Rant & Rave

Tuesday, May 26, 1998

It’s a two-way street
for cars and bicycles

By Aned Muñiz


THE bicycle is a machine of conservative design, one whose form and function have long remained relatively constant.

Since its introduction in France in the 1790s, the bicycle has existed as a locomotive machine powered by human energy. (Although originally human energy was applied in a curious manner: The first "bicycle" lacked pedals, so propulsion was achieved by pushing the feet against the ground in a manner reminiscent of Fred Flintstone!)

To the inhabitants of many countries around the world, the bicycle represents a principal means of transportation. Not only is such a vehicle less expensive to purchase and operate than a horse or automobile, but it is also an efficient means of carrying goods to market and transporting entire families. On any day of the week, packs of riders making their way effortlessly through crowded European or Asian cities may be observed.

Here in the United States, the bicycle is infused with a different sort of symbolism. Although for many it serves as a secondary means of transportation, for most, the bicycle is chiefly a recreational device.

We ride our bicycles as a basic form of low-impact aerobic exercise, to shred mountain trails or for competition. During our rides we are very much aware of the efficiency of our effort and we brim with a temporary disdain toward noisy, dirty motor vehicles.

The popularity of recreational cycling continues to soar at an astonishing rate. The Bicycle Manufacturers Association of America estimates that close to 70 million bicycles are currently in use.

The upshot of this popularity is a growing awareness of cycling and cyclists' rights in major metropolitan areas.This consciousness may be given personal expression as when a motorist extends a courtesy to a cyclist, or it may appear in a wider social manifestation as when tax dollars are apportioned to create and maintain a network of bicycle lanes.

UNFORTUNATELY, such consciousness has not yet seemed to reach the island of Oahu. In Honolulu, there is no cooperation between motorist and cyclist, and attention to the needs of cyclists is minimal.

The Oahu rider has far more with which to contend than a strong head wind. The list of obstacles is considerable:

bullet Slapdash bus drivers who sacrifice safety in the interest of keeping to a schedule;

bullet Indifferent motorists whose sole concerns are speed and destination;

bullet Pedestrians who fail to consider bicyclists when crossing the street;

bullet Lack of bike lanes in critical areas; and

bullet Ill-maintained bike lanes that disappear without warning, forcing cyclists onto sidewalks or into moving traffic.

Readers may add their personal experience to extend this list further. The main point is that harmony between cyclists and other users of Hawaii roadways has yet to be established.

So what can be done?

As with any paradigm shift, change will be slow. To begin the move toward making cycling as safe and enjoyable as it possibly can be on Oahu requires the active cooperation of both cyclist and motorist.

If riding on two nonmotorized wheels, wear a helmet, avoid riding on the sidewalk whenever possible and obey all traffic laws.

If driving four motorized wheels, be mindful of cyclists, particularly of the speed they are traveling. Also, avoid veering into bicycle lanes and exercise courtesy.

With effort, we can all safely share Oahu's roads.

Aned Muñiz is a graduate student in European languages
and literature at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Rant & Rave is a Tuesday Star-Bulletin feature
allowing those 12 to 22 to serve up fresh perspectives.
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