Posted by Jonathan Maus ( Publisher/Editor ) on September 22nd, 2011 at 5:08 pm
Bike Gallery, an institution in Portland with six local stores, is running an interesting new ad in the Willamette Week. The ad is a ‘Plea to Portland Cyclists’ and it implores people on bikes to wear bright clothing, use lights, and obey traffic laws.
Here’s the ad:
I find the language in the third tip unfortunate. The use of “drivers” and “us” sets up the classic dichotomy between road users that doesn’t exist — and that there’s no need to perpetuate. I also cringe when I read “traffic laws apply to bikes too,” not because I disagree with it; but because it furthers the common perception that all of “us” (and there is no “us” in my opinion) feel the opposite is true.
This plea from Bike Gallery seems to be something of a trend.
I recently got a mailing from the “SmartTrips” program at PBOT’s Transportation Options division. It was a newsletter with a calendar of rides and walks in my neighborhood and other tips. The section that caught my eye was titled, “Share the Road – Be Nice”:
What struck me about it is how PBOT continues to divide up road users based solely on their chosen mode of travel. I think that’s a bad move. It isn’t necessary (a simple “Road users, please slow down, stay alert, and obey traffic laws” would suffice) and it furthers the divisiveness that leads to stereotyping, labeling, and the lack of understanding and compassion between road users we should all be working toward.
I also noticed how they singled out “bicyclists” as the ones that need to “commit to obeying” stop signs and traffic lights. This singling out (which Bike Gallery does too to a lesser extent) perpetuates the urban myth that people on bikes have a larger problem obeying the law than other types of road users.
Then there’s author, advocate, and president of Alta Planning + Design, Mia Birk. Birk writes a regular column in the Portland Tribune. Her most recent was titled, “Law-breaking cyclists: the answer.”
At the end of the article, Birk asked readers to take a pledge. She had two pledges, one for people who consider themselves drivers and the other for people who consider themselves bikers. Here’s the bike-oriented one:
I pledge to use bike lights at night, stop and stay stopped at each and every red light, yield to pedestrians in crosswalks, be predictable and wave and smile at any driver who shows me the slightest shred of courtesy.
I share these because I’m curious what others think about them. I also thought it was interesting that I came across all three within a few weeks of each other.
What do you think?