Thursday, June 24, 2010

Not above, beyond or outside the law ...

... no matter what an eco-saint you might be ...

Bike Month in Vancouver (June) has been marked with interesting and encouraging features in the local media about cycling and how to make the experience more enjoyable for everyone. But an item in the Georgia Straight this week encapsulates just why I cringe at "bike activist" efforts like Critical Mass.

The article profiles the outrage of a cyclist who, horror of horrors, received a ticket from a police officer for violating the rules of the road. She's indignant that she got the ticket during Bike Month, when we're supposed to be promoting cycling.

Can somebody explain the connection?

Oh - I know: it's the same thinking that, with public transit in Vancouver carrying over 300,000,000 rides a year and packed SkyTrains during rush hour, suggests we should make transit free to encourage people to take transit.

Actually, Bike Month is exactly the time to start handing out tickets and letting cyclists -- veterans and newbies alike -- that they're subject to the rules of the road and those rules are taken seriously.

But what's incredibly telling is the advice this woman received from a bicycle activist: publicize the date that she goes to court to challenge the ticket, so she can get lots of supporters out. A packed courtroom, reasons the activist, can have a great effect.

"Great effect" for what? Intimidating the judge? Hey: it worked for inSite; nothing like a mob of paid-off druggies* staring at the judge with a lawyer pleading that these people's lives are at stake if they don't have a safe place to do illegal drugs to make the judge decide it's a health issue and not a criminal matter.

(*One of the fellows who comes into Gospel Mission told me last year, "I missed out on $35 by not going to the court that day" -- the going rate, apparently, for a supporter. He then proceeded to tell me about getting a free trip to Victoria and a box lunch so he could help demonstrate on the lawn of the Legislature in support of InSite. A couple of weeks ago, he showed up with a large swelling on his arm. He'd been shot -- with a needle: a "friend" tried to inject him with crystal meth and missed the vein, so the drug -- and infection -- ravaged his arm. I suppose some would say that was a great argument for a safe injection site, but really it's an argument for GETTING HIM OFF THE DRUGS NOW, because the safe injection site was there and he STILL ran into trouble.)

But I digress: the cycling activist apparently wants to intimidate a judge into deciding that people on bikes are exempt from the law.

And this is why I want to take a bag full of marbles to the next Critical Mass ride.

I'm a cyclist. I ride to work often; my wife and I ride a lot. It's a wonderful way to get out, spend time alone but together, if you catch my drift. As part of the transportation strategy, cycling has an important place and I think the city of Vancouver is doing some great things in retrofitting a city that was built on motorized traffic to be friendlier towards "active" transportation.

But spare me the load of self-righteous cow cookies that cyclists somehow deserve beatification because they're doing something wonderful for Mother Nature. As they might say in another part of the continent, that dog don't hunt! Give me cyclists -- and motorists and pedestrians -- who see themselves as responsible members of society and who obey the laws and respect one another: then we'll start taking real steps towards a livable city.

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