Beware of Bicycles
There are 55 bicycle trails in Illinois. In fact, within “bicycle distance” of where we live is the Chain of Rocks Bridge. This bridge crosses the Mississippi River, which connects the Illinois bicycle trail beginning at Pere Marquette State Park near Grafton, Illinois, to the well-known Katy Trail in Missouri. The Chain of Rocks Bridge was recently renovated especially for pedestrians and bicycles and was paid for by we the taxpayers.
With that wonderful recreational provision, why would 4,500 bikers (mainly from St. Louis) choose to make a 100 mile bike ride on roads already heavy with tourist traffic that are two lane, curvy, hilly roads under construction?
That is what Derry Brownfield of the Common Sense Coalition would call “ignorance gone to seed.”
Last Sunday on our way to church, we had the “privilege” of having our patience tested. We were behind one batch of these bikers going up a normally busy road with a steep winding hill, blind curves, no road shoulder. And these bikers were not about to budge out of the way. To top it off, the road was freshly milled in preparation for a new surface.
To see these two wheelers peddling up the hill with rear ends stuck in the air in tight fitting britches is a humorous sight. But it wouldn’t have been funny to have seen one stretched out along the road with tire marks across him. These Sunday road warriors were literally risking their lives to prove they had the right.
We were in our car. We had our seat belts on as required by the law—our insurance and license fees were paid. We had paid fuel tax when we purchased our gasoline. Now wouldn’t you think that would give us a bit of a priority?
What was that biker’s investment that would give him the right to go down the middle of the highway? Bikers have no license, no vehicle insurance, no seat belts, no fuel tax. They are not making any contribution into the local economy in the way of tourism dollars. They had their own manned rest stops that furnished them with food and water, and they certainly can’t pack home much from the local shops on the back of their bikes or in those tight britches.
Maybe we should blame the route sponsor and not the bike rider for being guilty of this stupidity, but if these people cared about their lives, they should have just said “no, I won’t go on this unsafe route.” Whatever spared someone from being run over, or these bicyclers causing a vehicle to have an accident, must have been God’s hand of protection, because it wasn’t their common sense.
For a number of years bikers have made riding on our twisting, dangerous roads, putting themselves and others at risk, a common weekend occurrence in our area.
Bikers have the reputation of having an attitude of superiority and are not popular in rural communities. Many are very rude. They choose to take the middle of the highway as their right-of-way, disregarding local residents who are trying to get to their destinations...and they refuse to budge. They appear to be saying, “I just dare you.” They readily ask for help when they have a problem but show little appreciation.
They demand the government to provide and pay for their “entertainment and recreation.” The government must provide parks, paths, scenic areas, fishing and boating opportunities, tourism, and all kinds of free outings. To accommodate these provisions, the property is many times taken from private property owners to make public areas. Then, these “recreational demanders” choose not to use those areas but to infiltrate areas not intended for their use.
I don’t know about you, but our recreation and exercise is not paid for. For one thing, we have little time for recreation these days trying to earn enough to pay the taxes that pay for bike trails which bikers choose to avoid. Our exercise comes from our work.
Are these groups really into recreation and exercise, or are they being mentally trained for the Sustainable Communities where bicycles will be a way of life? Automobiles are not popular in Sustainable Communities. They may never be totally outlawed as people would protest too much, but they can price the middle class out of affording a vehicle. If there is no gasoline, or it is so expensive you cannot afford it, what good is the car? Only the rich and elite would own and drive cars in a Sustainable Community.
Smart Growth, which passed in Illinois last year, is the design for Sustainable Communities. This is where everything we need is stacked together, and we can ride our bicycles and walk for most of our needs and use mass transit for any other needed travel.
Read about the “road diet” for Smart Growth below (from www.smartgrowthamerica.com):
“What does a “smart growth” transportation system look like? Smart Growth transportation provides choice and convenience, and is coordinated with the way the community is growing....Other communities have put some highways on a “road diet,” taking unneeded lane space for amenities such as sidewalks, plantings, express buses or bicycles.”
Below are some primary features of smart transportation (from www.bicyclefriendlycommunity.org):
“The Bicycle Friendly Community Campaign is an awards program that recognizes municipalities that actively support bicycling. A Bicycle-Friendly Community provides safe accommodation for cycling and encourages its residents to bike for transportation and recreation.”
What is interesting in the following Smart Growth report are the demands for our highways. They demand the same values that are listed in the Federal Register as intrinsic values to be protected on Scenic Byways (http://www.scenic.org/growthstrat9.htm):
“Roads and highways play a significant role in the visual quality of our communities, making transportation design a key component of smart growth and scenic stewardship. Citizens can demand "context-sensitive" highway design from their state department of transportation (DOT) to ensure that all road design considers an area's built and natural landscape; takes into account the environmental, scenic, aesthetic, historic, community, and preservation impacts of a road project; and provides access for other modes of transportation such as bicycles, pedestrians, and mass transit.”
In addition, citizens can encourage state lawmakers to adopt legislation to foster “context-sensitive” road design standards on a statewide basis.
Rails to Trails
The Rails to Trails program has presented major controversy. Railroad tracks that run through private property were intended to revert back to the property owner upon abandonment by the railroads. All across the nation these abandoned tracks have been taken over to be used as bicycle trails. Law suits are popping up everywhere by property owners who border the route where their property has been confiscated for bicycle trails (www.railtrail.org).
Bicycles have been around for a long time and brought joy to many. If used responsibly, a bicycle is a wonderful source of exercise and recreation. But are we being prepared to be forced to use bicycles for our major mode of transportation? Could it be this activity is purposely being placed into an elitist status with no restrictions and licensing in an effort to lure people into this mental mode?
If you are a biker, please ride responsibly on a trail that has been provided for your entertainment, and for your own safety and the safety of others, please keep off the highways.