Higgins: The perfect issueWritten by Tim Higgins | | firstname.lastname@example.org
It’s not often in life that a convergence of personalities, issues, and political attitude manage to come into perfect alignment in nature. Reading a recent article in the Wall Street Journal however, convinced me that such could be a possibility for Toledo and its City Council, and very soon.
The story, for those of you not willing to read last weekend’s WSJ, speaks of the “cyclist rights” movement in San Francisco (apparently another “Right” that the Founding Fathers missed when writing the Constitution). For their demands, this group has received some 25 miles of bicycle lanes in the city, which require motorists to yield them the right of way. Unfortunately however, newly empowered cyclists either can’t understand that this did not absolve them from following other existing traffic laws, or won’t understand that like autos, they must in turn yield to pedestrians.
As a consequence of a particular legislative dissonance, an incident from March 29 is about to see Chris Bucchere charged with felony vehicular manslaughter for allegedly running a red light and striking 71-year old Sutchi Hui; the injuries of which resulted in Mr. Hui’s death. This is not apparently an isolated incident in the area either, with a 67-year old woman last August (resulting in a misdemeanor conviction) and a 92-year old woman earlier this month (still under investigation) both dying from similar incidents.
While any accident and any death is a tragedy, I couldn’t help view this in light of the support for a 10-year Recreation Levy being supported by Council members Webb and Steel. If approved after all, wouldn’t this money be used for infrastructure improvements like increasing the miles of bike paths long promoted by former Mayor Finkbeiner, and potentially encouraging more two-wheeled transportation on city’s streets? I couldn’t help but wonder if supporting such an issue would thereby make its supporters culpable in any future incidents in Toledo. Then however, the legislative potential of this kind of issue began to occur to me.
Getting bikes on the streets might get someone in Council to recognize the potential hazards of someone texting while riding them. Perhaps a new and even groundbreaking law could be proposed. Having so many unidentifiable two-wheeled vehicles in Toledo might likewise cause someone in the city to recognize a potential licensing (and revenue) opportunity existed that should be taken up. If nothing else, it would provide a way to track texting violators (who could be too young to carry a driver’s license). But why should the city stop there?
Once you get license plates onto these velocipedes, consideration could be given to additional red light cameras at intersections to catch bicycles speeding through town and running red lights (though perhaps fines should be lower, based on the number of wheels on the vehicle). Seeing no reason to stop there, perhaps additional cameras could be installed to monitor pedestrians as well; and with the addition of some facial recognition software, perhaps “jay-walkers” could also be remotely cited.
With council now on rhetorical and legislative roll, due consideration could be taken for senior citizens who seem the most likely targets (or the least able to escape) from bicycle scofflaws. The potential for endless legislation and regulation between cyclists and pedestrians could keep city council in meeting for months if not years to come. Committees could be formed, studies conducted, and reports delivered ad nauseum, while members of council and the administration held contradictory and logically inconsistent positions on various parts of the conflicting issues. After all, if just one senior citizen were saved …
Of course the ultimate result of such a plan might likely be the continued emptying of the city, as property owners burdened under excessive monitoring and even more excessive taxation continued to vote with their feet. Despite having some negative impact on tax revenues over time however, such a future could allow major thoroughfares to eventually be turned over to “bicycle only” operation as traffic in the city sufficiently diminished. This is turn might allow Toledo to portray itself as a more eco-friendly and recreation-oriented city.
Over time, empty properties might eventually be purchased inexpensively by revenues generated by the proposed recreation levy, though it’s likely that greater funding would be required to take over all the property made available. Eventually, the city could be turned into a combination ghost town and wilderness area, criss-crossed by bike trails and run strictly as an recreational area to bring tourists into Toledo’s new casino.
Oh sure, all of this may seem far-fetched, but that’s what they said about warrantless searches, no-knock warrants and DUI checkpoints. All it really takes to start down such a legislative path is the political will and the perfect issue.