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When Cyclists Hurt Cycling

In this commentary, it is noted that when the Sacramento transportation 1/2-cent sales tax measure was up for renewal in 2004, it was decided <em>not to include cycling improvements</em> after a poll showed it would detract from the measure's passing
November 18, 2008, 8am PST | Irvin Dawid
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Sacramento Bee columnist Daniel Weintraub initiates an on-line conversation on cyclist/motorist relation. This column introduces the topic.

"Brian Williams is a Sacramentan who sees the conflict (between cars and bikes) from both sides. He commutes to work on his bike two or three days a week from Carmichael to downtown Sacramento. But once he stores his bike and helmet, Williams runs the Sacramento Transportation Authority, which was created to coordinate the distribution of road-building funds raised by Measure A, the county's half-cent sales tax for transportation.

"From a public policy standpoint," Williams told me, "the cycling community is its own worst enemy.

Williams sees what he calls "extremely aggressive behavior" most often on the American River bike trail, but he says cyclists who run stop signs and stop lights or ride two or three abreast on the roads also hurt the image of bicycling with the motoring and taxpaying public.

When the county was preparing to ask the voters in 2004 to renew the local transportation sales tax, the campaign's leaders considered earmarking some of the money for bicycle lanes and paths. But public opinion polling showed that if that was done, the measure would have lost votes.

"We talked to people about cyclists and they had a generally negative opinion," Williams said. "They would say, 'I hate those cyclists because they don't stop at stop signs, or they ride in the middle of the road.' "

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