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In New, Bike-Friendler Dallas, Drivers Have a Friend in the Morning News' Tod Robberson

With all the feel-good talk recently celebrating Dallas' hesitant but progressing embrace of cycling (Painted bike lanes! A don't-be-a-dick-to-cyclists ordinance!), it's easy to forget about the concerns of the driver.

Never fear. Morning News editorial writer Tod Robberson is here to champion their cause. In a post yesterday, Robberson, after taking pains to note in a Hey-some-of-my-best-friends-are-cyclists kind of way, how great it is that people want to use bikes as transportation, does his best to pour cold water on the city's new-fangled pro-cycling rhetoric.

He supports the new bike-friendly ordinance in theory, but only "provided the law also contains provisions to address bike riders who blatantly engage in bad behavior or violate the law."

Not everything they do is goodness and light. Astonishing numbers of bike riders seem to think red lights and stop signs don't apply to them, or that it's OK to pass a motorist on the right side of a single-lane road. And if a motorist gets in their way, some have no problem flipping the bird or yelling out an obscenity.

The notion of special privilege for bike riders no doubt contributed to the high speed collision that killed Lauren Huddleston on the Katy Trail two years ago this month.

Robberson is of course right on one point: plenty of bike riders are self-righteous assholes who are selective about which traffic rules they follow. How this, rather than simple negligence, is responsible for Huddleston's death, and why this is somehow more exceptional than the thousands of deaths caused by negligent drivers, I'm not sure.

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But no matter. To allow Robberson to finish.

In order to get courtesy, you have to show courtesy. I'm all for the encouragement of bike riding and perhaps even the new laws Rawlings proposes with a few tweaks. But I'm also for better enforcement of existing laws and greater vigilance by police to ensure that the law applies equally to all -- motorists, pedestrians and cyclists.

What Robberson doesn't understand is that the people who use bikes as a means of transportation today -- the people who are likely driving drivers crazy out there -- are still part of a hard, dedicated core. They're outliers. They're the pioneers who aren't afraid to brave a lack of cycling infrastructure -- and roads full of drivers unused to, and uninterested in, the their presence -- to get to work or wherever it is they're going. They've had to learn to be aggressive, because otherwise they'd get flattened.

The idea of the proposed ordinance and bike-friendly infrastructure is to acknowledge, after years of catering exclusively to cars, that a bike is a legitimate form of transportation whose use should be encouraged. The way to do that is to make it safe for everyone, not just a few people who are willing to risk their lives to get around. When things are safer, the courtesy will follow, and the conflicts that so irk Robberson will naturally happen with much less frequency, as they do in cities that have had bike lanes for decades.

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