Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Public Domain

With schools soon reopening, must expect the many torments of traffic to multiply. Advocates speak of a locale’s “bikeability”, a term coined over 20 years ago. Everywhere on land where you can walk presents some degree of bikeability, even deserts, mountains, prairies and unpaved trails. What they imply is relative ease of getting around by bike according to factors upon which not everyone agrees.

Compiled this intense list of preferences from B&C's Chapter 16, internet searches, league questionnaires, pamphlet excerpts, and surveys personally conducted among avid cyclists, and ordered by importance to those who’d rather pedal than pollute:
1. Streets with no faster bus/car/truck traffic (hard to find but still exist by place or time)
2. With some overtaking traffic, road shoulders without debris, gaps, grates, holes or sand
3. With heavy traffic, crossable intersections, designated bike lanes, no-motor over/under passes, permeable curbs, rollover islands
4. Unbroken pavement: no crevices, potholes, speed bumps, sunken pipes
5. Cyclists can ride flattest/straightest streets, shun hilly/twisty routes, as desired
6. Minimal detours and impediments (caused by airports, banned/narrow bridges, bays, coves, highways, hills, RR, rivers, turning lanes)
7. Continuous bikenet (all compass points from border to border) without any unfriendly segments; aligns with adjacent cities; flows from state to state
8. Alternatives to on-road (bikeways, bike-ped bridges, shared sidewalks); must be lit, maintained, patrolled, shoveled, and swept
9. Demonstrated city, state and town support (federal compliance, installed facilities, law enforcement, public service announcements, and unwavering policies)
10. Infrastructure favoring bicycling, restricting motoring (Only for motoring: boulevard stops, no parking, no passage, one-way, parking lot fly-out deterrents, 25 mph limit on bike routes); bridges with bike decks or cable cars
11. Bikenet passes parks, places of refuge (fire/police stations, libraries), schools and stores for safe child routes
12. Car-free approaches to air terminals, bus stations, malls, schools, train stations, transit hubs
13. Bike route signage (esp. around detours), compass point reminders, and traffic controls
14. Easy access to bikenet (barrier breaks, curb relief, entrances and exits, fence openings, stanchions to keep cars out)
15. Racks at municipal buildings, public libraries, retail outlets, schools, terminals
16. Erosion deterrents (logs, rocks, straw bales), railings at steep runoffs, root barriers, sensible sight lines (not limited to set backs, trimmed hedges at intersections)
17. Availability of bike parts and services
18. Bus rack-n-ride service; subways/trains/trolleys that take bicycles
19. Accessible controls and wide shoulders where bikenet meets roadnet
20. Advocacy, clubs, community events, group rides

One could award a descending number of points for each factor and tally them for any area, region or state, or perhaps just move to Portland, Oregon once comparisons are made, but wouldn’t this be rather compulsive? The goal is not to rate for awareness’ sake, but to react with real improvements that decrease fear and inconvenience, the 2 prevailing barriers, and increase ridership. City planners need to consider everything in the public domain; compliance typically involves less than 5% of roadnet and usually only after segments are repaved when repainting stripes, which must be done anyway. Costs almost nothing.

Your sense of safety will never compel official decisions; distance, hazards, hills and ice persist for which you must prepare. Advocacy groups capitalize from your feeling exposed to criminal behaviors and crushing vehicles, yet you’ll always be safer cycling than driving. Crowds don’t necessarily present risk, sometimes shelter self propellers. But when states make situations difficult or impossible to ride a bike or walk, they illegally limit, according to federal laws 23 CFR 652.5 and 23 CFR 652.7, those who’d choose these alternatives. Every road 24’ or wider must either directly facilitate cycling and walking or factor in a nearby parallel bikeway or bikeable road, preferably indicated by signs. They can’t just construct bridges and highways that ban bicycling. This also implies zoning code that denies malls and stores permission to locate on busy roads if they neglect bike access from adjacent neighborhoods.

Cyclists are supposed to ride in travel lanes, not stick to gutters. Shoulders are what permit them to ease over and let cars pass. Despite their slow pace they do not otherwise have to give up lane. Motoring is a privilege, not a right; a driver license is a contract never to endanger the vulnerable: animals, bicyclists, children, walkers, wheelchair users. All self-propelled uses of public thoroughfares fall under an inalienable right to be motile for living and thriving. Impatience is the main reason air-conditioned, comfortably seated motorists can’t wait and must deprive others of their rights. Direct your anger at city planners, not creeping cyclists, who just happen to be present.

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