Bike lane project is nothing more than social engineering


By David Norcross, Alexandria
(File Photo)

To the editor:

I want to congratulate Rich Baier, director of the Alexandria Department of Transportation and Environmental Services, for his candor.

After all of the sound and fury of the bicycle battle, we at last have the real issue summed up in a short quote from Baier in a recent Sunday edition of The Washington Post: “We are trying to achieve a dramatic change in behavior, and that must be accompanied by an attitude change.”

This has not and is not really about bicycles. It is about social engineering on the local level.

Fostering attitudinal change is not a role for local government, if — for that matter — it is an appropriate role for any government. That Alexandria City Council has facilitated this social experiment is appalling.




  1. It is not social engineering in the negative sense. The Baier quote is out of context. The primary issue is helping switch more travelers from motor vehicles to bicycles by making that mode of travel safer. Get people out of their cars into alternative travel modes is a dramatic change. It is important for local gov’t to pursue alternative travel to lessen the burden on existing systems, add travel diversity, and encourage travel that is both more sustainable and healthy.

  2. The Vision Zero/Safe Systems approach to engineering our transportation system does not place the mobility of one mode ahead of the safety of another, let alone all other modes of transportation. I view the role of our elected officials and those they hire, the ‘government’, to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Since all road users, and even those unable to use the roads, are contributing in some way to the creation and maintenance of the public rights of way, all potential road users deserve to be accomodated on those public rights of way, to various degrees, depending on the classificaiton of the road, within the transportation system. Mr. Norcross displays in his writing a clear bias toward a single mode of travel, to the apparent exclusion of all others. A privledged mode at that.

  3. It’s a more complicated picture than what the words “social engineering” connote. It’s not simply black and white; “we drive cars and the poor ride bicycles”. It’s much more complex, you do have those two groups, but also consider, there are people who have both cars AND bicycles, and then there are those who have neither a car NOR a bicycle. The affluent people who ride the $6,000 (and up) bicycles are also using the poor as “pawns” in their game, like it’s a chess match. Now, some of the big cities, New York , London , Paris, Boston , D.C., etc are running Bike Share programs, which give the general public a chance to ride a quality $1,200 bicycle, and experience the smooth ride and shifting.
    Sorry if the cyclist shouted at you. 99% of motorists pass with seven to ten feet of clear berth, and when you come too close, you might “startle” him. Probably, that’s all this issue was.
    I feel that the Cycling movement, from the 1970’s thru the 1980’s, was mis-directed, and what we received instead was this Anti-Drunk-Driving Campaign . Today, cyclists have video cameras. We used to say “Try riding a bike and see for yourself!” , Today, no bother, we made a video. You can watch a video and see the stunt the motorist pulled, LOL.
    Worldwide , ten percent of the people have cars, and twenty-five percent of the people have bicycles, that means most people must walk. I will concede that the bicycle was conceived as a Mechanical Horse, and was intended for those who could not afford Horses.
    Finally, the key word here seems to be “Attitude”. We must distinguish Opinion from Fact. An Attitude is an Opinion. The Road is narrow? That’s an Opinion. The road is only thirty feet wide, and current standards call for roads to be sixty-six feet wide, that’s a Fact.

  4. Amen to the author. But Baier is not alone in imposing his “I know better” philosophy. Mayor Bill “no serial killer here” Euille has said in support of biking, ““We don’t want people driving their cars and parking, we want people to be using bicycles and walking.”

    Well then, that settles it. I await the City’s directive that I must have the same hairstyle as Hizzoner.

  5. “I’m not aware of any intersections that have been shortened and, in fact, at one intersection we’ve actually lengthened it.” [Richard Baier, City of Alexandria, NBC Nightly News with Tom Brokaw, May 31, 2001]

    “We will consider increasing yellow timing if other conditions warrant. Several jurisdictions have reported a sharp drop in red light running after yellow interval was increased.” [Ramin Sabet, Senior Civil Engineer, Town of Herndon, VA, 9/26/01, “Evaluation of Traffic Engineering Aspects of Photo Monitoring Programs in Virginia”, Virginia Department of Transportation, 5/7/02, page 87]

    At US1 and Gibbon St back on 1999, the yellow lights were increased (an engineering fix) after fifteen months of ineffective and brutal red light cam punishment of unsuspecting citizens under ongoing dangerous conditions. Red light violations dropped almost 80% as a result. The public was treated to a blanket party and deliberately kept in the dark. Alexandria resumed their red light cam recently and, presumably to promote the scheme and hence stuff bank accounts, the yellow lights had indeed be shortened back. Gee. I wonder why.

    The red light cam crowd in Alexandria is nothing more than a pack of dishonest hoodlums, inherently dangerous ones no less …. masquerading as do gooders like so many swindlers do these days.