The League of American Bicyclists proclaims Delaware the third “most bike-friendly state in the country.” If that’s the case, may I never be on my bike in any of the states ranked below the Top 20.
To say Delaware is bike friendly is like saying because you throw your plastic bottles in a recycle bin you’re an environmentalist. Sure, we’ve built hundreds of miles of bike paths over the past decade, and more are in the planning stage. We also have some wonderful group rides that welcome riders from near and far—Bike to the Bay, Amish Bike Tour, Delaware Gran Fondo.
We passed the three-foot passing law way back in 2011, which basically tells motorists who approach a cyclist traveling in the same direction: “Proceed with caution and reduce the speed of the vehicle to a safe speed and leave a reasonable and prudent distance by providing a minimum of three feet of clearance while passing such bicyclist, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.”
But as a driver, did you even know about this legislation? Have you ever seen a road sign reinforcing it, much less know someone who received a ticket for violating a bike-safety statute?
Sure, we’ve made strides toward being bike tolerant. But bike friendly? Hardly.
I recently had the pleasure of visiting Montreal. My son will be attending college at McGill University this fall and I can’t wait —to visit him and take a bike ride in this wonderful city, that is.
Now, Montreal is a place that can boast of being bike friendly and it doesn’t come off like Donald Trump proclaiming to be a “great negotiator.” Bike share racks are everywhere, many streets have dedicated lanes for cyclists (protected by Jersey barriers and providing dedicated lanes in both directions), and a cyclist’s right to be on the road is respected throughout the city—bike lane or not. In fact, considering traffic and the omnipresent road construction, a bicycle is often the most efficient means of getting around in Montreal. So, people on bikes are everywhere.
However, being bike friendly is about more than laws and infrastructure. It’s a recognition that bikes belong, a viewpoint sorely lacking in Delaware and every state ranked behind us. To many motorists, people on bikes are an inconvenience. How dare we think we should share the road with cars and trucks.
Studies say there is safety in numbers. The more people we have riding bikes the more we’ll raise awareness, and reinforce our right to share the roads. OK, but we need more than that. We need an aggressive and uncompromising PR/lobbying campaign. We need a movement like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Legislation outlawing driving under the influence existed long before MADD, but until the Texas-based non-profit began creating powerful commercials and PR campaigns, before they started a relentless attack on legislators, drunk driving laws were not aggressively enforced. Today, MADD is credited with reducing deaths by drunk driving by half in the U.S., and the organization is responsible for having mandatory all-offender alcohol interlock (car breathalyzers) laws passed in 25 states.
Cycling needs to take a page out of the MADD playbook. Hell, let’s take the whole playbook.
How about Riders Against Getting Eliminated (RAGE)? Time to put the pedal to the metal, so to speak.