Wordplay: Language a New Focus of Bicycle Advocacy

A few months ago I posted a short piece reflecting on my disassociation with cyclist and instead identifying myself as an urbanite. I was inspired to think intentionally about the cyclist label after a discussion with my classmates in Cascade Bicycle Club’s Advocacy Leadership Institute. Tom Fucoloro, author of the Seattle Bike Blog, sparked our minds by challenging the sensibility of using labels such as driver, cyclist, and pedestrian. Makes sense to me – after all, I am all of these things at various times and it seems foolish to define myself by how I get around.

Now, Seattle Neighborhood Greenways is in the spotlight for a blog article it wrote about using better language to break down perceived barriers between people using different modes of transportation. Clearly SNG is finding success; the idea of breaking barriers through more appropriate language not only appeared in my class but also in my neighborhood group. I find my daily language changing and noticed fewer people around me identifying themselves as cyclists. After all, we are all just people, right?

Check out SNG’s quick-guide to positive language:

Language guidelines from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

Language guidelines from Seattle Neighborhood Greenways

More on this:

Let’s Talk About Safe Streets | Seattle Neighborhood Greenways: http://seattlegreenways.org/blog/2015/01/06/lets-talk-safe-streets/

HOW SMART LANGUAGE HELPED END SEATTLE’S PARALYZING BIKELASH | People For Bikes (with comments by Tom Fucoloro of the Seattle Bike Blog): http://www.peopleforbikes.org/blog/entry/how-smart-language-helped-end-seattles-paralyzing-bikelash

Seattle Bike Blog: http://www.seattlebikeblog.com/2015/02/09/im-not-a-cyclist-supporting-safer-streets-is-obvious-once-you-ditch-vehicle-language/

Language, Vehicle Size, and Bicycle Advocacy | IsolateCyclist: http://www.isolatecyclist.com/2013/12/09/language-vehicle-size-and-bicycle-advocacy/

Accidents Vs. Collisions | Living Streets Alliance: http://www.livingstreetsalliance.org/2013/03/accidents-vs-crashes/

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More Traffic Violence: Hit & Run on Rainier Ave

Another instance of drivers running down pedestrians and fleeing the scene in the rainier Valley? This is becoming ridiculous. Can a strong road rechannelization prevent bad driving? Probably not. But smart engineering can slow speeds, increase pedestrian safety, and make it less likely these collisions will continue at such high rate. This is just one more tragic example of why Seattle DOT needs to take Rainier Ave safety seriously – and do a complete overhaul prioritizing Safety over Speeding.

Woman struck while crossing Rainier: ‘I have never been so scared and alone’ | Seattle Bike Blog

 

No charges for person who killed man walking his dog in a Kirkland crosswalk | Seattle Bike Blog

Last week I shared an article about traffic fatalities and the history of traffic rules. It waa clear that rules were cjanged from pedestrian-focused to autocentric. Unfortunately, this has often fatal consequences. Last fall a man was hit in Kirkland. The driver, protected by decades of favorable law, is getting no punishment. Meanwhile, the man walking his dog is dead.

So in this prosecutor’s eyes, breaking the law requiring people to yield to crosswalk users is not itself proof of negligence. This implies that reasonably careful people are allowed to break this vital traffic safety law, which protects the exact “vulnerable users” the Negligent Driving charge is intended to address. This is a disturbing reading of the law, but one we have sadly seen before.

Another case of a innocent pedestrian killed and no action being taken against the driver. Read more on the Seattle Bike Blog.

Seattle Transportation Updates

There are a lot of ideas floating around Seattle right now. From the expensive Ballard Bridge expansion to a simple reimagination of Dexter, infrastructure improvements show promise for transit, cycling, and pedestrian travel in Seattle. Check out some of the recent news:

Study: Widening Ballard Bridge sidewalks possible, but it won’t be cheap (+ is there an easier way?) [SBB]

County cancels next round of Metro cuts [CHSB]

New parking meters, time-of-day rates on the way [ST]

Ballard to Redmond by Light Rail? Sound Transit Thinkin’ Bout It (CURBED]

Dexter protected bike lane plans include shared turn lanes, bus stops [SBB]

Death of the Death Trap – Seattle’s New 2nd Ave is Almost Here

The 2nd Ave protected bike lane project appears to be ahead of its original ambitious schedule…”

Plans for the 2nd Ave redesign

 

Finally, I may not have to fear for my life when riding Seattle’s notoriously dangerous 2nd Ave. There has been much talk about redesigning this route that scares the living bejesus out of so many people, and it is about time something happened. Here’s to well-thought out development that simplifies movement and increases safety! Also, Scott Kubly – make it work. Then expand. We’re counting on you.

New SDOT Director wisely adds bike signals to 2nd Ave bike lane design, could open by Sept. 8 | Seattle Bike Blog.

Seattle Transit Failure and Bicycle Discrimination

Today I attempted to ride my bike to Convention place where I planned to catch the 41 northbound to Northgate. Normally I might ride directly from work, but I broke a spoke yesterday and I wanted to avoid riding too much. As it turns out, I barely needed to ride at all. Despite the very nice three-bike racks on the front of all Metro buses, bikes do not mesh well with the bus system in Seattle. It takes time to load your bike and too often during high traffic times the bus is full by the time you get your bike loaded. Then what? Do you take it back off? How many times does one put a bike on and off before calling it quits?

Today I tried a different approach. There was a Metro employee facilitating boarding at Convention Place in order to maximize the number of people on each bus. I explained the difficulty of boarding with a bike and he said “Yeah but we’ll get you on.” About 35 minutes and 3-4 buses later I was still standing there and the line was getting no shorter. There simply is not enough room for everyone and holding up the line so someone like myself (a young male who clearly has access to different transportation) was not an easy task to do. So frustration gave way to impatience so I turned around and left. Modal interconnection is terrible in Seattle and must receive serious attention if the city is to encourage more cycling from a larger variety of riders. Add that to the laundry list of things to be done to improve the city’s failing transportation – bike infrastructure, transit service, light rail, congestion pricing!

As luck would have it a security guard was on the platform and had no shortage of words for me as I took my bike up the escalator. Safety. Danger. Disrespect. No officer, none of those are the right words. Try inefficient, failed, frustration. Explaining myself was pointless: he did not care that I was frustrated with poor service or that I find rules against bicycle on escalators to be outlandish. All he heard was I am a cyclist and I can do whatever I want. That is Seattle – people seem to assume cyclists are all terrible people. I admit, we are often guilty of bending and even breaking traffic laws. But so are drivers and pedestrians. Yet we are unfairly targeted – just this morning I treated a deserted red light as a stop sign seconds after a pedestrian did the same. We both came to a “rolling” stop and carefully looked both ways before crossing. The police officer a few feet away nodded politely at the pedestrian but briefly chased me and yelled. We both broke a traffic law. Why was I singled out for enforcement?

People should fit easily onto buses. Pedestrians and cyclists should be free to move about, not be limited by traffic laws designed for and heavily favoring vehicles. Cars are a privilege not a right. As a country, the United States needs to change the way it looks at transportation. Seattle could and should be at the forefront of that change with it culture of innovation and plethora of pedestrians, cyclists, drivers, and transit users. Unfortunately Seattle is not.