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The Bicycle Alternative

A Reply to Frank Hotchkiss


In his Voice on August 14, Frank Hotchkiss invited responses to the issues he raised regarding bicycles and cars [“Bikes and Cars,” independent.com/opinions]. My answer is that I think about biking in Santa Barbara every day when I leave my house.

First of all, I am interested to know where Hotchkiss got his data that only 3.5 percent of Santa Barbarians ever ride bikes. On page 260 of the book City Cycling by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, I can see that in Santa Barbara, California, more than 4 percent of commuters regularly got to work by bike in 2009, a number that has grown since then. Of course getting to work is important, but counting only regular work commuters leaves out all of the folks who bike occasionally, on the weekends, with their kids, to train for triathlons, and while they do errands, which makes the percentage even higher.

Shannon Miller
Click to enlarge photo

courtesy

Shannon Miller

Even if we are a minority of commuters, certainly our safety is important. I notice that at the end of his opinion, the councilmember reminds us that bicyclists must follow the law, just like car drivers. Of course I agree with that, but where is the same admonishment to car drivers? I can’t tell you the number of times a car has passed me at an illegal proximity, refused to share the road when obliged to do so, or made an illegal maneuver that threatened my life. The fact is, everyone needs to follow the Rules of the Road, a fact that I wish Hotchkiss would use his political power to remind all who use the road. Laws are for everyone, not just cyclists.

He also states that cyclists will never ride to Trader Joe’s, CVS, or Ralphs to pick up things. Really? If it wasn’t me doing all three of those trips this week (and every week), then who was it? It sure felt like me. I can only conclude he just made that up. I have not owned a car for 16 years, and if I didn’t ride a bike to stores, then I’d have to carry all my shopping on my back, taking much longer and aggravating my hernias. No thanks.

If, as Hotchkiss says in his opinion, he never ever rides a bike, then I think he is probably not qualified to speculate about us cyclists. At Ralphs, Trader Joe’s, CVS, and all the other places I visit in a typical week, my bicycle is far from the only one parked outside. I would be happy to shop at Trader Joe’s with Hotchkiss sometime so he can see for himself the facts about cyclists.

Even if all the facts were reported correctly, I’m sure that the majority of trips in Santa Barbara are not made by bicycle. So why should Frank Hotchkiss still care about someone who uses different transportation than he does?

Here’s my story: I really enjoy riding my bicycle, and I happen to hate driving. Nine years ago, I was looking to relocate, and I chose Santa Barbara in large part because it is a wonderful place to get around by bike, on foot, or by bus. I worked at several companies and now own my own business. I volunteer at many nonprofits and wholly participate in Santa Barbara culture — a culture that includes those who like to use bikes. While raised not to boast, I think I serve this community well, and I would like my concern returned.

If every car driver always followed the Rules of the Road and were never distracted, then perhaps extra bikes lanes wouldn’t be needed to protect me. But all too often I feel that the extra visibility of a separate lane has saved my life. Certainly, the councilmember can appreciate my position.

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