Reading the Highland Villager Op-Ed Extra #11

[The crazy is proliferating.]
[Note: in a first, this op-ed extra predates the actual Highland Villager re-cap. But witnessing this amazing piece of work I could not resist.]

Bicyclists share the road, they should share the costs of using it

Bicycles are here to stay. [Stop reading now. Let’s call it a day, shall we?] We are seeing many more recreational bikes, racing bikes, cruiser bikes, tricycle bikes [Are we? Are we seeing tricycle bikes? Are bears riding them?], and, of course, the green rent-a-bikes that are popping up at virtually every corner [Note that by “virtually every corner” Roger means one corner. There is one corner with a Nice Ride station in Highland and nobody uses it]. Our federal, state and local politicians are doing everything they can to promote biking. [Um, no they’re not. If by “everything they can” you mean, a tiny amount of paint mostly, and even then only if it’s practically free. If bicyclists had one dollar for every thousand dollars spent on subsidizing parking and exurban commuting, that would be huge.] The city of St. Paul even has a full-time bicycle coordinator. [No they don’t. Minneapolis does. Saint Paul used to have a “full-time bicycle coordinator” but the position was changed after she lost her mind dealing with the tailpipe people in Highland and got so fed up that she literally left the continent to live on the island of Madagascar.  That's a true story. With lemurs. These days there are a bunch of people who work on bicycle and pedestrian projects in Public Works, but nobody with a job title of “bicycle coordinator”]. Plans are in the works to establish bicycle boulevards or corridors north and south every mile or so throughout St. Paul. [OK, so this much is true.]

As bicyclists proliferate [proliferate is an interesting verb. What else proliferates? Nuclear weapons], they are becoming a much more significant factor in the overall transportation environment. Current plans envision more bicyclists, requiring more road space be taken for bike boulevards and bike lanes. [Technically, bicycle boulevards do not take up any “road space.” If done right –which they are not in Highland due to political obstinacy, lack of attention to detail, a failure to take safety concerns seriously, under-funding, and pushback from privileged drivers – bicycle boulevards offer pavement equally available to cars trucks and even buses, provided they are willing to drive slowly and defer to bicycles should they encounter them]. Lanes that are exclusive to bicyclists significantly reduce the traffic lanes available to cars, trucks and buses, though bicyclists are not required to stay within the designated bike lanes. [Actually it is rarely the case that traffic lanes become bike lanes in a straight-up swap. I suppose you could argue that a 4-3 “road diet” is swapping a car lane for a bike lane, but really that design treatment is all about the center turn lane and improving safety. The bike lane is beside the point. Much of the time, in fact, a 4-3 road diet has minimal impact on traffic volumes, though I suppose you could make a case that they have greater impacts on buses. Marshall Avenue is a good example of this. It would be much more accurate to say that bike lanes come at the expense of on-street parking than to say they replace traffic lanes. If we want to discuss fee-based on-street parking policies, I'm all ears.]

More bikes demand more traffic enforcement. [Well, not necessarily. This is not how traffic safety works.] Although bicyclists are required to comply with the same traffic laws as other vehicles, many bicyclists routinely run red lights, ignore stop signs, and drive the wrong way on roads. [“Drive”? Nobody drives a bike. This is terminology they used in the 1950s. This is straight up just like that 70s era Cosby bicycling video. And we know how Cosby turned out… And also, which one-way streets are he talking about? When confronted with a one-way street, most bicyclists would use the sidewalk, as I do downtown. One neat cheap trick of one-way streets is to create a counter-flow bike lane, like they did on Marshall Avenue just East of Western, by the creepy cult building... wait a minute... creepy cult?]. As bicyclists proliferate [Another thing that proliferates? I’d have to say guerilla uprisings. Or maybe creepy clowns?], accidents involving bicycles and other vehicles are bound to increase, putting additional strains on emergency medical technicians and rescue services. [So interesting thing here. As bicycling increases, accidents per mile traveled go down. It’s called the “safety in numbers” effect. Long story short, the more drivers see bicyclists, the more drivers see bicyclists. In fact, one of the key arguments for not having helmet laws, for example, is that if you increase the number of bicyclists on the street by making it as easy as possible to ride, the safety effects are so great that they outweigh the marginal safety benefits of helmets in the first place. So basically, Roger has it completely backwards here. Also worth pointing to the issue of crash severity, which has everything to do with speed. In a city where bicycling was very common, you would see health care and emergency costs go down for several reasons: people would be more active and thus healthier, and crashes would less often result in trauma or death because speeds would be lower and drivers would be paying more attention at intersections.]

Today, with the exception of bicycles [and skateboards and pogo sticks and segways and those weird two-wheeled automatically-moving Back To The Future-looking gizmos that the kids are using these days and probably other things too], all vehicles using the streets and roads are taxed via their license and fuel consumption to support this infrastructure and the road services they use. We also require all vehicle operators to carry sufficient insurance to cover liability for accidents or injuries that may occur. It is time to level the playing field and allow bicyclists the transportation equality they deserve. [This is such a hilarious attempt at a mind-f**k.  Much like the 70s Cosby video, it purports to offer these suggestions in the name of helping bicyclists. Which of course is the opposite of what this would be doing.]

Although I am normally loathe to get government involved any more than necessary [Ha, I bet that’s an understatement! This dude is probably one of the Malheur Refuge occupiers], I believe government has the obligation to provide well-maintained modern roadways and to ensure everyone’s safety. [“Well maintained modern roadways." I feel like I’m IN Back to the Future when Alex P. Keaton goes to the 1950s. This sounds just like Magic Motorways by Norman Bel Geddes, the famous pre-Interstate utopian tract by the guy who built General Motors Futurama.] As such, it is time to require all bicycles to be licensed with a corresponding serial number, registration, visible license plates [!] and an appropriate licensing fee. The license plates and serial numbers would facilitate identification in cases of bike accidents, traffic violations, bike theft, etc. and the fee would fund a portion of the infrastructure and services bicyclists use. [OK I just have to point out that user fees pay for less than half the costs of roads, and a vast sum of money to pay for roads comes from general fund dollars (i.e. income, sales, and property taxes) at multiple levels of government. Also bicycles weigh a lot less than cars. Don’t believe me? Try picking up your car, and then try picking up your bicycle. You can try this at home. (If you don't have a car of your own, just try picking up some else's car when they're not looking.) It turns out that whole “weight” thing is kind of important when it comes to roadway wear and maintenance, or so the engineers say. Bike lanes do not wear out because of bicycles, but due to weather. Roads are another story. It's all about physics or something.]

The requirement to have sufficient liability insurance would ensure that monetary damages for injuries caused by bicyclists would be compensated. Underage bicyclists would be covered under their parents’ insurance. [A word for "underage bicyclists" that actual non-cult human beings might use would be "children." Somehow I doubt Roger encounters very many of these, which is probably for the best.]

Some may say these requirements would be onerous. Not really. [OK, well then.] Biking is good for the environment, good for our health, and it replaces some of the cars on the streets. These are good things, but good things incur significant costs. [I can think of a GREAT MANY "good things" that do not incur significant costs. Like let's just take love as an example. Love is free and you do not need a license. Sometimes hearts are broken but it does not tax our ambulance system. Smiles: also free! Laughter: free! Conversation with interesting people: free! Going for a walk: free! Riding a bike: free, once you have a bike! Ice cream: NOT FREE, which is why Lisa Goodman hates it.] Law-abiding road safety is a must, and costly infrastructure must be maintained. It is time bicyclists not only share the road, but share the costs. [Apart from the massive amount of general fund taxes that go to build roads you mean. About 2.5% of commuting in Saint Paul is done on bicycles, yet nowhere near 2.5% of the road money is spent on them.]

All drivers and true bicycle enthusiasts know that using the roadways is a privilege, not a right, and strongly support compliance with traffic laws. ["True bicycle enthusiasts" like Bill Cosby and this guy. I bet Roger also pronounces the word "bicycles" wrong, just like Cosby and (strangely) the Director of the State Department of Natural Resources.] They are also willing to pay their fare share of necessary costs, and know it would be unfair to give bicyclists a free ride at the cost of other drivers. ["Other drivers."]

Bicyclists have long demanded equality on the roadways. Now is the time to get them on board as full sharing participants in our traveling community. [Funny coincidence because "Our Traveling Community" was the name of the one-act play that I wrote for a Freshman-year comp class. So either Roger is a libertarian gypsy, but that wouldn't make sense because he's really really into law and order. Or maybe he's a member of a traveling clown circus? That would explain the bear on the tricycle. Or maybe he's in some sort of conspiracy cult. I hear those are proliferating.]

Roger Maulik is a resident of Highland Park. [Yes. Yes, he would be.]

[It should go without saying that this is idiotic. It's unenforceable, impractical,  and would greatly reduce the number of people riding bikes in Saint Paul. The closest thing to this that I've heard about is in Australia, and it's really dumb there too.]


Anna said...

All these things, and also this cat fart of a policy proposal would most severely impact those who rely on biking out of necessity. And an unenforceable law begs to be enforced unevenly. And that means even more points of conflict between police officers and people of color.

But it's never gonna happen, so it's not worth getting too bent out of shape about, I suppose.

Chuckdamage said...

Another small government conservative for more laws!

Froggie said...

Link to the original article?

seanrichardryan said...

I've got a copy headed out to the recycling this morning. It's only print.

Elizabeth Snelson said...

Love your articles on our fair city! As a biking proponent, can you provide some insight/suggestion on a biking issue we encounter almost daily? We walk a few miles daily on Summit Avenue, our neighborhood, fairly early in the morning (usually between 5 and 7 am.) We share the sidewalk with runners and fellow walkers, sometimes in pairs, like us. There are few cars and bikes on the street at that hour, meaning it is attractively quiet, but we commonly encounter pairs of bikers who are screaming. I understand that to make each other heard above their own road noise, and the wind, they must need to raise their voices, unlike us, who can speak very quietly to each other walking along. The bikers are not calling out directions or warnings, but rather conversing about the same inconsequentials we are (quietly) discussing as we walk. I know what the bikers are saying, because I have to hear them. I am not eavesdropping, and would rather not hear their conversation, but they are passing right by and SCREAMING at each other, while riding through a very quiet and still sleeping neighborhood. The runners are not screaming. The walkers are not screaming. The bikers are screaming. The noise level is, as one might expect, magnified when a peloton of screamers, I mean, bikers, comes through. Any way to suggest that the thoughtful biker might stop yelling early in the morning in a residential neighborhood?

Anonymous said...

I guess being a cyclist means you must not own a car -- and pay for roads via its registration & fuel taxes. The world is so much simpler when everything is black & white.

Anonymous said...

Froggie -- the Highland Villager, like many residents of Highland Park, is stuck in an era where the internet does not exist and those darned kids stay off your lawn and bicycles have banana seats and baseball cards stuck in the spokes. Bill's reblogging of the Villager is yeoman's work and is about as close as you can get to an "official" online copy of the Villager .

Rob said...

Elizabeth... as a dad who occasionally bikes with his kids, I can attest that one must yell louder than you'd think to communicate with the riders in the pack... particularly the ones behind you. Turning you head backwards to speak can be a bit dangerous, so volume is your friend. So I can see why you'd think it's odd.