I’ve been commenting the last few days on the five major policy points that cycling advocates told the Bike League are of greatest importance to them. I’ve already written about connected infrastructure networks and distracted driving. Today I want to talk about education.
It isn’t really all that surprising that education is near and dear to advocates. Many of us are League Certified Instructors. We teach cyclists how to ride safely and with confidence in a variety of traffic scenarios…on real roads…with cars and trucks whizzing by just inches away. We understand the risks of cycling and we teach cyclists the avoidance and maneuvering techniques that will lead to fewer crashes and collisions. This is good.
But it’s not just cyclists who we think need a little education. Motorists need it, too. So do law enforcement officers who often err on the side of protecting motorists and leaving more vulnerable road users hanging out to dry. The same is true of politicians who pass silly laws that actually lead to more traffic and gridlock. They all need to understand that the roads are a public common available to all, regardless of how we choose to travel them.
Motorists who object to this line of thinking should slow down and think this through. Roads are not for cars. They never were. The original roads were built by bicyclists for bicyclists. Interstate highways? They were built to allow the military to move armament around the country. Today’s roads? They’re mostly built to allow corporate interests to move goods to market. That’s why Interstate 69 has been dubbed the NAFTA Superhighway. Cars may be allowed on these roads, but none of them were built exclusively for the convenience of the motoring public. If you ban us, somebody else may ban you. That’s lost on a lot of motorists.
As I’ve ridden, it has occurred to me that my cycling has taught me to be a better motorist. I’m more aware of other road users. I’m more likely to slow down and give them more space, mostly because I know just how vulnerable they are. So maybe it makes sense that before anyone can get a driver’s license, they have to mount a bicycle and ride it in traffic. That would be fun, wouldn’t it? They could see firsthand what it feels like to be buzzed and bullied by people just like them! Most of these folks aren’t bad people. They just don’t understand how dangerous their behavior is. Once the point was driven home, so to speak, I think most would come around.
We cyclists aren’t going to go away. In fact, there are more of us every day. Many of us used to drive everywhere and most of us who did aren’t going back to that way of living. This is better. We all have to learn to share. We can do it. It’s not that tough. It starts with a little education.