The other day I was sitting in one coffee shop while reading responses to my letter to the editor regarding a different coffee shop in town. This coffee shop (pictured above) is a lovely place with great service (and a bike rack!) and one I much prefer to frequent. Unfortunately, it is farther away from my house or campus and so I don’t make it over here all too often.
But here I was, the other day, enjoying a cup of iced coffee and getting ready to start my work when a new string of comments on my letter in the local paper caught my eye. Incidentally, Dottie (of Let’s Go Ride a Bike) just posted about a similar phenomenon; cycling and [the macho discourse on] traffic laws.
I had written to discuss the issue of bike racks in town and unintentionally triggered a discussion about cyclists and their usage of bike lights at night, their willingness to stop at red lights, and the altogether debate of whether bikes need follow the same traffic rules as cars.
It seems like there will always be dissent in the bike community regarding this topic. While some noted that the advantage of traveling by bike is getting to move where a car might have to stop, I believe that for bikes to be accepted as equal shareholders of the roads that cars now so exclusively occupy, they have to function as vehicles. Which means respecting the same regulations that other vehicles have to respect; stopping at red lights, signaling when turning, at least slowing down at stop signs (hey, even by car I tend to roll through in second gear), and having functioning lights for visibility in the dark. I believe that this type of riding makes for safer roads for both cyclists and drivers; each know how to negotiate different traffic situations because both adhere to the same rules and regulations.
Other than going on tangents regarding road signs and helmet use, my letter to the editor was well-received by those who wrote in. Readers made helpful suggestions about what else could be done to better the bike racks situation in our city and some chimed in with useful tips about which local officials to contact.
The only voice of dissent came from an anonymous commenter who chided me for ‘slamming’ a local business for not being able to ‘find a bike rack’ outside, suggesting that I should be ashamed of myself for worrying about something like this when ‘everything else is going on’. I can only guess that this person is referring to the greater issues plaguing our nation; war, the recession, the elections, health care, etc, etc. While I agree that there are much weightier issues to be addressed in our nation today, I’m also pretty certain that fitness, health, air pollution, oil consumption, and sustainability factor pretty mightily into the issues debated on a national and international level as well. Allow me to go out on a limb here and suggest that one little bike rack has more to do with all of those things than that reader might imagine. So, no, I’m not ashamed of thinking about my bicycle in all of this.
Compared to that statement, I much welcome the ones discussing where cyclists should ride and when they should adhere to traffic laws. At least the parties involved in this debate recognize that cycling has a place, even if they can’t quite agree on where that is and how it should be dictated.