Portland, Portland, Portland. I apologize for using the bad P-word. But one has to admit that that city is light years ahead of most other major U.S. metro areas when it comes to all things bicycle. Organizations like Bicycle Transportation Alliance and Bike Portland have become legendary for their innovative programs to encourage active transportation. The city itself has become the quintessential leader among U.S. cities by creating a very impressive network of bicycle infrastructure and launching a plethora of encouragement programs.
But a program in Portland now seeks to address the necessity to share the roads with cyclists. By providing an educational option for traffic violators (cars, bikes, jaywalkers, rickshaws, etc.) to have their charges dismissed, a course provides crucial information to improve multi-modal harmony. Created in 2006 the Share the Road Safety Class is a collaboration between Multnomah County Courts, Portland Department of Transportation, Portland Police Bureau and Legacy Emanuel Trauma Nurses Talk Tough.
According to Stephanie Noll of the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, in a March/April Momentum article, by last year’s end the program had graduated more than 4500 students.
The course covers commonly misinterpreted traffic laws and focuses on the safety of cyclists, pedestrians and children. Students pay $30 and commit two hours of their lives to learning responsible driving, bicycling and pedestrian practices. It is a win-win.
In the fall of 2008, Columbia, MO began a program called Operation Share the Road. League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructors provided seminars to the Columbia Police Department in an effort to bring attention to misunderstood laws, cyclist harassment and unpunished offenses habitually committed by bicyclists.
Operation Share the Road didn’t stop with the education of CPD, however. PedNet Education Coordinator Robert Johnson, in cooperation with CPD and city officials, began drafting a bicycle harassment law that would allow for charges specific to aggressive behavior toward cyclists. According to Johnson in cases of cyclist harassment, “The only charges that could arise would be 3rd degree assault [which often] fits the description but the police and prosecutor would be VERY hesitant to place those charges on someone.”
CPD also committed to dolling out more traffic violations to law-breaking cyclists in order to place more emphasis on bicycle safety and to improve bike-car relations. “Both inexperienced and experienced cyclists running red lights or riding on downtown district sidewalks can make for a frustrating situation for motorists and law abiding cyclists alike,” Johnson said in a PedNet news release. “My hope is that this campaign will help educate cyclists and motorists that sharing the road is everyone’s responsibility.”
A Marin County, CA program focused instead on passing out literature at Share the Road Checkpoints during a May 2008 campaign. An effort spearheaded by the Marin County Bicycle Coalition provided educational materials to approximately 2200 motorists and 600 cyclists.
Denver has not yet adopted an exhaustive program to educate the public about safely sharing the road with cyclists and pedestrians. With the introduction of Bicycle Colorado’s Share the Road license plate, BikeDenver’s expanding SmartCycling program and the Denver Bike Initiative, a widespread Share the Road campaign could be on the horizon.