I have always believed that one thing that has helped car companies fend off most competition from alternate modes of transport is their ‘ownership’ of the roads. They have, very successfully, made the common man believe that roads were invented for cars to be driven on. They have made him forget that while the history of cars on the road is barely a a century old, the roads themselves have been around since at least the times of Romans. And they have used this new memory to force through restrictions of usage on other vehicles similar to those on cars, despite the vast variance in their size, power and nature of use. And this – the privilege to consider roads as automobile-driver’s right – is not something they will let lowly cyclists, pedestrians or segway riders take away from them easily.
With their bottom lines improving, I was expecting the American car companies to soon go on a war against urban cycling and this, prompted by them or not, is the best news they could have heard:
New York City’s cyclists will be required to register their machines and carry a number plate.
The young Republican, doesn’t help to his or his party’s reputation as big fat Elephants who fail to understand anything not helpful to big business or the rust belt:
Displaying a deep understanding of urban cycling culture and a commendable appreciation of the difficulty of carrying a wallet whilst riding, Councillor Ulrich suggested that many riders involved in accidents are without identification because “they’re in Spandex or whatnot.”
Left to me, the appropriate punishment for this young councillor would be to make him live a few weeks in Girona watching dozens of ‘spandex’ covered cyclists rove around practicing for, say, the Giro. Then make him live for 6 months in a city like Amsterdam or Copenhagen with his much loved cars occupying the roads in harmony with the thousands of cyclists.
Update: Another article on the road.cc website points to similar targeting of cyclists by lawmakers on US’ west coast. Seems like the lobbyists for car companies are already back in full flow. As for the points addressed in this second article, I’m split.
I support restrictions on using headphones/earphones while cycling as they tend to hamper ability to concentrate on traffic on road – whether automobiles or other cyclists. However, the same is also relevant in cases of pedestrians, specially joggers, using the headphones. While cycling on a shared path, I have been forced to stop plenty of times by a someone jogging in middle of the path oblivious to my approach behind him. Of course, they don’t hear my bells and trying to cycle past them is potentially dangerous for both of us. So, if safety is the only concern: do ban those headphones, but not just for cyclists – for everyone using shared paths or roads.
On the other issue – banning young children from bike trailers – I would just like to salute the incredulity of the statistic conjured up to support the ban: percent of riders biking to work at least three days a week have some sort of crash that leads to an injury. On first reading, it sounds acceptable. Now read it like this: If you ride your bike to work at least 3 days a week, sometime in the many years that you continue to ride, you are going to have a crash related injury. Yeah, right. I’m sure there’s a higher probability of some such injury if I walk to work 3 days a week for rest of my life – from some dog rushing at me to slipping on the ice to stumbling on an uneven pavement block. I think I should stop walking too, then. Not happening.
But then, in that country, given the state of that country’s public debates right now, anything can be pushed through under the guise of safety – either public’s or the nation’s. Won’t be too wrong then to pass a few cyclist-unfriendly laws as being for the safety of automobile-industry.