A polite response to a very wrong safety campaign, and blocking the bikeway in Manhattan Beach

Don’t get me wrong.

It’s nice when government agencies try to bring a little peace to our streets. Let alone when they respond to the demands of bike riders to do something — anything — to improve safety when too damn many people are dying just for riding a bike.

But it would be even nicer if they actually made things better instead worse.

Take Scotland’s new Nice Way Code, which tells drivers to think of bike riders like horses — without the requisite crap on the roadway, hopefully — and blames every bike rider for the actions of others.

Not so nice, actually.

That’s why a group of well-mannered Scot bike riders have written a very polite response asking the Scottish government to pull the campaign and put it where the sun don’t shine.

Okay, so I might have added that last part.

The Nice Way Code is failing in its own terms

At the launch of the Nice Way Code, Transport Minister Keith Brown said, “The Nice Way Code campaign seeks to build a culture of tolerance and patience between cyclists, motorists, pedestrians and all other road users across Scotland.” However, everything that has come out of this campaign – which was paid for out of the active travel budget – seems likely instead to create conflict, reinforcing divisions between people based merely on their mode of transport. One advert encourages cyclists not to run red lights simply in order not to give other cyclists a bad name (and not because it’s dangerous and discourteous, not least to pedestrians) – lumping all cyclists together and implying bad behaviour by a tiny minority justifies hostility to everyone who chooses to ride a bike.

As cyclists we are used to hearing from a few uninformed drivers that ‘all’ cyclists run red lights, ride on the pavement, hold up traffic and generally deserve to be treated like obstacles on the road. But we never expected our own government to run adverts saying the same thing. As nine cyclists have died on Scotland’s roads already this year, it’s unsurprising that this campaign seems to have angered almost everyone who regularly rides a bike.

Safer roads will not come from lecturing people and pandering to stereotypes. We believe they will come from rethinking our current emphasis on designing roads purely for motor traffic and redesigning them to remove the sort of conflicts these adverts reflect. Pending that, it’s clear that many people who don’t ride bikes themselves are unaware of the needs of cyclists on the road. A campaign that really aimed to build a culture of patience and tolerance could have helped to educate them about these things, and to get cyclists, drivers and pedestrians to see things from each others’ point of view. Calling cyclists names is not it.

We urge the Scottish government to recognise that it has made a mistake and to pull this campaign before it ramps up tensions on the road even further. We suggest that it takes this opportunity to start a real dialogue between road users about how we can recognise that we are all people, and behave accordingly.

The letter was signed by over 85 people.

If I lived in Scotland, or thought I might find myself riding there anytime soon, you’d find my name on that list, as well.

………

Photo by Don Hayashi

Photo by Don Hayashi

Don Hayashi emailed this photo of an apparently legally blocked Marvin Braude bike path in Manhattan Beach, writing:

I’ve always wondered what the criteria was for forcing the bicyclist to walk their bikes at the pier was.

In this case a Manhattan Beach camp employee has set up the barrier so that his charges can cross safely during their lunch break. He said his boss told him he could.

Funny thing he only set up the barrier on one side of the pier. So bikes were still riding from the other direction. I guess it was to inconvenient to set up the other sign.

The municipal code actually says that a public safety officer has to make the decision.

Apparently legal, that is, under CVC 21211(b):

21211.   (a) No person may stop, stand, sit, or loiter upon any class I bikeway, as defined in subdivision (a) of Section 890.4 of the Streets and Highways Code, or any other public or private bicycle path or trail, if the stopping, standing, sitting, or loitering impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist.

(b) No person may place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or any other object upon any bikeway or bicycle path or trail, as specified in subdivision (a), which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist unless the placement or parking is necessary for safe operation or is otherwise in compliance with the law.

It’s that damned “safe operation” clause that gets you, which seems to give local governments the authority to shut down bikeways anytime they think it’s appropriate.

As well as write local ordinances like the one linked to above.

………

Cyclelicious offers a detailed update on all the bike-related bills before the California legislature, including the state’s third attempt to get a three-foot passing law past our bike-unfriendly governor’s veto pen.

………

Amelie Le Moullac, the 24-year old bike rider killed in a San Francisco right hook yesterday, was a 2011 graduate of USC. CicLAvia unveils the official route for October’s Heart of LA event. The LACBC needs your help for this years bike and pedestrian count; scroll up for a chance to win a free trip to San Diego’s Tour de Fat when you become a member or renew your membership. A bank of full bike racks at one of the city’s leading hospitals is a good problem to have. Helen’s Cycles is inaugurating a no-drop, womens-only ride this Saturday. Streetsblog’s new SaMo edition goes online Monday. Santa Monica hosts a meeting to discuss the proposed Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greeway this Saturday. San Marino talks bikeways at Monday’s meeting of the Traffic Advisory Commission. The SoCal Cross Prestige Series announces their fall and winter racing schedule.

A 45-year old Costa Mesa bike rider was injured when she allegedly ran a red light; unfortunately, the details are hidden behind the Register’s paywall. A young Temecula city employee is given a bike to commute to work. A 68-year old Oxnard rider was seriously injured in a SWSS when he reportedly drifted out of a bike lane. I Bike Kern offers a graphic look at a 100-year tradition of bicycling. San Jose readers argue over whether bikes belong on local roadways. A 56-year old Freemont cyclist remains in a coma in critical condition a week after he was injured in a hit-and-run. After a blind Los Altos man invents a high-tech bike for sightless riders, some colossal jerk steals it. An 18-year old Pleasanton driver faces a murder charge for killing a cyclist after tweeting about going on a death ride; thanks to murphstahoe for the heads-up. San Francisco cyclist Chris Bucchere was formerly sentenced to three years probation and 1000 hours of community service for the death of a pedestrian. Get to know the co-founder of Public Bikes. San Francisco police are shaming bike thieves on Twitter. How to ride safely around trucks and buses. Should bikes be treated like cars, pedestrians or something in between? Grist calls MonkeyLectric the world’s coolest lights for bike wheels; might be fun to have those cartoon dogs light up the night.

A Las Vegas man with cerebral palsy is still riding his bike 45 years after doctors said he was going to be six foot under. Greg LeMond, now America’s only Tour de France winner, talks bikes and doping in Portland. A new Seattle road diet and bike lanes helped boost business 400%, or at least didn’t hurt it. Boulder CO is becoming a living bike lab. My hometown considers adopting a stop as yield law for bike riders. An Evansville firefighter is handcuffed and threatened with a stun gun after waving at a cop while riding through a stop sign. Michigan State University opens new secure bike parking facilities; I’m looking at you, USC. Long planned Jersey City bike lanes are still coming, cross their heart. New York police continue their crackdown on all those dangerous bicyclists, including writing tickets for supposed infractions they didn’t actually observe. The NY Times considers the problem of keeping the city’s bikeshare racks in balance. A DC church fights a long-planned cross-city separated bike lane, claiming “the slaves who built the church were not thinking about bike lanes;” then again, they probably weren’t thinking about cars speeding past every day, either.

After saying no one should jump to quick conclusions, a Canadian paper does exactly that by calling for a mandatory helmet law for adults. In a completely wrong-headed approach to traffic congestion, a UK city fines cyclists for violating a ban on bikes in the city center. Brit cyclists and drivers fight it out over Twitter. This is why you never ride with your head down, as a British rider competing in a time trial dies after rear-ending a stopped trailer. Evidently, hit-and-run isn’t just an LA problem, or even an American one, as two Irish riders are lucky to be alive when a driver flees the scene after running them down.

Finally, there’s a fatal loophole in an Aussie territory’s hit-and-run law, as it turns out drivers are free to flee if they actually kill their victims instead of merely injuring them.

Then again, in LA you just have to be a celebrity.

9 comments

  1. fsethd says:

    That section of the Marvin Braude bike path is in serious disrepair and in need of immediate attention. The caulking, or whatever material is used to fill the seam between the two sections of concrete, has rotted away for long stretches. This makes it easy for a bike’s front tire to get trapped in the crack, with potentially catastrophic results. Instead of making bikers walk for surf campers, the city should focus its energies on making that section of the path safe. Sand also can obscure the dangerous cracks if you don’t know they’re there.

    • TomH says:

      What is the extent of a city or county’s liability for a path hazard like this, if they are notified and then continue to ignore the repair??

      • bikinginla says:

        None. Or some, maybe.

        Under California law intended to encourage communities and private land owners to build pathways, the agency responsible for a bike path or walking trail faces no liability, even for known hazards.

        However, there is a requirement in the law that signs be posted to warn about known hazards. In the case that fsethd mentioned above, the county — which is responsible for maintenance on the path — could be possibly be held liable if it could be shown that they knew about the hazard and did nothing to warn riders about it.

        At least, that’s the argument I’d hope any lawyers representing an injured rider would make.

      • fsethd says:

        If someone gets hurt, there are scenarios in which the city is liable for the damages caused by their failure to maintain. Manhattan Beach blocked off part of that path where it merges with the street towards Hermosa earlier this year and replaced the filler in the cracks for this very reason. Also, they don’t have to be notified to be found liable, but if they’re on notice the liability can be a lot easier to establish.

        • Jim Lyle says:

          Speaking of liability, local police and city governments along the MB bikepath know pedestrians (and that includes skaters) are not allowed on the bike path, yet fail to enforce the law. When the lack of enforcement causes accidents, can the cities be held partially responsible? Food for thought.

  2. Curious about your opinion on this resolution in the California Senate right now. Does that seem like a Nice Way Code to you?

    • SR 17 is several paragraphs about the danger that cars pose to children on foot and on bike, so the response should be that children need training in “Defensive Walking” (among other things).

      • bikinginla says:

        Well, as we all know, it is impossible to actually expect people to actually drive safely. So yes, we need to put all the responsibility on little children, and train them to do the things that grown-ups can’t.

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