I love a good military story.
I grew up with a stepfather whose father was in the military. My stepfather couldn’t join the military and I’m pretty sure he never wanted to any way, but he loved a good military story. I was a little girl in Oldham County Kentucky when I first watched “The Big Red One” I remember participating in a charades project to help us with our spelling. I selected “The Big Red One.” as my topic. I drew a dash on the chalkboard for each letter and then pantomimed “Big” “Red” “One”. Nobody got it.
I was shocked. How do you not get military movie titles? I was even wearing something red to help out with that word. To me it was clear as day, but the kids in the class kept picking titles they were familiar with. They stuck to the things they knew. The stories they had been sold through the local news and popular media. They only knew what others wanted them to know. So those were the titles they were guessing. Their choices didn’t make sense and totally didn’t fit.
What does that have to do with cycling? What does it have to do with getting people to want to cycle?
Let’s play a game. Below is one way to encourage more people to get out and try a bike. Can you guess the title?
__ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __.
Here’s a hint.
The above title will protect cyclists.
Are you thinking….
If you were thinking “Bike Lanes” then you have the same thinking pattern as my classmates from years ago.
“Laws Protect” is the title.
This brings me to my all time favorite movie. “The Hunt for Red October”. I own it and watch it whenever I’m feeling down.
Here you have a guy who is trying to convince Politicians and Military personnel that this Russian is wanting to defect. Ryan asks himself “How do you get people to want to leave a submarine?” “How do you get people to want to get off a Nuclear submarine?” and then the lightbulb goes off in Ryans head. Ryan now knows how the Russian is going to get his men to willingly evacuate the submarine. Ryan is excited and he is met with some derision from the Commanding Officer as he explains the plan to the Captain.
It made sense to Ryan. He thought it through and based on the factual information he had obtained, Ryan came to a reasonable conclusion. It just wasn’t so easy to get everyone else on board.
A lot of people are pushing for the infrastructure. The laws are lagging behind.
A cyclist was struck and killed in a bike lane.
A cyclist was struck and injured in a bike lane.
No charges filed.
In most states cyclists are legally mandated to use unsafe facilities.
When they use those facilities they should be protected. Not just by the facilities but also by law.
We need laws protecting road users. Everyone is vulnerable to careless and aggressive drivers.
Lets stop fixating on bike lanes and start thinking outside the box. With the history of injuries and deaths associated with bike lanes and even separate bicycle paths we need to do more. People need to feel safe. They need to be comfortable.
People understand liability and sadly the majority of people are not altruistic. They are lazy and basic in their needs and wants. If you make a law which holds a motorist liable for injuring a cyclist, if you create anti-harassment task forces and laws, if you enforce the existing laws you will have more people feeling safe and confident. If motorists get tickets for harassing cyclists, if motorists get taken to court and forced to stand before a judge and account for their behavior, you are going to have the best advertiser for cycling that you could ever possibly have. It would go something like this.
Motorist: Man I just got out of court.
Motorists friend: What did you go to court for?
Motorist: Oh some damn cyclist was in the road and I passed him in the lane. Honked my horn at him too.
Motorist friend: How did you end up in court over that?
Motorist: Well this officer saw me and pulled me over. Told me that is illegal and I got a ticket for improper lane usage and unnecessary use of the horn.
Motorist friend: Those are laws?
Later that day.
Motorist friend is out driving and sees a cyclist in the road. He adjusts his speed for traffic conditions, changes lanes when safe, and passes the cyclist. Cyclists gives a wave and the Motorist friend waves back.
The passenger in the motorists friends car turns to him and says “Those damn cyclists, I’d have buzzed him and honked the horn”. Motorists friend “Yea, but it isn’t worth getting a ticket.” Passenger “You can get a ticket for that?” Motorists friend “Yea, it happened to my friend and he just got out of court today, pretty hefty fine.” Passenger “Good to know. I’ll just pass them like you did. Nothing is worth a ticket like that.”
The cyclist is left feeling good about the people operating their vehicles around him. He gets to his destination and tells his friends who drove all about the great ride he had and how courteous the other road users were. His friends find his exuberance catching and before you know it they are at the bike shop and wheeling around on their own bikes. The cyclists feel good about the people operating on the road around them and they have the assurance that should something happen, law enforcement will take him seriously and protect his rights equally under the law.
And there we have a cycle of courtesy that goes beyond any infrastructure or expensive educational Public Service Announcement.
The message should be loud and clear. “If you endanger vulnerable road users you will pay a hefty fine and possibly lose your driving privileges.”
Driving behavior is based on laws and if those laws are enforced drivers will behave.
Let’s imagine another scenario.
Person A is watching the evening news.
News reporter: This just in, a new anti-harassment law has been passed. State lawmakers have unanimously passed a law making it a crime to shout, buzz, role coal, throw objects, or generally harass other road users. New penalties have been added to vehicles which fail to change lanes to pass. Our own Reporter in the Field has more on this ground breaking new law.
Reporter in the field: A new law passed today making it a first class offense to treat other road users in an aggresive manner. Most motorists will try to squeeze past a cyclist in the lane. This new law clarifies the already existing passing laws which make it a ticketable offense to pass another road user in the lane. If a cyclist is shouted at, unnecessarily honked at, or an object thrown at them the cyclist only need to take the license plate number and present a report to the police. Form number A-99 is the form to request. An officer will investigate the claims and if any evidence is found that harassing behavior occurred it is a $100.00 fine or the offender, in an interesting twist, can take a cycling safety course and have the fine waived. The intention of the law is to create a safer and more civil environment for all road users and to create passing laws that the police can actually enforce. It is hard to tell what three feet looks like but everyone knows how to change lanes to pass and if an officer sees you pass with out all four tires in the adjacent lane, it means a ticket for you.
The next day person A is out driving and sees a cyclist. Person A remembers the news report from last night and adjusts his speed to traffic conditions and changes lanes when safe to do so and passes the cyclist. A life was saved because more people understood what it means to change lanes to pass.
Laws protect cyclists.
Bike lanes are just there. Like any road it is only as dangerous as the people who use it and the laws which govern them.
Trying to get people to understand this novel idea, Well, It’s hard. Really hard. The bicycle advocates throw you the cold shoulder when you try to explain it to them.
Providing cyclists with peace of mind shouldn’t be hard to understand.
Start advocating for laws which protect cyclists. Advocate for those laws as hard as you advocate for paint on the streets. Your cycling numbers will boom before you know it.
As the opening sequence goes in “The Hunt for Red October”.
Commanding Officer: “It’s cold out Captain”
Captain: Холодная и трудно (Russian) Cold and hard.
If you have ever been on the receiving end of harassment or know someone who has, then please share this with the people you know.