I could not believe my eyes when I logged onto Twitter today and found Ontario Senator Nicole Eaton’s latest rant: “Bicycles are a luxury, most of us use public transportation or walk. Never seen a bike rider obey traffic laws. They are special.” Oh, how I wish I was making this stuff up.
Perhaps I shouldn’t have been too surprised by her ignorance; she’s ranted many times against cyclists and cycling infrastructure. I don’t know what she has against cyclists (perhaps a maniacal bike-riding freak once ran over her pet budgie), but I have a feeling that it is in some way connected to other senatorial privileges like warm brie and unbroken crackers.
I’m getting very tired of being made to feel like a second-class citizen for choosing a bike as one of my main forms of transportation (feet and bus are the other two). I’ve never owned a car and chose not to get a driver’s license more than 30 years ago.
I’m getting even more tired of the astonishing ignorance surrounding this issue.
The one that bugs me the most is: Cyclists don’t pay their fair share of taxes to maintain roads. As a non-driver, I pay proportionately more taxes. My bike and I clock in at less than 200 lbs; it would take 15-20 of me to do the same damage to a road as a single 3,000+ pound car would. I realize that am in the minority as a non-car owner, but Eaton conveniently forgets that adult cyclists are also taxpayers (even renters pay property taxes through their rent), and thus contribute to road maintenance; many cyclists also own cars and, therefore, pay the various fees for licenses and renewals.
Here’s another gem, reiterated by Eaton: Cyclists NEVER obey traffic laws. Stop saying words like “never” and “always.” Yes, there are clueless cyclists; there are clueless drivers; there are clueless pedestrians; we have all been clueless at some point. I’ll admit that I’m not always a perfect cyclist. If it’s three o’clock in the morning and I’m riding home from a friend’s place, chances are good I’m going to roll through a few stop signs. But the difference between a bike and a car is that if I run into a pedestrian with my bike, chances are also good that I’m not going to kill them. I obey the traffic laws because I am a law-abiding citizen; I even defer to cars in some situations because, you know, I enjoy breathing.
Understandably, when Eaton tweeted her ignorance, the Twitterverse went nuts, and rightfully so. As I scrolled through the responses, I worried that perhaps this latest senatorial pontification would descend into yet another tweetstorm with hateful, four-letter words spewed across the screen. That didn’t happen, and I am very proud of all those who kept their anger in check in favour of reasoned argument.
Some drivers get far too defensive about their car. “I NEED my car.” No, actually, you don’t; you need things like oxygen, water, food and shelter. If push came to shove and I couldn’t bike, I still have my feet and public transit, so let’s keep things in perspective.
Some cyclists get too uppity about their rights. If it’s a choice between being alive and being right, I’ll choose life every single time.
Both cyclists and drivers need to stop this nonsense. I understand the worth of a car; I know they’re not going anywhere. But I also know the worth of a bike. They do less damage to roads, they don’t pollute, they help you stay healthy, and they are the most efficient form of personal transportation ever devised.
It does no one—not drivers, not cyclists—any good to continue these hysterical arguments. Both cyclists and drivers need to remember that bikes are vehicles under the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, with all the same rights and responsibilities.
In the end, it’s really not that hard, people: Share the road, be patient, be polite. We’re Canadian. Isn’t that what we’re known for?