Thursday, June 17, 2010

Bikes and Commentary from Brit (and Amanda)

So apparently it had to come to Blogger de-activating our blog to persuade us to update it... Here goes!

So I've had this idea recently that I should transcribe Brit's eloquent explanations and opinions of politics and local issues. She often explains current events to me in a way that brings it all together. I'm looking over her shoulder right now at her Google Reader feeds, which include over one hundred blogs. She reads national news sources, blogs on state and local politics, conservative and liberal opinions, national education updates, gay rights blogs, lacrosse news (of course), etc. etc. etc. Needless to say, she's a wealth of information. Brit is always there to give succinct, coherent explanations, and I'm always left thinking that I should transcribe her commentaries for others' benefit. Something like, "Brit explains politics". I'll often give her a sounding board, ("Can you explain the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?" "Why does the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell keep being delayed?") and she'll just go.

Anyway, we both recently read an article in our local alt-weekly, Seven Days, about Burlington's disappointing bike culture, and I decided to record our conversation about it (and who knows? Maybe we'll send a letter to the editor?). In a nutshell, the author complains about Vermont's poor showing in national bike-friendly indexes (behind Kentucky and Mississippi - ew), and how there are few protections for cyclists (apparently it's completely legal to run bikes off the road and pelt them with trash - who knew?). This was our conversation about it-

Amanda: I was surprised about the laws and how no one can do anything about them. With people throwing stuff at cyclists and everything

Brit: That happens. I actually had a beer can thrown at me in New Zealand when I was biking. Drivers are nuts.

Amanda: But it's a two way street...

Brit: Especially when the cyclists go the wrong way down a one way street

Amanda: Hahaha right. But it seems like the drivers don't respect the cyclists, and the cyclists don't know the laws either and make things more complicated. Last week I was driving with Laura, and we almost hit this kid who was biking in the middle of the road going the wrong way. I honked at him, and he yelled at me. I was worried he was going to get killed, but he didn't care. I felt like the jerk for doing that. How can you expect things to be safe when you don't obey the rules?

Brit: There's always a lot of conflict between cyclists and drivers- it's always been an issue. You remember that in the news when we were in Portland [story here]. It's always been an issue. The thing is, in Burlington as opposed to other bike-friendly cities like Portland and Denver is that the bikers here don't know the rules.

Amanda: Why do you think things are different here? I mean, Burlington is a really progressive city.

Brit: I don't know why things are different here. Well, first off, it's a lot smaller. Number two is that the bike infrastructure isn't as clear as in Denver or in Portland. Three, cyclists don't really police themselves. If someone was biking down a one way street going the wrong way in Portland,  the other cyclists just wouldn't stand for that. It is a very laid back culture here.

Amanda: It's interesting, I feel like I don't see a lot of serious cyclists in town. It's usually the hipsters and the college kids riding their bikes through town (usually without helmets), and they don't seem to know the laws. I think I see more people biking down Shelburne Road when we go for our rides [a long bike route out of town] than I do in town.

Brit: Well, I think it might be because it's also a smaller town [than Portland or Denver]. People think that they're just going to be riding for a short distance, so they neglecting helmets and might go the wrong way down one-way streets because it's only for a few blocks.

Amanda: I think a lot of the problems go both ways. The cyclists suck at biking. They break the laws, they cause accidents, and they make everybody look bad. I hate to say it, but part of me wants to throw trash at cyclists who do stupid stuff when I'm driving. It's hard not to yell at people who are close to getting themselves killed and probably going to cause an accident. On the other hand, it's obviously unacceptable to run people off the road and disregard bikes. I'm not sure how to fix it though... maybe more education? Better laws? I think it would also help if the police would hold both cyclists and drivers responsible for their actions.

Brit: Agreed on the cops.I feel like I spent a lot of this post blaming things on the cyclists, but that's only because you're going to get disrespectful drivers wherever you go.  Overall, cyclists are safe, drivers are respectful, and it's a few bad actors that are ruining things for other folks. But at the end of the day, if Burlington wants to be respected as a cycling mecca, then cyclists need to start taking more responsibility for the way they ride.

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