Sunday, January 11, 2009

On bikes and transportation alternatives

We all need a reminder from time to time that people bicycle for many different reasons. Some bike for fitness and racing, others commute by choice, and still others bicycle commute by necessity. Some of us can decide when and where we will ride, but not everyone has an option.

A New York Times editorial discusses bicycles in the suburbs, on the highways along Strip-Mall-America, pedaled by immigrant workers relegated to the margins.
Such sights are evidence of a valiant adaptation to a hostile environment. For immigrant workers, as with so many of us in the suburbs, life boils down to the job, the bed and the travel between. But when you live in a landscape designed for cars, and you are poor, and it is too far to walk to work, and there’s no bus to take you there, the only option is two wheels. This is what is cheap and effective. It can also be deadly.
This is not a safe place to ride. Drivers (frustrated with suburban transportation in their own right) have little compassion for bicyclists here. The editorial discusses several recent bicyclists' deaths around NYC where the drivers kept going after the collision. "Transportation alternatives" usually means alternatives to cars, but many people lack alternatives other than bikes. Let's keep this constituency in mind when building bike infrastructure and planning our overall transportation grid. And especially when we're behind the wheel; slow down a bit and give the guy on the old mountain bike a wide berth.

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