At the heart of Melissa Carter’s commentary, “Cars aren’t the problem with ‘Share the Road'” is a tired, culture war approach that pits drivers against cyclists as if we were different species. The outpouring of comments on her piece shows most of us - whether driving or biking - are beyond all that.
In the past, drivers in Atlanta viewed sharing the road much like Melissa does - I’m driving a faster, heavier vehicle, so get out of my way.
What Melissa and other old-school drivers fail to consider is that when I’m riding my bike somewhere, I'm not trying to get in drivers' way, any more than small cars are trying to delay tractor trailers on the highway. I'm just trying to get where I'm going - mostly work or my kids’ school - safely and in a reasonable amount of time. When I was a newbie and tried courteously share the lane with cas, drivers routinely “buzzed” me, coming within inches at high speeds - a recipe we all recognize as poisonous. I learned to take the lane to protect my own skin.
Atlanta Bicycle Coalition responds to Melissa Carter’s latest ‘That’s What She Said’ column
The article crossed the line with these words: “…sometimes they seem to be tempting someone to hit them.” Playing on the frustration of Atlanta drivers like this is irresponsible when passing a bicyclists safely and legally – giving at least three feet – takes all of a few seconds and saves lives. The hours of congestion delay Atlanta drivers experience each year due cannot be laid at the door of cyclists.
While no one – on bike or in a car – is immune to bad behavior on our roads, we should be calling for better enforcement of existing laws, not ways to get people on bikes out of the street.
Licensing bicycles is a nonstarter – not just because it’s misguided, but because it doesn’t work. Other communities that have tried to license cyclists found the costs vastly exceed any revenue raised and abandoned the scheme. Plus, it won’t get you home 15 seconds faster.
If the goal is to improve bike safety, bike licensing won’t do much. Enforcing such a requirement would make us all less safe by distracting police from real crime, while having a cooling effect on the growing number of casual riders hopping on bikes to get around, or just to get a little exercise.
Speaking of exercise, let’s talk about the packs of riders rocking spandex and carbon frames. Complaints about group rides taking up space on the road for recreation reflects the view that driving trips are serious trips, whereas bike trips are optional. The truth is, most drivers are not simply going to work and back home again. Many people drive (alone) to the gym to work out every day – how is that different from donning a kit to get your workout on the road?
Saying we’ll “never create enough bike paths” reflects a lack of research. Atlanta’s Mayor Kasim Reed recently announced the city will double our miles of bike lanes and multi-use trails by 2016, and just approved $2.5 million for high quality bicycle projects that will help us achieve a network of safe, convenient, and connected bikeable streets and facilities.
And the Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) adopted a Complete Streets policy last fall that commits its projects to considering the needs of all types of road users when designing projects. When GDOT adopts an approach that includes equal consideration for cyclists, you know times have changed.
So Melissa, instead of blaming the victim when a cyclist is injured or even killed, let’s support safer streets that keep you from being inconvenienced, and me from being incapacitated.
Why not to come on a ride with us? Some real world bike experience might change your perspective.