It might sound crazy to call bicycle groups radical as I have in previously, sort of like saying killer teddy bears or militant unicorns. After all, we remember when as kids we'd peddle around the neighborhood ringing our bells, or biking to the park to play with our friends. Innocent stuff, but don't confuse yesterday's nostalgia with what is going on across the country today with the proliferation of bicycle lanes on city streets.
Last week I wrote of an organization called the California Bicycle Coalition but there are many more advocacy groups. There is the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, San Diego Bicycle Coalition and the Santa Barbara Coalition. There are dozens of these groups in California. And it's not only a crazy West Coast thing. There is a NYC Bicycle Coalition, Chicago Bicycle Coalition, and Boston Bicycle Coalition, just to name a few.
As a matter of fact, the list of cycling advocacy organizations in the United States is staggering. On last count there were statewide bicycle advocacy coalitions in more than 40 states, and this doesn't even take into account the local city and county groups. The primary mission of these organizations is to advocate for improved cycling conditions by lobbying local, state, and federal governments to change traffic laws, increase bicycle paths and give over more automobile road space to the bicyclists.
The people heading up these groups are professional "social justice" organizers trained in community organizing and raising money from the green lobbies. The California Bicycle Coalition website, for example, proudly states that "We're not just talking about funding a protected bike lane here or there: we're talking about getting a new state funding program, offering $25 million grants, to create low-stress, complete bicycle networks We envision a future where Californians can get wherever they need to go on bicycle, without ever having ride with fast-moving car traffic."
The LA Bicycle Coalition web site instructs their cyclists to "Ride on the Street - You have a right to ride on the street. You are NOT required to ride on the sidewalk! They go on to say, "Take the Lane - If a travel lane is too narrow to safely share side by side with a motor vehicle, you can prevent unsafe passing by riding near the center of the lane." Of course this will prevent a car from being able to pass the bike, and in so doing slow down all traffic behind. Tell me this isn't a war on cars.
Our local, state, and federal governments are happy to oblige and work hand in hand with these groups because of the crony capitalism that exists between big government and the so-called "green" industries, the environmental, climate change crowd. Not only are bikes getting more space on our roads and streets, but the roads and streets themselves are being narrowed.
A bus driver wrote me the following after my first column appeared on this subject:
"After having consulted in length with some of the top chiefs of the Teamsters Union (exclusive passengers on my bus during one trip), we were able to a come to a number of conclusions regarding new traffic conditions being networked by the government across the entire country. While the federal and local governments were showing themselves to be friendly towards and endorsing environmentalists, they were, in fact, doing the exact opposite. In particular, city governments were finding every plausible means to slow down traffic even to gridlock in many cases. And you may be sure that bicyclists were included in these new measures.
"When a non-motorized vehicle (bicycle) slows down a motorized vehicle (such as my bus), I ended up using up to five times as much fuel to cover the same distance. Guess what. This is pure tax profit to the government. Secondly, naive bicycling environmentalists who are causing the slow-down are also causing the extra burning of fuel and environmental pollution. That's the irony.
So whether the city puts out ten thousand orange, construction cones to bottleneck traffic, or devises new laws to permit bicycles to impede the progress of motorized vehicles, the results are the same: the government rakes in vastly increased tax revenues, and drivers cuss at cyclists and leave the government alone."
And remember, bicyclists do not contribute taxes or registration fees to help pay for the streets and highways that are becoming more "bike friendly." Motorists pay for it in gasoline taxes and vehicle registration. Perhaps it won't be long before some bean counter in the government figures out that they can start taxing the hell out of the bicycle riders too.
There must be a way to do it with registration fees, bicycle riders' licenses, and maybe a spandex tax and expanded polystyrene helmet tax.
I can't wait.