Thursday, August 12, 2010

This OpEd piece from the Charlotte Observer nails it!

Cyclists, motorists alike should chill, obey laws
Why such rage toward cyclists? More cycling saves us all money.
Posted: Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010

When you're driving somewhere in a hurry - and who isn't in a hurry these days? - having to slow down for a bicyclist can be as annoying as ...

As annoying as having to slow down to let a frail elderly person or a mother with a stroller cross the street.

As annoying as having to repeat something to a deaf grandfather.

As annoying as waiting in line at the movies or to get into a popular restaurant.

Yes, some things are annoying. But in a civilized community we take a deep breath, look at the big picture and cultivate some compassionate patience.

So why, after articles in Monday's Observer about tension between bicyclists and motorists, were online comments at so venom-filled they had to be cut off? Why do bicyclists make so many motorists' blood boil?

We don't know. (Is it the spandex?) If we knew the answer, we'd be out on the consultant circuit making millions selling it to people trying to tame the rage. Here's what we do know:

Bicycles are legal on city streets and the state's roads. Bicycles have every right to share the pavement and to expect courteous treatment.

Jerks can be found behind the wheel, pedaling cycles, even in wheelchairs and on foot. You can be a jerk anywhere. So while that means motorists shouldn't honk at cyclists or swerve at them, it also means bicyclists have no more right to deliberately clog travel lanes than SUVs or tractor-trailers do.

More education is needed for motorists (see first item) - and cyclists. They aren't exempt from traffic laws such as stopping at signs and lights, going the right way on one-way streets and - many motorists don't realize this is a law either - stopping for pedestrians in crosswalks.

Now that you've taken that deep, breath, consider the larger picture:

More and more Americans are getting diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure from being overweight. Anything that gets people outdoors and exercising will be good for all of us, since health care costs (and our insurance rates) go up when more people are sicker.

Our country's oil habit is expensive (think of those Persian Gulf wars), politically treacherous (Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Venezuela), despoiling the environment (Gulf spill, air pollution) and cooking our planet. With less oil-fueled travel, we all gain.

Local and state governments are sinking under infrastructure costs for streets, highways and bridges built to accommodate ever-expanding traffic. Whatever encourages travel on low-cost bike lanes, not expensive interstate lanes, helps all of us.

Given all that, maybe the next time you're slowed by a cyclist in traffic, instead of getting angry, you take a deep breath, and consider the kind of salute that does not involve only your middle finger.

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