Thoughts and Adventures From Greenlite Heavy Industries

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

On Being Free

I opened up my Seattle Times this morning to see a two inch headline stating:

Police speed trap

snaring bicyclists, too

Immediately I felt the hairs on the back of my neck rising.
Before I go any further I should state that I’m a rule following nut, furthermore I view myself as an ambassador of bicycling.  My goal, and the goal of my company – Greenlite Heavy Industries – is to promote cycling and you ain’t gonna do that by pissing folks off.
Now for the other side of the coin.  Bicycling for me is a passion, but my passion isn’t about turning pedals, instead my passion is all about being a free man.  The bicycle is a means to an end. 

The American adult – despite vociferous clams to the contrary – is being squeezed into a continually shrinking box.  People can’t pay for the cars they drive so they borrow from bankers, they can’t fix those cars (even when they are not really broken) so they pay mechanics, they have to put gasoline into those cars so they look the other way when faced with the realities of the oil extraction business, they are anxious from traffic and in poor health due to a sedentary lifestyle, so they pay pharmaceutical companies to make it all better.  When you are at the mercy of bankers, mechanics, big oil and big pharma you’re pretty darn far from a free man. 

In my life the automobile is necessary, I don’t deny that, but I see it as a necessary evil, to be avoided when possible.

A guy on a bike most likely isn’t contributing to the underwater financial situation of most American households, he isn’t contributing to air pollution and climate change, he isn’t putting money into the pockets of oil companies, he isn’t contributing to traffic congestion, he isn’t damaging the roads, and, more than likely, he isn’t downing jar fulls of prescription drugs to combat the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle.  On the other hand, he is sweating, he is getting wet, he is feeling the cold.  I say give him the benefit of a doubt.  (Note that I use “he” in the gender neutral sense –writing he/she every time makes for awkward writing).

I don’t believe that cyclists should have free reign to ride in a dangerous or inconsiderate fashion, but bicycles are not automobiles and shouldn’t be treated as such.  Consider a spectrum wherein walking is on the left end and driving an automobile is on the right; I would place cycling very far to the left.  A cyclist, like a pedestrian, is very in tune with the surrounding environment (head phones should never be worn while riding), whereas the driver of an automobile is quite removed from his/her surroundings.  A cyclist can see, hear and even smell what’s going on around them, which I believe gives the rider some leeway.  For example when I approach the four-way stop near my house I can easily look and listen for opposing traffic, if it is clear I’ll roll through without coming to a complete, one foot on the ground stop.  When I’m in a car I can’t really see or hear what’s going on at that intersection, so coming to a complete stop, assessing the situation and then proceeding seems reasonable.  In other words we don’t expect pedestrians to make a complete stop at a stop sign, nor should we expect it of cyclists.
When I see headlines stating that bicyclists, many of whom don’t have a speedometer, are being pulled over and given a $103 fine for exceeding a 20 mph speed limit in a downhill zone I can’t help but feel a bit angry as this type of action only serves to impede cycling, instead of doing what we should be doing: promoting it.

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