Dear Fellow Cyclists:
I read with great interest your involvement in this past weekend’s memorial ride for Mr. Christophe Le Canne. I am a native Miamian and grew up cycling Key Bicayne for many years so I know the area very well. I currently live in Palm Beach County and serve as a National Board Member for the League of American Bicyclists, Executive Director of the South Florida Bike Coalition and as well as Director of Government Affairs of the Florida-based zMotion Club, a 600-member cycling organization in South Florida.
Though the memorial ride was well deserved, I pause with concern over the demand in the paper to create “some sort of barrier or physical separation between motorists and bicycle lanes.” Based upon our collective national experience, such a demand will have adverse and unintended consequences throughout the region and the state.
First, the continued demand for some sort of barrier or physical separation between vehicle and bicycle lanes highlights the stereotype of the cyclist as a “vulnerable user” of the roadways and that cycling is a dangerous activity that has no place on the public rights of way. We believe that the more people who elect to ride a bike and leave their cars at home will begin to enlighten the public that cycling is a superior form of transportation, a health benefit, and a mode of mobility that tends to reconnect communities. A physical barrier on Key Biscayne will undermine that argument.
Second, a barriered bike lane is the antithesis of good public policy. There is a national movement for “Complete Streets“, and the demand for segregated bike lanes is a push in the opposite direction.
South Florida is undergoing a slow, long effort to change both the behavior of cyclists on the roads and the attitudes of the non-cycling public towards bicyclists. We are one of the largest metropolitan regions in the entire country and are somewhat unique in our anti-cycling problems due, in part, to the absolute and exclusive reliance upon motor vehicles for personal mobility; there is no real public transportation system and no more land with which to create one. This, combined with our repeated designing of our roads to move only single-occupant cars as fast as possible, and the conflict between motorist and cyclist over use of limited public right of way is unavoidable, inherent, predicable, and effectively programmed.
Also, a barrier relieves motorists, cyclists, and law enforcement of their responsibility when using (and policing) the roadways. Cyclists, motorists, and law enforcement officers do not know the laws establishing the rights of cyclists to use the roads, and equally, cyclists do not know (or respect) the laws that govern their behavior when operating a bicycle on the public rights of way. Even with such education, the existing laws have no real “teeth” to change cyclists or motorists behavior towards each other.
Third, if safety is the issue, the most expedient way to protect cyclists from motorists is to remove cyclists from the Key. The repeated demand for a barrier is going to force the City’s hand to “do something” for the “safety of the cyclists”. The likely outcome of that cry to help - limit bicyclists access on the Causeway. Or, if a barrier is developed (with public money), the public is going to demand that it be the exclusive road used by cyclists and prohibit cycling elsewhere. A barrier would kill cycling on Key Biscayne as we have historically enjoyed it and will have elevated the motor vehicle to the “supremacy” that our society current views it as. Cycling on the road is not a right, it is a privilege (very much like driving a car). It can easily be taken away from us “for our own safety.”
Fourth, and from a practical perspective, a barrier is actually going to cause more accidents than prevent them. All cyclists, travelled at all different speeds, would all be herded like cattle into a chute which would cause a much larger number of conflict points than the admittedly rare and infrequent car v. cyclist crash.
So, we have discussed what NOT to do. What CAN we do to effectuate change?
Up here in Broward and Palm Beach counties, we are doing something about that. We have been working with the zMotion Club under the astute leadership of their president, Pat Patregnani, to support their endeavors to create such change.
This is overwhelmingly an EDUCATIONAL endeavor. Until the non-cycling public begins to understand that bicycles are absolute rightful and equal users of the roadways, public sentiment will always sway towards keeping cyclists off of the roads, “for our own safety” and so they can get as quickly as possible to their destination, damn be the consequences for the rest of society. The demand for a separate barrier on Key Biscayne falls right into this argument.
So how does this begin to change? Rather than fight for separate facilities, help us to spread the word about zMotion’s “Ride Right/Drive Right” campaign and let’s get it into each and every city in Miami-Dade County.
And most importantly, let’s get ALL cyclists to support the organizations who are fight for you every day (FBA, LAB, zMotion, South Florida Bike Coalition, Green Mobility Network, to name a few).
We remain ready, willing and able to work with you in these endeavors. We have also copied the other community “leaders” in Miami-Dade County who share similar concerns. A small “bicycle summit” of the “thought leaders” in bicycle issues would be a great place to start.
For now, continue to organize yourselves and define the message. This can be the beginning of the “tipping point” for a true “mobility” culture in South Florida. But please keep always present and in the forefront that emphasizing the “vulnerable” status of cyclists as users of the roadways only serves as fodder for the anti-cycling crowd to underscore cyclists do not belong on the roadways.
After this past weekend, you have everyone’s attention.Jeffrey Lynne, Esq email@example.com
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