Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Great Highway Robbery


It is widely believed that government cannot solve problems, because most of the time government is the problem.  Often the government idea of a solution to one perceived problem is to create a new situation with problems of its own that aggravate the existing situation, and superimpose a bureaucracy to perpetuate the new status quo.   If they can't get us to do the politically correct thing by persuasion or force, then the next level is to make the efficient, but politically incorrect, inefficient by any means possible, and the politically correct, but inefficient superficially efficient, no matter what the cost.  
This isn’t about robbery upon the highway, this is about stealing our highways right out from under our tires.  A small, but politically correct, group is appropriating about twenty five per cent of our highway surface for their exclusive use.  They use politically correct irrelevant arguments and factual distortions to justify the theft.  Naturally, since their grab helps government restrict the rights of other citizens, they have the full support of government at every level.  On the other hand, more likely they are the unwitting tool, merely helping government do what it does, make life complicated, and inefficient.
Now I probably would not notice if their activities made things better, but that is not what is happening.  Entire lanes of busy roads are being set aside for the exclusive use of a small self declared elite who feel that their politically correct purpose supersedes the one for which the roads were built.  They get away with this by declaring that their way is the wave of the future.  They insist that their way will reduce traffic congestion, save energy, reduce pollution, save lives, and make the world safe for non-alcoholic beer.  Exactly how reducing the number of lanes available to traffic will accomplish any of these things takes a leap of logic that transcends even faith.  Faith, you will remember, is belief in something you know is not true.
Strangely, the beneficiaries of this “improvement” are notoriously the worst traffic violation offenders.  Traffic signals and stop signs are beneath them. Lane controls are irrelevant, as are all regulatory signs, markings and islands.  The distinction between street and sidewalk is merely an inconvenience because of curbs.  These Kamikazes can be seen running against the flow of traffic, or with it, above, or more often way below the speed limit, whatever suits them.  When below the speed limit, they prefer to travel three or four abreast so they can communicate with and be admired by one another.  The traffic jam behind them is irrelevant.  “No one has a right to go faster than us.”  They will get so close to your car that your mirrors can’t reveal them, and then sue you if they get hurt.  Even where they have commandeered highway lanes, they may use them or not, depending on what is more expedient.  Private property means nothing to them. A short cut is a short cut.
These charioteers will pay $400 for a part that weighs a gram less than the $10 one it replaces, yet prefer brakes that will not skid a wheel unless the road is lubricated.
When it gets dark, these erstwhile pilots really come into their own.  No sissy lights or reflectors for these guys.  ‘We don't got to show you no stinkin’ reflectors.”  If you can’t see black spandex in the dark, it’s your problem, and your insurance company’s, not theirs.    The latest lighting fad is a little red strobe light that, if it happens to be pointing right at you, is as blinding as a candle. More often, it’s safety pinned to a backpack, pointing at airplanes.  They have the same contempt for signaling that they have for lights. Where these guys are and what they are going to do next is none of your business, until after you’re sued.
Interestingly, these activists tend to be philosophically like the environmentalists who proclaimed 20 years ago we would all have to wear gas masks to go outside in 1995, and that we would run out of fossil fuels completely by 2,000.  Remember, “Better active today than radioactive tomorrow?”  I would suspect that they are the environmentalists of the seventies, except the way they operate, they would not have lasted that long.
If you think I'm exaggerating, go look for a place to park.  What used to be the shoulder or parking lane has become the “bike lane”, though one seldom sees a bike actually in it.  The bikes are everywhere else.  If they are in the bike lane, they will leave it impulsively and ride anywhere that’s expedient.
Anytime a municipality wants to prohibit parking without a good reason, they just call the location a “bike lane”.  The bike lane will mysteriously stop or start for no apparent reason, in mid-block or mid-intersection.  Other times bike lanes stop right at the edge of a busy intersection, or jump across lanes leading the rare conscientious rider into a trap, then abandoning him.  The few riders who do ride in the bike lane act as if there was a protective wall around them.   “You can’t hit me, nah nah, na nah nah, I’m in the bike lane”.   Come to think of it, they ride that way anywhere.  Totally oblivious to motor traffic they will weave across an on-ramp as though they were in a personal tunnel.  Let one of these self-righteous athletes crash into a car and guess who goes to a lawyer and a chiropractor, in that order.
Not that these enthusiasts are entirely to blame, the officials who consecrate “bike lanes” and the Federal Bozeaucrats that make them do it, encourage this form of Russian roulette.  Like a white line is going to keep the cars here and the bikes there.  Guess who loses no matter which one crosses the line, and whose insurance will go up.  Guess who earns a big fat contingency fee.  Hmmm, maybe it’s lawyers; excuse me, Consumer Attorneys, who are behind all this.
Let’s see how they will reduce traffic congestion, save energy, reduce pollution, save lives and make the world safe from low tar cigarettes.  Except for really short trips around the neighborhood a car is about 5 times as fast as a bike, so the bike will be in traffic 5 times as long, to make the same trip. (And exposed to five times as many accident opportunities.)   So even though they are not as wide, 100 bikes could take up as much length of road as 500 cars.  To eliminate this problem the Bozeaucrats demand that we create bike lanes.  If bikes stay in the bike lanes that are about half as wide as car lane and if the bike lane was being used to capacity, they argue, the bikes would take up hardly any space.  What’s wrong with this picture?  A lane can transmit up to 2,000 cars an hour.  Except for an organized event, have you ever seen 2,000 bikes pass a single point in one hour, one day, or even one week?  They want to take a lane that can convey 2,000 cars (about 3,000 commuters) an hour, and dedicate it to maybe 20-30 bike riders an hour. Of course if there were a bike lane, there would be more riders, maybe 100 per hour.  So there, take that, a bike lane could reduce car traffic up to 3%, while reducing the available road by 25% or so. 
Such a deal!
Safety?  According to the Department of Transportation statistics (guesses), bicycles accounted for 2% of highway fatalities last year, yet they have no idea how many miles are ridden.  Most agree bicycles are less than 1% of traffic.  I'll bet it isn’t even 1 tenth of a percent.  How many cars did you see on the highway today?  How many bicycles? How many bikes were going more than a mile?  The Feds admit that the average usage for all bicycles is less than 10 miles per month, and that 9% of bicyclists crash or fall each year.  That is one accident every 1200 miles!  Is this safe?  Can you imagine if someone got hurt in your car every month?  More contingency fees, higher insurance, maybe it’s a conspiracy.  Bicycle fatalities are kept in a separate database and can’t be correlated to other accidents.  Motorcycles, by the way, which are known to be 1% of vehicle registrations, represent 4% of fatalities
Fossil fuels and pollution:  Fifty billion bicycle miles instead of car miles, at 20 mpg would save two billion gallons of fuel.   They win that round.  Yeah, right.  If you consider what taking away 25% of the highway lanes does to congestion.  Remember a lane can handle up to 2,000 cars an hour. When the bikes take away a lane they force the same number of cars to use fewer lanes, so a road that could handle 8,000 cars an hour can only handle 6,000.  Where do the other 2,000 go, by bicycle?  Right again.  They’re sitting in traffic jams blocking the other 6,000 all with motors idling, burning fuel to stand still, and making more pollution.  Of those 2,000 drivers an hour we’re told should bike to work how many actually would, or could even if they wanted to?  What happens when it snows, or when the wind chill is 10 below?  Who is going to bike to work in Phoenix when its 120 degrees?  What about people who commute more than five miles, or have steep hills to climb?
O.K, bikes are easy to park.   And steal!

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