The EPA of all people is asking, “Why are you or aren’t you biking to work?“. 511 comments so far, all good reading. Here’s mine:
Infrastructure aside, the biggest single impediment to increasing cycling is inconsiderate drivers. The need for bike lanes and dedicated bike paths is purely due to car traffic being impatient and greedy in their road use. If we all truly shared the roads, we wouldn’t need to build anything bike-specific. Since that never seems to change, we build.
Sure, it’s pie-in-the-sky, but i also put in a plug for more bike lanes. I’m admittedly an experienced and pretty self-assured cyclist, having ridden through city traffic for the past 20 years, and i know that i’m a lot more opinionated and confident in where and how i ride than most beginning cyclists. I know that the streets i ride on daily would deter many cyclists just because they’re either too busy or too narrow to feel comfortable or safe while on a bike. Those drivers who honk and holler are the reason we’re spending money on bike paths and bridges and lanes.
Yesterday’s post about getting hollered at is a case in point – drivers don’t think about how a cyclist needs to protect themselves in traffic, and maintaining a buffer of space around yourself while you bike is a big part of that. I get sick and tired of cars squeezing past me to pass, leaving inches of space when i’m already feeling pushed against the curb. It’s my right to use the roads, and if drivers are going to threaten me with harm by passing too close, i’m going to take the whole lane so they’re forced to make a proper & legal pass in another lane. That’s the law, it’s the safest thing to do for everyone, and as soon as practical i’ll move to the shoulder to allow anyone behind me to pass. If i were driving a 20-ton backhoe down the road at 20mph i’d get a little more respect, but since i’m on a bike people feel they can threaten me.
Now imagine someone who is riding their freshly-dusted-off bike down the road for the first time in a decade and encountering the same sort of rudeness along with potholes and feeling tired and unsteady just trying to ride. A car is a big steel cage that makes you feel safe. When you’re maneuvering through the world outside of that cage, you feel and are more vulnerable. Most people in our society are 50 years away from getting around town every day without a car; car use is assumed, and those who don’t drive treated as aberrations, impediments. In reality, cyclists humanize the roads, encouraging us to see people rather than vehicles. Drivers who think for even a second about it ought to personally thank every cyclists for reducing demand and helping keep the price of gas lower for them. A little niceness would go a long way.