Saving Lives And The Planet by Nathan Fletcher
May is National Bike Month. Undoubtedly we will see a flood of resolutions and proclamations; and maybe even a few public figures awkwardly perched for a photo on bike to work day. While these acts are positive and increase awareness they do not do anything to bring to change the number of bike related accidents that affect the cyclists on a daily basis. We don’t just need awareness, we need action.
San Diego’s collision rate is nearly double the statewide average and almost triple the national average. This substantial difference tragically reminds us that the dangers faced on our roads today are real. No policy can prevent all accidents, but we can make our roads safer.
There has been some progress in recent years with designated bike lanes and programs highlighting ways to enjoy recreational riding or commuting. But despite these successes, concrete action remains elusive. We know one of the hurdles to getting more people on bikes is rider accessibility and safety for daily commuters and weekend warriors alike. The calls for more dedicated bike lanes gets caught in a web of bureaucratic hurdles and always-limited government finances.
Cycling as a means of transportation not only leads to a healthier lifestyle and a healthier planet, but also can help accommodate the density of growth and urban design we need for the future. Cycling advocates will continue to push San Diego to set benchmarks that are bold and measurable, while allowing for accountability. There are also opportunities to help tackle the issue of rider safety by embracing advances in technology. Those of us who ride need to be more more visible and hold each other more accountable.
Cyclists have to take the lead and include lights, integrated light helmets, reflective clothing, and other accessories to identify themselves on the road throughout day or night. These concepts are not new, and are often highlighted by national leaders like Tim Blumenthal of People for Bikes. He calls for a reduction in vehicle and bicycle collisions by encouraging the industry to focus on visibility. His philosophy is simple, responsible cyclists need to take the lead and be seen.
But personal responsibility is not enough. What if all bicycle seat manufacturers who sell products in California installed lights; and bicycle manufacturers included integrated front and rear lighting on all frames? A car or motorcycle without headlights and taillights would be ridiculous. It is time we ask manufacturers to adhere to a new standard.
These are just a few of the common sense ideas that can help advance safety for cyclists. Join cycling advocates and bike manufactures on Thursday, June 22nd at 6pm at California Bicycles in La Jolla to discuss these and other ideas for common sense bike reform. Show up, and become part of the conversation to make San Diego a national leader for safer, smarter riding.
Professor of practice in political sciences UCSD
And former member of CA assembly