Earlier this month the San Francisco Civil Grand Jury issued a report entitled “Sharing the Roadway: From Confrontation to Conversation,” that identifies communication issues between cyclists and drivers and seeks “to move towards everyone seeing him/her self as part of the community sharing the roadway.” Hopefully this will one day help to reduce San Francisco bicycle accidents.
As a San Francisco bicycle accident lawyer, I appreciate the effort, but I always balk at the notion that cyclists and motorists are different classes of people. The San Francisco Bicycle Plan’s (“the Plan”) stated mission is to “make bicycling an integral part of daily life in San Francisco” with a goal of “making bicycling safer and more convenient in San Francisco.” The objectives of the Plan are to increase the daily number of bicycle trips, develop improved bicycle use tracking, and address the rate of bicycle collisions. In its report, the Grand Jury’s review of the Plan focused on the issues of education, enforcement, and equity, noting that motorists and cyclists must come to a greater understanding of each other’s requirements, abilities, and responsibilities as they share the byways of the City and County of San Francisco.
Except that the burden always seems to be on the bicyclists and it is up to us, as bicyclists, to educate the motorists. Why? Do motorists have to educate other motorists as to road safety? Wouldn’t any car driver complain, justifiably, if semi-trucks ignored the law and forced them to yield at every opportunity just because they’re bigger and they have less of a chance of being hurt in a collision?
Luckily, I’m not the only one who realizes this inequity, and there is at least one very important person who is dedicated to improving the standing of bicyclists across America. I am speaking of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and his announcement this March of a major policy change regarding the way bicycle safety and bicyclists are treated.
Specifically, Secretary LaHood proposes these key recommendations for state DOTs and communities:
· Treat walking and bicycling as equals with other transportation modes.
· Ensure convenient access for people of all ages and abilities.
· Go beyond minimum design standards.
· Collect data on walking and biking trips.
· Set a mode share target for walking and bicycling.
· Protect sidewalks and shared-use paths the same way roadways are protected (for example, during snow removal)
· Improve nonmotorized facilities during maintenance projects.
As Secretary LaHood says, this is a start, but it’s an important start. Let’s support him and our local governments in implementing these policy changes.