Friday, July 6, 2012

Bicycles are vehicles. Not?!

Our local Arlington newspaper - The Arlington Advocate, published two weeks ago an opinion by Arlington resident, Robert Smith, who complains that bicycles are being treated just as other vehicles. Mr. Smith points out that bicycles are not cars and are not equal to them. He writes:
"At intersections, bicyclists should dismount and walk; in essence, become pedestrians."
which I find very amusing. I could only compare it with every driver getting out of their car, pushing it across the intersection only to resume driving on the other side. Mr. Smith would also like to keep bicyclists off the streets since they
"proclaim to be equal to motor vehicles by standing in front of motor vehicles and at the green light, forcing every motor vehicle in that line to go at their individual mounting and starting up speed".
Hmm, I wonder how would Mr. Smith like us, bicyclists, to "act as pedestrians" and cross most intersections in the town where sidewalks and crosswalks are as rare as pink elephants. Even if cyclists dismount before entering the intersection, they would still have to act like "vehicles" and use the street as most of (nearly all?) Arlington residential areas don't have any sidewalks.

Yes, I do probably block some drivers a bit and slow them down on my way to work. I ride on streets where sidewalks are not available (Even if they were, it wouldn't matter - I don't ride on sidewalks and no one should). But I stay to the right (about 2 feet from the curb), and most (actually, pretty much all) drivers have no problems passing me on my left. At intersection where, according to Bob Smith, they would have to wait for me to mount my bike, I am faster than all drivers. This is not surprising - it takes much less energy to accelerate a bike than a car and cyclist's response time after the light turns green is usually faster than of an average driver.

Bob Smith also repeats the old tune and asks for an additional taxation of bicycle sales, stating:
"Motor vehicle owners pay extra fees and taxes for much repair and use of roadways. Bicyclists do not. It might be wise to consider equalizing the responsibility of road usage as bicyclists claim more and more road space by initiating a small tax on all new bicycle sales."
If he seriously thinks that this is the solution to improve the quality of our roads, he really has no imagination. Yes, every driver pays the extra tax. It is called the excise tax and it is a tax on car ownership, not usage. Roads are not maintained from that tax. Roads are maintained from our income taxes, no matter if they are paid by a driver or a cyclist. Plus, let's be realistic, what kind of road damage can a ~30lbs bike do?

Let's face the facts. Yes, bicycles are vehicles and no, they are not pedestrians. This is why road is supposed to be shared between all vehicles, whether they are a car, a bicycle, or an excavator. Roads were not built for cars.
This also means that a person on a bicycle should simply follow traffic regulations just like any other vehicle and leave sidewalks for pedestrians.

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