Sunday, September 11, 2011

American Cities No Place for Cyclists

The Economist hit the proverbial elephant sitting on the bicycle seat with this headline, “With very few exceptions, America is no place for cyclists.” The magazine’s point is that “lanes are protected from motor vehicles by a line of white paint—a largely metaphorical barrier that many drivers ignore and police do not vigorously enforce. Bicyclist behavior, often erratic in my experience, is another factor, one not mentioned. Speed kills, the magazine said of the obvious. A car striking a pedestrian at 30 mph has 45% chance of killing the pedestrian. At 40 mph, the odds go to 85%. On Indian School Road in Albuquerque, equipped with those metaphorical white line “barriers,” 50 mph is not an uncommon speed. I have briefly followed a few of the maniacs just to check. Northern European cities separate cyclists from cars with physical barriers such as concrete buffers, trees or parked cars. Speed limits are lowered to about 19 mph, sometime that is done in Albuquerque in couple of places. The death toll is low. Portland is the only American city taking even most of the steps. “The result” more bikes and fewer deaths.”

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