Just last month, in what I consider a joke, my hometown received a designation as a bike friendly community. Their expansion of our bike trails was the reason cited for this designation. I ride my bike for recreation and exercise and heavily use one of these trails. The trail is less than two miles from my house and I take the less traveled roads to get there. Nonetheless, I have been forced off the road, yelled at to “Get on the sidewalk”, had a pop bottle and a firecracker thrown at me, and otherwise abused when riding this short distance in a law abiding manner. Fortunately I have not been hurt, but I do from time to time worry about the risks I am taking.
This hostile attitude I have experienced is not something unique to me. I have heard similar stories from other cyclists. When there is an accident involving a bike and it makes the media, there are many comments and letters to the editor that can be described as nothing less than hostile. They often go as far as to say that bikes should be banned from the road since they interfere with traffic flow and do not pay enough in taxes (license fees). There are many letters admonishing bikers to stay on the sidewalk. Only rarely does someone respond to this and explain that bike riding on the sidewalk is both illegal on our community but also unsafe—Driveways do not always have the visibility needed for someone pulling out to see and react to something moving as fast as a bike.
Even the media does not get the picture. There was a bicycle/truck accident yesterday morning. One local TV station posted an article about it on their website that began “A pedestrian riding his bike was hit…” There are many terms that would properly describe the accident victim such as biker, bike rider, cyclist, bicyclist, person riding a bike/bicycle, and so forth. Pedestrian is not one of those terms. This word refers to a person on foot. By law bikes are regarded as vehicles in this state and are expected to follow the same laws and have the same rights as any other vehicle. Maybe if people, especially those with influence on the community like the media, would start to think of and refer to them as such we would start to make progress toward actually becoming a bike friendly community.