In America today much is made about "sharing the road" and "respecting other road users," but the reality is that the country still considers the car as king of the road -- and local, state, and federal monies are spent accordingly.
Our approach to getting around together has made for an at-time ugly forced coexistence on local roads, and despite educational campaigns and slogans -- cars continue to roll over bikers who, it must be said, are not always the best at sharing the road themselves.
I've thought about the problem quite a bit, being the type to ponder such things and wonder if there isn't a better way of doing things -- and having seen firsthand the horrific injuries inflicted upon people who for whatever reason are drawn under the wheels of a car or truck.
Apparently, so have traffic planners in the bicycle-friendly Netherlands. Instead of merely laying down a paint stripe and declaring a narrow space on the side of the road a "bike lane," the Dutch have gone a step beyond and, in one case, built an architecturally pleasing "floating" roundabout which takes two-wheeled traffic off the bustling carriageway and given it dedicated passage above the cars below.
We know many Americans and apparently some folks here in Lamorinda don't like the concept of -- circular traffic collectors designed to slow cars in a given area and direct them onto any number of intersecting streets. We have also seen a surprising hue and cry raised about other traffic-calming devices, like speed bumps, and seen towns and cities back away from their use even as speeds increased and unfortunate collisions continued to occur.
As one local police chief put it: "People here want to be able to go as fast as they possibly can from one point to another -- as long as no one rams them in the process."
We can see the chief's point, and no longer ride bicycles on roads shared with larger, more powerful vehicles because those who do are often regarded as impediments instead of respected co-users.
We liked the way officials near the historic Dutch city of Eindhoven clearly stated their commitment to members of the two-wheeled community when they built this "floating roundabout," exclusively for use by cyclists and clearly embraced as a way to travel without having to count on a strip of paint and a few inches of separation from much larger, faster vehicles.
Patch gives full credit for exposing the idea to Lafayette City Manager Steven Falk, who apparently came across the story in Atlantic Cities magazine and who mentioned it in his Daily Summary. It is unknown if Falk is looking for a way to bring such a structure to Lafayette -- but we could see some local bikers being very happy if he did.