Last night I was sitting around watching documentaries on Netflix. One interesting documentary that caught my eye was “Urbanized” – a film in which urban design and infrastructure was analyzed by various groups of people from architects, city planners, government officials to regular citizens around the world. The film focused on various ways in which architecture promoted habitability of cities (which are expected to grow enormously in population) throughout different parts of the world.
One place in particular caught my attention: Copenhagen, Denmark. The system of bicycle commuting developed by local governments in Copenhagen blew my mind. Here it was: a modern city with modern lifestyles and a bicycle path for means of getting to work.
According to a quote in the New York Times article – “In Denmark, thanks to measures like the superhighway, commuters choose bicycles because they are the fastest and most convenient transportation option. “ In the same article, a quote below the image reads: “A Green Light for Copenhagen’s Cyclists: A new initiative in Copenhagen aims at building miles of bicycle highways that offer cyclists a safer and faster way to commute.”
Did you catch that? Bicycles are safer than cars. Yet, in a country that has been paving the road of advancement for the better part of the century (U.S.) bicycle infrastructure has never caught up. Tell a bicyclist in LA that it’s safe to share the road with crazed, sometimes zombie-like drivers and he’ll look at you like you’re insane.
It’s fairly common for drivers to cut into bike lanes or fail to yield at a turn. This has been going on for as long as the bike paths have been in place. It’s very easy to put blame on reckless drivers and there are plenty of those, while it’s equally easy to overlook poor bike lane design and flaws. For example, in Copenhagen, the city designed its bike paths on the outside of the parking lane which is meant to protect cyclists from the road traffic via parked cars, not the other way around. This is clearly not the situation here in the States where cyclists act as a sort of barrier to protect the parked vehicles – go figure.
Bike riders are not second-class citizens even though most feel this way:[quote style=”1″]Because right now, we’re far less than second-class citizens in a city many of us have no choice but to ride through. And which doesn’t seem to give a damn about whether we live or die. Or receive justice either way. – Biking In LA[/quote]
Justice can only be served if there is an increased awareness in the community. The nature of bicycle accidents is horrendous to say the least, thus compensation from a personal injury case (however greater with the help from an attorney) can only go so far to treat mental wounds that result from serious injuries. Only community awareness and change in law and policy can pave the road to a safer, healthier, cleaner future.
What can you do for the time being to stay safer? Be aware that you have rights and that those rights are enforceable, make the case for protected bike lanes by being heard, and most of all be vigilant. Sooner or later our communities will have to take note of the rising death toll in pedestrians and cyclists and hopefully we can look to Copenhagen’s ambitious urban planning as a model.
If you are interested in biking in Southern California here’s a list of blogs worth reading: