The New York Times’ online forum for expert discussion, “Room for Debate,” recently published an excellent look at bike-versus-car issues. While the debate was understandably somewhat New York-centric, it raised a number of interesting points that merit some thought on our part here in Oregon.
Portland, of course, has a far more bicycle-friendly reputation than New York City. As we have seen on too many occasions, however, that fact alone is not enough to ensure that urban bike riding here in Oregon is as safe as it ought to be, or that Portland bike and car accidents become as rare and unusual as they should.
As one of the participants, author Peter Calthorpe, writes “The answers are simple: create safe bike lanes, generous pedestrian spaces, visible, and short crossings and narrow car lanes to slow traffic.” As he readily acknowledges, this is easier said than done. It is important, though, to remember that this discussion is far from theoretical. As another participant, Yale Law School professor Tracey Meares, notes, on taking over as Miami police chief a few years ago John Timoney discovered “that vehicular homicides outnumbered ‘regular’ homicides.”
Timoney’s solution was greater enforcement of traffic regulations, understanding, as yet another Room for Debate contributor notes, that “what often matters in reducing traffic violations is not punitive action per se, but simply the process of being pulled over and receiving the warning. This imparts the idea that the driver has violated some community norm and reminds him that there are police looking after those norms.” Even in a city as bike-friendly as Portland, this is sound advice.
The idea, in short, is to create an urban space that works for bikes, pedestrians and cars alike.
We can all take pride in the degree to which Portland is environmentally-aware, but from the perspective of a Portland bicycle accidents attorney, it is also important to remember that responsibility exists at all levels. Drivers need to remember that bikes have as much right to be on the road as they do. Cyclists need to obey the rules of the road. And voters and urban planners alike need to acknowledge that bikes are a crucial part of our city landscapes here in Oregon, and move to make riding them as safe for everyone involved as driving a car – if not safer.
New York Times: Making Cities Safer for Cyclists and Pedestrians