Louisville: Let’s learn to play nice

Bullies don't get the message.

We keep learning that same old lesson about a few bad apples. The darkest moments in history often started with the tale of someone who just wouldn’t play nice. They’re bullies. And chances are better than even that some bully did something to them somewhere along the way. Bullies learn from other bullies. So, we need strict enforcement and penalties to protect the most vulnerable.  And we need to create an environment where might isn’t right.

Our Constitution says we have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. However, if you choose to walk or ride a bike on local streets, you will encounter bullies who believe their rights trump yours. Instead of thanking cyclists or a pedestrians for doing their part to keep our air clean and our streets less congested, a few bullies get annoyed – even outraged.  When they have to slow down or switch lanes for a bike in the lane ahead,  speed-demon bullies in big cars and trucks do some crazy-dangerous things to intimidate the most vulnerable road users.

It happened again recently, when my friend and fellow bicyclist David Morse was struck by a motorist. Dave believes it was intentional. In an open letter to Kentucky Transportation Secretary Mike Hancock, David wrote:

“After hitting me, the motorist looked me in the eye and sped off. While attempting to file criminal charges, I was told by the prosecutor that there was insufficient evidence to pursue the case, and the most I could reasonably hope for is writing the registered owner of the vehicle a sternly worded letter. So as I sat down to write that letter, I came to the conclusion that the individual most responsible for the problems I encounter on a daily basis was not the motorist, but, you, the Secretary of Transportation.”

In a way, Dave is right. His letter goes on to explain that our “complete streets” policies are great bits of philosophy, but they don’t get carried out in practice when roads are planned, engineered and built. Motorists’ addiction and demand for speed prevails. And that adds fuel to the incorrect notion that cyclists don’t belong on our streets. Dave put it this way in his letter:

“KYTC engineering over-emphasizes motorized velocity at the expense of all other concerns. This is inappropriate in my home town of Louisville, it destroys the communities it intends to serve. I am aware of the KYTC complete streets policy, but it has been in effect for a long time, and it seems like an afterthought. It needs to be a first principal. We need slimmer, slower roads that serve as centers for civic engagement, not express bypasses.”

Dave is right. There is no reasonable argument against what he’s saying. By catering only to motorists – at the expense of all others – we have a policy in place that encourages bullies to honk and yell, “GET OFF THE ROAD.” I was on a long bike ride with Dave one night when a bad-apple motorist passed way too close and asked me in a sinister tone if I had insurance. Not so subtle intimidation, eh? Clever fellow!

Sure, you can try to justify our current roadway deficiencies by claiming that bicyclists are themselves reckless or antagonistic. Cyclists have their share of bad apples, too. But bicycle riders, like most motorists, are mainly just citizens trying to get safely from one place to another. Dave punctuated that point with these photos

a family ride

Dave isn’t asking for bike lanes. Instead, he insists that transportation secretary Hancock focus n delivering the promise of complete streets – traffic-calmed streets that benefit all road users. Dave sees a future Louisville where “motorists experience longer life expectancies because they’re not dying from boredom on monotonous highways. People on foot are able to access destinations and enjoy their community. And cyclists feel at home with the lower speed differential.”

His letter urges the Secretary of Transportation to start building roads that start sending the message “take care, there’s a neighborhood here,” then the problems bicyclists are having with vigilante harassment by motorists will disappear.

Dave closes by inviting Secreatary Hancock to Louisville, “to join me in a pedicab tour along various roads, to experience first hand what engineering does – or does not do – to the communities it serves.”

Grace. Peace. Bicycle Grease.

PS: Remember, every lane is a bike lane.
Share the road.

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Enjoy the ride home.
© Copyright, Kirk M. Kandle, MMXI
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