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Time for a Public Education Campaign on Safe Streets [OPINION]

Bicycle Commuter
olaser/ThinkStock

I’m still focused on safe streets and the reaction to the input from cyclists at the City Council meeting on Tuesday. You can watch that here.

The reaction in social media was, shall we say, typical. And also disheartening.

Facebook comments are never the best barometer, but then you read it and there’s no way out. But it reminds me of the original purpose – several years ago now – for the extensive study and rewriting of the laws covering non-motorized travel on the streets of Sioux Falls.

The purpose was to clarify and specify just what the laws mean, how they work, and to get rid of some bad language. That led to conversation and the eventual passage of a package that included the 3-foot passing law.

That was a big deal. It was progressive and thoughtful.

The problem is that the general public doesn’t know what the laws are. How would they? There’s been only cursory effort to inform people. That’s nobody’s fault really. It’s the way of the world. People, as it turns out, generally don’t pay much attention.

So what we need now is a broad public education campaign, not just about cycling but of safe streets in general. Bad habits are rampant.

This was all highlighted by the debate over Right on Red turning that I’ve been talking about on The Patrick Lalley Show. You can listen to my observations here, here and here.

There is just a lot of misinformation – or flat antagonism – toward people who choose not to use a car to get around.

For example, this comment from Facebook: “The taxpayers spent millions of dollars on bike paths in an effort to get these suicidal cyclists off the streets. They don’t use them. I see this all the time, cyclists in the street just a few feet over from a perfectly good bike path. Basketball players use basketball courts, not public roads. Tennis players play on courts, not public roads. Nobody is playing street hockey out on the interstate. But because maybe one out of 100 cyclists is actually using a bicycle for transportation, the rest of them are allowed to play in traffic.”

Pure hyperbole and complete ignorance of how the laws work.

Or the general sense that roads are for automobiles and everybody else be damned.

Well, the roads are for all kinds of travel. They aren’t owned by people in cars.

It’s time for a wide-ranging, sustained, public safety campaign that clarifies and teaches just what the laws are, and more importantly, safe driving in general. It’s hard to follow the law if you don’t know it. So maybe something good can come out of this discussion.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its staff, contributors, affiliates or advertisers.


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