May is approaching, and May is National Bike Month-a time for remembering that other people on the road are human beings. Staying aware of this fact can help us get where we’re going with more patience and less stress. This is a philosophy San Franciscans could benefit from as San Francisco strives to become a more bike and pedestrian friendly city. Here at the Brod Law Firm, we have dealt with many bike accident cases, cases usually involving drivers who at fault. Often the reason they are at fault is because they don’t have proper training or awareness driving or parking along city streets full of cyclists. While our community is waking up the fact that we must learn to coexist, we still have a way to go. Not only are bicyclists being injured in unnecessary numbers, but pedestrians are also being injuring at an increasingly alarming rate. For example, just last week, a man was dragged under a bus just after he stepped off of it. Logically speaking, if we became a community which was more bike friendly, it seems that we would also become a pedestrian and transit friendly city by default. If only we could follow the lead of Northern Europe, where children in such places as the Netherlands, Denmark and Germany all receive extensive training in safe and effective cycling techniques as part of their regular school curriculum-most of whom complete such a course before the fifth grade. Motorist training is in those countries is also more extensive as well. Heavy fines and points are placed a driver’s record for driving or parking in bike lanes, cutting off cyclists or otherwise endangering or inconveniencing them.
Thankfully, though, we have the San Francisco Bike Coalition, San Francisco’s de facto bicycling advocacy group. They have been instrumental in making riding conditions better for San Francisco bikers, drawing attention to pedestrian and cyclist safety and promoting the upsurge in bike friendly culture. They strive to show all of us on how to share the road. Their most important message is that motorists need to be aware of cyclists on the roadway and avoid endangering them, and vice versa. Portland, however, is the greatest example of what a bike and pedestrian friendly city in the United States should look like. One of the things they offer their community is a class called the Share The Road Safety Class. The class is a result of a partnership that began in 2006 when Multnomah county Judge, Christopher Larson, reached out to safety groups, such as Portland Police Bureau Traffic Division, the legacy Emanuel Trauma Nurses, Portland’s Bureau of Transportation, and other bicycle and pedestrian advocacy groups. All these groups have worked together to develop a training that addresses traffic laws, as well as inattention and intolerance on the road. It also puts special focus on ensuring the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and children. Most who participate in the class are there because they have been charged with a traffic violation. If participants successfully complete the Share the Road course, they are eligible for dismissal or a sentence of discharge, a conviction entered with no fine. Partners of the program hope that individuals will leave the class and share what they have learned with others at work and at home. With programs such as these in place, it is no wonder that Portland has zero cyclist fatalities, even as bicycle use is booming.