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Cracking Down on Cycling Scofflaws

At the Atlantic Cities blog, Sarah Goodyear wrote about a Chicago crackdown on motorists who open their doors into bicyclists, coupled with increased fines for two-wheeled scofflaws. The higher fines have the bike community in an uproar, but Goodyear argues that they’re a sign that pedaling is becoming just another mainstream mode of transportation.

Riding a bike in the United States has long been perceived as a statement. Being a bicyclist has been an identity, burdened with its own identity politics. The cyclist as renegade, outsider, maverick, or outlaw – that has been the image, or self-image, depending on where you stand on the “issue” of cycling.

But in the last couple of years, we have been moving at an almost imperceptible pace toward a different kind of reality – one in which American cities, from Chicago to Miami to Los Angeles to Boston and back around again — have been building bike infrastructure, implementing bike-share systems, passing laws protecting bicyclists, and the like.

And biking is slowly, slowly becoming just another way to get around.

The flip side is that in places like Chicago, they have also been ticketing bicyclists for violating laws. In New York, the Department of Transportation has deployed safety officers on busy bike routes to remind people of the right way to ride. Ticketing blitzes seem to be happening more regularly.

This is what has to happen for things to get to the next level.

Would this make sense in Athens? A lot of drivers get upset when they see a bike-rider roll through a red light, then hear cyclists lobby for their own lanes because biking is so dangerous. That’s a big reason why, say, bike lanes on Prince Avenue are so controversial. If more cyclists obeyed traffic laws, maybe more motorists would, too, and maybe more people would be open to spending money on bike- and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure.