Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Critical Minuscule

How do you like it when drivers patronizingly wave you through a maneuver that the rules of the road already give you the right to do?

"Go ahead, little cyclist. Do what I wouldn't think twice about letting someone in a motor vehicle do without gesture or comment."

They really don't get it, do they? And they never will, so enough said. But it reveals the motive behind Critical Mass. I've been critical of the mass in the past because episodic confrontations don't really improve the overall climate for individual cyclists in traffic. They just prove we can be assholes too. But maybe something does penetrate the windshield and the thick, bony forehead behind it from time to time. Properly done, the rides can present a positive image and graphically demonstrate both the numbers of transportation cyclists and the extent of their rights to the road.

It could backfire if enough motorists decided to make political noise about how much of the road has been legally ceded to pedalers. A local driver in this area complained, "the road was narrow, with traffic coming the other way. I actually had to SLOW DOWN AND WAIT to get past this bicycler!"

Well DUH. New Hampshire law gives cyclists the right to close off the lane if it's not safe for a motorist to shove past. You'd slow down for a hay truck. You'd slow down for a tractor. You'd slow down for someone on a horse. Sometimes you just have to sloooooow dowwwwwn, Pardner.

Slowing down is not American. Pushing, shoving, grabbing and racing are American. Single-mindedly pursuing your personal agenda is the prime directive. Sacrifice for the common good begins and ends at military service. Riding your bike because you can, and because, in addition to personal financial and health benefits it saves resources, improves traffic flow and frees up parking for people who really have to drive does not count as social contribution. Money spent improving transportation infrastructure so that more people can use alternative methods is a waste of money on a special interest. Billions of dollars spent devastating foreign nations with fabulously expensive explosives is just good foreign policy.

A friend of mine put it well. "Instead of dropping a two million dollar bomb on some mud hut, why don't we just drop the two million dollars? It might make those people happy enough to quit making trouble."

Meanwhile, here at home, a few billion for nationwide road improvements would mean that cycling in the land of the free would not just be limited to the brave.

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