Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Bike Badvocacy

Every month or so, one of our local papers runs an article about some challenge or another that bicyclists face. The other day, the Times ran a piece about the dangers of cars turning right in front of riders at intersections; a couple weeks ago, there was a feature story about the dangers of storm drains catching a bike’s tires and throwing the cyclist down; and I seem to recall another story not too long before that about riders falling on the tracks for the new South Lake Union trolley.

All well and good, I guess, but inevitably what happens is that the next day—or even sooner on the papers’ online “Soundoff” sections—you get all these letters from people complaining about how cyclists ought not to be permitted on the roads because they run red lights, ride their bikes through crosswalks, don’t pay gasoline taxes, wear Spandex, and worst of all, cop some holier-than-thou attitude about not driving cars.

And while I’ve got no particular problem with any of these behaviors—apart from the Spandex—it pains me to see the ire generated when cyclists are represented as having special needs—even when those needs are legitimate.

No doubt this is because I’m a grouchy old curmudgeon who grew up in a time when cyclists had to fight for every inch of the road they could; (I never even saw a bike lane until I was all grown-up), but it’s also because, at least in part, I like the outsider aspect of cycling. While I’m all for advocacy programs that put more people on bikes and make it easier and safer for especially new riders, I also think that one of the best things about bike riding is self-sufficiency.

So, part of me would just as soon that the newspaper (and even some advocacy groups) simply stop trying to stick up for cyclists and just let us keep riding under the radar, avoiding the dangers on our own.


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