Sharing a few thoughts…

6 07 2011

I simply had to share this with everyone who reads this blog…

Monday, July 04, 2011

Declaration of Independence

When in the course of human events it becomes
necessary for a people to dissolve the bands that have connected them to utter
dependence on motorized transportation, and to assume among the users of the
road the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and Nature’s God
entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they
should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold
these truths to be self evident, that all road users are created equal and are
endowed with certain unalienable rights — that among these are Life, Liberty
and the Pursuit of Happiness. — that a human being propelling a vehicle by
muscle power shall not be subject to the whim, coercion or threat of harm from
the operator of a larger vehicle unwilling to share the public right of way. —
that citizens should not feel compelled to purchase and maintain motor vehicles
because they do not feel safe outside them. — that any citizen shall be
encouraged to enjoy the advantages economical, physical and environmental, of
transportation by bicycle.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

Okay, the
grievances that led to the real Declaration of Independence lent themselves to
the territorial solution the Declaration laid out, and the bloody war that
followed. The Americans wanted their own turf because the British government
wasn’t meeting their needs. But I was thinking about how choosing the bicycle
sets us so firmly apart from people who, for various reasons, wouldn’t dream of
it. We’re not declaring war, but in a way we’re fighting one every day, to be
seen, respected and accommodated on the public travel ways all our taxes pay
for.

The shop actually had a party of renters cancel their reservation
while they were driving from the shop to their motel because they were scared by
the narrow roads, the traffic volume and the crash they had just witnessed in
which a motorcycle had run into the back end of a car.

At least once a
week someone tells me they think I’m crazy or stupid or braver than average
because I ride on the road. Far more frequently than that I deal with customers
selecting their bike specifically to avoid the road. Some of those customers say
they would ride the road “if they could.” Others say they are perfectly happy to
ride only on recreational paths “where they belong.”

Meeting the needs of
all road users is not easy, especially here in the land of narrow, hilly,
winding roads. That doesn’t mean it should not be done. When I’m on my bike I
slow down for motor vehicle congestion and stop for pedestrians. I don’t feel I
have the right to rip along at my best speed at all times. Nor do I accept that
I should always have to step aside or risk annihilation whenever someone else in
a vehicle of any size wants to gain a few seconds by blasting past me in a tight
spot. Nowhere is it written in traffic law that a motorist has the right (often
expressed as if it was a compulsion) to pass a slower vehicle without changing
course or reducing speed wherever the encounter should happen to take place. But
that’s common practice. Motorists do it around each other and often collide. As
cyclists we notice careless or risky behavior because we are more vulnerable to
it. We also get to hear from passing critics who might be completely muffled if
we were in a car with the windows rolled up.

I’ve had the idea a few
times to quit biking and just drive annoyingly. More effective than Critical
Mass might be for all the cyclists one day to drive, adding that many cars to
the traffic mix to show the resentful motorists what we have spared them all
these years by pedaling.

Freedom isn’t free. Most people just pay lip
service to that, sending someone else’s kids overseas to fight for our national
interests and saying nice things about them when they get back. It does not
occur to them that you can put yourself on the line for what you believe in just
by biking to the grocery store or to work. It just looks foolishly risky
compared to riding the roller coaster of oil prices, polluting the air, hating
each other in traffic, circling in search of parking, paying off car loans,
dealing with repairs and upkeep and spending all that time sitting in a confined
space.

This is from Cafiend, at one of my favorite bike blogs, “Citizen Rider.” A bike mechanic for more than 25 years, he is also an articulate writer and artist. Do yourself a favor and check out his blogs – he has half-a-dozen.
Later
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