There’s North and South, liberals and conservatives; Star Trek people and Star Wars people . . . but few divides are greater than that which exists between drivers and cyclists.
The etiology of the thing is interesting.
It bugs some drivers that cyclists have the gall (as the drivers see it) to ride on roads which they – the drivers – consider their own or at least, not suitable for bicycles, because they aren’t able to keep up with the flow of traffic and thus slow down the flow of traffic.
It is equally true that slow-moving RVs, garbage trucks and commercial vehicles slow/impede the flow of traffic as much as a cyclist struggling to keep up – and an RV or garbage truck is harder to get around.
No one seriously argues that RVs and other slow-movers stay off the main roads because they’re slow and hard to get around. A cyclist’s claim to use the public of right of way (which isn’t a racetrack) is just as legitimate as the RV driver’s.
But that right to use the public right of way was much less frequently exercised by cyclists until relatively recently – and therein lies the source of the current rub.
I’m old enough to remember the ’70s and ’80s – and during those decades (also probably the ’60s and ’50s, which was before my time) pretty much only kids and teenagers who couldn’t drive yet rode bicycles and did so usually in neighborhoods, on side streets/trails and so on. I was among them. We rode to get to the arcade to goof off, to our friends’ houses and to (and from) school/practice.
We didn’t ride for sport/exercise.
We stayed off the main roads. Until we were old enough to drive. And then we largely gave up bicycling.
Very few adults rode bicycles in those days and so the main roads were default for motorized traffic. In theory, anyone could ride a bike on them. But almost no one did.
It’s just how it was. This coincided with the height of Car Culture. Perhaps not coincidentally.
Then – I think it began in the mid-late ’80s – adult cycling for recreation/sport began to get popular. It really took off in the ’90s. Which is interesting because of what began to happen to cars and driving at the very same time.
It’s now as common to see adults cycling as it used to be common to see kids on bicycles. The difference now being the adults regularly use the main roads. Which – again – they have every right to use, so long as the roads are public rights-of-way.
But it’s a manifestation of the dying off of Car Culture.
People – adults – are reverting to cycling. Not because they have to – as kids who couldn’t drive used to.
But because they want to.
I think adults cycle, in part, because of the relative freedom one still has on a bike vs. in a car, where very little freedom remains.
The bike doesn’t have to be inspected, stickered or license-plated. There are helmet laws in many states but that’s the only nanny law applied to cyclists – and their cycles.
They are in full control of their machine, which is made to their specifications. There is no NHTSA decreeing the design of bicycles – which aren’t required to have air bags, ABS, stability control or back-up cameras – and for this reason, remain affordable as well as fun.
Unlike new cars, which are designed to the specifications of government bureaucrats.
A bicycle doesn’t “assist” the rider’s steering or braking. It goes where the rider points it, as fast as the rider likes. It’s up to him to control it because the bike won’t do it for him.
There is satisfaction in the skill involved in cycling competently – which used to be satisfied by driving but largely isn’t anymore because cars have become Homogenized Transportation Modules which require almost no skill to operate.
But on a bike, you are on your own. You are free.
You can go this way or that way and no one knows where you’re going or been (unless you’ve got a cell phone with you) because the bike hasn’t got a black box or GPS or dongle from the insurance mafia plugged into its computer port – which it hasn’t got, either.
Speaking of that.
Cyclists aren’t forced to buy insurance, as everyone who drives must – which means more than just the obvious thing (not having to buy insurance). It also means that cyclists are free from the constant fear of the knows-all/sees-all insurance mafia, whose knowing all/seeing all and ability to mulct you for it hangs like an anvil over the head of every car driver. A single ticket can ruin more than your day. It can drain your wallet – and possibly take away your driving privileges.
On a bicycle, you might get a ticket – but the points don’t matter because you aren’t required to cover your bicycle. There’s no worry, therefore, about a premium increase because of some trumped-up ticket. You haven’t got a premium. And the government can’t suspend or revoke your right to ride.
This is freedom!
The freedom to ride without permission. One isn’t required to obtain, carry and present on AGW demand a license, as everyone who drives a car is legally obliged to.
So it’s easy to understand why riding has become so popular. It’s very much what driving used to be. And that probably accounts, in part, for the friction between drivers and cyclists. The drivers see the freedom enjoyed by the cyclists – and resent it.
They envy what the cyclists have – and they’ve lost.
Which is probably why it’s been proposed here and there that cyclists be required to have licenses (and license plates) and have their bikes inspected for saaaaaaaaaaaaafety – as well as carry mandatory insurance. Misery apparently loves company. But it’s a low and despicable thing to wish suffering on others because you suffer.
Beleaguered drivers ought to cheer cyclists onward – happy in the knowledge that freedom still exists here and there. Instead, those who’ve lost theirs seem determined to make sure no one else has any, either.
. . .
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