I think it’d be good to know where we’re coming from, politically and socially speaking. That way you know what you’re getting into.
Bike Happy supports an aggressive effort to reduce traffic fatalities to zero, greater empathy among all road users, breaking down barriers between bicycling’s subcultures, and having fun on two wheels.
So, if you can’t get behind 15 mph everywhere, helmet freedom, boomboxes on bikes, and free wheelies, then this isn’t the place for you. I mean, we’re not even sure we know what free wheelies are, but we do know that you can’t be against them and still be on this email list — cuz just like whales, bikes must not be contained.
Here’s a few specific policies we support (or don’t support):
- Slow the F Down.
- First off, you don’t know this, speed kills. Whether you’re driving or riding a bike, your field of vision narrows, your stopping distance lengthens, and your reaction time stays the same by the distance you travel doesn’t. So that’s why 10% of the pedestrians struck at 20mph by a driver are killed or seriously injured while 90% of pedestrians struck at 40mph are killed. Reducing top-end speeding is absolutely essential. Speed limit signs probably do very little to overall speeds, but they are a city’s first line of public education in telling folks what the safe speeds are. Plus, speed limits can be reinforced with enforcement and engineering.
- Lowering speed limits on city arterial streets from whatever high speed they are down to at least 25 mph, and 20 mph in busy business districts and downtowns. When it’s rush hour congestion and everyone is ticked off in their metal boxes, a 30 mph speed limit is helping no one.
- Timing traffic lights in business districts and downtowns at 12-15 mph. It works for Copenhagen, Amsterdam, and Portland, it can work in Seattle. Slow streets are steady streets — traffic flows fasters, and people on bikes don’t have to stop & start every 300 feet.
- Expand 20 mph School Zones to every private & public school, and every park in the city.
- Engineer & sign neighborhood greenway streets at 15 mph. Families bike at 12-15 mph, not 20.
- Shift red light and speed enforcement from police officers to automated cameras, and expand the camera-based enforcement to every school zone and traffic light in the city. We’ll stop the racial profiling by police officers, get the traffic fines paid more efficiently through the administrative (rather than judicial) process, and ensure better speed limit compliance.
- E-Bike riders. No, you don’t have the right to ride as fast as the riders in the Tour de France. I’ll give you full throttle up to 12 mph and pedal-assist up to 15 mph (which is faster than most people ride), but after that you should be on your own.
- No more mandatory helmet laws, for any age.
- We want more people riding bikes, not putting more barriers to getting onto the bikes. The studies showing helmet efficacy are use bad, bad statistical analyses. But as helmet usage has increased over the last three decades in America, the percentage of fatalities by bike riders with & without the helmets has tracked closely. Meanwhile, we know where cities (or even whole countries), enforce helmet laws and heavily reinforce that message with public education campaigns, bike ridership decreases substantially.
- And creating a child-only law isn’t any better. Helmet laws decrease bike ridership, so why would we want to decrease the number of children who ride bikes when we continue to deal with epidemic levels of childhood obesity?
- What especially is loathsome is the victim-shaming by fellow bicyclists who tell their friends, family, and even strangers and newbie bicyclists that they are terrible people if they don’t wear a helmet while riding a bike. Social pressure frequently creates far more potent laws than legal laws themselves. Don’t be a jerk.
- Yes, we all have stories about friends (or ourselves) who were in a crash and we “believe” the helmet helped. Without going into a long discussion about why that might not have been the case, I’ll just say that anecdotal data is a bad way to set public health policy.
- So, no helmet laws.
- Drivers need to be more empathetic to bicyclists. People biking on streets that were engineered first and foremost for driving are going to end-up frustrated with the streets. They’re going to cross a few lines. Drivers, you got the streets engineered for you and loads of free parking in your neighborhoods. Understand that bicyclists are just trying to make it through your concrete jungle.
- Bicyclists need to be more empathetic to drivers. Drivers don’t want to kill people (okay, *almost* always they don’t want to). Drivers have expectations and places they want to go. They’re in their metal & glass bubble, just trying to get by. Bicyclists, try to make eye contact with drivers and use your hands to clearly communicate what you’re trying to do. You don’t have to follow the League of American Bicyclists’ training perfectly, but you do have to communicate using expressive body language. Besides, studies show that your fellow human has more empathy if you establish eye contact.
- Bicyclists, be empathetic to your fellow bicyclists. JFK, there’s only four percent of us who regularly commute by bike in Seattle. Don’t shame anyone for not wearing a helmet. Don’t shame someone for splitting a lane to get to the front of a traffic queue. Don’t shame someone for wearing something strange. Don’t provide unsolicited advice. Don’t tell someone on an ebike that they’re cheating (although, ebikers, don’t use your bike to win the Tour de France). Don’t tell a woman how you think she looks in a kit. Don’t make snide remarks. Do ask people if they’d like directions or assistance in non-condescending, helpful ways. Don’t tell people to “bike safely,” as if they have control over it. Do encourage people to “bike happy,” because biking should be joyful.