Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation President Paul Wojciechowski is an avid cyclist who strongly believes in building our streets and our communities for people, including those who bicycle and walk. Paul heads the St. Louis office of Alta Planning and Design and has over 28 years experience as a transportation planner and engineer, including as a Planning Manager for MoDOT and Director of Public Works in Clayton.
Here is Paul’s President’s Message for February 2014:
In most conversations I have with those who do not ride bicycles on a regular basis (as well as those who ride occasionally on trails), or are design professionals, planners or elected officials, the subject comes up about bicyclists who are not courteous to other roadway users or that they blow through stop signs and traffic signals. It is pretty tough to argue with their points on this, even though there are even more motorists who are rude and do not accept that bicyclist have a right to the roadway. The fact is that I do stop for stop signs, wait for a green at traffic signals, respect other users on the road, and operate my bicycle to maximize safety for everyone, especially myself. In 20 years of riding on the road, I have not been involved with any incidents with motorists. I attribute that to gaining respect from motorists with my riding, and not taking the attitude that I am entitled to actions other vehicle operators are not.
Not everyone riding a bicycle has gone through the educational training that I have gone through as a bicycle user on the road and transportation professional. Yes, I have training as an engineer and planner, but I had to take the initiative to take training on how to ride on the road effectively. I liked this so much and found it so fulfilling that I became a League of American Bicyclists Certified instructor. I am sure many of you who are reading this have taken a similar path for riding a bicycle on the road. The fact is that whether you take a Traffic Safety 101 Class, Bike Smart Class, or other class, it is the education that matters.
I am very surprised that it is so difficult to get bicycling classes filled, when offered, no matter what the cost. For example, I worked with the City of Wildwood and Great Rivers Greenway to provide a bicycling class for $10. The written part was on-line that could be taken at your own pace, then a five-hour on-road skills class to complete the training. We got only one person to sign up! We cannot make people take classes, but the more public agencies, law enforcement and others encourage training, the better chance we will have at addressing this in Missouri. In the case of municipalities, if you get a ticket as a cyclists or motorist because a car/bike incident, training can be a part of the fine, or in lieu of a fine. This is sometimes called ticket diversion.
It is imperative that cyclists of all ages and abilities get some type of training on bicycle safety and effective cycling from elementary school children to adults. This does not mean you have to become an expert, or will feel comfortable with taking the lane in traffic, but it is critical that all bicyclists should know the basics of operating a bicycle on trails and in traffic, after all a bicycle is a vehicle. We in Missouri communities must get serious with educating bicyclists of all ages, as well as motorists, so we all can carry out what is shown on our Missouri Bicycle and Pedestrian Federation license plates Same Roads, Same Rights. There are many funding programs and methods to get serious about bicycling education at all levels. All roadway users can benefit from federal, state, and local programs for bicycle skills training or bike/motor vehicle safety, encouragement of transportation alternative use, and education of our law enforcement professionals on enforcing traffic laws appropriately to all roadway users. This needs to become a priority for all of us.
The time is coming and is here that the roadways are not sustainable with just fuel taxes. It is critical to look to other ways of paying for the ultimate system we want that included a complete transportation networks for cars, bicycles, pedestrians and transit. We all pay taxes and most bicyclists and pedestrians pay to operate cars, as well as sales taxes, income and property taxes; so we are in this together for the transportation system we have. Educating ourselves on the overall operation of our network, no matter which mode we use the most, will help us all understand the variety of roadway users better, and will help all of us gain the respect we are entitled to, based on our actions.
Take a stand on operating your bicycle as a vehicle, get the training, and get the respect everyone deserves as a roadway user.
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This article is also available at MOBikeFed.org