(Nearly all) traffic engineers actually hate cyclists, Part the Third

So, after being linked to by a quite well-read blog in the US (and seeing our pageview count skyrocket – woohoo, fame!) I can see that this issue touches some important points for (American) cyclists to feel as though their chosen mode of transport has the legs (!) to move up into the big league. I have speculated in the past about an evil, clandestine cabal of  road engineers, car manufacturers, oil producers and motoring journalist spin doctors (and their attendant political poodles) conspiring in their own version of road-use Auto Uber Alles Apartheid, which I’m finding it hard to refute at the moment, from available evidence, as we all drive ourselves into one or another climate-changed, bitumen-covered and road-tolled level of hell (there are 666 to choose from, I am told – I believe the board members of GM, Ford, Ssangyong and DaimlerChrysler have the freehold on 7 or 8 of them: just above time-share consultants and dancing bear exhibitors {themselves directly above goat fondlers and product tie-in promoters}; and directly below the PussyCat Dolls Fanclub and Richard Branson’s future abode; just down the passageway from ExxonMobil, BlackWater WorldWide (and aren’t they a happy bunch of campers on their little holiday jaunt to the shooting range {below} ?) and Royal Dutch Shell, timesharing with BP, the Cheney (below left) family and British American Tobacco, or whatever the hell they are called now). I conceive of hell as a cheap 1970s Las Vegas (very tall) multi-storey hotel, hosting a convention entitled “HOmE-WreCkerS of HisTorY ENd of the WOrld Get-TOGethEr”: dreary, timeworn and dull with the effluvia and stains of a trillion bondage sessions behind fake wood veneer doors, with the gaming room as the spiritual analogue of the world financial markets – each poker chip and coin representing a soul lost to the house.

Part of my rationale:

In order to use a public (and the increasing colonisation of this by private interests) utility (roads and the public space they occupy) to generate profit (vehicle sales, toll revenue, maintenance, road construction profits, finance, fuel and consumables production, repairs, etc.) in the best capitalist technique of privatising profits whilst socialising costs (dangerously polluted air, water and land from use and manufacture; consumption of physical space for roads, carparks and advertising; time lost in pointless traffic delays; crash remediation, medical expenses {maybe this should be put into the ‘profits’ pile?}; road safety advertisements; cost of police enforcement; destruction of community and freedom of movement in public space; distortion and perversion of personal and public spending habits), it is necessary for a societally condoned, constant, fashionable boosterist , mental junk food , (or just plain weird, although the giant reptile analogy is appropriate) spin on motoring to make it palatable. After being stuck in  traffic jams ad nauseam on their way to home from work or vice versa, and having at least one friend or relative or acquaintance maimed or killed in a motoring accident, how does the cognitive dissonance the average motorist experiences – being exhorted to believe that motoring is the highest possible and most developed method of human transport (and possibly even the most worthy form of human endeavour), via every channel (maybe not every) – work its way out? By them kicking the nearest available cat (cyclists) and shutting them out of the transport house while putting them on short rations? Domestic violence? Overcompetitiveness in trivial/occupational pursuits? I may be jumping into the driver’s seat on the hyperbolic CarBusting bandwagon here, but when exactly did Top Gear stop being harmless TV and start being a televised Nuremberg rally with jokes?

I’m only being half-flippant. The pathetic and dangerous excuses for road surfaces that cyclists have to show as the prime routes they traverse bears this out.

I ride my road bike on the ROAD to avoid the rubbish that we are mostly presented with under the title of ‘bike path’. SO, instead of being Mr. Negative Sniping Sourmouth Whingey-pants, what can I say that I would like to see?

  1. Surfaces smooth enough not to make steering the average 23mm width tyre sketchy, and the ride unpleasant. Cars get this on their major thoroughfares, so why can’t we?
  2. Lack of right-angled corners, moronic, dangerous and suffocating pinch-points and stupid pedestrian-style crossings of roads via cranked and transverse-guttered traffic island-type structures.
  3. If this were car engineering, it would be like having speed humps, cattle grids and meanders on every intersection of major roads for cars travelling at 80-100 km/h. Life threatening. It’s as though road engineers have an idea of most cyclists on major thoroughfares as retarded primary school kids (it’s OK, I’m allowed to mention them; I used to teach them) who need protecting from their own traffic mistakes.
  4. Fewer ‘Shared Paths’ as solutions to cycling thoroughfares. Conflict is inevitable. Less treatment of cyclists as two-wheeled pedestrians, and more as legitimate vehicles with 50+km/h top speeds.
  5. Direct and well-graded, exclusive-use and smooth paths TO destinations. NOT meandering strips of badly-foundationed, dog-walker-traversed, tree-root-fractured bitumen. NOT creekside paths doubling as major commuter routes. NOT cop-out road crossings that send cyclists on widely circumspect detours just to avoid a few seconds inconvenience to motorists.
  6. Space IN the traffic flow if the road is the best route TO somewhere, not shunted via cutely signposted meandering backroad routes twice as long, just to avoid some expense in roadwork.
  7. More integrated on-road space designed for bikes travelling at all speeds. Bikes treated as though they are the most blindingly-obvious and cheap solution to the current overcrowding on busy roads, which they are.*

  8. Integrated routes, not a stop-and-start, path-of-least-resistance approach via carparks, wetlands, highways, no marked route back to ‘shared path’ or dwindling to dirt byway.
  9. Design to cope with both 35+ km/h fast recreational/commuter, as well as 10km/h family meanders on the weekend – two separate routes (road lane and cycle path duplicate) if necessary.
  10. The concept of the ‘cycleway’ to rival the concept of ‘freeway’ for motorised traffic.
  11. Bike-only ‘Give Way’and ‘Left Turn on Red Light Permitted’ signed intersections. They are useful and would work in the right situations, such as roads with bike lanes.
  12. The abandonment of the incredibly stupid ‘Cyclists Dismount’ sign as a Pontius Pilate-like washing-of-the-hands solution every time it gets a bit too hard to design something adequate, and as a prophylactic against possible insurance claim, civil suit comebacks therefrom.

The State Government of Victoria wants to make Melbourne’s roads less difficult for public transport to traverse and is installing new stops and regulations to do this – why the heck not similar engineering for bikes? They relieve congestion as much as buses or trams or trains do, but don’t get the same regard from the bureaucracy. A small start has been made on Swanston St. and St. Kilda Road (and other places), with green-painted bike lanes and some bike-specific and bike-preferential traffic signals installed. This sort of initiative needs to be rolled out across the metropolis to get bikes moving more freely and safely, both in mixed traffic and on separate routes where they intersect roads. The Federation Trail is (now, after remediation) a good example of this. Get over the autocentrism, people – the dinosaurs looked like the norm until a meteorite cooked their goose. Our meteorite-equivalent is made up of quintillions of little carbon-enriched molecules hovering above us, and the goose in the oven is no clean water nor air for anything, repeated severe bushfires and storms, mass species extinction and an end to the beach holiday. Stop using the dinosaur 6 cylinder family sedan to go 500 metres to the Milk Bar (surprised that the corner store still existed –  a relic of the non-motorised bygone age) for a single icecream in winter, and stop making it easy for the idiot I once watched do this to do it.

* If this is so, and I can’t see many reasons why it shouldn’t be (just ask the Danes or the Dutch) then why are cyclists treated with the disdain, avoidance and belittling that they currently endure by the towering public policy edifice that is VicRoads (or The Ministry for Motorised Transport as it shall henceforth be known), and nearly every other road construction utility (more like imperial bureaucracy) in the Anglo developed world? Something to do with the continual profitability of pulling black sticky toxic sludge (the only valuable qualities of which is that it will burn, and form into long chain molecules) out of the ground and spreading it around up here, and the continued positions of power and influence that those responsible for this “resource extraction” enjoy? That they seek to addict us and enslave the whole economy to the level of energy consumption that they decide is appropriate? Whyfore otherwise HumVees and Ford F250s and cute and cuddly Dodge Ram?

Why do I start to think of them as evil? Is it any wonder that hell has traditionally been envisaged as being underground? See remarks on the ‘cabal’ mentioned above.


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