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I am a bike commuter – every day I brave traffic, potholes, snarling dogs and sometimes even rain and snow on my way to work. Some things you can’t avoid. But what I don’t understand is the drivers who honk, try to brush by me as close as possible and practice their sign language skills from the safety of their rigs.
But whether they like it or not, the Virginia Code gives me and other cyclists the legal right to use almost any state road in Virginia. This should really not be a surprise, because it’s historical fact that the first paved roads in America were paved for cyclists, following a campaign by the League of American Wheelmen (now the League of American Bicyclists). Membership included John D. Rockefeller, “Diamond Jim” Brady, the Wright Brothers and, no doubt, numerous other fine upstanding citizens. We were here first, but we are happy to share.
So we have the right to ride on the roads – but why do we do it?
Some think they are saving the planet. Good for them. Regardless of your opinion on global warming, where’s the harm? Others just want to keep a few more dollars out of the hands of the oil magnates of Moscow and Venezuela. We all benefit from that. Me, I just ride because it makes me feel good, and it beats sitting in a steel cage blowing college tuition out the tailpipe of my SUV every morning. Yes, I am a bike commuter who owns an SUV (multiple SUVs, actually) — so yes, I do pay my share of road taxes. I’m not so different from you, really.
In fact, cyclists, serious cyclists, bike commuters like me, are the motorist’s best friends. Think of it this way — you may get frustrated if you have to veer around me in your rush to the next stoplight (where I will probably catch up to you waiting for the green). But ask yourself — would you rather veer around my bike or be stuck behind my Grand Cherokee? When you are looking for a parking space, isn’t it nice to know that there is at least one more out there — the one that I would have used if I had driven? And when you go to the gas pump, think of the 7.5 million gallons of gas that we bike commuters didn’t buy last week. That has to help keep prices down for drivers.
Bottom line — bikes are good. Bikes make sense. Granted, bike commuting is not for everyone, but if just another 1 percent of daily commuters rode a bike to work, there could be 1.5 million fewer cars on the road burning 4.5 million fewer gallons of gas per day. That means a faster commute and lower gas prices for you. There would be 1.5 million more parking spaces, all without one dime of federal, state or local tax money. And if just 10 percent of commuters rode their bikes, even on sunny days only, we could probably stop buying oil from Saudi Arabia and Iraq. At 15 percent, we could tell Russia and Kuwait to take a hike, too.
So on Monday, if you happen to pass me on my way down Cary Street, please don’t honk – just wave, and give me three feet when you whiz by. Sure, the law says I’m only entitled to two feet, but what’s another 12 inches when we’re talking energy independence? We’re not trying to make you give up your cars – we’re trying to help you keep them.