Raising the bar and taking the narrative when talking about bicycling

I want comfort when I’m walking and cycling on our city streets.  I am raising the bar and changing the narrative of the conversation on our streets.  Our streets should not just be safe. Safe is just a beginning. Streets should not only be safe, but comfortable.

When I am walking around town, I trip over broken sidewalks.  I run across streets, because I don’t want to be crushed by vehicles.  On my bicycle I have to be vigilant. I have watch out for potholes, look out for people opening their car doors, and be shrieked at by people driving their car, because I prefer to not go the long way and instead choose to ride where people can see me, which is not always on the “safer” side streets.

When I discuss these concerns with policy makers the conversation often gets turned into, “Do you wear a helmet? Do you use the crosswalk, because you know crosswalks and helmets are important?”

It becomes a lecture on street safety in regards to only people not in cars. The onus of the safety of the roads that I pay for with my tax dollars becomes reduced to, “Are you following the rules, so people can drive in comfort?”  

There is no concern for the comfort of pedestrians.

There is no concern for the comfort of bicyclists.

It is an expectation in these conversations  that if you’re not in your car that it is dangerous and that of course you will be uncomfortable.

My comfort on the street is not a concern. A comfortable drive in your car is an expectation. A comfortable bicycle ride or walk — that is entitlement.

I am no longer discussing what I do to protect myself with people who have car-centric views.  

Safe is a low bar in regards to our urban and suburban streets. I should not have to beg for my life, because I am not traveling by car.

I expect safety. We all should expect at the bare minimum safety when we are doing such mundane tasks as going to the grocery store or going to work.

I want comfort.

I do not feel comfortable or safe going the long way. I do not feel comfortable with putting on a reflective vest, a helmet, and having a GoPro attached to my bicycle just because there is an accepted expectation that not being in your car is dangerous.

I do not want just safety. I want comfort. I want comfortable roads to ride my bicycle on. I want comfortable sidewalks to walk on. I want people in wheelchairs and with mobility issues to be able to casually go to the park and I want their trips to the park to be as pleasant as the park itself.

I want what people in cars have. I want a smooth and comfortable ride. I want a luxurious walk to the park.

Consumer Reports stated this regarding cars:

You want the ride to be pleasant and not torture for your body….Discomfort or even a bumpy, noisy ride can make the drive very unpleasant.”

When I’m walking around I don’t want to feel discomfort, because absolutely zero consideration was made of pedestrians and cyclists when a street was designed, when a plan was approved, and when the money for transportation was divvied up.

I want comfort and luxury not just for the streets in communities that have the most development, but in communities that have the most people walking and riding in them. I want  luxury and comfort in communities with the highest amount of death and injuries owing to crashes.

Safe as a measuring stick is clearly is not good enough.

At least I didn’t die getting home isn’t good enough anymore.

We need  our streets to be comfortable not just for people in cars, but for people who choose to not get around by car and for people who have no choice, but to get around on foot, with a wheelchair, by public transit, and by bicycle.

by Lark Lo

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