A big high-five to David Fox for his act of (very minor) civil disobedience -- putting up a sign on downtown Salem's State Street to remind people that bicyclists have as much right to a lane as drivers of vehicles do.
Fox's Facebook post yesterday showing this photo of the sign stimulated about 80 "likes" and lots of comments, mostly supportive.
A story in today's Statesman Journal, "Frustrated by ignorance, Salem cyclist posts safety signs," described what led Fox to do this.
Download Frustrated by ignorance, Salem cyclist posts bike safety signs
Last week, Fox was on his bicycle, taking the same commute he takes every day from his downtown business to his home in northeast Salem. He was riding on State Street in the right-most lane when a car came up behind him and the driver honked its horn.
"I kept my lane, and he pulled up next to me and yelled, 'Get in the bleeping bike lane, ***hole,'" Fox said. "And then he sped off."
At the next red light, however, Fox confronted the driver.
"The first thing I said was, 'Did you see a bike lane?' " Fox said. "He said if I was impeding traffic, then I had to pull to the side. But I told him he had plenty of room to go around. The last thing he said was: 'I hope you are killed by a car.'
"I just thought, man, that's just heinous," he continued. "How could somebody say that to someone?"
Great question. I've got no answer.
The guy in the car was a jerk, for sure. Unfortunately, his distaste for bicycles seems to be shared by quite a few other people in Salem, judging from comments I've read on some recent bike-related stories and posts.
These drivers basically want roads used by vehicles only. Bicycles should be in bike lanes. Or on a sidewalk.
Only problem is, Salem sucks when it comes to bike lanes -- especially those that are physically separated from traffic. We also don't have many bike-friendly streets in residential areas.
Changing this sorry state of affairs is the goal of a recently-formed group, Salem Bike Boulevard Advocates (give them a Facebook like), which I wrote about in "Bike boulevards are cool. Help Salem get them."
On Fox's post, one commenter said:
I'm all for bikes and bike lanes. Accessibility, but I get pissed when a bike/ roller blader/skateboarder takes a full lane on a 30-40mph. I get SUPER pissed. Sorry guys. If you can't come close to the speed limit, it's unsafe. We need more bike lanes.
David Fox replied:
We need people like you to contact city officials asking for better bike infrastructure so you have your lane.
Excellent idea. Here's the email address for the Mayor and Salem City Council: [email protected]
Today, while driving around Salem doing errands, I paid more attention than I usually do to the few bicyclists I saw out and about. Partly because Fox's "May Use Full Lane" activism was on my mind; partly because my Bike Friday folding bicycle should be built soon.
So before too long senior citizen bicyclist moi will be experiencing what it's like to ride around Salem (I live in a rural area south of town and wanted to get a folding bike that I could easily bring into the city).
This is my main plea to Salem drivers. Relax, slow down, show love to people who are biking, walking, or skateboarding.
OK, if not love, at least tolerance and a bit of affection.
After all, bicyclists and pedestrians are doing a lot of good. They're reducing Salem's carbon footprint; they're reducing vehicular congestion; they're reducing their waistlines, along with otherwise improving their health; they're reducing the need for additional expensive roads and parking spaces.
Instead of getting irritated at a bicyclist who causes your automotive trip to take a few seconds longer, send them good vibrations.
If you need to slow down for them, feel pleased. This is a reminder that frantically rushing around is unpleasant for you, and dangerous for your fellow humans -- especially those on two wheels or two feet.
Today I was heading north on Liberty a few blocks before Mission Street. I saw some flashing lights in the right hand lane. When I got to that spot I saw what appeared to be a minor "fender bender" involving several cars and a few police vehicles.
For four blocks or so, traffic was backed up as people had to merge into the two other lanes. It wasn't a big deal. I could tell that traffic was still moving, albeit slowly. My day was going to go just fine with a delay of a few minutes.
But, wow, many other drivers must not have felt that way.
There was a steady stream of cars turning right, so they could head to downtown via High Street. This showed me how impatient lots of Salem drivers are. They don't seem to grasp that this town has laughably little traffic congestion compared to, say, the Los Angeles area -- where my daughter lives.
Thus my theory is that rather than being relaxed about driving around town, given how easy this usually is, any small obstacle to their car's free-flowing way is viewed as an unusual threat, rather than a common occurrence to be taken lightly.
In truth, of course, cars are the big threat to people in this town, especially bicyclists and pedestrians. We need to realize this, and put the safety of bikers and walkers first, above the convenience of people driving vehicles. I liked this comment on Fox's Facebook post that referred to our famous Angry Owl:
If only you had been attacked by an owl instead of a Mercedes! Public works would have ordered 20 of those signs for you.