- This Week
The Bike Plan is finally free. Can it help soothe tensions between cyclists and motorists?
08.10.10 - 3:20 pm | Rebecca Bowe |
Carlsson, who hasn't owned a car for a decade, said he was inspired by how bike infrastructure is integrated into roadways in Copenhagen, where he lived years ago. "Bicycles need their own right of way," Carlsson said. "Every major street should have its own dedicated side path for cyclists. We should have bike boulevards."
He envisions city-owned fleets of rental bikes, and bike-dedicated parkways with green space that could be used to grow food. In the long run, he sees cycling as part of a solution for a more sustainable city. "There's no doubt we're going to have way fewer privately owned cars in our culture," he said.
On the whole, Carlsson said, he believes motorists show more courtesy toward San Francisco's cyclists than they did 10 or 20 years ago. Yet he acknowledged that people still get unreasonably upset when Critical Mass cyclists swarm into the streets once a month. "It's a curiosity," he said. "They're in gridlock before we even start riding."
Adam Shapiro arrived at an Oakland coffeehouse wearing a pea-green T-shirt with a print of a bike gear encircling a heart. With a bike cap, a pierced lip, and a tattoo peeking out his sleeve, Shapiro looked the part of a San Francisco bike messenger.
He recalled his own dangerously close situations while biking through San Francisco as part of his gig. On one occasion, he threw his bike down in front of a car that had nearly squeezed him off the road and unloaded a torrent of rage onto the bewildered driver.
Bike messengers are typically paid on commission, cycling 50 or 60 miles a day on heavy days, according to Shapiro — and that requires pedaling fast and according to standards that often differ from the California Vehicle Code.
"Most bike messengers follow a kind of honor code that has very little to do with the law," he explained. "Don't violate anyone's right-of-way, and pretty much everything else is fair game. If I can get through a space in front of you, behind you, or around you without you having to alter your course, I will."
It's rare for messengers to have medical or car insurance, and while there's no formal union, there is a Bike Messenger's Association that administers a "broken bones fund."
Asked about the dynamic between drivers and bike messengers, Shapiro doesn't mince words. "There's a combat mentality," he said. "I work so hard to not get hit every mile I ride. That is part of the job."
Yet as a messenger, bike mechanic, and part of a cycling community, he remains hopeful that the combat mentality doesn't have to be the end of the story. While he admitted that messengers have their own style of darting through the city, undoubtedly unnerving motorists, he said he thought any conversation that could facilitate greater understanding and promote safer behavior was rendered impossible in the moment by the fact that motorists are walled off inside their cars.
He unearthed from his tote bag a magnet the size of a business card that could possibly serve to open the door to that communication. It was titled "Yellow Card." Here's the message: "This magnet was tossed onto your car by a cyclist who felt that you might have been driving in a way that could have endangered their life. They chose to toss this magnetic note because it can neither damage your automobile, nor affix itself to rubber or glass and will therefore not affect your driving. It serves to warn you. With thoughtful contemplation and reverence for humanity, we can adjust our behavior to allow for all people to live life. This is a yellow card, let's please not let things get to Red."
Donations to help Rolando Casajeros' recovery can be made to the Bank of America account: Gutino Trust No. 0931974104.