The battle ground for using a bicycle for transportation is being fought by tribal groups with their own territorial interest. The non-profit sector, local government and federal government have advocated for separated bike riding infrastructure from automobiles. This group has relied on tax dollars and is now experiencing cuts in funding. Altho the beneficiaries of these federal dollars have greater bicycle use than communities without, it is congressional lawmakers now battling to reduce government expenditures that jeopardizes futher separated path development. No one knows how this scenerio will turn out. One prospect with a poor economy is that without these separate facilities there will be a greater concentration of bicycle riders on city streets. As more unitiated riders see a higher useage they will be apt to disregard the common perception of dangerous streets. But, for this to happen the bike industry needs to get on board.
The bicycle industry, that is distributors and retailers, have been slow to move into transportation as they are mired in the declining tradition of sport and recreational use. In the past 10 years over a third of bicycle retailers, primarily small niche retailers have gone out of business. Ask any bike rider their thoughts about bike transportation. There is a growing awareness in small pockets of America. What is evident though is bicycle transportation is not going away. It is sort of viral at this time in history.
When I first started to use a bike for transportation it was in Indianapolis in 1967. I was a caddy and going into the 7th grade. I earned enough that first month to buy a Schwinn Sting Ray. My ride was 4 miles one way. This was my first taste of independence. My mother didn’t have to drive me anymore. What did I care that I had to ride up Springmill Road, one of the biggest hills around. This being central Indiana and table top flat execept near the river, I still imagine myself in later years training for epic riding through the Appalachians and French Alps.
Bike riding has never been a chore or for that matter something to fear. It has a way of keeping me aware of the spaces and places I travel through. Nothing like a car. But, if I could digest what I feel as a bicyclist for car drivers I would want to tell you. I ride my bike like Italians drive a car. Italians go fast when there is an opening. Italians respect the faster driver and stays out of their way and Italians know what the other scooter, van, truck or pedestrian is going to do. Like it is a sixth sense. Italian drivers are aware, pertty much like experienced bike riders and motorcylist are aware in America. Ride a bike more and drive your car less and attempt to be totally aware, like those Italians.