Roy Exum: The Truth About Bike Lanes

Sunday, October 16, 2016 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum
A poll on Chattanoogan.com shows that over 85 percent of those who responded are against bicycle lanes on MLK Blvd. and Bailey Avenue. My email is much stronger; I’ve gotten an overwhelming majority of harsh and even hateful opinions about bicycles. But I worry there is a darker cloud looming and we need to set the matter straight. For instance, you may have seen an angry opinion that proposes we put a road tax on cyclists and, no, we must never do that. Those who ride and encourage bicycling are not the bad guys in this folly at all.

What is concerning is my notion that some good people with bikes are being used as pawns. Not one cyclist among the wonderful ones I know wants to cause trouble, hamper another human or eventually become pariahs. Yet increasingly, the majority of the public’s ire seems to be pointed at the cyclists instead of the city’s traffic department or, what is growing more obvious by the day, the feeling our leadership at City Hall is becoming more and more tarnished.

City Councilman Larry Grohn, now running for mayor, has said he believes the city’s entire Department of Transportation needs to be totally revamped. He listens to people and agrees with most motorists and cyclists alike that our traffic efforts are woeful, both in planning and in maintaining our neglected streets. By every account almost all of our city and county streets need some type of repairs or improvements. See for yourself.

All of us, pro or con, should focus on what we are recognizing as the real truth behind why the bike -lanes have been forced upon our community. Case in point: I am now told many of our best and most experienced cyclists are just as opposed to bike lanes as the motorists are? One of the top competitors in the Chattanooga area for a number of years shared it in an email this week. Here is part of what his message said:

* * *

“Please, please, be aware that no (serious) bicyclist asked for or wanted East MLK Blvd to be changed for our pleasure. I am an avid cyclist, wearing the well-suited cycling attire (!), and me and my riding buddies never use East MLK Blvd. Why would we? If we must ride in that direction (or from) we would use Oak or Vine Streets or 10th Street as to strictly avoid the crowded and very dangerous East MLK Blvd.

“It is the higher-office-seeking politician and his City Hall hipsters who wanted the bicycle lanes including the Broad Street and North Market Street fiascos. This so they can put it on a resume and tout their work. ‘Look at what I did.’ It’s trendy and the federal government is doling out the cash to make it happen.

“It is my fear that the misinformed reader will think cyclists are taking over our lanes of travel. It’s just not so. If you happen to see a human on a bike on East MLK Blvd. it is more than likely a student or a (inexperienced) commuter. It is bicycle foolishness. And they too should be on the less traveled back streets.”

* * *

In essence, it is generally believed that our beleaguered Mayor Andy Berke and his disillusioned “hipsters” are using the cyclists to advance their agenda when, in fact, they are casting many fine people who enjoy cycling as the villains in the public’s eye. With federal grants apparently readily available, any California-type politician can readily create a smokescreen to hide the fact our streets are in the worst shape in years.

Bicyclists have seen an alarming uptick of disdain and the very real fear is that soon somebody will be injured in what is hardly an accident. We’ve already had several serious bicycle mishaps this year and rarely does the cyclist win in a duel with a car. As another bicycle devotee wrote, “I would never dare ride down Broad Street. The (auto/truck) traffic is too dangerous already.”

While I am very much against bike lanes and anything else that impedes traffic flow – because it clearly isn’t working! -- I am very much an advocate of walking, running and cycling. Our city is the perfect place for any type of outdoor recreation. I admit I worry that not enough drivers use extra caution around cyclists.

The law requires a vehicle to yield three feet behind, beside, or in front of a bicycle. That aside, I believe you owe a common courtesy to your fellow man, woman or child who is walking, running or cycling. It is simple decency, even if it requires the driver to wait for the chance to give the bike a wide berth due to oncoming traffic.

Cyclists have as much right to the road as I do but the one on the bicycle bears the added responsibility of not putting one’s self in a threatening situation. A bicycle on the now-crowded McCallie Avenue, especially with its on-the-street parking adjacent to UTC’s campus, is clearly asking for trouble.

Some traffic expert decided on-street parking on McCallie Avenue would – what? – make the UTC experience cozier? When the wizards funneled one of three main thoroughfares between Brainerd and downtown it was as senseless as a single lane of traffic in each direction. And now they want to do it to Bailey/MLK? Why not share the wide yet rarely used sidewalks?

When UTC built the new dorms south of McCallie Avenue, students began to dart across the street anywhere they want. Yes, I did it as a kid and often still jay-walk as a senior citizen; my point is this -- between trucks that are now too wide for the lanes, students wearing ear buds, and cars vying for the on-street spaces, not nearly enough of us drivers are avoiding the UTC congestion.

With the new dorms now south of MLK, it is past time for overhead walking bridges like they have found so wonderful at UT-Knoxville. What is equally obvious is that by already avoiding McCallie Avenue, it cuts down a driver’s options, forcing the traffic – in this case – to Third Street, MLK/Bailey, or over-crowded I-24.

I ain’t as excited about “our vision for the future” as I am about “the precious present.” Oh, I have “planted a tree to shade those in the next century” but I’m told we are on the very brink of 2,599 more apartments, 268 condos, 748 hotel rooms and a half-million square feet of office space in our central city. I mean, this is happening right now.

So let’s be real candid: Do you think the people who will fill these apartments and condos will drive cars or ride bicycles? I can almost guarantee the 748 hotel rooms will each require a car. And, what’s more, that every soul who responded to the Chattanoogan.com poll has a car.

Thank goodness I’m not a traffic planner. If I was, about 15 percent of those answering the MLK/Bailey poll would have to encrypt their emails.

royexum@aol.com

 

 

  

 


Enough With The Politics, Let's Fix This Thing

Special Session Of Legislature Needed To Deal With Biden Vaccination Order - And Response (4)

Teaching Is More Than A Job


We can play these political word games all we want. The fact remains - people continue to get sick and die from the COVID virus - and we know exactly what we need to do and how to do it. We can ... (click for more)

A special session of the Tennessee General Assembly needs to be called. Joe Biden drew a line in the sand and has challenged us to cross it. Tennessee’s leaders and elected officials have a choice ... (click for more)

I have heard that a few leaders in state government believe, “all teachers are liberal.” I interact with educators across the state daily, and their political ideology---just like most Tennesseans--- ... (click for more)



Opinion

Enough With The Politics, Let's Fix This Thing

We can play these political word games all we want. The fact remains - people continue to get sick and die from the COVID virus - and we know exactly what we need to do and how to do it. We can continue to listen to the political posturing we hear every day or we can stop our whining and fix it. This is America - we are Americans. We should be lining up to do our part. We love ... (click for more)

Special Session Of Legislature Needed To Deal With Biden Vaccination Order - And Response (4)

A special session of the Tennessee General Assembly needs to be called. Joe Biden drew a line in the sand and has challenged us to cross it. Tennessee’s leaders and elected officials have a choice to make. We are either on Joe Biden’s side or on the side of Tennesseans. We must address Biden’s executive order, vaccine and mask mandates, parental rights, excessive quarantining, stronger ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Higher Number Of People Under 50 Dying From COVID-19 In Hamilton County

The Hamilton County Health Department reports an increase in the number of COVID-19 deaths below the age of 50, over the past three months. During the most recent winter surge, four percent of deaths were age 50 or younger. Since the beginning of July, 22 percent of deaths have been below the age of 50. “We extend our sympathy to all of our community members who have lost ... (click for more)

Hamilton County Records 5 More COVID Deaths, 245 More Cases; Tennessee Has 65 More Deaths

The Hamilton County Health Department reported five more deaths from the coronavirus and 245 new positive cases on Thursday. The case number is down from 274 on Wednesday. The total cases in the county now stands at 59,555. The death total is at 594 in the county. The new deaths are reported to be three men and two woman; three white and two black; two age 41-50, one age 51-60, ... (click for more)

Sports

Chattanooga FC: Potential Is The Key Word For Bahena, Hurtado And Rodriguez

Ricardo Bahena could be seen on the wing at the end of Chattanooga FC’s Thursday practice, working on driving toward his defender before whipping crosses into the box. Next to the 19-year-old was coach Peter Fuller, who gave the teenager specialized instructions as clouds loomed overhead. “You have to do what I was doing today, which is spending time working with and coaching ... (click for more)

Dan Fleser: Vols Trying To Process Lessons Learned From Pittsburgh Loss

Operating on the premise there’s much to be gained from a loss, Josh Heupel was especially observant this week. Tennessee’s first-year head football coaching watched every move his players made following last Saturday’s loss to Pittsburgh. Everything from their attentiveness in meetings to their competitiveness on the practice field was scrutinized. Did they process the result ... (click for more)