We bicyclists like to portray ourselves as an oppressed class. Cars maim cyclists, trucks crush them, hooligans throw insults or worse—things that they would not think of doing at a motor vehicle driving by. Sadly, all that is true.
Compared to cars and trucks, bikes are less powerful, less armored, less stable… bikes are less-than motor vehicles on several dimensions of mobility.
But occupying a less-than status is not a license to kick down. The principle here is a collective responsibility to protect and support those with lower mobility. For cyclists, that means watching out for people who are less mobile, especially pedestrians and, most especially, those who have difficulty walking.
Thankfully, in the past 30 years, the Americans with Disabilities Act has required businesses to put in more ramps, railings and other forms of assistance. I doubt anybody wants to go back to the good-ol days when people with trouble walking were very limited in where they could go, and at worst were essentially trapped in their homes—could not go anywhere, unless someone carried them up and down stairs.
Perhaps you’ve noticed—it’s clear to anyone who’s been here as long as I have—there are a lot more ramps and railings than there used to be at Knox. As a photographer, I deal with this every time I take a group photo “on the steps” of whatever building. All of those railings make it much harder to manage multi-row group photos.
As if those railings were put there just to torment me, professionally. Not quite. And the railings also were not put there to serve as our bike racks of convenience, for “however a short period of time” we’re going to be inside. Knox has gotten a lot better about getting and keeping bikes off of railings. It’s a good sign that I’ve seen only one bike locked to the ramp railing in front of Seymour Union so far this year.
Hey, biker! That railing is not for our convenience. It’s to support someone else’s survival in a challenging up-and-down world.
I know full well that there are multiple issues involved in vehicle parking, and I’ll take those up in the future. But free-and-clear railings, unobstructed walkways—those are the areas we must protect, not abuse.