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Cyclists Should be Trained Like Automobile Drivers

The Wall Street Journal today carried a story about San Francisco blogger and City supervisor candiate Rob Anderson. Anderson used the courts to stop the implementation of a bicycle plan in San Francisco that he says would contribute to automobile congestion, and pollution, not reduce it.

In the Journal story, Mr Anderson is attributed with the argument that “Cars always will vastly outnumber bikes so allotting more street space to cyclists could cause more traffic jams, more idling and more pollution.” Wouldn’t it be nice if bicycle usage was 100% ? Of course it would, but that’s completely unrealistic, so cars and bikes will have to continue to share the road. We’ve also been reading the book “The Vanishing Automobile and Other Urban Myths – How Smart Growth is Hurting American Cities” by Randall O’Toole. In the same vein, O’Toole notes that dedicated bus lanes actually contribute to increased emissions, by creating congestion for automobiles which sit and idle and cause more pollution. He goes on to suggest that congestion is in fact the intent, as smart growthers try to eliminate the automobile as a transportation alternative.

But back to bikes. On page 363 of the book, O’Toole quotes John Forester who thinks bike lanes are more dangerous than riding in a vehicle because they increase errors between cyclists and drivers. The safest cyclists are those who act and are treated as operators of vehicles. (As defined in California law.) Bikes and autos aren’t mutually exclusive choices, but the bike proponents seem to think that way. On Anderson’s blog, and others we read complaints of cyclists who run down pedestrians on the sidewalk without so much as an apology, cyclists who adopt a wholier-than-thou I’m-not-burning-fossil-fuels-you-are attitude and more. We also read about the need for formal rider education for cyclists, something Action Alameda has advocated for a long time.

We recently watched a cyclist in Berkeley almost get flattened by the left-turning SUV in front of our car. The cyclist was on the road as she entered the intersection, but then suddenly claimed pedestrian status by swerving into the pedestrian crosswalk, rather than asserting her right-of-way as a straight-through driving vehicle, or yielding it. Until bike advocacy groups start advocating for training for cyclists, encouraging cyclists to behave like the vehicles they are, rather than pedestrians, and start to acknowledge that bikes and cars will have to continue sharing the road for same time, cycling is going to have detractors like Rob Anderson.

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