Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. We know this from Newton’s third law of motion. And this principle applies not only to individual bicycles in a literal sense, but to the greater bicycle movement in a figurative sense.
For example, the City of Pittsburgh recently hired a bicycle/pedestrian coordinator. Stephen Patchan is an intelligent, approachable guy, and an Urban Velo subscriber to boot. Stephen’s job is to improve the city’s cycling infrastructure—a welcome course of action for sure—but as Newton would have predicted, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. Along with the city’s physical improvements and education initiatives come enforcement initiatives. If things go as planned, cyclists like myself who are used to blowing through stop signs and running red lights are going to have to start watching out for Johnny Law. Bike messengers are likely going to have to stop riding in the bus lanes, and according to my friend Jessie, the city’s bike cops are issuing tickets for riding brakeless track bikes on the streets.
Another example is the bike rack recently installed outside of my day job. For years, employees who biked to work could stash their bikes indoors at the base of the main stairwell. With the sharp increase in gas prices this year, the number of bicycle commuters more than doubled. With so many teachers riding bikes, quite a few students were inspired to start riding their bikes to school, too. Before anyone realized it, the bicycles were creating a fire hazard. So now we have to lock our bikes up outside, exposed to the elements and beyond the watchful eye of Mr. Bennie, our trusted security guard.
But I’m willing to take the good with the bad. I’m not saying I agree with the cops that gave Jessie a ticket (after all, she was willing and able to stop when they asked her to) but I would rather see more bike lanes and pedestrian bridges than apathetic police officers. And as much as I miss the rock star bike parking at work, the new rack helps promote cycling as a legitimate form of transportation. In the end it all adds up to more bicycles on the streets.