Tuesday, November 13, 2007

F-ckin' A! Now let's do something that really matters ...

This was ripped from the latest Minnesota Cyclist e-newsletter:

Last month the City of Minneapolis conducted city-wide bicycle and pedestrian counts, with the help of over 70 volunteers, AmeriCorps members, and government agency staff. This month the City is releasing the data to the public.

Highlights include:
· Top count locations for bicyclists - led by 15th Avenue SE in Dinkytown, the Midtown Greenway in Uptown, and the Midtown Greenway in Phillips.
· Detailed data for 57 count locations.
· A 51% increase in cyclists at 9 downtown locations, when comparing 2007 and 2003 counts.
· Detailed Census statistics, showing that a growing percentage of Minneapolitans bike to work regularly.

The City of Minneapolis has secured $7.01 million in funding to continue to improve the biking and walking environment, through the federal Non-Motorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTP). You can learn more about the specific NTP projects which were funded for Minneapolis. Highlights include:
-17 projects to improve various streets, to make them more bicycle friendly.
-Funding to pilot the Minneapolis Bicycle & Pedestrian Ambassador Program, an education campaign for cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists.
-4 new infrastructure projects, including the Hiawatha Trail connection to Downtown and the completion of the University of Minnesota Trail.
-Funding to increase bicycle parking.

Now my spew: Do we have a bonafide explosion of interest in commuting by bicycle? Or, do we have more agencies putting more time into counting and crunching data so our city can score that mega-Fed grant? I think it's probably a little of both.

Yippee! More people are riding bikes. Yippee! Mpls gets lots of government money. Yippee! More freakin' bike trails. Yippee! Education? Let's hope my little magenta-highlighted blurb doesn't fall by the wayside. Let's hope, too, the educational component leans heavily on re-educating our internal combustible friends out there. It's pretty easy for a driver to kill a ped or cyclist -- it happens all the time; the reverse is hardly ever heard of (short of a gun toting biker -- oh, it's happened).

Motor vehicle operators need a lesson or two in tolerance, in a bad, bad way. Cyclists are not immune from the need for education and mutual respect of the rules of the road (It would be easier to begin obeying the "rules" as they are modified to be fair for bikes, too). The freaks who drive around on ego-fueled autopilot with a subconscious belief that bikes do not belong on the road and who are guided by a notion embedded at the level of their ids that cyclists deserve to be punished, i.e. killed, for "overstepping" their bounds need to be rehabilitated, majorly overhauled, re-worked, lobotamized, etc.

Come to think of it, $7.01 million is a lot of damned money. Bike trails are nice, they're fun, they provide a false sense of security for neurotic neophytes who may never be competent cyclists anyway. But what really itches me about bike trails? The more millions we pump into building more and more trails, the more and more the mass majority of non-cyclists (motorists) and some cyclists (weekend warriors/recreational "enthusiasts") will believe that the only right and proper place for cyclists is segregated from cars on a dedicated path. Bullshit. I say teach the drivers to become more tolerant, let enforcement agencies hold motorists accountable for exclusionary, bullyish behavior and we can stop building these bourgeois bike trails and let cyclists ride in peace on the road. $7.01 million is dedicated to Mpls alone; think about the pots of money for similar projects in Portland, San Francisco, New York, D.C. ... We're talking major coin, folks. Does it improve my quality of life? Yeah, but it could improve a lot of others' lives who are a hell of a lot worse off than I am (not to mention my cushy, middle class, white cycling cronies).

What would I rather see $7.01 million spent on? Here are a couple of ideas: Healthcare for the poor (affordable healthcare for people like my own family, in fact); Sensitivity training for cops; Salaries for more cops who have sworn to uphold the rights of bicyclists on the streets (let's not leave out upholding the rights of minorities and under-represented populations while we're at it); Improved public transit; Alternative energy initiatives; Affordable higher education; Dynamic improvements to public education; Enforcement of speed limits and traffic laws for motorists; the list goes on. And, by the way ... do you think $7.01 million is enough to buy the Bill of Rights back from the greedy bastards who've kidnapped it?

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