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Ignorance of bicyclists nears critical mass

Fort Wayne Journal Gazette: Ignorance of bicyclists nears critical mass

Frank Gray


A few months ago the city painted nice bicycle lanes on some of the streets downtown.

The lanes are marked with bright white lines with drawings of bicycles every so often. You can’t miss them.

Or can you? I haven’t seen that many people on bicycles using them. Most of the cyclists I’ve seen use Main Street or Broadway, and once in a while I see people riding the wrong way on Ewing Street, which irritates me. People on bikes need to obey the rules, too.

What I have noticed is that cars driving down Wayne Street, which has one of the bike lanes, don’t seem to notice the lanes. They drive right down the middle of them.

One could ask, “What difference does it make?” There weren’t any bicycles there, so no harm done.

What it says to me, though, is that to a lot of people the whole concept of bicycle lanes isn’t taken too seriously. The lanes are regarded as part of a street that was designed for cars, and cars get priority, even if there are bikes on the road.

That’s just one of the ugly realities people on bikes face. They know that cars are 800-pound gorillas that sometimes do what they please, and going into a showdown with one is a mistake.

There is strength in numbers, though. One example of this has been the ride called critical mass, where a couple of hundred cyclists get together and ride, and they are numerous enough to get their way for a change.

The problem with critical mass, though, is that it gets abused, and the actions of some riders have the potential to generate more hatred for bicycles than support.

If you like to ride a bike, this is the week to make yourself seen. It’s bike-to-work week, and Friday is bike-to-work day.

On Friday, between 7 and 9 a.m., the mayor will host a bicycle breakfast (sorry, no omelets, just coffee, bagels and Clif Bars) at Headwaters Park West. (That’s the side next to the jail.) There will also be prizes, so I might show up just to try to get something for free. I need a helmet. My cat threw up in the one I have.

Bike-to-work day, though, is really an opportunity for cyclists to turn out in force, to show how many of us exist and perhaps help people in cars understand that bicycle lanes, the few that there are, are intended for bicycles.

What some of us will learn for the first time is that though everyone appreciates the efforts the city has made, building new bike paths and installing bicycle lanes, the city isn’t very bicycle-friendly. Getting to business centers from different residential areas is at times difficult at best. Sometimes, it involves near-suicidal rides on main thoroughfares.

One can’t blame the current administration for that, or the previous administration, or the one before that. The travel patterns that we have to live with today were established at least half a century ago, when generally only kids rode bikes, anyone who jogged, lifted weights or practiced yoga was regarded as a weirdo, and adults drove cars.

Cyclists should still take advantage of bike-to-work day, though, if nothing else than to confirm that they’re out there and to reaffirm to city officials that there are enough people willing to ride bikes to justify continued improvements.

At the end of bike-to-work day, by the way, food and entertainment will be offered between 5 and 8 p.m. at Fort Wayne Outfitters and Bike Depot at 1004 Cass St.