Copyright 1988, by Bob Soetebier
I am the St. Louis Metro Area Bicycling Advocate. I have also served as a member of the St. Louis County Board of Highways and Traffic. In addition I'm the former Missouri Government Relations Advocate for BICYCLE USA/LAW, which was founded in 1880 and is the oldest national bicycling advocacy organization in the U.S.
BICYCLE USA/LAW was responsible for the "GOOD ROADS MOVEMENT" back in the late 1880's. This campaign resulted in the asphalt paving of roads throughout the U.S., including the St. Louis area, many years before automobiles were even on the roads.
Bicyclists, like everyone else, pay personal property taxes which provide funds for the maintenance of roadways; yet at the same time, cause absolutely no wear and tear to these same roads. Bicyclists are actually subsidizing auto users, and NOT the other way around!
With the help of my former Missouri State Representative, (as of April, 1988) questions concerning bicyclists' legitimate roadway rights are now on the written Missouri Auto Drivers' Test. Unfortunately the majority of Missouri's residents who obtained their auto driver's license prior to this change remain ignorant of the following fact: By law, in all 50 states, bicyclists have "the same rights and duties as operators of vehicles" on our roadways.
Bicycles belong ON the road, not just relagated to poorly maintained, debris-laden shoulders of the road, nor to those inherently hazardous narrow "bicycle paths", which actually more than double auto/bicycle collisions because of their dangerous intersectional conflicts with side streets and driveways. In addition bicycle paths pose other hazards not generally present on the roadway: pedestrian congestion, short sight-distances, overhanging branches, lack of maintenance and build-up of debris! These off-road paths ultimately result in many more injuries, and higher taxes due to the resultant liability suits. As an example: The city of Austin, Texas lost $4.5 million as the resilt of one single bicycle path injury liability lawsuit. (It should be noted that, according to the National Highway Safety Administration, 90% of all auto/bicycle collisions occur at intersections, while less than 10% are from the rear of the bicyclist. Also that less than 20% of all bicycle accidents involved an automobile.)
As recommended by the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials, right-hand lanes of all roadways should be widened to 14 feet (or 15 feet if curbed) to accomodate all roadway users. (This does NOT include any extra width added by paved shoulders of the road.)
A 1987 Gallup Poll indicated that bicycling was second only to swimming in the U.S. for adult recreation and fitness. Over 85 million people in the U.S. are bicycle riders according to the Bicycle Fed. of America.
The largest single source of ozone and carbon monoxide pollution is cars and trucks. The time is long overdue that we recognize the bicycle's valuable potential contribution to our society in alleviating some of this burden on our lungs, and hopefully in diminishing Acid Rain and the Greenhouse Effect.
The bicycle, as a non-polluting, energy-efficient, healthful alternative, needs to be promoted while we still have time to hopefully save ourselves from our own "FUELISHNESS"!: An automobile's engine is the most inefficient in it's first 5 to 15 minute warm-up driving period. Since most auto trips are below 5 or 10 miles, these short distances are ideally suited to the most efficient vehicle known to man: The Bicycle; and are well within reasonable range for anyone riding a bicycle in a half-hour or so. Even if only 10% of these short trips to work, school, library, store, etc., were made by bicycle, it would have a major impact on our air quality and health; not to mention complying with EPA standards, and thus avoiding federally imposed economic sanctions!
Employers should be encouraged to provide showers and locker facilities for employees as part of their company health/fitness plans (good for reducing insurance rates!) Also, all businesses and public facilities, should be required to provide adequate, secure bicycle parking facilities in highly visible vandal/theft-free areas immediately adjacent to well-travelled entrances, under cover from the weather; or better yet, inside.
For the good of everyone we urgently need to promote the "Share the Road: It's the Law" message to both bicyclists and motorists. Now that more and more people of all ages are "rediscovering" the bicycle, everyone, bicyclists and non-bicyclists alike, should be given the opportunity to see the 25-minute film entitled: "Bicycling Safety on the Road". This excellent film was produced by the Media Production Unit of Iowa State U. in Ames, Iowa, in cooperation with BICYCLE USA/L.A.W. and the "Effective Cycling Program." It covers every conceivable aspect of on-road operation, including the increased hazards of off-road bicycle paths
Upon my recommendation, the St. Louis County Police have purchased a 16mm copy of this film for use in their bicycling safety presentations to businesses and groups, such as churches, schools, PTA's, etc. They are also willing to loan this film to any interested municipal police department. (For more information, contact: St. Louis County Police Public Relations/Safety Officer Tom Kraus.)
I have also arranged for the Audio-Visual Department of the St. Louis County Main Library to purchase a VHS/VCR copy of this film as part of their "Booking Collection". The film is available for individual or group use on a one-day loan/pre-reservation basis. (They will send the film to your local St. Louis County Branch Library, or to any St. Louis City Library via the cooperative loan program.)