Yesterday I sent a message and realized this morning that, though I
replied to all, probably not all received it.
Here again is the brain fodder.
Here are two suggestions for the Safety grant if you would want to
include them as a "product." First, some history.
During the time Madelaine Kunin was Governor, seat belts weren't widely
used. I believe there was no strict adult seat belt enforcement at that time
and the wearing of one was just encouraged. I wrote a Letter to the Editor of
the Burlington Free Press suggesting that whenever a car accident was
reported in the paper, the use or lack of use of a seat belt would also be
included as part of the information. Eventually the public would surmise
that if you wore your seat belt, you were better guaranteed life. The paper
started including information about seat belt use in every accident report.
This reporting is now standard practice but, at the time, the mention of a
seat belt was never made in the paper.
I've been reading all the grant proposals and am greatly impressed with
the talent and energy. Would it help the bike crash statistics grant if, as
part of the promised labor, a public relations campaign was proposed? Here
is how such a campaign might work for very little money.
The police would be given a clearly written guideline of the rights of
a bicyclist. At the scene of a bicycle and car crash, the officer would be
able to determine if the bicyclist was in the right or the wrong and include
that information as part of the report (as they now do for seat belts). Every
time an accident was reported in the paper, the officer would write that the
bicyclist was traveling properly (we hope not improperly). They might
indicate exactly what the bicyclist was doing when the vehicle struck the
bicyclist. I might be wrong, but I believe most bicyclists are in the right
when they are struck.
This is a more subtle way to get the Share the Road message across. If
it is pointed out that a car driver was in the wrong and that bicyclists were
behaving properly, the public will be made more aware of the rights of
bicyclists, as happened in the seat belt information that encouraged more
people to use seat belts. Drivers would perhaps then be more willing to
Share the Road since the mention of bicyclists was made often in their paper.
The downside to this is it takes accidents between bicyclists and car
drivers to get the word out. Here is a second suggestion.
Right now we have a Share the Road policy that implies that cars and
bicyclists are equal. In fact, the cars are moving over begrudgingly to make
room and thus "share their road" with second class citizens, the bicyclists.
Physically, the cars and bicycists are not equal. The bicyclist doesn't have
the crumple zone of an SUV?
In boating, the sail boat, powered by wind and less quickly maneuvered,
has the right of way over the power boat. The two boats therefore are not
equal and the less "strong" boat is given priority.
In downhill skiing, (I'm laughing now because I've been at this
typewriter too long and I'm having to remember my skiing rules) the downhill
skier has the right of way. The reason is because the uphill skier is
looking downhill and can see the downhill skier whereas the downhill skier
isn't looking back uphill to see the oncoming skier (do I have this right :-)
Therefore, in skiing you don't "Share the Road" as equals. There is a
predetermined lesser and greater and the advantage is given to the lesser,
the downhill skier who can't see uphill.
In cities like Seattle, the pedestrian in a cross walk has the right of
way even if a car is turning right onto that street. In Ann Arbor, there are
no jay walking regulations and the drivers have to be ever watchful of the
masses of students as they cross the road. Again, the pedestrian doesn't
"Share the Road" with the car but rather is superior as the lesser in the
situation. A person would receive great bodily harm if hit whereas the car
would only receive a dent.
In Vermont, we have been in the vanguard on many fronts. Unlike many
states, our state doesn't have wide shoulders and yet we have a lot of
visitors coming to Vermont to bicycle on the country roads. Could we be the
first state to promote a "Bicycle Priority" rule just as pedestrians have
priority (of course, the title could be changed...this is off the top of my
head). Could bicyclists be given more rights than they presently have?
Bicyclists would have to travel properly in the road but this would encourage
more people to bicycle knowing they weren't allowed to be pushed off the road
by an impatient car driver who is even unwilling to "Share." Some of this is
semantics but you can see that by the new rule, the message tips the hat
towards the bicyclist, the lesser. It wouldn't be a great hardship for car
drivers since we don't have that many bicyclist in the winter. The logic
wouldn't just be recreation and fun but the call from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention to increase biking and walking opportunities due to
obesity, diabetes, stroke, etc. (I'm writing a grant for CDC right now so I
know their new thrust.)
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