Where you ride your bike is a civil rights issue–fifty years ago, people were asked to move to the other side of the road because they were different. The same thing is happening now. The law states that we’re supposed to ride as close to the right hand side of the road as is practicable. I am sure that this is meant for protection of cyclists, for consolidating space, for ease of traffic flow. But the result is that bike riders feel they need to move out of the way, and cars ride right past them in the same lane at the same speed they were going before they saw the bike—which is scary!
So a lot of people don’t ride their bikes in the road. But the road isn’t patently bad or scary. Those same people would stand next to a car that was broken down—even on, say, State Road 436 (a 50mph 6+ lane highway from the Orlando International Airport and spanning two counties of urban sprawl). The reason these people would stand next to this car (even in traffic), I believe, is because there is an understanding that the other cars will simply go around them. They will completely change lanes. So there is no risk (or no perceived risk).
I do believe that people are mostly good. And I think that one day equitable use of the government roads will exist in our country, just as equitable access to government programs such as school is now afforded to all people (some, however, sadly restricted to those who have a piece of paper proving that they are citizens). But until that point, I think it is important to recognize that taking these spaces on the road is an act nonviolent of protest.
Although nonviolent protest is at its core nonviolent, there will be violent results. I have been harassed, yelled at, called obscenities and had my intelligence questioned (even when I had my daughter who was three-years-old sitting directly behind me). On separate occasions, I and my wife have been told that we are not cars, as if it was an insult. This seems like a sort of epithet then. But I am not a car, and neither are the people who are yelling. Sadly, it seems that they have begun to view themselves as something other than a person. This dehumanization, this loneliness in a vehicle locked away from the world, seems to cause people to shut off. I have heard stories of students whose bicycling has made them invisible to cars, who were then right-hooked, students who were hit by cars and then sent to the hospital before going to school simply because they were not recognized on our busy roads. This is from both traveling in the road and on the sidewalks. So this violence comes directly and indirectly as a result of using our roads.
Obviously, as a teacher, I will not ask minors to participate in these protests. But as a parent, I want to bequeath a just world to my children. And as good little Catholics, I hope that they truly own and meditate on the fact that all their little brothers and sisters in this world are as their REAL brothers and sisters. So I can’t deny my or these children equity. They need transportation. They deserve equality. This is a dilemma, I know. But it makes me look not at myself, nor at the users of the roads, nor at my children or their peers. It causes me to look NOT at the monster, but to look at Doctor Frankenstein. It causes me to look at the builders of the roads.
There is a government trail that has been approved to run from the Colonial High School Ninth-Grade Center to Colonial High School. This will also lead to the Little Econ Trail. A lot of us bicycling advocates have friendly debates about whether we should use trails (away from cars) or roads (with the cars). Obviously, there are issues with connectivity. And with civil rights. I think I betray my stance here. But it should also be understood that, for those inside of cars, automobile accidents are the number 10 cause of death in the United States. Considering this and that the work ahead of us is very strong, I propose to embrace both trails and nonviolent protests on the road.
This is a road that cars are not allowed on. I think it’s a great step in prioritizing bicycling as traffic. It paves the way—so to speak. So if you live in Orange County, Florida, please contact your County Commissioner here: http://www.orangecountyfl.net/BoardofCommissioners.aspx and ask them to prioritize the building of this trail. This is not a nature trail, but a firm move towards bicycling as transportation, and a resounding of the voice of the people calling for new ways to get around.