Tuesday, May 2, 2017

You are a Bike Ambassador, every time you ride your bike

This past weekend, the Princeton Bicycle Advisory Committee had a table at the Princeton climate march, as well as at Communiversity 2017. We showed maps of the Bicycle Master Plan, and of the ongoing Parking Study, and talked with lots of people. Most are enthusiastic about the Bicycle Master Plan.

But a few dissenters openly stated that they were against more bicycles on the roads: "They're dangerous! they swerve, they ride on the wrong side of the road, they think they can do anything!"

Okay – those of us who ride Princeton's streets know that only an unrepresentative handful of us (the foolish ones) ride that way: it *is* dangerous!

But it's like Hasan Minhaj said at the Correspondents' Dinner, addressing the free press that's under sustained attack from the president:

"You gotta be on your A game. You gotta be twice as good. You can't make any mistakes. Because when one of you messes up, he blames your entire group. – And now you know what it feels like to be a minority."

And guess what: as bike riders, we are the minority on the road - right now, anyway. So we all need to be bicycle ambassadors, we all need to be on our best behavior. Because if one of us messes up, it's all too easy to blame all of us, and for the car-centric to say things like "We'll talk about bike lanes once the bike people have learned to behave themselves on the road."

So please do the right thing. Which is the safe thing!
Wear your helmet. Be predictable. Ride on the right (this is New Jersey not England). Do not ride on the sidewalk in the central core of Princeton where the stores are. Do not use Princeton's streets for training for your 300 mile road race: in town, high-speed cyclists are scary for drivers, other bikers and pedestrians. And in general: follow the rules.

While you have a right to be on the road, you don't have a right to invent your own rules! As a reminder: the rules in New Jersey, today, may be different from the ones you grew up with. Take some time and read the very legible New Jersey Bicycling Manual. Read it with your kids.

And be aware that not all drivers have studied the NJ drivers' manual section on how to share the road with bicycle riders. Who don't understand what sharrows mean, and get angry that you are riding in the middle of "their" lane.

A lot of this kind of friction will be resolved once we get safe bike infrastructure with clear signage. Until then, ride according to the New Jersey rules. Besides the car-centric, our children are watching.

1 comment:

  1. It's not clear that bad behavior is behind the anger these "dissenters" harbor towards riders. My guess is that they would have no better opinion of cyclists even if we followed the letter and the spirit of the laws. For that matter, study after study* shows that cyclists aren't especially law-breaking. In my experience, most of the animosity stems from unequal road speeds, which leads to the perception that cyclists are always in the way.

    Their sentiments are common, and I find the implications baffling: that somehow better cycling infrastructure should be connected to better cyclist behavior. No other road user has such demands on them: we don't ask pedestrians to stop jay walking before we build crosswalks, nor ask drivers to stop speeding before we install stop lights. Instead, we build infrastructure to control and modify behavior. If we want better-behaved cyclists, we should provide them with the tools to improve their behavior.