The relationship between the bicycle and the automobile is somewhat similar to the one between Popeye and Bluto.
Cars are bigger than bikes. They go faster. They have more power. They can hurt you more if you get in their way. Therefore, the automobile, by its brute power alone, is higher up on the food chain.
The only difference, one supposes, is that the bicycle — or its rider — can’t open a can of spinach just when things appear to be at their most critical and kick the car to the curb.
It’s funny how opinions get formed.
Bicycles have been around, in one form or another, since the early 1800s. The automobile wasn’t mass-produced until almost a century later — even though, when you think about it, cars are simply motorized horses and buggies, which have been around much longer.
Still, bicycles aren’t exactly new. We’ve had two centuries to get used to them, and accept them as viable methods of transportation.
So how come we can’t?
Read any comments section after an unfortunate cyclist runs afoul of a DPW truck and ends up in the morgue. It doesn’t take long for someone to go on a rant about inconsiderate bicyclists and their rights to any part of the road. There still seems to be a serious conflict, all of it stemming from the belief that drivers have all the rights, and everyone else — and every mode of transportation — has to take a (pardon the expression) back seat.
Well, who came up with that caste system? Who decided that the car has top priority and everything else has to fall in line?
Don’t misunderstand. If I’m going from Lynn to Portland, Maine, I’m not going to ride my bike — unless the objective is to raise money for a cause or something like that.
But if I’m stuck in a city like Boston, with its paucity of parking spaces, and its ruinous traffic, I might be tempted to buy a good bike and ride it around rather than waste all my time looking for a space and sitting still behind a steering wheel at rush hour.
All of this comes as a prelude to the complaining people have been doing about those green bike-share cycles being strewn around the area. At the outset, let me just say that in an ideal world, those who take one of those things and drop it off should find a place where the bike can be neatly disposed of. Nobody should be comfortable leaving a bicycle — yours or the one you’re borrowing — on its side so people have to dodge it while they’re walking.
But honestly, some of the whining I’ve seen and heard is a little much. I challenge all you people who tut-tut about inconsiderate bike riders to take a tour of parking lots and curbsides. Count how many cars take up more than one space, whether they’re parallel parked or in a designated space. Count the ones who are wedged into areas that are not designated for parking. Count the ones ones that are double-parked because “I’m just running a quick errand, and after all, none of these silly rules apply to me anyway.” Count the ones who use handicapped spaces with no designation allowing them to park there.
And to the next person who gets indignant because bicyclists insist on using a public street (and you know who you are), I issue this challenge. Park your car in a legally designated space, if you can find one, stand on the sidewalk and watch how people drive. Watch them cut fellow drivers off. Estimate, if you can, how far over the speed limit some of them are going. Listen to how often and how easily they lean on their horns as if it’s a musical instrument instead of a safety device. They don’t call it “road rage” because it never happens.
Don’t be so pious. Chances are that all of us — at one time or another — have violated some sacrosanct aspect of road protocol. So, please. Lighten up about the bikes.
And to the cyclists: You know, or should know, the drill. If you’re sharing the road with Bluto, you have to pay him some mind. Don’t be oblivious to what’s around you, or what he may be prone to do. Just as the road is not the exclusive domain of the Blutos of the world, it’s not all yours either. Obey the same traffic rules Bluto has to obey.
Also, bicyclists, you’re not helping yourself out very much in this never-ending power play if you insist on throwing your vehicles around like they’re disposable items. You know how it goes. If you treat them that way, then they’re going to be considered disposable, and they’ll be taken away.
And that would be too bad. Because the bottom line here is that bicycles are better for the environment — especially in crowded cities — riding them is good exercise, and their presence relieves congestion in areas that sorely need that relief.
So, come on. Don’t wave the red flag in front of Bluto; and don’t push Popeye around unduly. That way, we all might live longer.