We need to reshape our views on bicycling
AS AN avid recreational cyclist on Oahu, I understand the danger posed to cyclists on our island. In fact, the only stretch of road I feel safe cycling on is between Kapiolani Park and Maunalua Bay in Hawaii Kai because of the painted shoulder, which clearly designates cyclists as belonging on the roadway. I have known incidents of cyclists getting hurt and even killed while sharing the road with motorists. Simply put, a healthy medium does not exist between cyclists and motorists.
While some residents believe their tax dollars are "going to waste" to build bike paths and bike lanes for a few people, I believe the real answer is rooted in the dichotomy that currently exists between cyclists and motorists. I do not think that motorists are the sole problem for the rift that has arisen. Cyclists need to stop breaking traffic laws and trying to push motorists. But I also believe that one of the main reasons people have a negative image of cyclists is because much of cycling policy has been viewed as a war to force people from using their cars.
While attending college in Portland, Ore., which has a large cycling population, I saw the negative implications that advocates of Critical Mass, a popular group bicycle ride, had on the local population. Instead of getting government officials to spend more money on bike lanes and bike paths, cycling advocates caused resentment among citizens who see cycling facilities empty and cyclists breaking traffic laws.
While I would like to see more cyclists on my weekend rides, I do not believe it will happen on Oahu if the dichotomy grows. Instead of trying to promote cycling policy as a fight against motorists, we all need to change the way we view cycling. If cycling is viewed as a fun, affordable and healthy way to travel on existing roads, I believe more people will start to bike.
MOREOVER, there is no us vs. them. Most cyclists are motorists, too. I know many people who have bikes sitting in the back of their garage that they have forgotten or who would like to bike but are reluctant because of the danger. These people will come out if there are safe bike routes in Hawaii.
Our legislators should implement a mandate that tells motorists that cyclists are legal users of the roadways, rather than an inferior method of transportation. Motorists need to realize that they might have to drive more slowly or endure a delay because of cyclists. While I understand that not everyone will give up their Toyota or Ford and hop on a Trek or Bianchi and commute by bike, I believe the benefits of cycling outweigh the social and financial burdens of primarily commuting by bike. I know I will not drive my car to the dump, but I would certainly commute more often to work from Pearl City to Honolulu if there were a safe way to travel by bike.
Jonathan Ching lives in Pearl City.