There is way too much of a trend here. Bicyclist dies in a crash, people immediately say bikes don’t belong on the road. Signs go up reminding motorists to “share” the road. Bicyclists gather in rallies and ask people to “be kind”.
Bicycles are vehicles. You don’t ask to “share” the road with Mini Coopers or motorcycles. The road belongs to all of these people in every vehicle. You don’t rally to “be kind” to people in crosswalks. Outside or off of our vehicles, we’re just plain “people”. Not “pedestrians”, not “shoppers”, (and while we’re on the subject of labels, we’re not “consumers” either). Just people.
What’s that trend of labelling I’m talking about? Referring to people as “consumers” dehumanizes them. It’s not just greenie blogs that think this. Big fancy blogs about writing and word choice also agree. How about TIME magazine?
Ok,so what’s that got to do with bikes or “pedestrians”? When we label someone as anything other than a human, the person stops being human in our minds. “Pedestrians” become creatures that belong on a sidewalk. Not in a crosswalk, and definitely not on the roadway. They become beings that we should look out for, like possums and deer skittering onto our precious blacktop. This isn’t my original idea. Read about it yourself and I’ll get on with my rant. Oh, and the “shoppers” thing? Yeah. That happens. I took that picture, and it’s not the only place I’ve seen that sign.
So the point. We’re not shoppers, pedestrians, or bikers. We’re people. All of us, in cars, on bikes, on foot. And guess what? We all get from here to there however we can. Those paths intersect and overlap. A lot. You might be on a road, but you have to keep your eyes open for everything. You might be on a bike path, and same rules apply. And when you’re in a crosswalk, or even on a sidewalk (where, sadly, my friend’s father was killed by a rogue vehicle)? Well, I think your squishy soft flesh and self-preserving brain agree: watch out.
Everyone,watch out. We all belong where humans belong. Vehicles—fast or slow, human-powered or motor-fed—go on roads. The faster objects then have a responsibility to watch for slower moving objects—people, other vehicles (including bikes), and animals. In big cities and congested areas in other parts of the world, people, cars, and bikes all weave in and out of the same roadways. It works. Cars don’t expect to see only cars on the roads, so they keep an eye out. People don’t expect a nice, safe, car-free sidewalk, so they are wary, too.
But over here in ‘Merica, we love our cars. We love em to be as big and badassed as possible. We scoff at people waiting for the bus. We consider any form of locomotion, especially walking and biking, as either done for exercise or by necessity. That is, you are rich enough to have leisure time, so you suit up in your appropriate exercise outfit and hit the streets to burn off some fat, or you’re too poor to afford a car and your feet or bike are your only choice. It’s a rare soul who drives by a bicyclist and thinks “man, there’s freedom. I sure wish I could leave my big gas-guzzler behind forever.”
Hence, signs for “shoppers crossing” and “Ped xing”. From high atop our SUVs and down in the depths of our Coopers we think “Shoppers and Pedestrians are not Us. They are not Drivers. We all-powerful Drivers must benevolently give way to the lower life forms. We must share.”
No. “Sharing” the road indicates you have something that you allow me to use. And those roads? They’re not yours. They’re ours. They’re not shareable because they don’t belong to anyone. I don’t “share” parks with you. We just use them together. Maybe I’m splitting hairs and co-use is already “sharing” by your definition. But I want to be clear about this. Roads aren’t yours for “sharing”. They are for us all to use together. At the same time; we do not take turns using the roads.
Keep watching. I’m out there, and I’m squishy, and you may not like me or that idea, but I’m a human just like you.