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Monday, May 7, 2012

Dreaming of Happy Coexistence

A very heated discussion is brewing in the Twin Cities over adding bike lanes to Main Street. With three cycle shops in the two cities, and several cycling groups that include road cyclists as well as mountain bikers and BMX enthusiasts, the voice advocating for the bike lanes is strong. To bring even more attention to the concerns of cyclists, the Twin Cities is participating in the Ride of Silence on May 16. The announcement of this event on top of the proposed bike lanes is creating quite the stir.

As I read the comments offered after the Ride of Silence article in the local newspaper, I tried to understand why the pro-motorists believe cyclists should stay off the roads. The only conclusion I kept arriving at was anti-cyclist motorists don't want to have to be mindful of anything but getting to where they want to go as quickly as they possibly can. Having to be aware of cyclists means not being able to text, not being able to eat a hamburger or drink a cola, not being able to put on lipstick, and not being able to do all the other distracting things motorists do while driving. Doing anything that might take one's attention from the road and thus results in an accident equals fault. What better way to avoid ending up in this position? Advocate for cyclists to stay off the roads.

On my way home from work, I watched a young woman roll through what was to be a stop. She barely slowed before taking the turn. Motorist violation. I then came upon two pedestrians walking across the street in front of me. They weren't in a crosswalk, and they didn't seem too concerned that I was traveling towards them at the posted speed limit of 30 mph. Pedestrian violation. Then I saw a cyclist riding against traffic. Cyclist violation. 

While each of these instances made me shake my head in dismay, the thought occurred to me that the roads really could be for everyone: motorists, cyclists, pedestrians. But for happy coexistence to happen, a change in mindset is required, and this is where the waters turn murky. All users would have to take on equal responsibility. The tone of the comments after the newspaper article indicate this isn't likely to happen.

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