Cars, Bikes, Pedestrians — Coexisting with those who have the power
Recently the Palm Beach Post published an article and several letters to the editor have been written about those who ride bicycles along our roadways.
Here in Palm Beach County our traffic issues are further complicated by the ebb and flow of the volume of traffic. In the summer months, our traffic is significantly down and navigating the roads easier. In the fall and winter, we have seasonal residents, who we are very happy to have, but they add to the volume of traffic.
I was speaking with a friend the other day who had been to various parts of Europe recently and he remarked how differently Europeans on the whole treat pedestrians and bicyclists. In fact, while in Germany he witnessed four cars approach an intersection, all proceeding in different directions, with a pedestrian approaching the curb to cross. My friend was surprised when all four cars slowed to a stop until after the pedestrian had passed. He also witnessed similar marvels of coexistence between vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists in other parts of Europe.
Notice to pedestrians and bicyclists in Palm Beach County: we are not there yet. But, we do all need to learn how to coexist.
In some respects it is a matter of power. Some people who have power use it wisely and in amounts only necessary. Others who have power use it to punish and in as much an amount as pleases them.
Vehicles have power on the roads. No dispute between a car and pedestrian or truck and bicyclist is likely to end up with the pedestrian or bike rider in very good condition. Those operating vehicles are bigger and hold the power; that does not mean we can not use it cautiously and with consideration of others also using the roadway who have less power.
In Europe, a recent report has approached the issue of pedestrians and bikers in terms of their benefits:
- the value of the lost lives – deaths which could be prevented as a result of cycling;
- National Health Service savings – reducing the costs relating to the treatment of illnesses resulting from physical inactivity;
- productivity gains – reducing absenteeism relating to illness which is preventable through increased activity, such as cycling.
In the United States in 2011, 677 bicycle riders and 4,432 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles. Comparatively, in the entire European Union of 24 countries, only 2100 cyclists (average of 87.5 per country) and 6,641 pedestrians were killed in the 24 countries of the EU (average of 276.7 per country). So, clearly, on plain statistics we have room for improvement.
Those with power; cars, trucks and other vehicles let’s try to pay more attention to sharing and caring about pedestrians and bike riders.
Bicycle riders, here are some suggestions from the California Department of motor Vehicles:
- Maintain control of your bicycle.
- Protect yourself–reduce the risk of head injury by always wearing a helmet.
- Be visible, alert, and communicate your intentions.
- Ride with traffic.
- Learn turning and other hand signals.
- Obey all traffic laws – technically you are a “vehicle”.