In Bill Bauer’s final column of 2013 (“The 2013 Sammies,” My Write, Dec. 30), he expresses disdain about cyclists, unsafe drivers, traffic congestion, the MANGo, all without doing what a proper journalist should do: examine the connections between all of these issues and consider the solutions.
Cyclists ride on sidewalks because the streets are unsafe. The streets are unsafe because there is improper enforcement on speeding and distracted drivers. The streets are also unsafe because they’re the result of 100 years of “car culture,” a culture that says automobiles get priority with every aspect of traffic infrastructure. It’s also a culture that kills around 33,000 Americans a year. I and others who live, work, and ride in Santa Monica would like to change that culture, not because we want to inconvenience drivers, but because we do not want to die, whether it’s in the saddle or behind the wheel (because, shock and surprise, many people who ride bikes also own and drive cars!).
You want to make streets safer? You reduce speeds. You separate bikes and cars. You make the investment in infrastructure (things like painting bike lanes are a nice start) and have the enforcement against the vehicles that cause the vast majority of collisions, injuries, and deaths (hint: they have four wheels, weigh an average of 3,000 pounds, and run on a fuel that causes climate change, wars, and the Koch Brothers).
You want to reduce congestion? See point one. You have safer streets, you’ll have fewer people driving and more people riding.
Yes, I know Bill Bauer won’t agree, but that’s OK. He can be a part of what Portland, Ore. calls the “No Way No How” crowd, the 33 percent of the population that would never ride a bike. That same survey (available here: portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/158497) also identifies three other segments: less than 1 percent who are “Strong and Fearless,” 7 percent who are “Enthused and Confident,” and then a whopping 60 percent who are “Interested but Concerned.” I’d say Santa Monica’s current streets are enough to convince those first two small segments to trade their cars for bikes; what then can the city do to start addressing the 60 percent’s concerns?
Things like the MANGo, buffered bike lanes, the Expo Line bike path, all of these will be improvements to Santa Monica’s transportation infrastructure, and they will be things that convince that giant middle segment to give riding bikes a try. Don’t you think that would be worthwhile? To get even another 5 or 10 percent of Santa Monicans to stop driving and start riding? How much better would traffic be around schools if parents felt it was safe for their kids to ride instead of hauling them around by car? How much cleaner would the air be? How much less wear and tear would there be on the roads? How much healthier and happier would people be if they felt the streets were safe enough to ditch their cars?
What’s so misguided about making streets safer for people? Because that’s the one thing that I’d like to see this newspaper and Bill Bauer address in 2014: what kind of city do you want? One that’s better for cars, or for people?