A year or so ago I wrote about how cyclists are sometimes our own worst enemies. One gist of that post was until the cycling community can come together and agree on ONE course of action regarding advocacy, it will be mired in division which weakens its overall argument. I still believe this is our greatest dilemma, as we have the competing interests between hardened and more-daring riders demanding equal access to the streets versus the rest of us who just want to be and feel safe and thus prefer clearly marked or protected bike lanes (see first photo below) and/or wholly separated bike routes (see second photo below). Sure, there is safety in numbers, but we first have to develop sufficient numbers to actually achieve the safety benefits.
Being more inclusive helps grow participation in bicycling and therefore raw numbers. What seasoned riders need to realize is that many women, youngsters, seniors, the disadvantaged, and those of us like me who are uncomfortable amid automobile traffic are not suited to nor capable of riding with traffic on city streets. Authors John Pucher and Ralph Buehler put it this way in the introduction to their excellent book, entitled City Cycling:
“Cycling should be made feasible, convenient, and safe for everyone; for women, as well as men, for all age groups, and for a wide range of physical abilities. The authors of this book take the view that cycling should not be limited to cyclists who are highly trained, fit, and daring enough to do battle with motor vehicles on busy roads. As demonstrated in many chapters, getting children, seniors, and women on bikes requires provision of safer and more comfortable cycling conditions than currently exist in most American, Australian, and British cities.” (page xii)
Hallelujah to Mr. Pucher and Mr. Buehler as you have hit proverbial the nail squarely on the head. Numbers (and subsequently safety) will not appreciably increase without more participation from those who are not currently part of the non-motorized community. To advocate for road sharing (or sharrowing) is simply not enough. If the greater bicycling community wants true safety in numbers…numbers that will be noticed by motor vehicle drivers, it must advocate and promote the development of a bicycling infrastructure that accommodates all, especially those with less riding ability. Otherwise, only the hardiest, the bravest, or the most daring will venture onto city streets and roadways, rarely producing the quantity of riders that is necessary to change public perceptions or to build a dynamic and diverse cycling culture.