While composing my post on the subject of automobiles I found myself wanting, ok needing to write a prequel as a way to set the stage for future posts. I like the word prequel because it will give the readers of my blog insight into who I am. Some may go so far as to call it a disclaimer but I just call it being honest. So lets begin.
I remember like it was yesterday I was getting ready to go for a quick spin on a very hot day. I was pumping the tires, filling my bottle and everything else when my mother walked up to me and asked why I wasn’t wearing my helmet. I told her I wasn’t going far or fast and it was also beyond hot. Back then I normally rode in the mornings to avoid the heat but for some reason this ride wasn’t going to start until 3pm-ish. With some form of motherly intuition kicking in, she must have asked me at least three more times, “Are you sure you don’t need your helmet?” Back then the helmets were nothing but heat collecting hunks of plastic and foam so my reply each time was No.
I’m guessing you know where this is going to end up. Yup, about an hour later I was lying on a gurney in the ER with a neck brace on after a nice ride in an ambulance. When I tell the story now it sounds like every other cycling incident out there. A car passed me way to close only to then cut me off at the next right turn. I was fortunate, lots of road rash, a really sore body the next day, a destroyed bike but nothing serious for me. It could have been the other way around. Meaning it could have been a destroyed body, etc, etc. Making things even worse the guy took off. According to witnesses I popped back up and somehow got the licence plate before the adrenaline wore off and I slumped back to the ground. I would later find out the guy had an expired license, the car was not registered, and the best one of all, the car was UN-insured. Simply put this person had ZERO right to be on the road. Through the grace of God I somehow, after nearly 2 years of court proceedings, received a settlement. It was during that time I also found out that if this same guy had hit my car and took off I would have been entitled to a settlement that would have probably paid my way through college. But for some reason, both insurances just didn’t care about me or my bike. Funny that.
So lets jump right into some of the things I’ve heard “Car Drivers” say in an effort to move the conversation forward.
1. Cyclists don’t follow the rules of the road and should be prevented from using them unless they prove they can do so legally.
Sadly this is one of the most repeated and probably most incorrect statements used. If the same logic and rules were applied to people driving cars, the streets would probably be empty except for a few elderly and maybe a 1st time driver in a driving school car. Beyond that this idea of following rules is more of an emotional response then anything else.
To begin, go on any highway at any time and try to drive the speed limit. If you do you’ll have a line of freakin out drivers behind you looking to fly by. Not to mention the lack of signalling, tailgating, texting, passing on the right….. and that’s just on the highway. How many people actually drive 20mph down a side street, or worse keep it under 20 for the entire length of a school zone? Let’s be honest, there are good drivers, there are bad drivers and there are some drivers you wonder how they ever got their license. The same thing can be said of cyclists. There are good, bad, and just plain horrible cyclists.
Adding to this topic, and I’ve heard and seen this one a bazillion times; someone has two incidents on their drive in. They are cut off by a really bad driver and they are delayed by a minute at best, while waiting to go around a cyclist that lets say is going around some pot holes. Care to guess what they complain about the most? Taking it one step further, when a complete idiot in a car does something really bad, people are badly injured and in some cases die( see my previous posts on this subject). Why? Because they are driving a 2-3 ton hunk of metal capable of running people and animals over, knocking down trees and fences, crashing through houses and into stores, etc etc. Yet according to every source I have looked at, a cyclist has yet to kill anyone driving a car. So as far as I am concerned, drivers need to get their own house in order before being able to use this excuse.
2. Cyclists are unfairly using the roads without paying for them/Cycling infrastructure is expensive.
Both of these arguments are once again not based upon facts but rather lies which have been perpetuated. Both of these topics have been professionally covered by writers far more connected then I. But what I will do is apply good old fashion logic to these topics and you’ll quickly see them fail. The first one is probably the easiest, cyclist don’t pay taxes. The last time I saw MASSDOT numbers, over 95% of all cyclist owned cars. Which means the odds are pretty good that the next cyclist you see on the road are in fact paying the same amount of taxes you the driver are paying.
The next statement has two layers of illogical thinking. The first covers surface area which I will keep very straight forward. For any company to “install” a road we will assume the following. The road will be two car lanes wide, with curbs on both sides. For a bike lane done properly, meaning separated, we will assume one car lane width with curbs on each side. With those parameters established, bike infrastructure is approximately half the cost to install. Those against such spending will quickly cry, “but no one will use it thus turning out to be a waste of money.” Every report, story and article I have read has stated the same thing over and over. When properly done, bike lanes have seen tremendous growth. For example, have a look at what NY city, known for it’s horrible congestion, has done.
But lets take it one step further, lets assume (incorrectly) that putting a bike lane in costs just as much as an auto road. Maintenance costs for roads used by cars will always require more up keep then bike paths. Problem 2 to 4 ton vehicles inflict far more wear and tear then an equal amount of bikes. That’s just fact based upon the science. In my area we have bike paths which haven’t needed maintenance in many, many yrs. Simply put, if done properly, it is far cheaper for the long run to put in a bike lane then for a car lane.
To end I would like to present an opinion shared by two local construction managers. While not statistically significant, their views are interesting food for thought. When asked about some of the construction in my area both wanted no part of separated bike infrastructure especially if it included traffic calming methods. Meaning narrowing the lanes to decrease speed to improve safety. Both described it as the fastest way to put yourself out of business. They both welcomed infrastructure that included wide lanes that included painting bike lines and sharrows on new construction.
3. Cyclists are just car haters and want all cars off the road.
This last one is usually the one topic I refuse to discuss since those who use it seldom do so without alot of emotion involved. Referring back to #2, most cyclists own a car but if you want to go there, many people living in Boston and NY city don’t own cars either because parking is such a disaster. They just use public transportation. Does that make them haters? No it means they have chosen the best means of transportation for their needs. So by continuing on, if someone in NY wants to supplement their bus use with a bike why is this so wrong? It’s not but there are those who feel using a bike somehow drags us back to ancients times. I hate to say this but when I go mtb-ing I use my car to bring my bike to the trail head. When on vacation I need a car to transport my family and stuff 100s of miles away. But if I want to just run down to the local store and pick something up, the bike becomes the perfect tool. I enjoy the fresh air, spend zero on gas, and get front row parking. So I guess the only thing I “hate” is using the wrong tool for the job.
There are many more driver vs cyclists things going on out there but I really don’t have the time or patience to cover them all. Not to mention others have done great things with their blogs to debunk all the myths out there. Now get out there and go for a ride.