The good news: the City of Phoenix is working right now to develop a bicycle master master plan, having conducted one round of public workshops and launched a wikimap so that cyclists can provide input. Better news: Phoenix, Mesa and Tempe are collaborating to launch a bike share program that will put about 1,000 bikes on valley streets in the next twelve months. Affirming news: U.S. bike sales increased by 3 million to 18.7 new bicycles in 2012, while the number of vehicle miles driven per person remains on the decline. New York’s bike share program has reported 93,000 members riding 10 million miles in five months.
Now the not-so-good news: Infrastructure, policies and attitudes favoring cars have dominated the U.S. consciousness for no less than 60 years, making it in some startling respects OK to kill a cyclist. A driver striking a cyclist today in Arizona will pay a $500 fine; if the cyclist is killed that fine goes up to $1,000. Unless some other law is broken, such as hit-and-run, that’s it. In terms of drivers and cyclists sharing the road, attitudes of one toward the other are poor, and stories abound about the abysmal behaviors of both.
With all of the good changes that are happening, healthy assets like short-commute cycling are not yet a welcoming option until our built environment and attitudes support them. Daniel Duane’s recent New York Times editorial does a good job of taking apart the issues, and offering the first step anyone can take now: think differently. Of course no one would objectively determine that it is OK to kill a cyclist, at least not once they stop their car and think about it for a minute. As bike share participants start hitting Valley urban centers in the coming year, that thoughtfulness hopefully doesn’t come a minute too late.