Sharing the Road, By Law

Cyclists and motorists spar, in the roads and the legislatures, over who gets the road.

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Tensions between cyclists and drivers are rising in Colorado, reports USA Today, where a recent law mandated drivers give bikers three feet of space. This tension has spread to, of all places, political blogs. Cyclists are passionate people, and some pundits bike when they're not blogging, so they support the change. But some commentators commute and are not as fond of bikers or their legislation.

Protect bicyclists. John Cole of Balloon Juice, who approves of the law, expressed shock at a provision in the law explicitly forbidding motorists from throwing things at cyclists. "I had to read this twice to make sure I was reading it right," he wrote. "People are just morons. I'm seriously not sure how we made it this far as a society." Cole praised "how much bike paths and trails added to the daily quality of life for people."

Protect drivers. James Joyner of Outside the Beltway, however, has a lengthy car commute, and he does not appreciate "people in spandex peddling along at 15 miles an hour next to half-ton vehicles driving at 65 competing for space." (Joyner also dislikes buses, which he says "amount to a moving road block.") He says we should be getting bikes off the road, not passing legislation that encourages them on:

Adding bicyclists to the mix is insane. While they always seem to think they're the aggrieved party, the fact of the matter is that few of them obey the rules of the road. They weave in and out of traffic unexpectedly. They hog lanes rather than driving to the right. They run stop signs and stop lights. They're alternately vehicles and pedestrians as suits them.

Cyclists take responsibility. Bob Mionske of Bicycling Magazine psychoanalyzed anti-cyclist road rage, arguing that it's not about the bikes at all. Running through a nifty list of psychological causes of road rage, such as "regulation" and "lack of personal control," Mionske concluded, "along rolls a cyclist, taking up road space, slowing people down, wearing funny clothes, not paying taxes, and not even obeying the law! Never mind that some of these stereotypes may not even be true; the cyclist makes a convenient scapegoat to blame." Mionske followed-up, telling fellow cyclists to "build bridges with other road users--pedestrians and motorists--by leading by example." He advocates following all laws, being respectful, and trying not to aggravate the "often adversarial" relationship with drivers.

Can't we get along? Huffington Post's April Streeter, noting that cyclists can succumb to road rage as well, urged an armistice. "The need to share the roads will only increase as cities become more congested," she pleaded. "None of us can afford an us vs. them mentality in our approach to mobility."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.