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Automobiles: the AR15s of the road

February 20, 2013

Last week, Georgia Voice ran the following, anti-bike opinion piece by radio personality Melissa Carter:

Melissa Carter: Cars aren’t the problem with share the road

Whenever I am stuck in traffic, I always assume a wreck is the cause. As I pass by any pile-up, I empathize with the potential victims and try to keep a calm head out of respect. But recently, I realized the nearly stand still traffic was being caused by a bicycle and my blood boiled.

I will honestly say that I do not believe in sharing the road. The weight of a car can be 4,000 pounds and a car can reach speeds well over 100 mph. In contrast, the average bicycle ways about 30 pounds and an average rider can only go about 20 mph.

But somehow we have decided that the way to coexist is to travel the same roads together in harmony. However, the burden of traveling safely together ultimately depends on the driver slowing down, swerving over, etc., in an effort not to mortally wound this soul who is inching up a hill on Roswell Road during rush hour.

Often, I see a bicyclist merge into existing traffic and block a lane while holding his or her hand out impatiently for us to slow down as if we “car people” are the problem. And if you come up on a pack of riders, it is even worse since they have no problem riding side by side and taking up an entire lane.

I’ve even been shocked while waiting for a light to turn green to see bicyclists whizzing by my window navigating between cars. Apparently they don’t have to wait for the light to actually turn green if they decide that there are no cars coming.

Once, I saw a cyclist who did decide to wait on the light actually lean on my car for support until the light turned green. I fought the urge to get out and explain that I was not his pace car and taking a break on my car so that he didn’t have to clip out at the light was not part of our deal.

This arrogance increases threefold if a cyclist is “sponsored.” Apparently, a jersey that has a logo or two on it along with the aerodynamic Tour de France helmet translates to some extra level of ownership of the asphalt. Sometimes they seem to be tempting someone to hit them.

It does not look like Atlanta will ever create enough bike paths to get cyclists off the main roads. But I do believe there is a solution that would at least make me feel like drivers and cyclists were being treated a little more fairly.

I want everyone who wants to put their bikes on the main road to get a license and a tag. That certainly isn’t a new idea. A similar effort took place last year in Oregon when a proposed ballot measure sought to create a bicycle education program for people who have not taken the Oregon driver’s test. It would also mandate more police enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists.

To pay for the new bicycle-specific testing and the enforcement, the measure would have required a fee for the endorsement test and registration via a license plate for all bicycles in Oregon.

By having license plates on the bikes, the hope is that this would lead to more responsible behavior and make it easier to hold riders accountable for their actions.

At least if I were behind a cyclist with a license plate, I would know that my extra ten minutes in traffic were the result of some effort on the part of the rider and not just a flippant disregard for all the other tax paying citizens on the road who are doing their best to dodge them.

To truly share the road, we must all share the responsibility for being in each other’s path.

Dear Melissa –

Stay in your lane, lady! You do a lot of good things with charity, but you need to stick with what you know. For starters, a cyclist gets the lane. The whole lane, whether they are riding in a pack or not, that’s for their safety. And the percentage of “sponsored” cyclists, like your friend and former coworker Jeff Dauler who recently took up competing in triathlons, is just a tiny portion of riders out on the road. The vast majority rely on their bikes as their primary form of transportation for school or work, and a lot of them are the LGBT youth that you help with your own charity work, people who can’t afford cars, let alone burdening them with licensing.

Do you know why the burden of safety falls on the driver, Melissa? Because, just like you pointed out, the car you’re in weighs 4,000 pounds and is traveling at high speeds. Drivers are hurtling a death machine down the road that, by Georgia law, must be shared with bikes, which are restricted from the sidewalk, even though we all know the metro area isn’t known for its sidewalks. And requiring cyclists to take a class and get licensed is the equivalent of having people who live in high crime areas get licensed in case they get shot and letting gun owners get off for accidentally discharging their gun.

Why do you think the ballot measure in Oregon failed, a state with a whole heck of a lot of cyclists?

Because it’s a stupid idea.

It’s this sort of nonsense that prevents us from moving forward. Riding a bike on the road can be nerve-wracking because of people like you, Melissa, who think they are entitled to the roads that we all pay for with our tax dollars, even the folks on bikes. I challenge you to get on a bike and try it some time. Ride down Roswell Road, take one of the cycling classes for women at ABC, and donate to the groups that work to elevate the cause of cycling and make it easier for people to get involved and get around by bicycle.

Now for the news!

Glynn County can’t afford the planned bike path on St. Simons island.

Gov. Deal is opposed to repealing the TSPLOST penalty for regions that did not pass the one cent sales tax last July.

Traffic deaths are up 5% nationwide, including cyclist and pedestrian fatalities. I guess we should start requires pedestrians to get licenses to walk, too?

6 Comments leave one →
  1. February 20, 2013 10:39 am

    Even if she gets her wish and all bicyclists are licensed, she STILL won’t want to share the road. She has a basic problem with the concept. Nothing will fix her short-sighted self-centeredness. She wants no one in her way and no one else driving slower than her ever, so I don’t think she’s really interested in any sort of solution — or “sharing the responsibility of being in one another’s path,” as she says, which by definition would fall more heavily on the person driving the two tons of steel.

  2. The Bobster permalink
    February 20, 2013 5:24 pm

    One problem is most drivers don’t ride bicycles on the streets so they don’t have a complete perspective on the issue. Most bicyclers also drive cars so they know both sides of the issue. We need to get Melissa out on a couple rides.

    • February 20, 2013 5:26 pm

      I couldn’t agree more, Bob. Maybe we need to force all drivers to take cycling classes and ride in the streets;)

  3. UrbanCommuter permalink*
    February 21, 2013 11:52 am

    There are many, many things I would like to say regarding the author’s point of view regarding bikes but I am afraid that my lack of editing equipment at this time would require such statements to be very ungentlemanly. And I don’t even ride a bike

    • February 21, 2013 11:55 am

      Ha! The restraint has been hard, I must admit.

      • UrbanCommuter permalink*
        February 21, 2013 12:00 pm

        Good thing we have good news such as HB264 to look forward to….oh, oh wait thats right, I forgot that it ranked just as high on the ignorance chart as Ms. Carter.

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