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People Will Ride

Posted 5/5/2010

Thank you for pointing out the woeful state of biking in Baltimore (The Bike Issue, April 21). I bought a nice bike last year. On my first commute I discovered the perils of parallel storm drain grates and bent my fancy new rims, but, luckily, not my skull.

I'm convinced the key to bike safety is rider education. No law can keep drivers 3 feet from a bike as effectively as bright, blinky lights mounted on the back and front. If riders stay near the middle of the lane, away from car doors and curbs, it would matter little which way Public Works orients the grates. Not that laws don't matter: Eliminating tinted glass would let riders see where drivers are looking, and a real cell phone ban would let drivers pay attention to the road. (If a driver kills a biker while talking on a cell phone, which is the secondary offense?)

I disagree with the "build it and they will ride" mentality that dominates bike advocacy and prefer a paradigm along these lines: "promote 2 wheel commuting and they will ride then demand it be built." People will ride if the feasibility of two-wheeled commuting is publicized and practical barriers are eliminated. You need not be a triathlete to bike 8 miles to work. You do need a place to lock up and a locker (and, ideally, a shower). Employer incentives would lower impediments to commuting better than bike lanes and bus racks.

I am old and fat with mild asthma and worse arthritis and try to commute two or three days per week when the temperature is above freezing. I believe prospective bike commuters need convincing more than they need bus racks, although I love the concept of "transport for your transport." (Am I the only one who thinks bike-friendly buses are about the lowest priority for cyclists?)

Robert O'Connell
Baltimore

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