Thursday, July 24, 2008

please, knoxville, stop harrassing bicyclists

True story:

This morning, a bicyclist (who may or may not be me) was commuting to work riding up Hall of Fame Drive towards downtown. Near Magnolia, a large black Expedition pulls up beside him. A half block down the street another bicyclist is [illegally] riding his mountain bike on the sidewalk. This annoys the first bicyclist, because it furthers the misconception that bikes don't belong on the road. As if to drive that point home, the Expedition slows down and lowers its window. The driver points to the mountain biker and yells at the commuter,

"Get on the sidewalk!"

The irony of all this is that he was on the one road in Knoxville that actually has a dedicated bike lane. This jerk (driving alone) in his big SUV had passed four signs stating this fact. So, Mr. Indignation, if bicycles are supposed to be off the road, why did the government put a bike lane there?

This kind of ignorance is widespread in Knoxville. The City is doing a good job of promoting alternative commuting, but the general driving populace still doesn't know that it's OK for bikes to be out in the road. They respond with annoyance and sometimes outright hostility. Complete strangers cuss me out because I've somehow inconvenienced them. Don't get me wrong, 95% of the drivers just pass and don't think anything of it. But a vocal minority needs educating.

I think that the city and the state need to sponsor an aggressive "Share the Road" campaign to let everyone know that bicycles have a legal right to be on the road. The government needs to get the word out on the bicycle laws its passed, such as the 3 foot rule. Congress has passed a resolution endorsing bicycle transportation, but all this does no good if the average driver doesn't know about it. Also, how to pass a bicycle should be a mandatory part of the testing for a drivers license. A new generation of drivers needs to be taught to respect bicycles on the road. Bicyclists have to do their part and not give into pressure to ride on the sidewalks. This just feeds the misunderstanding between bicyclists and drivers.

What do you think, esteemed readers?


Patrick Beeson said...

I think Knoxville city leaders need to open communication with folks from Portland, OR. That city is a leader in bikes-as-transportation more than any other.

Anonymous said...

i say let the hard times roll and pump up the price of gas. but seriously, as the price of gas rises, market failures are being corrected, like the lack of attention to non-motorized transportation. nice post, ck. in the meantime, how about we draft a letter to haslam and kpd?

Unknown said...

I live in Washington, DC, and I'm doing an internship in Knoxville this summer. I've actually been kind of surprised at how cars get out of the way. I've ridden up and down Neyland Drive and Kingston Pike, and seen plenty of courtous drivers along Broadway, too.

But there are some who, even when they have a full lane to move, don't give cyclists the REQUIRED 3 feet of clearance.

And I agree with the previous poster: Knoxville folks need to consult with the good leaders of Portland, OR.

Anonymous said...

I've lived in Knoxville for 12 years, but I sold my bike in year two. I just got tired of this kind of hostility toward bikes. It was jarring after having lived in Austin, Denver and Albuquerque, where cycling seemed to be more accepted.

I was in Crested Butte last weekend and was amazed at the positive attitude toward bikes -- and pedestrians. It was so refreshing compared to what I've experienced in Knoxville, where pedestrians are often little more than moving targets.

Don't take this the wrong way. I love Knoxville. I love the people. Just can't figure out what happens to them when they get behind the wheel ...

Anonymous said...

How can we get the city to put in more bike lanes and bike racks? Is there any sort of grassroots effort underway?