With money getting tight across the country, people are dusting off their bicycles for a cheap alternative to cars. That’s not entirely a good thing for people who were biking all along. Bike lanes get crowded and police officers become more likely to crack down on bicyclists who flout the law, according to former Utne Reader editor Craig Cox writing for the Minneapolis Observer Quarterly. At times, bicyclists elevate “reckless cycling habits to a form of political/cultural protest.” That works, if it’s a small number of bicyclists on the road, but if the streets are filled with surly bikers going the wrong way down one-way streets, the law breaking becomes a problem.
Even before the police start making arrests, the cultural divide between car drivers and bikers has already grown from a crack into a chasm. The Urbanite magazine is hosting a road rage roundtable, where spandex-clad bicyclists can hurl insults at car drivers, while enraged motorists can scream about the need to ban bicycles from public roads.
The United States has become “a nation which recognises only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people’s actions,” George Monbiot wrote back in 2005. Our reliance on driving cars is his example of this anti-social behavior, but bicyclists can be just as bad. “When you drive,” he writes, “society becomes an obstacle,” rather than something you are a part of.