Note to Self:

Monday, November 30, 2009

I've Called The Kettle Black Long Enough

Firstly, I have to mention that is not me in the photo...I am not nearly that young nor as handsome (though there was a point in my life when I probably felt as cool). Secondly, I have to reiterate what I stated in this posting's heading: I've called the kettle black long enough...I really have. And I can't help but wonder...though the bicycle predates the automobile, and that the very roads that cars drive on were first designed for bikes...are we in the very earliest years of co-equality?

I can remember when I was a little kid I did a book report in grade school on the history of the automobile. I asked my late grandmother some questions because she was born very near the turn of the 20th century...both she and the auto were in their infancy you might say. I don't remember the entire conversation but I do remember a few things she said. One was that there were no street lights and very few stop signs etc...that when you approached an intersection you honked your horn. A driver's license, too, was not that widespread (and optional)...you simply bought a car and drove it.

Sound familiar...sort of like a bike, right? Buy one and hop on it...everything, yes everything is optional (helmets, lights, coasting through stop signs and red lights). Well, almost.

The reason I bring all this up is that I got to thinking about it after reading a story at treehugger about Christopher-Felix Hahn, pictured above. It turns out he was pulled over on his bike in Germany (where he lives) and was given a breathalyzer test, which he failed. He subsequently received not only very stiff fines but is also barred from riding his bike (or any bike) for 15 years!

I, and many others in the blogesphere, are constantly ranting about how drivers of cars act, but many of us still hold vehicular laws as an option...I know that I am truly guilty of this and I see others coasting through red lights, stop signs, and going the wrong way down a one-way street on a daily basis. And not so much these days, but in my younger years I can't tell you how many times I pedaled home from a bar inebriated...feeling it was OK because I was only on a bike.

So the two part question, I suppose, is this (and I mostly pose this to myself but I'd love to hear what others think about it): If we, as bicyclists, take our mode of transport seriously, as seriously as a gas guzzling SUV, and want to be treated as an equal, then shouldn't we also follow the very same rules that the driver of the SUV has to? And to digress a bit, with the popularity of bikes today, and with the awareness of their many benefits, are we in the earliest days of of co-equality with the auto?

This post, of course, is written by someone who has spent their entire life in the USA....I'm fully aware that in other parts of the world bikes are more accepted as a serious mode of travel (and not just a kid's toy or spandex-clad power racer). But I just can't help but wonder that if bicycles were held as accountable on the road as the automobile (in the States) would car drivers consider us more of an equal.

To read the full story of Christopher-Felix Hahn on Treehugger, click here; to see the original story in a German paper online, click here.

3 comments:

Zach said...

The difference is that an SUV poses a significant danger to the greater good as opposed to just the driver/rider and is capable of engaging in more dangerous situations by going faster and maneuvering slower. Bike laws certainly could have a place but they should based more on seat belt laws rather than DWI laws

She Rides a Bike said...

Being barred from riding a bike for 15 years is pretty draconian but I believe that bicyclists should be held more accountable to follow the rules of the road. I was stopped on the University campus a month ago for pedaling on the wrong side of the road. The officer was very nice about it but getting a ticket was embarrassing so I am paying more attention to the rules.

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