Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Punks on Bikes in Berkeley 1

From the always interesting Berkeley Daily Planet:

Editors, Daily Planet:

There is graffiti on the wall at Milva and Channing which says "cars are assholes." In Berkeley it barely raises an eyebrow; if it does you may have chuckled. I no longer drive, but I do walk all over Berkeley. In the past three years I have been hit three times, I have been screamed at, sworn at, and spit upon—not by car drivers but by bicyclists. I'm not speaking about thugs from the lower rungs of society, I'm speaking of UC Berkeley students, 30-something parents towing their toddler buggy, workers heading to their jobs, and younger students heading to classes or parks.

The City of Berkeley speaks of their master plan for the community, a plan in which they reduce the number of cars and provide incentive for the use of public transport, bikes, foot traffic as alternate ways of moving from place to place. I am all for better living and reducing our dependency on oil and gas by reducing the use of cars, but not if there is no incentive for the police department to enforce public safety.

I'll put this simply: If you are on wheels you are not a pedestrian and do not belong on a sidewalk. Twice I have been hit in a marked crosswalk (once while pushing a stroller) by a cyclist who blew through a stop sign. Both times, they did not apologize; they just admonished me for not getting out of their way. Once I was hit on a sidewalk because I would not give way after they had shouted "on your left!"

I see cyclists on the sidewalk all over Berkeley, even on designated bicycle boulevards: Milva, Virginia and Ninth Street. I see cyclists ride against the flow of traffic so they can see cars. I see cyclists ignore traffic lights and street signs. I see people decide they're cyclists until confronted by a red light and then suddenly they become a pedestrian, hoping the curb and turning abruptly to ride through the pedestrian crosswalk; wobbling into pedestrians crossing the street. And then, most disheartening of all, I see the Berkeley police force make the choice to stop a jaywalker downtown and ignore the bicyclist wobbling into the elderly woman with a cane in front of Tullys and the main BART station entrance; within 20 feet of the blue and white sign which says "Walk your bike on the sidewalk."

What I would like to see is more effort made by all of us to remember that our safety and well-being is tied to the safety and well being of those around us. If you want respect for your chosen mode of transportation, than you need to respect others around you, regardless of their mode of transportation. I would like to see Berkeley step up to the plate and realize that just because you have plans that limit and reduce the use of cars in the city, that does not mean you have reduced threats to public safety. I'd like to see the laws of public safety applied uniformly and safely—not just in the tourist areas or the business districts. We residents, who endure harassment and injury due to the carelessness or ignorance of bicyclists, deserve the support and protection of the law enforcement and the city government.

Meri Liston

Evidently Punks on Bikes is an international phenomenon.

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