One of the local governance issues that keeps getting far more airtime than it can ever deserve is the concept of dedicated bike lanes on our streets. For council to waste any more time on this is beyond pointless.
This idea is dumb on so many levels it’s hard to know where to start.
For example, it’s unlawful to drive a car or a motorcycle on our roads without liability insurance. If we’re going to set up dedicated bike lanes, at what point do we require that bicyclists carry some form of insurance?
I’m not being facetious, here. We know, for example, that not all motorcycle-car collisions are the fault of the car driver. Therefore, we can assume that some collisions between cars and bikes will be the fault of the cyclist. If we’re going to go to the expense of building bike lanes on our streets as a method of normalizing the bike as transport, then we need to impose some of the same kinds of responsibilities as other road users, such as insurance coverage.
The same holds true for licensing and registration. We all must buy plates and annual tags in order to use the public roadways, so why should we not expect the same buy-in from cyclists who wish to use dedicated lanes alongside cars and trucks? When you consider that the bike lanes will be 100 per cent funded by taxes imposed on motorists, this is a minor imposition.
What’s happening here is that bicyclists have wrapped themselves in the flag of social responsibility, and no one is willing to question that position in spite of it being anything but socially responsible.
There is nothing socially responsible about shaking down the taxpayer for an unnecessary subsidy for a lifestyle choice.
Right now, Red Deer has miles of bike paths. Many of them connect residential areas of Red Deer with the areas we work. For example, there’s a bike path almost the entire route from my house in Anders to where I work in the northwest corner of town. It’s quite easy to spot as there are precious few bikes obscuring my view of that path when I go to and from work.
That’s the point right there. It’s not as though the bike paths are crowded. There is no bicycle congestion going on here. If those who are clamouring for a lane of their own on the streets are really concerned about getting hit by cars, then stay on the bike paths.
For that matter, we already have untold miles of sidewalks, which is really where this issue needs to go.
If greater safety for cyclists is really the issue, then sidewalks are where the bikes need to be. If a car hits a cyclist, there’s a pretty good chance the guy on the bike is in line for the big dirt nap. If a cyclist hits a pedestrian, the most likely outcome is bruises or broken bones.
What’s that? Part of the point of bicycle activism is promoting greater bike awareness by drivers? Right back at ya, buddy. Stay on the sidewalk and watch out for pedestrians.
Besides, not only are the sidewalks already there, they’re already paid for.
Bike activists try and make the claim that dedicated bike lanes can reduce congestion. That’s a load of poppycock.
There aren’t enough potential bicycle commuters to make a dent in our congestion issues, for one thing, but the kicker is that we’re being asked to believe that narrowing our vehicle lanes in order to make room for a dedicated bike lane will somehow ease congestion.
Even more ludicrous is the idea that we’ll accomplish it by spending millions to add lanes cars can’t use.
The most egregious aspect of this is that a small group of dedicated activists is donning the mantle of Mother Earth, motherhood, and apple pie to sell our city council on the idea of being a social advocacy group themselves.
If city council buys into the idea of adding bicycle lanes to our commuter streets, they buy into the idea of becoming an advocate for the economic and social choices of a select few.
Motorists already pay several dollars in taxes for every dollar that gets spent on roads. Motorists already pay as much or more for public transit than actual transit users themselves. As property owners, we already pay for the sidewalks and bike paths we have built and will continue to build.
City council needs to stand up for taxpayers and tell the bike activists to take a hike.
Actually, tell ’em to take a ride.
Bill Greenwood is a freelance columnist living in Red Deer.