Editorial: Sharing the road a great concept, so long as road is shareable
Thursday’s annual Verde Valley Ride of Silence serves as a strong reminder that bicyclists have the same rights to use streets and roads as do motorists.
But the very fact that we have this annual ride in memory of those who lost their lives on state, county and local roads shows we still have far to go in making “Share the Road” more than a sign post on the roadside.
Sharing the road is a great concept, just so long as the road is shareable.
We are making progress. In Cottonwood, the improvements to Mingus Avenue allow more shared space for cyclists. Ditto for Cornville Road, although motorists can’t help but have a moment of panic when sharing space with cyclists through the infamous Cornville switchbacks.
Ditto for Page Springs Road, one of the more popular routes for bicyclists in the Verde Valley, yet it remains one of the most poorly designed roads for shared use between motorists and cyclists.
The truth is, despite the progress we’ve made, the Verde Valley is like most other communities in the United States when it comes to this philosophy of sharing the road with bicyclists.
We talk a better line than we deliver on.
Compared to many European communities, we are still in the infancy stages of creating the safest and truest shared-road infrastructure.
In Copenhagen, Denmark, a city of about 600,000 people, bicycles outnumber cars by about 5-to-1. That’s made possible by an infrastructure that actually encourages people to ride bikes instead of drive cars.
Health benefits aside, Danes contend that a cycling-centric community is also more economically vibrant than one dependent on cars. Danish finance minister reports claim that every time someone rides 1 kilometer on their bike in Copenhagen, the city experiences an economic gain of about 75 U.S. cents. If that ride replaces an equivalent car journey, the gain rises to about $1.55, or collectively more than $1 million each day. Those gains are the result of less wear and tear on streets, reduced sick leave from work and increase retail spending, according to the finance minister’s report.
Then again, it could be those claims are being made to justify a government position that the Danes really don’t want their country overrun with cars. It’s a small country. Parking space for cars is at a premium. Markets and retail areas do not provide large-scale parking lots. If you live in Denmark and you want to buy a car, you have to go to Germany, and pay a steep tariff when you register the car with the Danish government. Bikes, complemented by an extensive public transit system, make more sense in Denmark.
There is much to be said for this lifestyle, and Americans certainly could learn a thing or two from this European approach.
When they “Share the Road,” it’s bicyclists accommodating motorists.
We just give the concept lip service.