similar experience in DC. She said folks were riding in the door zone and whenever she got out of the DZ, she got honked and yelled at. She thought it was funny that when she came to Dallas and started riding for transportation, her mom fretted over the danger of riding here… when DC (where her parents live) is in reality far more dangerous.
Interesting conversation. I wish more people could see it this way.
I once wrote about bicycle lanes as a bad education, i.e. what the lines teach street users may not be the lessons they ought to learn. This story is a perfect example. Whether or not a community has a must-use law for bicycle lanes, the “taking away” of street width for bicycle lanes may lead motorists to believe that use of the bicycle lane is mandatory. It may lead motorists to ask an entirely reasonable question in the context of streets with bicycle lanes: Why is that bicyclist in front of me when they have their own space?
As the record on Carbon Trace shows, I drive my bicycle all over Springfield, Missouri with few hassles and honks from motorists. I do not remember the last honk — it’s been so many weeks ago. But I know exactly how to get honked at instantly. All one has to do is ride on any street here with a bicycle lane and ride outside the lane. A honk will soon follow. I’ve actually tested this.
Further, in nine years of riding a bicycle as full-time, basic transportation here, I have had just one instance of a motorist actually putting my life in danger on purpose. In five days of shooting video in Amsterdam last year, I caught seven such instances. Seven in five days. I believe that these motorists felt justified in part because Amsterdam provides bicycle lanes throughout the city. Get out of those lanes and, well, as the video shows…
Update: The video will be ready this October — only one year late 😉 And it will not be a “documentary” so much as another side to the Amsterdam story. I will not be making comparisons with Springfield. So, yeah, it’s going to have a high bicycle-geek factor to it.