Such language!

The following are my comments on a post on P. M. Summer’s CycleDallas blog. I’d have liked to post my comments there, but they are longer than allowed by the software on Summer’s site.

Quoting Robin Stallings, Executive Director of the Texas Bicycle Coalition:

We have tried to answer your inquiry from a ‘legal’ point of view below.

Leslie Puckett, our legal fellow, prepared the answer with some input from Mark Stine and I. This should not be construed as legal advice. Consult an attorney for that.

The word “legal” in quotes — the nominative “I” as the object of a preposition — trivialities? Maybe, but on the other hand, grammatical errors can drastically alter the meaning of laws. Indeed, consult an attorney, but Stallings and his advisors didn’t!

The short answer of BikeTexas’ interpretation of the current law is that:

“If the bicycle lane is considered part of the roadway, then, TTC 551.103, which requires a cyclist to ride as far to the right on the roadway as possible, would seem to require a cyclist to ride in the bike lane (or paved shoulder) except when it is obstructed or when turning left, since the bike lane is usually on the right side of the roadway. The law is appropriately ambiguous and leaves discretion to individual cyclists to determine for themselves if the bike lane is obstructed and is usable.”

Stallings appears to be unaware that the bike lane, but not the shoulder, is part of the roadway. Also, Texas law requires a cyclist to ride as far right as practicable, not “possible”, and with additional exceptions he doesn’t mention. These are important distinctions in the light of the Reed Bates arrests in Texas. Stallings knows of these arrests.

I leave out the list of studies that Stallings cites — Summer has addressed that.

There are no examples of cities that we are aware of, in Texas or the nation, where the mainstream bicycle advocates regret the installation of, or are calling for removal of bike lane networks.

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to give an example…Stallings also changes the subject, “where is it legal to ride?” to “mainstream, knowledgeable (!) people like us support bike lanes everywhere and if you don’t, you’re a weirdo.”

However, protected bike lanes, also known as “cycle tracks”, are replacing bike lanes in many cities.

Stallings floats a topic that has nothing to with the original question — he gets to sound more authoritative to an uninformed audience, and to use the word “protected”. This originally applied in traffic engineering to, for example, a left-turn signal phase where the opposite-direction traffic has a red light, but now, instead, it is applied to a bikeway behind parked cars, with the attendant poor safety record due to crossing and turning conflicts and sight-line obstructions. It is a path — but calling it a bike lane lends it the aura of the familiar. The uninformed, or misinformed, will assume that it offers real protection. They are also introduced to a new buzzword, “cycle track,” which may have been unknown to them.

Sharrows are in use in many cities where there is not enough right way to accommodate bike lanes.

Shared lane markings, not the obsolete “sharrows” — are indeed used, but to refer to them and bike lanes as the only alternatives narrows the discussion, now doesn’t it?

Let me know if you have any more questions.

OK, then, why, Mr. Stallings, are you resorting to classic techniques of manipulative use of language? On that topic, allow me to recommend Prof. S. I. Hayakawa’s classic book Language in Thought and Action and to quote Robert Jay Lifton:

“The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.”

4 Responses to Such language!

  1. What is the preferred style of shared lane markings as distinguished from sharrows?

  2. Would especially encourage people to read the Wiki link on thought-terminating cliches. And sorry that JSA is no longer on the League Board.

  3. Stalling’s comments are deeply disappointing. He’s doing semantic handstands to support restrictions on bicyclists’ rights, which result in trashing cyclists’ safety.
    Robin, come back into the light! Stand up for real rights and real safety!

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