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Bicycling Advocacy

time:  2010-7-17 9:27:53    


Bicycle advocacy can have a number of meanings, from encouraging bicycle sales to wanting bicycle memoribilia everywhere. This entire site is actually an advocacy site, advocating the cyclistÂ’s lifestyle in one section, cycling for health in another, and so on.

This section is mainly concerned with two advocacies: advocating bicyclistsÂ’ rights and advocating bicycling as beneficial to society. The two are separate: cyclists have their rights by law, not according to some recent decision based on the value of cycling. However, cyclists can win sympathy and support by demonstrating that they play a role and perform a service to others. In addition, recognition of the value of cycling can create new cyclists who need to learn about their rights.

Cyclists' Rights

Although itÂ’s not rare to encounter motorists, bicycle riders, or sometimes policemen who believe that bicycles belong on the sidewalk and have no right to the roadway, the truth is that cyclists were granted the right to use the roadways before the automobile was invented and are recognized as having those rights in every country of the world and every state of the United States.

However, wherever there are cyclists and motorists, some motorists want us off of the road. In some cases, they might act. Motorists who take it upon themselves to run cyclists off of the road are engaged in criminal assault. In Texas, a motorist who thus assaulted Lance Armstrong received ten years in jail, but not all cyclists are that fortunate. There's a strong tendency to turn a blind eye toward the harassment of cyclists or even to blame the victims. Cyclists sometimes mistakenly assume that most motorists are hostile because of the actions of a few, yet most people are sympathetic, and many wish they could bicycle too.

It seems that some of our friends can be more of a problem than our enemies. There are many cyclists who either feel they have the rights without the responsibilities or who don't recognize that they have either rights or responsibilities. As a result, they ignore traffic laws. When city planners and government agencies finally recognized the value of cycling, they started hatching out plans to build bike paths and bike ways as ways of separating cyclists who don't obey the traffic laws (that is, the ones with accidents) from the rest of the traffic. Thus, it's possible that we could end up with a bikeway system like the one in Holland, where cycling is both encouraged and restricted at the same time. There are five problems to such a scheme: 1) the enormous cost, 2) the restriction in ability to get from A to B, 3) the tendency of bikeways to fill up with other, incompatable traffic, 4) the problem of crossing other roadways, and 5) the higher accident rate created by incompatable traffic and frequently roadway crossings.

A more effective method of encouraging cycling, which would also encourage walking, increase safety for children, improve the general quality of life, and provide a place to operate low-speed electric vehicles, would be to ensure low-speed roads in residential and commuter areas. Reducing traffic speed on arterials can actually increase traffic flow; higher maximum traffic speeds between stop lights usually just increase the wait time at the lights. Of course, some motorists perceive any effort to reduce automobile speeds, to reduce congestion and noise, to reduce or compensate for pollution, to encourage carpooling, to provide transportation alternatives, or to adjust taxes to reflect actual roadway costs as being anti-car. In addition, they would like to see cyclists pay heavy license or user fees in order to be on the roadway. But the more dependent on automobiles we become, the greater our traffic and environmental problems become, so we have to seek additional solutions.

In addition, over the years, many authorities and motorists have mistakenly come to see driving a motor vehicle as an unrevocable right, and thus even drivers who have caused numerous collisions due to speeding, reckless behavior, drinking, or other disorders are allowed unrestricted driving and are often not punished in any way, even after killing someone due to their clearly faulty behavior. Fortunately, we are beginning to see an end to the concept of the highway as being a wild frontier and the last lawless area. I think we should take traffic infractions seriously. The purpose of streets and highways should be to efficiently and safely transport people and goods from one area to another. They should not be places for people to work out their aggressions.

Perhaps the most effective and cost-efficient way to encourage cycling and reduce accidents at the same time would be to teach Effective Cycling in the schools. Besides reducing cycling injuries and benefiting cycling, these instructions would help create safer motorists as well. Teaching cycling skills would not be a waste of school time, as cycling is a more beneficial and long-term exercise than most school sports. Texas has received a grant to instruct all grade-school physical education teachers in cycling safety. We can hope that the program is well-designed and that other states will follow this lead.

The Benefits of Cycling

Beyond the heath benefits and enjoyment of cycling, which are discussed elsewhere, bicycling also provides economic, ecological, and environmental benefits over other forms of transportation.

Cycling has a lower cost per mile than any other form of transportation except walking, both for society and for the user. When the cost of travel is calculated into the speed equation, a bicycle ends up being faster than an automobile under most conditions.

The impact of cycling on other living creatures and on the ecological balance is small. A bicycle uses only a tiny amount of oil. The amount of steel and other materials in its construction is less than two percent of that found in a small car. A bicycle's tires and tubes are the greatest waste, as bike tires last only a few thousand miles at most; however, automobile tires, while lasting longer, are much heavier. A bicycle burns no fossil fuels: a bike that replaces an automobile for all travel is equal to the planting of 170 trees.

Finally, bicycles do little to degrade the environment people live in. They create no noise, no stink, no pollution, and no congestion. They do not require massive highways or extensive parking areas. In a collision, they are unlikely to kill, and a cyclist can more easily avoid a collision.

In short, the bicycle is an friendly transportation solution, and bicycling needs to be encouraged.

Bicycling Advocacy Articles

Bicycling Advocacy and Issues -- The Newslist  There seemed to be a need for a newslist open to everyone where we could frankly discuss the issues, so I started one. Evidently the need did exist, because 38 people joined within the first nine hours.

How to Avoid Traffic to Your Bicycling Website  A cycling website can be effective for informing and encouraging cyclists; however, most biking sites have one or more errors that discourage visitors or prevent them from ever seeing any of its webpages.

Auto Costs Vs. Bike Costs   Calculation of the cost of the average automobile, other costs not normally calculated, the cost of operating a bicycle, the money saved per hour by commuting, the average speed of an automobile, and the money saved by touring.

Our Right to Use the Roadway   The problem of anti-bicycle bigotry, some fake and real history, sources of bigotry and defensiveness, making roads safer for cyclists rather than providing separate paths.

How Far to the Right Must a Cyclist Travel?  In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Ken Clark was stopped for riding a bicycle four feet from the curb and had to defend his right to do so in court.

Should Cyclists Have to Pay to Use the Roads?   Countering the claim that cyclists have no right to travel on the road since they don't pay "user fees."

Should Cyclists Be Paid to Use the Roads?   Picture cyclists being paid to travel as part of pollution trading. More seriously, cyclists reduce costs for other people; why shouldn't some of that money return to them?

How Much Do Bicycles Pollute?   Figuring out the amount of C02 produced by a car and a bicycle.

Automobile Dependency in NYC   Why the mayor of New York sees bicycles as "a big quality-of-life problem" while not noticing any quality-of-life problems connected with automobiles.

Coping with Global Warming   Observations over my lifetime of how Nature, sunshine, and the weather have been altered by man, some arguments that global warming is a myth, and what cyclists can do to protect themselves.

Why I Am Opposed to Mandatory Helmet Laws   An analysis of the arguments in favor of mandatory helmet laws which points out the weaknesses of the arguments.

Issues for Cyclists   Some thoughts about all the ways, big and little, in which cyclists are not granted equal treatment and which can discourage bicycling.

Dedicated Bikeways   Bikeways are often poorly designed and thus don't attract experienced cyclists. Well-designed bikeways, on the other hand, can provide a superior experience for all bicyclists.