Transportation headlines, Wednesday, November 13

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ART OF TRANSIT: Line 45 on Broadway just north of Chinatown. From Metro’s Instagram account.

Is it okay to kill cyclists? (New York Times) 

I’m a couple days behind in my reading, so apologies for not including this yesterday. This op-ed by Daniel Duane, a sometimes cyclist in San Francisco, is very well-written. As he points out, motorists are frequently given the benefit of the doubt in deadly accidents involving cyclists, even when there are laws on the books that protect the rights of those on bicycles.

Interestingly, the last couple of paragraphs in the article have provoked some criticism from cycling activists:

Cycling debates often break along predictable lines — rural-suburban conservatives opposed to spending a red cent on bike safety, urban liberals in favor. But cycling isn’t sky diving. It’s not just thrill-seeking, or self-indulgence. It’s a sensible response to a changing transportation environment, with a clear social upside in terms of better public health, less traffic and lower emissions. The world is going this way regardless, toward ever denser cities and resulting changes in law and infrastructure. But the most important changes, with the potential to save the most lives, are the ones we can make in our attitudes.

So here’s my proposal: Every time you get on a bike, from this moment forward, obey the letter of the law in every traffic exchange everywhere to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect. And every time you get behind the wheel, remember that even the slightest inattention can maim or kill a human being enjoying a legitimate form of transportation. That alone will make the streets a little safer, although for now I’m sticking to the basement and maybe the occasional country road.

Damien Newton, writing at L.A. Streetsblog, said the problem with the New York Times’ piece was that it “still paints the problem of cops not enforcing the law as partially “the cyclists” fault.” Damien also has links to some of the other reaction.

With all due respect, I didn’t read the NYT article that way — i.e. blaming the victims. I found it appropriately and enormously sympathetic to the plight of cyclists while being very critical of law enforcement.

Robert Greene in the Los Angeles Times also has a good op-ed article today reacting to the NYT piece and comes to many of the same conclusions. 

Your thoughts, readers?

No time to write? Take the subway (KCRW)

Pinched for time, librarian and film historian Christina Rice was desperate for time to work on a biography of 1930s film actress Ann Dvorak. The answer: she used her Red Line subway trip from NoHo to downtown L.A. and back to peck away on her keyboard until the book was finished. Here’s the interview:

Bridge to nowhere (The Architect’s Newspaper) 

An effort by the architectural firm RAC Design Build to have the old Riverside-Figueroa bridge preserved and converted to a pedestrian walkway/park (think New York City’s High Line) is very unlikely to happen (the city is building a replacement bridge). The problem: the city of L.A. says the cost may be prohibitive and there doesn’t appear to be much political support for the plan as the bridge’s April demolition date gets closer. Too bad, but it’s a bit of a tough location, too — hemmed in by the 5 and 110 freeways.

Blighted cities prefer razing to rebuilding (New York Times) 

This quote sums it up nicely:

“It is not the house itself that has value, it is the land the house stands on,” said Sandra Pianalto, the president and chief executive of the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland. “This led us to the counterintuitive concept that the best policy to stabilize neighborhoods may not always be rehabilitation. It may be demolition.”

Large-scale destruction is well known in Detroit, but it is also underway in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Buffalo and others at a total cost of more than $250 million. Officials are tearing down tens of thousands of vacant buildings, many habitable, as they seek to stimulate economic growth, reduce crime and blight, and increase environmental sustainability.

One of the big problems is that many of those cities have been steadily losing population — presumably to the ‘burbs. I’m from Cincy and while the city proper has shrunk, the metropolitan area has steadily spread 10 to 20 miles outward in my lifetime.

The tough part of this story is that it’s easy to understand the dilemma of city officials. The renovation they probably want isn’t happening or isn’t happening fast enough. The question is whether something better will come along.

4 replies

  1. I agree with the article, but as a bicyclist myself, I have to say that I also see many bicyclists out there who lack the common sense and do not know what dangers they themselves are putting themselves against to.

    For example, even with bicycle lanes, there are bicyclists who go AGAINST the flow of the traffic. That is a dumb move because you’re coming head on to traffic. You’re supposed to go WITH the flow traffic on the bike lane on the other side, not go head on straight against cars coming at your direction!

    I dunno. There’s just too many people out there who lack common sense that maybe we ought to start licensing bicyclists. Make it a “forever” license with no age restriction, but prospective bicyclists need to learn the basic rules and safety before they are legally allowed to ride a bike.

  2. The bicyclists you refer to aren’t ignorant of the rules, they’re just choosing not to follow them. The solution is to enforce the law and punish those who break the law, just like what should be done with negligent drivers. Forcing bicycle licenses on everyone is the equivalent of Republic efforts to disenfranchise millions of people in order to prevent a person or two every year from voting fraudulently. Licenses would significantly reduce cycling, particularly people who are interested in trying it for the first time or riding infrequently, and the benefits are based on a faulty logic that the problem is an ignorance of the law.

  3. Shane,

    Be real. “Enforce the law and punish those who break the law” cannot be done when there are so many people who do it and cops can’t go after everyone who breaks the law.

    Even today, cops can’t go after all the car drivers who break traffic laws. You see people running red lights and going faster than the speed limit. The only ones who get caught are the “unlucky” ones who get caught.

    Haven’t you learned anything from the honor system fiasco? Cops can’t be everywhere all the time to go after those who break the law.

    Besides, what’s wrong with getting a license that doesn’t have an expiration date? It’s not like you need to renew a bicycle license every five years like the DMV. It’s just “pay a small amount for a bicycle safety class, get a license issued that’s valid forever, and you’re good to go.”

    I’m down for the idea. People shouldn’t be riding a bicycle if they don’t know the safety rules.