The city's proposed rules for drivers operating motor vehicles near cyclists -- that they must pass at a safe distance, can't turn right into their path, and, last but not least, aren't allowed to pelt them with things from car windows -- seem like no-brainers. Anyone who doesn't think they are a good idea should be forced to pedal down LBJ while being pelted with rotten tomatoes. But the City Council this morning wasn't quite ready yet to put the rules in place.
See also: "To The Guy Who Thought It Was Funny to Shoot Me With a Paintball Gun on the Santa Fe Trail: You're a Dick" "I do have a lot of questions about the ordinance," said Councilwoman Ann Margolin, and it quickly became clear she was not alone.
Councilwoman Angela Hunt wondered why the ordinance doesn't define what a safe passing distance is and suggested adding a provision defining a safe passing distance. Delia Jasso asked if it should be more specific about the pedicabs in the Bishop Arts District. And Sandy Greyson asked why she had almost hit a cyclist as she drove into Oak Cliff.
"As we put these bike markings down, we have to be sure that they're consistent and easy for the motorist to follow," Greyson said. "I did not even see him until I was almost on top of him."
(The lanes she referred to were guerilla bike lanes that transportation planner Keith Manoy said code enforcement is working to remove. Linda Koop took the opportunity to chastise whatever rogue cyclist put them there. "As much as they want bicycle lanes, it is inappropriate to put sharrows on the street ... that the city does not know about, because that really is a serious problem there.")
The main question was why the ordinance had been slipped into the City Council's agenda at the last minute without going before a committee.
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Rawlings explained. "About nine months ago when I started asking questions -- I ride my bike a few times -- about our ability to prosecute drivers who are not safe, it was obvious to me that we did not have an ordinance in place to make it easy to prosecute (them)," he said. So, he asked the city attorney's office to draft an ordinance, which it did.
Margolin suggested sending the item to the public safety committee for further discussion, an idea that Rawlings seconded. That will delay a vote on the ordinance at least another two weeks though, based upon the universal warmth with which it was received, it should have no trouble passing.
Hunt was one of the members who praised the ordinance, though she quickly switched gears to push for real, buffered bike lanes.
"I'm thrilled we're moving forward on some type of bicycle infrastructure," she said. "If our goal, though, is to see more people riding, we'll see more people ... riding if they're seperated form cars in some way. When you create a separate facility, you dramatically increase ridership. Where you just put paint and shared lanes, you don't see that bump. I don't want us to get complacent."