This post has been sitting in draft for a bit. Originally meant to be a bit of a follow-up post to All users vs. all access, it got repurposed today by some other antics that are more fitting of using this title. Enjoi.
Chalk up another one for outrageous/ridiculous claims column. Today saw [vehicular] cycling promotion reach a new low with Dan Gutierrez taking the time to compare separated bike infrastructure with the racially charged history of Jim Crow era. While he undoubtedly isn’t the first to draw the comparison, Gutierrez took it a step further and likely greatly diminished any positive impact. What started as a simple complaint about some new buffered bike lanes quickly reached epic heights of stupidity when he decided to really make a point by producing a graphic (original here).
The appropriate response was best summed up by a Dutch acquaintance who offered the following response:
“Wait, lemme get this straight, is this guy trying to compare the absurdity of segregation/apartheid with the lifesaving safety of good bike infrastructure/bikepaths?”
Indeed he is. This is a new twist on a common rallying cry in favor of the placement of bikes in the general travel lanes with cars/trucks/buses/??? vs. providing cycletracks. The assertion is that bikes are vehicles and are thus driven, not ridden. So as driven vehicles, operating them should be done according to “rules of the road as drivers of vehicles” and not anywhere they feel. Buffered bike lanes/cycletracks would produce a wrinkle in that by keeping bikes in those lanes the majority of the time.
The claims used against cycletracks (or even BBLs) are usually no less absurd, as has been seen already. There certainly is a danger that horrific stuff may end up on the ground, but even the Dutch don’t get everything right. Due vigilance by advocates is certainly necessary to make sure that only good stuff gets built, but there is no reason to continue the adamant crusade against infrastructure that would mitigate at least 40% of cycling deaths as well as dramatically increase ridership. The status quo is lethal, as shown by the dismal comparison of American and Dutch cycling safety, so say nothing of the demographics represented in the pedals.
There is a real opportunity for such facilities to improve things. A ‘segregated’ facility does not have to be inferior nor inconvenience the users, as has been seen numerous times by the posts done by various individuals suck as Mark Wagenbuur, Mikael Colville-Anderson, etc. of the superb facilities and great leaps being taken in their local areas to encourage cycling. In many cases, they often result in a cycling experience that is superior to that of those driving. Meanwhile, we’re stuck with “the Cult of the Johns” and partners who refer to anyone not wanting to ride in the midst of traffic with choice adjectives such as “ignorant, frightened, mentally lazy, and traffic incompetent“.
This can only serve to hamper the ability for both current cyclists to gain acceptance by a wider swath of the population as well as being greatly callous and tone-deaf to history. The black community still deals with the residuals of the Jim Crow era far too often and there are many alive who actually remember using ‘COLORED’ facilities. This is not a legacy nor is it a an honorable image to invoke into the push to save lives. One can only hope that the vehicular cyclist crowd doesn’t shoot progress in the other foot too.