Bikes

Time to get with it. Between greenhouse gases (increasingly referred to as GHGs– learn the jargon since we’ll be seeing ever more of it) and gas(oline) prices, more and more people are smartening up. Part of those smarts are manifested in switching to riding a bicycle.

By all accounts, the number of bikes on the streets is increasing. Newspapers are writing about it, I’m personally observing it, the bike shop I frequent (along with others across the country), is selling more bikes and experiencing a big surge in old bicycles being brought in for tune-ups.

Meanwhile, understandably, car-bike interactions-of-the-unpleasant-kind are increasing. You probably heard about the incident on Mandeville Canyon Road in Los Angeles. Two cyclists initially riding side-by-side pulled to the side of the road to let a car pass. It did, then proceeded to slam the brakes on in front of the riders causing them serious injury. The driver was, of all things, a doctor!

While this is an extreme case, I’ve experienced milder forms of the same anger. In one case, I was stopped at a light and a car pulled up to my right. The driver, very irate, started haranguing me about how I ought not be where I was. Of course there are the honks, insults, and other caustic behaviors exhibited by car drivers. And, given that much of the street riding I do is in Glendale and Burbank, many of these offenders are our compatriots.

What many don’t realize is that vehicle codes give bicycle riders and car drivers essentially the same rights and responsibilities. So learning to share the road is going to become very important. If a bike is in the middle of a traffic lane, it’s not because the rider loves the adrenalin rush caused by cars passing while straddling the rider’s and the next lane to the left. It’s because no one wants to get doored– having a car door flung open right the bike’s path by someone getting out of his/her car. Bicycles in many jurisdictions are not supposed to be on sidewalks, a common misperception to the contrary notwithstanding.

Part of this problem will be ameliorated by the establishment of more dedicated bike paths, bike lanes, and markings for bike routes. New York City is converting parts of Broadway into bicycle and pedestrian lanes. Los Angeles is in the early stages of its most recent bicycle planning process. Burbank plans to have its Bicycle Master Plan updated by year’s end, and will add an important stretch of bike path with a seven million dollar grant it just received.

Push and pull are present. Bicycles for commuting to work, shopping, visiting, exercise, and play will be ever more present as more are purchased or rent-a-bike systems are put in place. We as a community should embrace this. Most of the Armenia’s I’ve seen on bikes have tended to be in the mountains. In fact, one is in the leadership of a mountain biking group. But the every-day life usage is something we should be aware of and plugged into as various government agencies lay out their plans for the reemergence of the bicycle as a major component of the United States’ transportation system. Let’s get involved, plan, learn, and take some of that experience to implement in Armenia.

Snow biking on Yerevan’s streets anyone?

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