By Dom Nozzi
July 29, 2003
I’ve been a regular bicycle commuter for about 25 years in a number of cities in the US. One of the many things I have learned as a bicycle commuter is that motorists enraged by things that slow them down (slow drivers, bicyclists, etc.) regularly honk their horn at me and other cyclists, throw things at me, or scream at me that I should get off the road and on to the sidewalk where you belong while I’m bicycling on the street.
And I say this as a bicyclist who essentially never “takes the travel lane,” but who instead hugs the curb.
It is common to hear calls for creating a separated bicycle path parallel to a roadway.
But I believe that there is a quite legitimate fear that should a path parallel and separated from the street were built, two things would happen:
- Nearly all motorists would angrily scream at me to get on the path; and
- Large numbers of politically-active motorists would begin attending city commission meetings demanding that bicyclists be prohibited from such streets and required to be on the path.
My experience is that even the most mild-mannered individuals are commonly transformed into red-faced ogres who are unable to tolerate anything that might slow them down once they get behind the wheel of a car. I cannot list them by name, but I have heard of a number of places which prohibit bicyclists on certain segments of street (usually bridges).
None of what I say above should be taken to mean that I oppose off-street paths. As Michael Ronkin points out, pro-bicycle communities need a blend of various bicycle facilities. I am a strong proponent of off-street paths when they do not parallel streets (usually, such paths follow rail ROW). Off-street paths are wonderful recreational paths, and “training ground” for novice bicyclists who might one day develop the confidence to become commuter/utilitarian bicyclists as a result. And to do that in America, one must ride in the street.