Thursday, April 29, 2021

The Guy Seemed Angry. Maybe He Didn't Realize the Benefit He Was Receiving.

Note: Now that I've been appointed to a local bicycle/pedestrian advisory board, you can expect to see at least occasional posts from me on, you guessed it, bicycle/pedestrian subjects. Not just because I hope you'll find my ideas interesting (although I hope you will), but because getting my thoughts down in writing will make it easier for me to bring those thoughts to the board when they're relevant. Writing is what I do anyway, and it helps me anchor ideas in my brain for later recall. So that's what's going on here.

A couple of years ago, I rode my (pre-electric, single speed commuter) bike into Gainesville one morning for reasons I don't recall. I live right off the Archer Braid Trail, a bicycle/pedestrian trail that runs alongside NE State Road 24 / SW Archer Road between the town of Archer and the city of Gainesville. My home is at about the middle point of the trail's length. I was riding well past the trail's end, which entailed using a bike lane for a little while and then riding on a sidewalk for several blocks.

It just so happened that I was riding during morning "rush hour," when cars are stacked up and moving slowly into Gainesville. IIRC, I set off at about 8am.

Each time I arrived at a stop light (some of which I had to stop for because the road intersected the trail, others which I could ignore because the road made a three-way "tee" that didn't), I noticed the same car on the road next to me. And I noticed the driver becoming increasingly agitated, seemingly because my bicycle was getting somewhere as fast as his car was. He stared. He occasionally pointed and yelled stuff I couldn't hear.

OK, well, I felt for him ... little. He was driving a fairly nice, late-model car, and here I was getting from Point A to Point B as fast as he was, on a $200 bike.

While it hasn't been frequent or problematic, I've noticed similar attitudes before and since. For some reason, some motorists resent cyclists, even when those cyclists aren't in their way.

What they apparently don't realize is that by riding my bicycle, I  make things easier on them.

Every person walking or biking down a roadside trail, or using a bike lane or sidewalk, is one less person congesting the roadway and slowing automobile, motorcycle, and scooter traffic down (yes, scooters are a fairly big chunk of traffic in the Gainesville area -- far more so than in any other city I've spent much time in).

That's not the whole big picture, obviously. Among other things, there are cost/benefit ratios to consider. How much does the bike trail / bike lane / sidewalk cost to build and maintain, and does its usage reduce congestion (and collisions!) enough to make building additional lanes for car traffic less urgent? Also, who's paying, and who's going to be paying?

But the basic takeaway here is that a trail, lane, or sidewalk for cyclists and pedestrians doesn't benefit only those cyclists and pedestrians. It benefits motorists as well.

As a libertarian, I'd rather have government completely uninvolved in building and maintaining roads, streets, sidewalks, and trails. Since it is involved in those things, my goal as an advisory board member is to help it figure out how it can do what it does in a way that works well for everyone who pays for and uses those roads, streets, sidewalks, and trails. Some libertarian theory says that's a fool's errand. I intend to find out for myself how correct or incorrect that theory is.

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