The biggest factor contributing to Seattle's horrendous traffic congestion is obvious to anyone who stands for just a few minutes at a downtown street corner, a suburban intersection, or anywhere within 10 blocks of the UW, SU, SPU, UPS, WCTU, ACLU, SPL – pretty much anywhere in town, actually, except the streets immediately adjacent to the Rainier Club. There are too many bicycles. They're like anthrax invading the bloodstream, forcing the Ford and Toyota white corpuscles to cling to artery walls, desperately in need of a bypass. I don't actually know if anthrax invades the bloodstream like that, but you get my four-wheel drift. Something nasty invades the bloodstream and clogs things up, just like nasty bicyclists invade the streets we gas buyers have paid for with our taxes, making it impossible for us to get anywhere on time, which has a negative effect on the economy and results in lost jobs, etc. Compounding the problem is an unfortunate attitude flip-flop that has developed among bicyclists. In the good old days, a bicyclist knew that if he or she dared get on a road otherwise occupied by cars, he or she was at God's mercy, putting his or her life in His or Her hands. Hit one of these transgressing pedalers and that's the breaks, bicycle boy – government's on my side, as long as I didn't have to jump the curb to get you. And even then, I'm OK if I catch a judge who drives a Buick. This hierarchical tradition still exists in Seattle re pedestrians. Although the shank's mare crowd is bolder now and rapid jaywalking has become endemic (except in the streets immediately adjacent to the Rainier Club), we motorists can still amuse ourselves by seeing how close to walkers' heels we can come, without much fear of constabulary attention. (It's the sole interest we share with bicyclists, actually.) But the two-wheelists no longer consider themselves such fair game. Ironically, as they have become more numerous they have acted more like endangered species, to be coddled at the expense of others. You'd think every Spandex-wearing, stallion-thighed, goateed git on a bike was a sperm whale being chased by the Japanese. And here's an even more frightening development. Last week, I observed a bicyclist running a stop sign in Wallingford. Nothing outré about that, it happens a hundred times a day just at that particular bottom-of-a-hill sign. But this bicyclist was talking on her cell phone as she did it, barley glancing over to sneer at us drivers with the right-of-way. When motor vehicle cell-phone use is having such a disastrous effect on America that governments pedal. Can two-wheel text messaging be far behind? Can chaos be far behind that? And with the way federal, state, and local governments kowtow to the bikers, innocently smacking your car into a bicyclist with a cell phone will soon lead not only to a felony conviction, but a fine from the Federal Communications Commission. Writing recently on Crosscut, a Mr. K. "S" Berger suggested that the problem here is not just you-know-who. "The real transportation problem," wrote Mr. Berger, "is the culture of transportation." (Emphasis his.) He contended that part of this cultural problem is that drivers hate bikers. Well, I'm a driver, and I don't hate the arrogant bastards (emphasis mine), even if there's ample evidence that they hate me. I just want a level asphalt playing field. Bicyclists, for instance, seem to be invisible to the Seattle Police Department. What other assumption can you make when dozens of times a day a biker will break a traffic law as a cop watches, and watches, and watches, until the officer finally wanders off to check the parking meters around the hospitals? And where are these people allowed to ride their bikes, everywhere? On the sidewalk, through crosswalks, in car pool lanes, on planting strips, through the sewers – is there anywhere they can't go? (Not that there's anybody to stop them if they did go some place forbidden, but just supposing.) About the only places you can drive now and escape the bikers are Interstates 5, 90, and 405. How long do you think that's going to last, when the bikers realize the freeways are there, ripe for the clogging? Mr. Berger thinks the solution to the transportation problem – the alleged cultural problem – is to have a meeting. (Can anybody be that Seattle?) And he wants to use "a few hundred million dollars in transportation spending" to send everyone to a remedial class on rules of the road, like a driver's ed refresher course, only with an expanded curriculum to include the fact that there are a lot of bike riders on the road now who think they own it. This will not work, for the same reason meetings and classes never work. It's too easy not to show up. (Or I'd have an advanced degree.) However, the following plan will work, and not require me or anybody else to attend anything:
- Mayor Greg Nickels – the man who said on April 4 that he wanted to "make Seattle the best bicycling city in the nation" – should be required to ride a bike to work and everywhere else he goes for the rest of his life. Let him slap that giant tokhes on a banana seat three or four hours a day and see how bike-loving he is then. And if he wants to run for re-election or higher office (could that possibly be!?) he better work my neighborhood on his Schwinn if he wants me to answer the door. (Although he doesn't have to wear the black Spandex. Please.)
- No more bikes on sidewalks. Citizens should be allowed to carry spoke-spiking, sawed-off broom handles to help the police enforce this law.
- All bicyclists shall be required to wear helmets weighing at least 12 pounds, put pink streamers on the ends of their handlebars, and attach playing cards to the spokes of their bikes, no matter how hotshot Lance Armstrongy they think they are. These arrogance-reduction devices will have a dramatic effect on their speed and audacity, and the noise from the clacking cards will also make cell-phone use problematic, especially with big helmets covering their ears.
- Part of the mayor's transportation plan includes 37 miles of new bike lanes. Make the new lane one long 37-mile stretch, going south, parallel to the freeway. And make it one way, so eventually all of Seattle's bikers are circling around each other in the Tacoma Dome parking lot. This will help our neighbor to the south, which needs any culture it can get, even Mr. Berger's "transportation culture." And frankly, I can live with Tacoma being the best bicycling city in the nation. They deserve it.