This will be your wreck-free Sunday post, as I write about a little fantasy I had that would make cyclists a legitimate part of the transportation system, and also make everybody safer.
What I had in mind was a system that inside a city limit you had to have a person wearing an ANSI Safety Lime shirt or jersey, or a fairing that color at least as large as a shirt riding a bicycle in front of you as a road guard. Road Guard cyclists for commercial vehicles would have to have permits and be insured, Road Guards for private vehicles would just be required to have a permit. If you hit a Road Guard cyclist on duty there would be an automatic fine of $1000 as well as paying all damages to the cyclist and his bike.
The amount of money a Road Guard could charge would be regulated much as taxi fares are regulated now, with the idea that a rider could ride at normal cyclist speeds and still make enough to live on. This would be a per-mile charge, not an hourly rate so as to encourage really fit cyclists to ride faster so they would make more money. E-assisted bikes that met the Federal speed regulation of 20 MPH without pedalling would be allowed to ride Road Guard as well.
Payment for Road Guards would be sticky at first, until people get used to the concept. What I had in mind was that the Road Guards would be required to hold the driver’s license of the driver of the vehicle they were working for, and that drivers found without licenses would be guilty of theft of services for a Road Guard, or illegal possession of a deadly weapon. This would have other benefits as well, as drivers could not enter a city without a driver’s license with proof of insurance, because they couldn’t get a Road Guard without both and couldn’t drive without a Road Guard.
Road Guards would only be required on surface streets, limited access highways would still be allowed to run at whatever speed limit was set. The idea behind this law is to reduce urban speeds to safe levels for pedestrians and keep motor vehicles out of crosswalks. It would also result in more people going to work by bike, as well as more people having work. Just think about all the trucks on surface streets in your town, then imagine every one of those trucks not only having a driver but a cyclist riding in front of them to protect pedestrians and other cyclists. That’s a lot of extra people put to work. And we know these people are going to buy food, and not just a little bit either, which means that money is going to get spread around. Add in the support services for the bikes, places for cyclists to congregate while waiting for jobs, and this becomes a major boost to the economy.
Let’s not forget about other effects that will benefit everyone. Slower-moving and gently accelerating motor vehicles produce less pollution, and use less fuel. Not to mention that when every motor vehicle is limited to bicycle speeds bicycles become a safe mode of transport for everyone. And don’t forget when drivers have to communicate changes in direction to the rider in front of them they let everyone else know what’s about to happen, making other road users safer.
Aside from making driving motor vehicles more expensive (and I don’t see that as a negative, necessarily) there is just so much win in this idea. Streets are safer, we use less fossil fuels, more people are employed, urban pollution is reduced, bicycles become not just legitimate road users but a vital part in the economy, and people that had no job skills could have employment and healthy activity all in one swell foop. And the entry cost is a working bicycle and a funny-looking t-shirt.
Billed @$0.02, Opus