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LAB and Equality

by Bill Hoffman, LCI #33

LAB gets a gold star for the article in the Nov.-Dec., 2007 issue of its magazine titled “Equality for Cyclists–Why We Need a Sixth E”.  The article was written by Dan Gutierrez and LAB Board Chair Amanda Eichstaedt.  Both of them are LCIs and members of LAB’s Education Committee.

Dan has impressive credentials for his advocacy and education work in California, especially his cycling video work.  Amanda has been an active LCI for quite a few years, dating to before she was elected to the LAB Board.

I cannot help but wonder if recurring pressure from LAB Reform had a lot to do with LAB’s new emphasis on equality for cyclists.

The basic tenet of the article is that if cyclists are not treated as equals to other road users, the other five Es–engineering, enforcement, education, encouragement, and evaluation–are incomplete at best and discriminatory at worst.  Several types of discriminatory laws are cited in a sidebar within the article.  These include laws mandating the use of sidepaths, shoulders, and bike lanes, and a law requiring cyclists to travel as far to the right as practicable (often confused to mean as far right as possible).  Such laws are discriminatory because they apply only to cyclists, not to all drivers.  There is rarely any scientific or engineering justification for these laws, which sometimes mandate dangerous practices.

There are other types of restrictions, such prohibiting cycling on limited-access highways and on certain bridges, tunnels, and major arterials.  Certain equipment is required on bikes that confers no safety benefit.  In addition, many communities have non-uniform local regulations that trump state laws–for example, a local ordinance requiring cyclists to ride on sidewalks, or a ban on cycling on certain streets or to walk across intersections.

This new recognition by LAB of the need for equality for cyclists in traffic laws is very good news indeed.  Of course, LAB Reform has been raising this issue for years.  Now LAB seems to be on the verge of adopting the principle of equality.  We hope they will apply it to all League programs.

Actually, equality has been an intrinsic, if unstated, part of LAB’s excellent position statements for many years, but it has often been ignored in practice.  As we have noted, the Bicycle Friendly Communities program is one such example:  it has given awards to cities that treat cyclists badly.

The Equality article is the best I have read in the magazine in many years.  I wrote a letter to the editor saying so and I’ve been told it will be published.  Amanda Eichstaedt, who was sent a copy of the letter, replied that it is her intention as Board Chair to see that equality is integrated within and across all League programs.  I eagerly look forward to this.  We will be watching to see that it happens.

While not wanting in any way to take back the credit I’ve given LAB for the article and (hopefully) subsequent follow-up actions, I cannot help but wonder if recurring pressure from LAB Reform had a lot to do with LAB’s new emphasis on equality for cyclists and with the “share the Road” campaign announced last year..

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