Counterpoint: “The ‘Backlash’: Why Are We Surprised?”

Lorenz pointed me to a post on bicycling in NYC. After reading it I thought I’d write a response because I had a lot to say and let’s face it I can.

Bicycling has existed in America for at least the last 80 years. Why are we surprised that it is despised so much? The answer to that question is three fold.

For one, we live in a country where we get to make decisions. How do you dress? What do you eat? Where do you live? As a nation we pride ourselves on the ability to make these decisions and the freedom to express them. Transportation is no different. If I wanted to drive a car I would, and I’d have every right to do so. The fact that I choose to ride a bicycle and am told on a daily basis that what I am doing is wrong and in some ways dangerous infuriates me sometimes. If it is so dangerous why is it not illegal to ride a bicycle and why is bicycling not regulated like driving cars, or our motorized cousins, motorcycles? The fact that someone tells me that I can not do something because it is dangerous when it is not is illogical and proliferates the promotion of ignorance.

The next two folds that comprise this monstrousness paper crane of a question deal with the benefits of bicycling.

We have seen time and time again that investing in bicycle infrastructure has been a boon to the economy. In the times that we are in I am surprised that more local, state, and federal governments are not taking advantage of this.

The final point I want to make is that cycling is good for you plain and simple. I don’t mean good for your soul, or that you become a better person by bicycling although that is probably true as well. I mean you become healthier. I am living proof that when you start bicycling you become more physically fit. Some people might argue that it is dangerous to ride bicycles because you have to wear helmets to do the activity. I would like to debunk that rumor now. We wear helmets for the same reason people wear seatbelts. It is not that bicycling is dangerous. It is that falling on concrete hurts. When you are in your car you are not thinking, “let me put on my seatbelt because I am more likely to die in a car then on any other form of transportation.” You are thinking, “I better wear my seatbelt in case I get into an accident.”

I have said for a long time that the biggest obstacle to overcome in terms of making our community a more bike friendly culture is not necessarily more bike lanes or more signs. It is the attitude of the citizenry that needs to change. The fact that people don’t think bikes should be on the road and the lack of knowledge people seem to possess when it comes to dealing with bicycles on the road is staggering and stagnating an already counterproductive situation.

When it comes to cyclists being the minority we are in full agreement. Yet weather it comes to slavery, the suffrage movement, physically or mentally disabled individuals, or civil rights in this country the government has always stepped in to defend the rights of the minority. I am not saying there weren’t any hiccups along the way, separate but equal, but when it comes down to it we are better off now because of government intervention. When it comes to the potential cost of cycling the benefits outweigh the risks.

The Albany Bicycle Coalition is not here to get more people to ride bicycles. Although that would be nice. We exist to make our small part of America more amicable when it comes to the idea of riding bicycles so that when people are making the decision they don’t automatically choose the car.

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