- Get involved
Changing attitudes, one driver at a time
Last night I got into a friendly discussion with a neighbor over his frustration with cyclists on the road. Seems that he is tired of cyclist taking up the road for what he deemed, "recreation." He wanted my thoughts (and someone to vent too) on the subject.
He started to say that we should use the sidewalks or if we need exercise, the gym or ride the Velodrome down the street. I let him make his case and then I pointed out some things to him..
I explained to him that in Georgia, and all 50 states, bikes are considered vehicles, and thus are allowed to use the road. And at the same time they are subject to the same traffic laws as automobiles. And then, before he could pipe in, I pointed out that I believe that if you break the law on a bike, you should be cited. And then jokingly asked. "How many times have you seen a motorists break the law and wish there was a cop around?"
As far as the sidewalks, I just looked at our street and said, "What sidewalks?" And that the Velodrome is a racing facility, not a general recreational facility. I also invited him to come down one day and watch the races.
I explained to him that motorists, despite popular opinion, do not "pay" for the road. I pointed out a study that estimated automobile users pay an average of 2.3 cents per mile in user fees, including fuel taxes and vehicle registration fees, while they actually impose 6.5 cents per mile in road service costs. Who pays the difference? It's picked up by general taxes and property assessments. So while bicyclists pay an equal share of those taxes, they impose costs averaging only 0.2 cents per mile in road service costs. All the time we were talking we were standing next to my 2 vehicles in my driveway. Vehicles that pay fuel and registration fees. (NOTE: I have never had children, yet I still have to pay school taxes with my property taxes. Does that seem fair??)
Then I said something to him that must of been a shocker.. I said, "Motorists owe cyclists a debt of gratitude!" The look on his face was priceless. I went on to explain that every cyclist he sees on the road represents one less car contributing to the infamous Atlanta traffic. Yes, you may occasionally have to slow down for a few seconds, but those few seconds are offset by the time you save for every car that is not on the road ahead of you. I also pointed out to him that cyclists also neither consume gasoline nor contribute to the smog that plagues Atlanta in the summer (and results in fines by the EPA on the city that has to be paid out of the general fund.) And that my skinny 23cm tires and the weight of my bike contribute far less wear and tear on the road than cars. These are benefits that accrue directly to motorists in the form of less demand for limited resources, driving regulations and limited tax dollars.
After all was said and done he stated to me that while he still does not like it, he has a better understanding of where I, as a cyclists, are coming from.
Wow, I guess dialogue does really work. I guess it is a bit like my marathon running.. a single step ultimately leads to the finish line.