The Old Coot travels outside the lines

This is a repeat rant. Sorry! But I’ve spent yet another summer, dealing with cinders, broken glass, face slapping overgrown branches and DOT “Work Zone” signs encumbering the space alongside the road while riding my bike. It’s a war zone out there.  

DOT does a good job, for the most part. State roads are well taken care of. Take a short ride over the border and I’m sure you will agree. So no, I don’t have an issue with the auto, truck and motorcycle component of their function. My issue starts just off the edge of the travel lane, the shoulder of the road, where pedestrians, bicycle riders, skateboarders and the like, wend their way. Oh sure, there’s a bike lane here and there, a narrow space between a painted white line right next to the lane where 4,000-pound SUV’s fly by as though racing in the Daytona 500. I’d like to see a new state department established, the DOPT, Department of Pedestrian Transportation (meant to include pedestrians, bicycles, skateboarders and other forms of non-motor vehicle transportation). The DOPT would have exclusive authority over the travel zone alongside the road.  

The first mission of the DOPT would be to clean up this travel space, to sweep off the sand and salt after a cruel winter, the debris that has fallen off commercial transporter’s vehicles and the limbs and weeds that encroach into the pathway. Not everyone commutes in a motor vehicle; a lot of people can’t afford or choose not to. They travel on foot or under some form of human power – to get to work and other places. Another bunch of us do it for pleasure and health benefits. An unobstructed pathway would be greatly appreciated. 

Once the DOPT improves the side of the road, they can address longer-term safety issues, creating truly safe places to walk and bike, protected from the distracted drivers who are running us down at greater numbers every year. The money wasted on those cross walk signals the DOT is installing across the state in places where hardly anyone crosses would be better off in the hands of a DOPT. It’s true, we are just a small portion of the population, but our numbers are growing as the benefits to good health (physical and mental) and a smaller carbon footprint are adopted by more and more people. I grew up in a world where it was safe to get around under human power, on sidewalks or safe spaces next to the road. We traveled on foot, on bicycles, pogo sticks, stilts and roller skates without incident. It would be nice to progress back to what once was. And, a DOPT would help get us there.

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