This Newton TAB op-ed on contains a few factual and analytic errors, but offers an opportunity to make a point I've been meaning to make.
The op-ed is by Jason Clevenger, a director of a local masters-level bicycle racing team, 545 Velo. Mr. Clevenger joins the chorus of those frustrated with cyclist scofflaws. It's gotten to the point, Mr. Clevenger seems to suggest, that bicyclist need to be ticketed:
As a complicating factor, it seems as if the police in our communities are not willing to ticket bicycles, so this wanton disregard for safety goes unpunished and unofficially endorsed.
This suggestion has made me bristle in the past. But, you know what, there are laws on the books that govern bicycle riding on public thoroughfares. If this community thinks that it's time for a crackdown on bicyclists, then crackdown the police should.
But, those calling for writing up bike-riding law breakers ought not just make the case that bike riders should be ticketed, but that spending the time and effort to ticket a) will make a difference and b) is a high-priority use of limited police resources. There is little dispute that only high-intensity, sustained enforcement changes driver behavior. Why would it be any different with bicyclists?
In order for the police to start ticketing bicyclists, they would need to re-allocate resources from other activities. (Anybody think that the police don't have enough to do already?) And, despite Mr. Clevenger's assertions, there is no evidence that bicyclists pose a particular harm to others*.
As for me, I think we'd be better served if the police focus on the unending stream of motor vehicle violations, which pose a larger threat (by virtue of vehicle size and speed) to our safety and the comfort of our neighborhoods.
*Bicyclist/pedestrian conflicts don't make up a very large number of deaths or injuries, but cyclists who ride in a way that make pedestrians uneasy or anxious should be treated strictly. Taking a cue from the rules of the sea, all operators should be take special care to make the smaller and slower both feel safe and actually be safe. But, the best solution is probably to provide separate facilities for bikes so that they aren't the same opportunities for conflict.