Like most of you, I suppose, I have received the December, 2005, LAB solicitation titled Share the Road Campaign, signed by Mike Greehan.
In this solicitation, League management has added the words "cyclists' rights" to its previous program for selling bicycles through bikeway promotion. League management hopes that this addition will head off we reformers. However, League management doesn't understand cyclists' rights and that concept is directly opposed to management's program. Selling bicycles through bikeway promotion doesn't mesh very well with cyclists' rights; either those who designed this new program don't understand the conflict, or they refuse to recognize the conflict because such recognition would discredit their long-existing program. This conflict between cyclists' rights and bikeways limits the ways the League is prepared to actually work for the benefit of lawful, competent cyclists. My comments are in bold type:
League of America Bicyclists
TO: All League Members
FR: Mike Greehan, President
RE: 2005 Year-End Appeal to Members
As the new president of the League, it's my pleasure and honor to report on our achievements, preview our plans for the coming year and ask for your financial support.
Like you, I am a cyclist and advocate. I am passionate about the work the League does to stand up for your rights as a cyclist and I'm extremely grateful for your past support.
We won't rest until we've put an end to cyclists being intimidated, abused, buzzed, run off the road, or killed by motorists who don't obey the laws.
This headlines opposition to unlawful driving by motorists, by pretending that this is an issue of Protecting the Rights of Cyclists. When petty hooligans break the peace, or robbers kill for money, we recognize this as a criminal problem, not one of civil rights. However, the League's lobbying for bikeways because cyclists are not competent to use the normal roadways simply strengthens the public attitude that cyclists do not belong on normal roadways. This is the attitude that fuels the discrimination against cyclists.
We each want to be treated fairly, like any other user of the road or trail.
Yes, cyclists using the road should be treated fairly, with the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles, which is exactly contrary to the League management's major lobbying effort.
You are the key to enabling us to advocate on your behalf and the League just can't continue our important work without your financial support. That is why I'm so excited to tell you about our 2006 Share the Road Campaign: Protecting the Rights of Cyclists.
With your help we'll have this critical resource for cyclists in place by the first of the year.
In the recent membership survey and in countless other ways you've told us that you expect the League to stand up for cyclists' rights. The recent news of some truly outrageous and deeply disturbing cyclist deaths has emphasized that expectation.
In Charlotte, NC, a bus driver who just 30 minutes earlier made a left turn that caused an accident and sent six passengers to the hospital, made another left hand turn into the path of a cyclist, killing the cyclist.
In Greenville, SC, a motorist was fined a measly $270 dollars for killing a cyclist by turning left into her path.
And in Nebraska – the story we hear about all too often and in all too many places – a motorist driving with a suspended license and multiple previous driving convictions killed a cyclist.
Yes, indeed, I have complained for years that motorists too often receive minor punishments for major accidents involving cyclists. If the public accepted that cyclists have the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles (as the law gives them), so that in such investigations cyclists and motorists would be considered equally, this discrimination would be much reduced. However, the League's major lobbying effort that cyclists should ride on bikeways because they are not competent to operate safely on the roadways is directly opposite to the kind of effort that is required to reduce the public's tendency to discriminate against cyclists.
Before I tell you about our plans to help affected cyclists stand up for themselves, allow me to recap some of the victories we've achieved this year.
In the next section, it confuses cyclists' rights with bicycle-friendly highway design, political speech about "safety of cyclists", opposition to newspapers calling "funding for bicycling" wasteful.
Protecting Cyclists' Rights
Cyclists everywhere turn to the League to defend their right to safe and enjoyable riding. This year we have:
• assisted clubs in Florida with the bicycle-friendly redesign of route A1A and with clubs in Kentucky on a legal battle defending cyclists' right to the road;
This "bicycle-friendly" design of Florida Route A1A involved construction of a sidepath, the most dangerous kind of bicycling facility known, which requires that cyclists be kicked off the roadway. It may be "bicycle-friendly", that is except for the sand that accumulates on it, but it certainly isn't safe and useful for cyclists. Come to think of it, it might not be very bicycle-friendly either, not when the bicycle is likely to be as badly damaged as the cyclist in a car-bike collision at one of the side roads. The Kentucky case was purely one of unlawful jury action, not cyclists' rights. The Kentucky Supreme Court sent the case back for a new trial in the expectation that the new jury would operate lawfully. However, the motive for the unlawful action by the jury was precisely the attitude that cyclists don't belong on the roadway, the attitude on which League management's major lobbying effort is based.
• encouraged South Carolina Representative Bob Inglis (R-SC) to make a floor statement imploring his colleagues to give priority to the safety of cyclists out on the road in response to the death of a cyclist in his district;
• supported preliminary legal work on a case in California which will improve the safety of bicyclists using trails;
The League contributed about 1/30 of the funds probably required for the Prokop Appellate Case. (I have contributed 18 times as much as has the League.) This is a cyclists' rights case, in that cyclists using transportational bicycle paths (as distinguished from trails) have the right to expect that the transportational bicycle path will be designed and maintained according to the legally required safety standards. California courts got mixed up by failing to distinguish transportational bicycle paths designed and built to conform to the California Bikeway Standards (the origin of the AASHTO Bikeway Standards) from dirt trails through wilderness. This case aims to correct that misapprehension, and it is exactly parallel to the League's major concern, the safety of bikeways.
• given bicyclists a voice when National Public Radio wanted to discuss the benefits of bike commuting and when USA Today and NY Times articles called funding for bicycling wasteful. We responded with the following insight:
This approach could not be more shortsighted. Bicycling and walking are important and popular travel options. If more people walked and bicycled - heeding the President's call for energy conservation - we'd go a long way toward improving the health of our communities.
This shows how the League's management fails to distinguish walking from cycling, which are not only entirely different modes of highway use but are dangerously incompatible. The hope that bicycle transportation will reduce motoring has never yet materialized, and it is unlikely that it will. However, this hope is the basis for the League management's lobbying for bikeways because everybody assumes that cyclists are incapable of operating safely on the roadways.
Fighting for Cyclists' Fair Share
Here, Greehan is urging that more money be spent on bicycling-related projects and programs in the latest surface transportation act.
You know as well as I do that bicycling is not just a recreational activity. Using our bikes to ride to work, do errands and visit friends has positive benefits for our health, our environment and our communities.
The League stood up for cyclists in the final days of the debate on the federal transportation bill and secured $3.5 billion to improve conditions for cyclists. The Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act - A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA - LU) sets unprecedented funding levels for bicycling-related projects and programs.
We are now working to make sure these funds are spent wisely on projects that will positively impact bicyclists.
Considering that all the highway funding acts in memory have devoted almost all their bicycling funds to bikeways, which serve the convenience of motorists rather than the safety, convenience, and status of cyclists, the League management's efforts in this direction are directly contrary to the interests of lawful, competent cyclists.
Promoting Cycling in Your Community
In 2005 we spent more time than ever riding with and listening to the needs of cyclists like you. Below are a few of the ways we promoted bicycling as a healthy and fun alternative.
Under Promoting Cycling it says that League staff "visited and rode with dozens of bicycle clubs", added more Bicycle Friendly Cities, held its Bicycle Education Leaders Conference (anybody with a report on what actually occurred?), and 200 new LCIs.
• League staff visited and rode with dozens of bicycle clubs throughout the country so we could more accurately address the issues you face out on the road.
The visiting and riding with "dozens of bicycle clubs" can mean much or little and heavily depends on the clubs selected. Depends even more on the kind of questions and attitudes that the investigator sought out, which, in turn, depends on the investigator's initial bias. The solicitation says nothing at all about the information elicited by this investigation; it may well be that all that happened was to reinforce the investigator's initial biases.
• We were proud to designate 14 bicycle-friendly communities, including the first Platinum-level community, Davis, California.
The bicycle-friendly communities program is a scandal. Basically, it is a program for persuading cities to build more bikeways, thereby selling bicycles and employing bike planners. It rewards even cities which are notably unfriendly to lawful, competent cyclists, including some cities that ban cyclists from important roads. See http://www.labreform.org/BFC.html
• The Bicycle Education Leaders Conference brought together hundreds of bicycle educators to share ideas on reaching more cyclists with our safety message.
• And finally, a record number (200) of new League Cycling Instructors were certified this year.
The references to the improvements in quality and volume of the educational activities say nothing at all about the purpose of the educational activities, except as classifying them under "Promoting Cycling in Your Community." I think that the omission of purpose in the statements about educational activities says it all; the League's management sees cyclist training as nothing more than promoting bicycle sales. Cyclist training should be devoted to giving cyclists the skills required to cycle safely, confidently, and enjoyably. So far as traffic is concerned, this means according to the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles (vehicular cycling), and ignoring bikeways.
Cyclist training should have two purposes. The first purpose is to benefit the cyclist; the second purpose is to benefit the League, and its members, and their political and social status, by showing that the competence to use vehicular cycling is both practical and easily attained. That that is not in the interest of the League's management is one explanation for the League's failure in cyclist training.
Now, the new Share the Road Campaign! If you pay now, it will be ready for spring 2006? Share the Road is a meaningless slogan that came out of the National Bicycle Safety Conference of 2001, meaningless because it is designed to mean all things to all people. However, such campaigns cannot be developed in four months.
2006 Share the Road Campaign:
Protecting the Rights of Cyclists
Now is the time to focus our energies and to take a stand for cyclists, together!
That is why I'm counting on you for a generous year-end, tax-deductible contribution so that next year we can launch our most ambitious and hard-hitting Share the Road Campaign yet.
Administered by the diverse group of cyclists on the League staff and made available via our online response and resource center, we need your help to make sure it is in place by the first of the year just in time for the 2006 riding season.
Protecting the Rights of Cyclists: Empowerment
The League management has a major conflict about the definition of cyclists' rights. That's why it provides no definition; it uses the phrase simply as an attractive advertising slogan that can be used to promote anything. Our concept of cyclists' rights is very definite: it is the right to use the public road system with the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles, and the social and engineering status that go with that right. Nowhere does the League promise to base its actions on this right. Indeed, much of what the League promises to do contradicts that right. That is, Bicycle-Friendly Cities, funding for bicycle programs, bicycle-friendly highway design, promotion of the latest surface transportation funding bill, all work against using the public road system with the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles. These do so because they are all based on the twin concepts that cyclists are not capable of lawful, competent operation and that bicycle traffic does not belong on normal roadways.
We are currently developing and implementing this mix of online and material resources.
• Legal Defense - we'll provide you with access to advice when you face challenges resulting from run-ins with aggressive drivers, poor engineering or other problems.
• Professional Services - when you need an expert witness, medical advice, or an expert on proper road design, we will help you find those resources.
This all sounds wonderful, but the management has failed to say why and in what way this legal assistance might be useful, either to the individual or to the League. This is typical of the low level of thought, and of the incompatible thoughts, by which the League management operates.
The lists of potential legal assistance providers are not new, but they have never worked at all well. Attorneys, expert witnesses, road designers? I know something about the forensic aspects of these fields, and I have never been impressed by those few providers enlisted by the League, or by the prospect of any more that they might enlist.
This is particularly pertinent because the League's general policy conflicts with the law and with engineering; it is unlikely to select reasonable experts. The amicus curiae brief in the Previs (Kentucky) case is a sorry product. The case concerns a jury that acted contrary to the legal instructions it had been given by the court, which error the appellate court fixed. However, the League's brief went on and on about how dangerous cycling is and how high the accident rate, matters which League management obviously considers matters of cyclists' rights, which they are not.
The promised legal assistance in case of collisions caused by "aggressive motorists" is largely silly; too few such incidents, too widely spread, and assistance unnecessary. The legal assistance needed by cyclists in cases of collision or other accident needs to come from the locality in which the case will be tried, and, generally, if the cyclist has any reasonable case (and in many cases in which reasonability is lacking), a local attorney will accept it. This is particularly true of cases of "motorist aggression", which clearly indicate that the motorist is at fault.
The solicitation fails utterly to mention the class of cases in which the League's assistance would be helpful and even necessary. This is the case in which the cyclist's right to operate as a driver of a vehicle has been limited or denied by government, which is, of course, the kind of case in which legal assistance to the cyclist is very likely to be opposed to the League's normal advocacy, that of incompetent cycling on bikeways.
• Continued Motorist and Cyclist Education - our efforts to make sure all users know their responsibilities to share the road will be ramped up through more BikeEd programs and distribution of motorist education information and Share the Road bumper stickers.
Both cyclists and motorists have the same responsibility: to act as drivers of vehicles and to treat other drivers as drivers of vehicles. The League's primary responsibility is to teach cyclists the skills and confidence to be drivers of vehicles, but its BikeEd program has never taught cyclists well and has signally failed to instill in them the desire and confidence to be drivers of vehicles. One cannot expect the League to have much positive influence on motorists. The cause of both of these deficiencies is League management's concentration on lobbying for a bikeway program justified by the claim that cyclists are incapable of operating safely on the roadway.
• National Advocacy - we'll work through Congress, national advocacy groups and federal agencies to improve the priority given to bicycling issues, especially with regard to the spending of the transportation dollars in the SAFETEA-LU legislation.
This is merely more lobbying for "transportation dollars" for the bikeway program that is inimical to the interests of lawful, competent cyclists.
Protecting the Rights of Cyclists: Taking A Stand
When cyclists face tragedy or a heated exchange with a motorist they can utilize our online resource and response center:
Harassment cards for motorists. Assisting in cases of collisions caused by "aggressive motorist[s]". Requesting corrections from media in case of "anti-cycling messages".
• Harassment or Abuse of Cyclists: What you can do - too often a ride includes a motorist honking or yelling at us to get on the sidewalk or off the road. Sometimes irritating and always dangerous, we'll give you an outlet to report this abuse, resolve the issue and provide that offending motorist with education cards that may prevent it from happening to another innocent cyclist.
Reporting to Washington motorist harassment that was committed in DeKalb is not likely to be useful. What's needed is local police effort, and that depends on whether or not the police actively believe that cyclists have the rights and duties of drivers of vehicles. The best long-term policy is advocacy of cyclists' legal position as competent drivers of vehicles, which is not what League management advocates.
• Dealing with the Injury or Death of a Cyclist: What you can do - In those cases where the fault lies with an aggressive motorist, the League is here to help family, friends and the cycling community cope. We'll help those involved ensure justice through the legal system, responding to the media and establishing a memorial fund or foundation to honor the cyclist.
Ah, yes, the aggressive motorist who firmly believes that bicycles should be out of his way, on bikeways, or at the very edge of the road, or even on the dirt, and enforces his belief by colliding with a cyclist or pushing him into the ditch. Not only is this case so obvious that the League's assistance is least likely to be required, but the motorist's attitude is just what League management has been strengthening for decades.
• Anti-Cycling Messages in the Media: What you can do - next time bicyclists are the target of mindless radio shock-jocks, trivialized in newspaper cartoons and misrepresented in TV commercials, we'll help you set the record straight using our public service announcements (PSAs), letters to the editors and connections to the media.
It is important to remember that the attitudes which produce such public art are those which the League management has so thoroughly fanned for decades in its desire for bikeway money. And the League's public service announcements that get played occasionally are weak cheerleading that do not teach cyclists' rights.
As I said before, now is the time to take a stand for cycling!
Finally: "Take a stand for cycling!" by "help[ing] us change attitudes so that none of us face harassment on the bike". Oh, yes, by contributing money. Considering that the attitudes that need to be changed are precisely those strengthened by League management, that cannot be done until the League has a management whose interests are consonant with those of lawful, competent cyclists.
I urge you to send your 2005 year-end contribution right away. Consider the pure joy you get from bicycling and think how much you want others to experience that same pleasure. Consider what you're willing to do to help us change attitudes so that none of us face harassment on the bike - and then make a generous contribution to the League of American Bicyclists.
Finally, the solicitation asks for money to be devoted to "chang[ing] attitudes so that none of us face harassment on the bike." The harassment, as we all recognize, comes only when the cyclist is operating on the roadway as the driver of a vehicle. The League's policy for reducing this harassment is to get the cyclist off the roadway, to be accomplished by strengthening the public attitude that cyclists don't belong on the roadways, but on bikeways instead, and getting more funds for bikeways. This, unfortunately, strengthens the public attitude that leads to harassing cyclists who use the roadway as drivers of vehicles.
Can I count on your support and leadership during the important year-end giving season?
Well, no, Mr. Greehan, not for the kinds of programs that you advocate.
Help fund our Share the Road 2006 Campaign so we can start the New Year off on the right foot or pedal!
Send in a contribution of $15, $30, $65 or whatever you can afford today!
We're counting on you so can count on us all year long.
Mike Greehan President
P.S. The League is standing up for you. We need your year-end, tax-deductible contribution today.
P.P.S. With a gift of $65 or more, we'll send you our exclusive long-sleeve League of American Bicyclists shirt (limited quantities - donate early)!
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