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Part 1: Mark Baumer Reflection: Impounding Vehicles & Immigrant Rights

This is part of a multi-part reflection I've been doing following the death of my friend, Mark Baumer . There's nothing graphic i...


I've been thinking lately about the hysteria over Kennedy Plaza's so-called "war zone" of panhandling, when a woman was crushed to death by a Peter Pan bus in KP. This is the second bus-related death in as many years, while to my knowledge, I've never read of anyone dying in Kennedy Plaza from panhandling. The major crimes you hear about are drug dealing and loitering.

@carfreepvd beat me to it.
And then today I was biking on Hope Street. I usually try to avoid Hope Street, actually, but I was in a hurry. Of course, as is to be expected on an arterial street with sharrows, I encountered aggressive driving.

I wrote an extended piece talking about a woman passing me angrily on Hope Street today, explaining all the minutia of the street design, what her actions where, where things occurred. And then I thought:

Nope, not going to do that.

Because here's the thing. It's very simple. Hope Street needs to lose a lane of parking, and there need to be protected bike lanes.

I could go on and on about the experience of biking on Hope Street, how uncomfortable it is. But who exactly am I writing this for? I haven't seen any evidence at all that me writing this stuff leads positively to bike infrastructure being put in.

Every time someone does something aggressive on a street that isn't designed the way it should be-- something preventable, because it can only be changed by a street that is designed differently-- it feels like someone has cocked a gun at my head, pulled the trigger, and CLICK. The gun is jammed! Whew! Saved!

I even know that the gun is likely to be jammed. I know that we have a low rate of actual deaths on the road (Rhode Island's got a great-- great by U.S. standards-- record). I know as an advocate that the actual battle is about subjective safety as much as it is about objective safety. People need to feel safe, and they'll bike. And that will lead to better results.

But knowing that doesn't help.

This is not what you see posted as an example of the evils of traffic engineering, because Hope Street isn't that bad by U.S. standards. But the choice to retain parking on both sides of the street instead of using one of the lanes to create protected bike lanes means it's a miserable place to bike.
This is how far the lady who passed me made it. You can feel the tension build up. She didn't do anything that was technically illegal. She probably followed the three-foot-pass law, for all I know. But passing someone on an urban street where there isn't separated space for bikes is aggressive. Period.
A street like this encourages aggressive people to try to pass you, because it says "hey, this is a place for through traffic" and at the same time (whispering) says "try riding your bike here." It makes no attempt to fix the incongruity between these two messages, and so people are forced into aggression. Everyday.


Now is the winter of our discontent. For want of a few parking spots, I lost my protected bike lane. For want of a protected bike lane, I rode in the street. For riding in the street, a lady got mad. One day she will graze me with her car, and the next vehicle behind her will run me over.

A parked car! A parked car! My neighborhood for a parked car!

He got buried under a parking lot, you know.


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