What is a “Culver” and how did they get a city?

Long time JustAnotherCyclist blogger friend BikingInLA posted a rather interesting tweet tonight:

The Culver City Chamber of Commerce might as well just tell bicyclists to take their business somewhere else. http://t.co/ezzhWOKZ6z #bikLA
3/29/13 8:17 PM

So of course I checked out the link. While disappointed, I was unfortunately not surprised by the comments of Chamber of Commerce President Steve Rose. The crux of his argument is, basically, that cyclists are being granted rights without corresponding responsibilities. Here it is in his words:

Here are a few points I would like to ask about bicyclist’s responsibility:

  • Insurance in case of an accident. Is my uninsured motorist insurance going to be raised because of bicyclists’ rights?
  • Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets. Are all bicyclists?
  • Why can a bicyclist ride in the street and then on the sidewalk and then back on to pedestrian walkways?
  • Bicyclists should not only have lights on the front and rear of their bikes, but lights that can be seen from a legal distance.
  • Should bicyclists be allowed to straddle the white line and then stop in front of vehicles at a red light?
  • Why do bicyclists not stop at stop signs, as vehicles legally must do?
  • How do we tax bicyclists for maintenance of the right of way, as motor vehicle owners have to do?

 

Oh boy… I don’t see a single point of any value here. But in fairness, let’s look at each one individually.

Insurance in case of an accident. Is my uninsured motorist insurance going to be raised because of bicyclists’ rights?

Two big flaws with this question. One, it assumes that all cyclists are uninsured. In fact, cyclists are often covered by a myrid of policies – homeowner’s insurance and even auto insurance carried by the cyclist. Yes Mr. Rose, many cyclists are also licensed motorists too. Second, the amount of damage a cyclist can do, in the vast majority of cases of collisions with automobiles, is financially insignificant. Insurance rates are based on risk. The financial risk of property damage caused by a cyclist just isn’t that large.

Motorcyclists are required to wear helmets. Are all bicyclists?

No they are not. But this question has no relevance either. Debates about cycling helmets aside, Mr. Rose seems to be indicating that an arbitrary number of laws is what is required to entitle cyclists to access to the highway infrastructure.

Why can a bicyclist ride in the street and then on the sidewalk and then back on to pedestrian walkways?

Well, in fact this is the exact issue that the campaign Mr. Rose is opposing intends to address.

Bicyclists should not only have lights on the front and rear of their bikes, but lights that can be seen from a legal distance.

The legal requirements for lighting and reflectors are clearly laid out in the California Vehicle Code. Unless Mr. Rose has more specific complaints, this feels like a straw man argument in a way far more obvious than the rest of his points.

Should bicyclists be allowed to straddle the white line and then stop in front of vehicles at a red light?

This is, in fact, required by state law (As far right as practical). In addition, again, this is one of the issues that the campaign Mr. Rose is opposing intends to address.

Why do bicyclists not stop at stop signs, as vehicles legally must do?

Such a tired argument. First, his statement implies that cyclists never stop at stop signs. It further implies that motorists do stop at stop signs (ever hear of a California Stop?) The argument itself is fundamentally flawed, implying that only those groups that follow the laws as a whole are entitled to rights on the road. By the same argument, I (as a cyclist) could counter that motorists should be denied rights to the road due to the statistically significant number of motorists that ignore posted speed limits.

How do we tax bicyclists for maintenance of the right of way, as motor vehicle owners have to do?

And last but not least, the mythical road tax argument. Learn the facts, Mr. Rose. We already tax bicyclists for maintenance of the right of way. Again, not only are the vast majority of cyclists also licensed owners of legally registered vehicles, the vast majority of the monies used to maintain our roads come from taxes collected from the general population, regardless of how much or how little they use the roadways.

 

I’ll leave you with this parting thought to consider Mr. Rose. As the president of the Chamber of Commerce, I would think that your primary interest (in that role) would be to foster business in your community. I would encourage you to look at the financial impact directly attributable to cycling as a lifestyle and/or recreation choice. In addition, I would further encourage you to look into the commercial impact created by behavior changes induced by cycling. There have been a number of studies demonstrating how cyclists are more likely to stop at, and patronize, urban business compared to the population of motorists driving by the same establishments. As President of the Chamber of Commerce, you may best serve your community by evaluating the economice impact of increased cycling as opposed to the emotional reaction your “questions” demonstrate.

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  • Erik Mar

    I think the insurance point needs some further explication. Under the current insurance system, it’s conceivable that a motorist’s insurance rate gets raised as a result of additional bicycle collision probability. It’s not enough to say that “many” or “most” cyclists also carry insurance – insurance policies also have to account for the worst case of those cyclists who don’t carry insurance. It’s also not enough to say that a bike at fault in a car collision doesn’t do much damage – simply scratching the paint can set a car owner back hundreds of $$. I think the better argument is to accept that, yes, individual insurance rates may increase incrementally, but those increases will be offset by savings elsewhere. Notably, a) decreased wear and tear on road infrastructure, which is paid largely from general funds, not by gas taxes; b) decreased particulate and carbon emissions, which is an economic externality which we all pay for in myriad ways, not the least through the cleanup after increasingly common and severe extreme weather events; c) decreased health costs, which will improve the cost/benefit ratio of our national healthcare system, which ranks as the world’s worst in terms of its current per capita costs / per capita benefits.
    This is a case of narrowly focusing on individual costs while failing to consider the wastage of public funds (which largely come from individuals) due to the lifestyle choices of exactly those same individuals.

    • http://cycling.frenzied.us/ Doug

      > insurance policies also have to account for the worst case of those cyclists who don’t carry insurance.

      They also have to account for an even worse case — motorists who don’t carry insurance. I don’t know about California, but the figure I’ve heard bandied around here is that 20% of drivers aren’t insured.

      Another issue is the pathetically low mandatory insurance requirements. Around here, the state mandated minimum for liability auto insurance is $30k/person $60k/incident. But if there’s a collision and somebody is sent to the hospital, that $30k is often gone *in the first hour*.

  • http://meghansahliwells.com Meghan Sahli-Wells

    Rest assured the policy-makers in Culver City do not share the views of the Chamber of Commerce president about cycling:

    http://culvercity.patch.com/articles/officials-urge-la-county-drivers-to-share-lanes-with-bicyclists-9c931afb

    Most sincerely,
    Meghan Sahli-Wells
    Culver City Bicycle Coalition Co-founder & Councilwoman

  • http://lasart.es/ Jess Pearson

    The difference is that, whilst the vast majority of bicyclists are responsible road-users, it is nigh on impossible to identify those who do flout the law.

    • Erik Mar

      Jess, what you say is true, just as it’s true that it’s nigh on impossible to identify those drivers who flout the law, every day, on virtually every type of street, by exceeding the speed limit or by rolling through stops. It’s impossible, not because they individually can’t be identified – they, of course can, by license plates – but because virtually every single driver does it on virtually every single drive, and there’s safety in numbers.
      The real difference is that if a cyclist flouts the law, the societal risk is almost zero – in the worst case, the cyclist him/herself and/or a pedestrian will get hurt. if a motor vehicle does the same, the societal risk is much greater. The societal responsibilities of drivers should be commensurately greater, and our societal attention should be commensurately more focused on that greater risk.