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Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Bikes: Hazardous to Your Health

Another police reign of terror to end the bicycle reign of terror, the second in as many years. In this case it’s like using a steam roller to kill an ant and begs the question of just what is the problem the city of Valencia is hoping to solve. The police actually call this an “information campaign” with the punch-line being a fine of 200€. Three marauders were cited for not having bells on their bikes. Thank god the police are protecting the citizenry from these animals.

The worst thing about this anti-cycling campaign is that most of the people in Valencia seem to be in favor of it or at least acquiescent. This is what I take from the tone of the articles appearing in Valencia’s two daily newspapers and from the television coverage on the local news. There was no shortage of people voicing their concern over the outrageous and deadly behavior of the city’s bike riders.  It’s easy enough to find footage of cyclists breezing through red lights at deserted intersections or riding down sidewalks but it’s another thing to actually find a problem with this behavior. Put a camera at any intersection of the city and you will witness some pretty brutish driving habits that seem to be accepted techniques by the police. Wait for a light to turn yellow and you will see a line of cars gunning it to screech through while cars waiting on the opposing lane roll through the light before it has even changed to green. Most drivers watch the flashing green pedestrian signal and use that as their green light. Yesterday I was almost run over by a city bus using this tactic. I pointed to the red light while scowling at the driver.

12 cyclists were fined for chaining their murderous machines to trees or lamp posts, something strictly forbidden under the new decree drafted in 2010, obviously by people who never cycle. When called on this stupid prohibition one of the PP functionaries commented that the city has generously provided 4,000 bike parking spaces throughout the city, a city of almost a million people. Do the math while you scour the city for a place to leave your bike. Once again, just what problem does the city want to solve by this law? And it’s not like chaining your bike will do any good as bike theft seems to be a perfectly legal and respected profession from the way local police ignore it completely.

There were nine infractions of cyclists dragging unauthorized loads behind their bikes which is simply code for singling out gypsies who improvise trailers for their bikes in their search for chatarra and other riches stolen from trash containers throughout the city. One man’s garbage is another man’s food for the day. It reminds me of the Anatole France quote from Le Lys Rouge: La majestueuse égalité des lois, qui interdit au riche comme au pauvre de coucher sous les ponts, de mendier dans les rues et de voler du pain (in its majestic equality, the law forbids rich and poor alike from sleeping under bridges, begging in the streets and stealing loaves of bread.)

The message the city is sending to the people of Valencia could not be clearer: you shouldn’t ride a bicycle and if you do you will be held to a standard far higher than that expected of automobiles. It doesn’t matter that no one has been killed by a cyclist while cyclists and pedestrians are run down like dogs by motorists. I would be grateful if the local police would enforce a single traffic law: the maximum speed limit of 50 kph in the city.

Vehicle Speed
Odds of Pedestrian Death, Source 1
Odds of Pedestrian Death, Source 2
20 mph 32k
5%
5%
30 mph 48k
45%
37%
40 mph 64k
85%
83%

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