Never mind Israelis and Palestinians, Sunnis and Shiites, Bosnians and Serbs - the longstanding war between bicycle partisans and automobile loyalists can get as nasty as any of them, though fortunately it's rarely as violent.
A strange-looking contraption installed in downtown Bend may hold forth hope for a truce. The device is a "bike corral," and it stands in what used to be a car parking space in front of the Thump coffee shop on Minnesota Avenue. It's capable of accommodating up to 12 bikes at once.
The corral was put there to relieve what the owners of Thump and other nearby businesses describe as "bike congestion." It seems the cafes, wine bar and other attractions in that stretch of Minnesota draw an unusually large congregation of bicyclists, who lean their bikes against trees, lamp posts and buildings, sometimes making it hard for pedestrians to navigate the sidewalk.
The corral - whose $3,500 cost was paid for by the Downtown Bend Business Association and individual contributors, not tax dollars - takes up only one downtown parking space, but there probably will be more: Supporters say they hope it will serve as a prototype for others.
That's sure to ruffle the feathers of some people who prefer to drive downtown, as well as some downtown merchants who are always fuming about the eternal shortage of parking spaces. But it shouldn't.
For one thing, it's not as if the bicyclists are taking over. Even if 20 bike corrals eventually are installed - which seems pretty far-fetched - they would still occupy only 1% of downtown's 2,000 surface parking spaces. And that's not even counting all the spaces in the parking garage.
Paradoxical as it seems, bike corrals might actually ease the downtown parking shortage. If a bike corral encourages 12 people to ride bikes downtown instead of driving cars, that saves 11 parking spaces. If it encourages even two people to bike instead of drive we're still ahead of the game, parking-wise.
The Minnesota Avenue corral (and any future ones, we assume) also is designed so that it can be unbolted from the pavement and taken out during the winter, when only the most hard-core bike devotees are venturing forth.
How many bike corrals should downtown ultimately have? Would five be too few? Would 10 be too many? It's going to be a tough equation to work out.
There are, and always will be, a lot of people who have completely legitimate reasons for driving downtown - they live too far away to make the trip by bike, they have stuff that can't easily be transported by bike, or they're physically incapable of riding a bike. In deciding how many corrals to install, the downtown association and the city will need to strike a careful balance between encouraging bicyclists and inconveniencing motorists. The goal should be to make downtown bicycle-friendly, not to make it driver-unfriendly.
For now, though, the association and others who made the first bike corral possible have earned the GLASS SLIPPER for taking an innovative and constructive step.