mobility freedom is a community matter

Blood Brothers by Tommy Emmanuel
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Cycling and walking are primary human activities akin to our basic needs for clean air and water but we often disregard and suffocate the efforts to get enough biking and walking into our lives. People are increasingly seeking to connect daily habitats through simple and healthy transportation options without overly depending on cars.  The road is a critical part of life for everyone from the poet to the largest industries.  A key step is to keep the road habitat, a place we spend a lot of time in, healthy, clean, safe and enjoyable.  For some reason we seem to be avoiding and procrastinating taking on this most serious challenge of integrating the full array of our activities in a compatible fashion on the road.  We can easily remediate this by committing to rebalancing the transportation paradigm and creating a culture and infrastructure where different transit modes coalesce and synchronize to move people and goods with efficiency and grace.

Our first identity on the roads is our common humanity.  We are all one on the road.  We do not benefit from separating ourselves up into motoring, cycling, and walking categories.  When we recognize that we are “stuck” together and resolve to work together our plans converge.  This is not a conflict or competition dependent on domination and disparaging diverse ways.  We have to honor one another’s presence and negotiate through our common humanity and shared freedoms.  All the great teachers throughout history have shown we benefit the most by keeping our neighbor’s interests at heart.  Why would we be afraid or reluctant to treat each other right on the road?  Project a positive optimism and expect that we can get along together.  How well we take care of one another is a matter of community pride.

Tips for creating growth in our shared road culture and being welcoming of diversity:

Attenuate our sensitivities to the most vulnerable user.  On trails walkers and bikers yield to people on horses.  On multiuse paths cyclists pay attention to and respect walkers by keeping a safe distance and reducing speed according to the situation so walkers don’t feel like they are blown by.  On roads everyone yields to walkers and runners, and motorists reduce speeds and pay close attention around cyclists.  Commercial vehicles and their professional drivers are always working extra hard to be careful and keep their stopping distance at a safe range.  We all pay special attention to and keep on the lookout for children, elderly people, and folks who may be moving more slowly for any reason.  Our mobility environment is built on respect for the power of human beings, not the logic of speed and force or a mechanical and technological hierarchy.  We can take the initiative by extending ourselves through thoughtful positive actions.  We can be team players while enjoying our independence and freedoms.

Patience flows more easily when we expect cyclists and walkers as normal traffic.  Slow down when your visibility drops around blind corners, over hills, or when obstructions block your sight lines.  Always keep your stopping distance less than your sight distance.  You are responsible for navigating safely around other road users.  Scan the road, shoulders, adjacent paths and sidewalks for cyclists and pedestrians, especially at intersections and merging zones.  Cars can be an existential threat to cyclists and walkers.  Be respectful and foster human dignity through generous conduct in the public road environment.  One of the basic calls to safety is driving in a manner suitable for conditions, and modulating forward progress by not hesitating to slow down in response to changing conditions.  Be on the lookout for the safety of others at all times.

Recognize that cyclists are always part of the traffic flow.  Cars still have to share the road when bike facilities are present.  Bike lanes and multi-use paths compliment the on road network to expand biking and walking options and incentivize people to bike and walk more by making for a broader range of attractive choices.  Bike lanes and shared use paths are not mandatory use.  Bike facilities are not designed to restrict bicycling operating space.  Bike facilities are designed to encourage people to ride and give them a more comfortable space to do it.  Pay close attention to cyclists at intersections and merging zones.  Be ready to negotiate position and share lanes at any time.  Always yield to traffic ahead that is occupying a lane.

Respect cyclists’ positioning on the road at all times.  Do not try to forcefully impose your will on any other road users and operate a vehicle in a way to communicate displeasure or disrespect.  There are times cyclists need to leave bike lanes and shoulders:  To pass slower users, avoid obstacles and hazards such as debris and bad pavement, increase visibility through intersections and next to driveways, to make a left hand turn, position themselves correctly at intersections, and to provide for adequate space to maneuver under certain conditions such as high speeds.  Larger groups of cyclists require more space than a narrower bike lane provides.  Cyclists are responsible for making the decision of where to position themselves safely in the road.  Cyclists, like motorists, operate in a challenging environment and must navigate and assess many hazards to keep safe.  Everyone’s awareness is awakening and becoming more attentive to what it takes to keep cyclists and walkers safe.  Respecting access to space is key.  Cyclists have the same interests as motorists and appreciate bike facilities and use them to full advantage.   Cyclists want everything in a road environment that motorists seek.  We are all the same.  The qualities that make for a good walking and bike route make for better conditions for motor vehicle driving.  Creating good roads is a win win win. Our attitudes and participation are a large part of what makes up a good road environment.

Walkers and runners are not automatically prohibited from using bike lanes.  Only cars.

Speed does not impact the rights of road users.  Going faster doesn’t give you more rights.

Everybody is equally important on the road.  There is no place for narcissism or selfishness.  We always have to negotiate with one another and participate in the road community.

Pay attention to one another.   If you want your time to yourself taking public transportation is a great option.  You can use your handheld device all you want on the bus and train.  Transit is great if you have better things to do than drive.

Paying more taxes doesn’t impact the rights of road users.  If that were the rule commercial vehicles, who pay the most taxes, would get to drive in a dominant fashion.  But this is not the case.  The larger and more powerful a vehicle is, the greater threat to the safety of others it becomes.  Thus the drivers of large vehicles have even more responsibility for the safety of others.  Power correlates directly to responsibility.

Enjoy the road and the beautiful shared community it creates, this wonderful mosaic of American life.  The transportation paradigm is constantly being shaped by our daily choices and behaviors.  We might as well be reshaping it to our best image.  We show our pride by demonstrating we can respect and maintain our shared freedom on the road by protecting the experiences of our co-citizens.  I’m glad we are all a part of it together.  See you out there!

References and Context:

There’s a lot of evidence we need to plan for ways of moving people besides cars. http://www.sfgate.com/technology/businessinsider/article/Why-Driving-To-Work-Is-Terrible-For-You-Unless-5525643.php

Save $8,000 per year and derive a whole host of myriad benefits by changing your commute:  https://www.mint.com/blog/trends/shift-your-saving-into-gear-a-visual-guide-to-how-cycling-can-save-you-money-0514/

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