opinion piece on rude bicyclists
the snoregonian had this to offer about bicyclists. We can ignore it or learn from it if we really want to make a difference.
From Oct. 6 Oregonian
Bicyclists who break the law getting free ride
I nez Seim isn't one to cause trouble. But the 84-year-old Portlander does have certain points of view that she doesn't mind sharing. "I've put in my opinions to people," she says.
Seim had called twice and left messages. So when she caught up to me while I was on deadline, I remembered a lesson my mother taught me: Stop and listen to your elders. Or they just might hurl a shoe in your direction.
"Do you smoke?" Seim asks.
No, I reply.
"Good for you."
The evils of tobacco will get you a lecture from this retired nurse. Her husband and middle son, she says, died of complications from smoking.
Lack of gratitude is another concern. She says she can't stand to see a spoiled, ungrateful child. "I was proud to have hand-me-down clothes," she says.
After a while, Seim apologizes for "going a long way around the barn." The real reason for her call, she says, is to complain about rude bicyclists. "This is not going to get better," she predicts. "It's going to get worse."
Seim says she is tired of bicyclists' running red lights: "You and I have seen cars who do the same cotton-picking thing." It's also unnerving when they zoom past her at a stop sign. "They look one way, and away they go," she says. "They don't even stop."
Seim believes all bicyclists should wear helmets, reflectors and bright clothing. And they should stay in the bicycle lanes as much as possible. "If I have to abide by the rules and pay a heavy fine," she says, "shouldn't they?"
But that's life in one of America's best-known bicycle-friendly cities. Bicycles are fun, healthy and environmentally friendly. More than half of us own them and actually ride them occasionally. And planners consider bike use an important indicator of quality of life.
It also means Portland police are more likely to jack me up for jaywalking than for zipping -- "Look, Mom, no hands" -- through a red light on my two-wheeler. Year to year, ending in August, pedestrians received almost 5,000 citations; bicyclists got 614.
Seim's idea is to force bicyclists to pay a registration fee to use the roads. "If they're going to use the streets, primarily for a means of transportation, they should make a contribution," she says. "That would bring a little funds into our coffers. But most of all, it would give these younger people a sense of responsibility, and older ones, too."
It sounded like a good idea to me. So I called Bill Barber, Metro's alternative-transportation guy. Twenty years ago, his agency studied the issue of bike registration and licenses, much like a driver's license. But it never went further than a chapter in Metro's regional bicycle plan. "It really was something that was not cost-effective," Barber says.
The idea of requiring a bicycle license has also been debated in City Hall, but the issue doesn't have advocates. "That would really put a damper on people giving a bike a chance," says Roger Geller, city bike coordinator.
The feds have put some money into educating young people about bike safety, but it wasn't enough and didn't last long. The Legislature has also discussed the issue over the years but has never done anything more than talk.
"I'd like to see somebody take this on," Seim says. "I would like to see some kind of campaign to get this rolling before I bid this planet adieu."
It all comes down to accountability, she says. Like spoiled children, bicyclists have long been overindulged. And like smoking, the city should curtail bad behavior before someone else dies. The question is: Is there anyone out there brave enough to stop allowing law-breaking bicyclists a free ride?
"I think we know what the answer is, but do we have the will and the money to make it work?" asks bike advocate and Metro Councilor Rex Burkholder. "We're kind of letting it happen and hoping everybody gets along and doesn't kill each other."
What's so friendly about that? Reach S. Renee Mitchell at 503-221-8142 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Her columns appear in this space on Mondays and Wednesdays, and online at www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/renee_mitchell.
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