There's quite a back and forth going on the LTTE section of the Alexandria Times.
It started in August with a letter from someone who saw many cyclists running stop signs on Union Street and wrote a letter demanding an end to the cycling anarachy.
In response, bike advocate Jonathan Krall, wrote to criticize the promotion of "an offensive stereotype."
The idea that cyclists are somehow less law-abiding than others on our roads is a stereotype that has no basis in fact. Studies show that people who ride actually react to the “danger” of cycling (another myth) by being more cautious rather than reckless. For example, a years-long study of alcohol-related crashes showed that non-cyclists were twice as likely to be drunk as cyclists in car-bicycle or cyclist-pedestrian collisions.
Sadly, this stereotype is so pervasive that even many cyclists believe it. Nevertheless, when it is repeated by the media or by our elected leaders, this shameful stereotyping reflects badly on us all.
Another writer the same week asked why Alexandria was spending money on bike facilities when the city has been "in a tight fiscal environment for the last six years." She advocates spending time figuring out how to lower property taxes and also wishes the city would spend more on fire equipment and public employee salaries. She also has noticed that cyclists run stop signs and stop lights. I think the fiscal answer to her question is that spending money on new bike facilities - especially where they replace extra-wide roads or curb-side parking - increases mobility and capacity on area roads at a rather low cost, while also improving health and the environment. All the alternatives of achieving these goals are likely more expensive, as is the cost of doing nothing.
The next week a pair of letters also criticized cyclists. One person took a hard-line "follow the law" approach and called for heightened enforcement of all road users - but mostly cyclists, and for cyclists to be issued points on their license so that they can no longer drive, which would result in more cycling. I think that 100% enforcement of the law (tickets for 1mph over the limit, 3-foot passing violations, etc...) for all users would likely be a net win for cyclists, so I'm not going to stand in the way of complete and equitable enforcement. But really, that's not what this is about.
The final letter compares Alexandria's proposal to create bike lanes on Cameron and Prince Streets to the Nazi party's use of the Riechstag fire to create Nazi Germany (no, I'm not kidding). The claim is that the stated need for the bike lanes is to get cyclists off the sidewalks, a problem Alexandria created by legalizing sidewalk cycling. The analogy fails in many ways (the Nazis didn't start the fire, for example), but the main criticism is that the city's decision to build bike lanes on these streets does not represent a power grab. It has always had that power. The writer asks
Why would they legalize riding bicycles on the sidewalk unless City Hall considered it safe and desirable?
In part because VDOT may have required it, but also to serve young and less confident cyclists. Sidewalk cycling can be safe - though not at the same speed as riding in the road - , and while more desirable than driving, is not as desirable as biking in the road. So the other reason for the change in law was to support young and less confident cyclists.
And why would City Hall use discouraging cyclists from using sidewalks as a justification for more bicycle lanes so soon after they allowed said cyclists on sidewalks?
I don't think the goal is to discourage sidewalk cycling, it's to encourage cycling in the roadway. And surely that is only part of the justification of the law. It is not unusual for places to allow sidewalk cycling while also trying to encourage people not to do it. In fact we allow all kinds of activities (smoking, drinking, watching Dance Moms, etc...) that we might simultaneously want to discourage people from doing.
Update: And there's more.
Following this article about how WABA and the BPAC have been doing outreach to encourage better behavior among cyclists, and this letter about how we're all scofflaws, there was another flurry of letters. One argued that he saw more bad behavior from cyclists on Union Street than from drivers.
Our old friend, Capital Bikeshare slayer and bike registration fan Kathryn Papp, wrote a letter that called into question the validity of the count data the city is relying on, because by publishing the time and place of counts through requests for volunteers, they are encouraging cyclists to inflate the county by riding in those places at those times. I'm not sure cyclists are that interested in inflating the counts.
Another writer makes the argument that applying to cyclists laws written for drivers may not always make sense.
And Krall again writes in, this time to support the public process and criticize those who try to subvert it by spreading false rumors.