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Road Rights- Back to the Future



New York City traffic, circa 1890. (Associated Press)

It’s a great time to be a bike advocate—so go ahead and party like it’s 1899.

By Bob Mionske


Fifty years ago, there was no national bicycling advocacy organization. This hadn’t always been the case. Our nation’s first paved roads were developed expressly for cyclists—through the lobbying efforts of the League of American Wheelmen, which had 102,000 members in 1898. But new technology—the automobile—ended cyclists’ dominance, and the League disbanded in 1902. (It was eventually revived, and is now known as the League of American Bicyclists.)

During the 1950s and ’60s, car culture flourished, as did suburban living. Transportation planners designed streets to accommodate these trends, and by 1970, few people believed the roads were for anything but cars. Then, something unexpected happened: College-age baby boomers rediscovered the bicycle. Americans were riding bikes again.

Today, advocacy groups exist in every state, and many cities employ bicycle coordinators whose duties include developing cycling infrastructure. The bipartisan Congressional Bike Caucus has more than 160 members in 43 states. And riders now have a variety of tools at their disposal—including social media, GPS devices, and camera-equipped cell phones—that will no doubt play an increasingly pivotal role in the fight for cyclists’ rights. Here’s how they’ve already made bike advocacy more effective—and how you can get involved:

Everyone Is More Accountable
In 2008, authorities dropped charges of resisting arrest against a New York City cyclist after YouTube footage revealed that an officer had shoved him off his bike. Also in New York, the group Transportation Alternatives created an online tracker that shows when cyclists get ticketed.

Streets Are Safer
Some cities host websites where riders can report hazards, thefts, and aggressive drivers.

It’s Easier Than Ever To Mobilize
Find an advocacy group at peoplepoweredmovement.org. Sign up online for Clif Bar’s 2-Mile Challenge to raise funds for cycling nonprofits with every mile you pedal.

Cyclists have made great strides since the 1960s, but we still have work to do. Studies show that bike-friendly streets get more people riding and improve safety for everyone. It’s up to us to make it happen.

Research and assistance by Rick Bernardi, J.D.

 

This article, Back to the Future, was originally published on Bicycling on October 10, 2011.

Now read the fine print:
Bicycle and the Law, Bob MionskeBob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the road race), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championship road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske's practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).
Mionske is also the author of Bicycling and the Law, designed to be the primary resource for cyclists to consult when faced with a legal question. It provides readers with the knowledge to avoid many legal problems in the first place, and informs them of their rights, their responsibilities, and what steps they can take if they do encounter a legal problem.
 
If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to mionskelaw@hotmail.com Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at www.bicyclelaw.com.
Important notice:
The information provided in the "Road Rights" column is not legal advice. The information provided on this public web site is provided solely for the general interest of the visitors to this web site. The information contained in the column applies to general principles of American jurisprudence and may not reflect current legal developments or statutory changes in the various jurisdictions and therefore should not be relied upon or interpreted as legal advice. Understand that reading the information contained in this column does not mean you have established an attorney-client relationship with attorney Bob Mionske. Readers of this column should not act upon any information contained in the web site without first seeking the advice of legal counsel.

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