It’s inevitable. Every local news article that mentions biking, no matter how fluffy or non-controversial the article, will incite hordes of angry commenters to bring up the same tired, disproven arguments over and over again. It’s time we put those to rest.
- Cyclists don’t obey the rules of the road. This is probably the most frequent argument I see. Motorists complain that cyclists are constantly shirking the law by rolling through stop signs and running red lights. Sure, I see cyclists doing this when I’m out on my bike, and I sometimes do it too. When it comes down to it though, motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians are all people going places, and they all break laws in their own ways. Studies have show no real difference in the rate of rule-breaking between groups. Pedestrians jaywalk. Cyclists roll through stop signs and run red lights. Motorists speed, tailgate, not signal, not stop before turning right, drive while drunk, drive while distracted, and others. One group breaking laws doesn’t make it okay for any other group, but no one says that motorists don’t deserve to be on the road because they break laws. Just because you notice bikes breaking laws, doesn’t mean they are doing it any more than other modes. Rule-breaking is a human trait, not reserved for cyclists alone.
- Cyclists don’t pay for the roads or trails they use. This old argument gets broken out time and again. Less than a third of all road funding comes from user taxes and fees. Since 1947, spending on roads has exceeded the amount raised by user fees, such as gas taxes, tolls, and licensing fees, by $600 billion. The majority of road spending comes from the general fund, sales and property taxes. That means everyone pays for roads and highways, even if they don’t use them. And anyways, most cyclists have cars, so they do pay some of the associated user fees.
- Biking is bad for the economy. Having modern bike infrastructure in a city is a good thing for a lot of economic reasons. Bike infrastructure, like trails and paths, increase nearby property values. An evaluation of 12 different studies found that removing parking in business districts to install a bike lane either has a neutral effect on local businesses or increases economic activity for local businesses. Being a world class cycling city attracts young, talented people and businesses. Biking reduces healthcare costs and pollution costs, and decreases deaths due to chronic illnesses.
- Bike lanes cause congestion. A recent study by FiveThirtyEight, looking at specific data from Minneapolis, found that installing bike lanes increases traffic congestion minimally but not enough to cause noticeable delays. Plus, bike lanes increase the safety of roads for everyone who uses them.
- Bikes should get on the sidewalk. Biking on the sidewalk is unsafe. According to Bike Walk Twin Cities, “A crash analysis conducted for the City of Minneapolis for years 2006-2007 found that 39 percent of all crashes involved a cyclist entering traffic from a sidewalk or sidepath. This is far more crashes than occur from bicyclists riding the wrong way on the street (6 percent) or from blowing through red lights (7.5 percent) or stop signs (3.9 percent).” When cyclists are in the street, cars see them. If they’re crossing an intersection from a sidewalk, cars are much more likely to turn into them. Additionally, bikes and pedestrians travel at very different speeds, meaning that bikers on sidewalks have many more obstacles to avoid. In Minneapolis, it is against the law to ride a bike on sidewalks in business districts. If you want bikes to get off the road, support funding for protected bike lanes.
- Everyone should just get a car. This is a very privileged view of the world. Not everyone can afford to buy or maintain a car. The average cost of car ownership per year is around $8,000, transit is $1,800, and bike ownership is $300. Biking is an equitable transportation option that is accessible to many people.
Reading these same, tired, disproven arguments over and over again is really disheartening. Can’t we just agree to put aside these old arguments once and for all? Some people bike, and some people don’t. Everyone makes different choices in life, it doesn’t mean your choices are wrong if someone chooses something else. Biking is a great asset to this city. Even if you don’t bike, can’t you just recognize it’s not hurting you and let the cyclists cycle?
This post was cross posted at bikinginmpls.com.