Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on August 29th, 2012 at 9:53 am
It's a common refrain during civic debates about bicycling: People on bikes get a "free ride" and it's just "not fair" that any public subsidies should go toward making bicycling better because people who ride "don't pay their way" and they are scofflaws to boot. It's that type of perspective that led to my thoughts last week on how we should approach the licensing discussion from a position of reform, not revenge.
That post has led to some excellent ideas and thoughts from the community and the comment section is still alive and well five days later. Last night, frequent commenter El Biciclero shared his thoughts on this concept that people on bikes are getting a "free ride." I've pasted his entire comment below...
It is my firm belief that nowadays, most folks who call for licensing/registration of riders/bicycles do so with a revenge motive. A lot of people see cyclists just as you describe--as somehow cheating the system. They don't think it seems "fair" for cyclists to get a "free" ride.
I'll tell you about "free".
"Free" means inhaling the exhaust and dust spewed or kicked up by drivers. "Free" means drivers frequently coming within seconds or inches of killing or injuring me, and having such a cavalier attitude about it as to be considered contempt. "Free" means paying in time and physical effort for what drivers pay for in cash. "Free" means getting roasted by the sun and drenched by the rain. "Free" means taking a longer (often MUCH longer) route--even though I am already also going slower--than I would take in a car because it is "safer", or because the direct route is literally and legally off-limits to bicycle travel. "Free" means having my spouse come nearly to tears when I mention trying a new route to work that involves an unprotected left turn. "Free" means having other people consistently think they need to act like my parent and tell me where I "should" or "shouldn't" be. "Free" means observing 10 to 15 serious traffic violations by auto drivers in one trip home from work--two or three of which directly endanger me--while knowing most folks consider me to be the scofflaw menace. "Free" means reading comments on "news" articles by troglodytes who think it would be funny to watch me die. "Free" means that were I ever to be involved in an altercation with a driver in which police were involved, my story would likely be automatically discounted/disbelieved because I was not also in a car. Oh, and "free" means I still pay taxes that contribute to the construction and maintenance of roads that are destroyed by cars.
"Free" also means that I can hear birds singing and the actual flapping of ducks' wings as they pass over my head--on the way to work. "Free" means I can tell what most of my neighbors are having for dinner by the smell as I glide along the street. "Free" means "no gym membership necessary". "Free" means I can feel the thermal micro-climate fluctuations as I sweep past low-lying woodsy areas. "Free" means I can hear the leaves crunching under my wheels in the Fall. "Free" means I only fill up the car (if I have a car) once a month or less, rather than every week. "Free" means I can do much of my own vehicle maintenance, rather than pay a mechanic the cost of a brand new bike to fix some car problem. "Free" means that I can still feel strong, even as I get older. "Free" means I can stop and chat with friends I might see walking along the sidewalk. "Free" means I care more about the weather report than the traffic report. "Free" means that if I ever do need to take the car (if I own a car) in for repair, I can leave the car and don't have to get a loaner or bum a ride to get home. "Free" means that using my vehicle often feels more like playing a musical instrument than operating a mechanical device. "Free" means I might avoid a lot of the prescription drugs and healthcare costs associated with sedentary lifestyles. "Free" means I have a much lower chance of backing over my own kid in the driveway. "Free" means I know how to drive a car, but if I don't have one or the one I have is broken down, I don't necessarily care. "Free" means that even when drivers yell or rev their engines or attempt to guess my sexual orientation, I know I don't need to do any of those things to other people to make myself feel big and strong; I am strong.
Thanks El Biciclero, I could not have said it better myself.