I’m a Cyclist, I’m Entitled, And Rightfully So

I’m a cyclist. My bike is one of my primary modes of transportation and just about a day doesn’t go by that I don’t hop on it.

I’m a cyclist, and I also feel entitled, and frankly rightfully so.

My sense of entitlement stands in direct opposition to what many public commentators in the media (in Chicago particularly) are saying about cyclists. They deem cyclists as reckless and dangerous. We’re whinny troublesome people who get in the way of cars and put drivers and pedestrians at risk. We’re entitled and only because we’re Millennials or environmentalists or some other hollow insult. (Are those insults?)

Well, I’m one of these Millennial, environmentally and health conscious jerks and I feel entitled and there is a lot of good reason for me to feel that way.

I find it ridiculous that I have to write this in the first place, but I feel entitled to bike, because like everybody else I helped pay for roads and transportation infrastructure and I should be able to use them as I see fit without having to fight for a place. Yes, cyclists don’t pay as directly or consistently for roads through things like user fees or through the gas tax, but cyclists still do pay. Few cyclists are mono-modal meaning many of us still drive or ride in cars. That is not to mention the other array of taxes cyclists still pay.

My choice mode also costs a hell of a lot less than driving. Let’s just talk infrastructure for a moment: for example, the average cost for one mile of bike lanes is about $130-150,000 (let’s stick with 150K), while one traffic lane-mile of generic highway (read: road) costs just shy of $1.4 million to build (let alone maintain). So yeah, $150,000 for one mile of bike lane might sound expensive, but consider 10 miles of bike lanes could be build for the average cost of just one lane mile of new road in Illinois. Bicycles have much less impact on roads too, so that $150,000 goes a lot further than money used for roads.

Then there are the externalities! Every time I get on my bike I am one less driver on the road, that is, I am one less cause for more congestion. I am one less automobile causing pollution of the kind that is locally and globally impactful. I am causing less noise. I am one more person staying in better shape and staying healthier than if I was constantly sitting idle in a car. Those costs are seldom addressed and easily ignored, but eventually we all end up paying for them.

I feel entitled, because I am entitled to feel safe on the road regardless of whether I’m walking, biking, or driving. I am tired of getting on a bike and having to constantly feel like I am battling to stay safe. I feel entitled to my safety and an equitable distribution of resources, because I also know my choices have hugely positive effects and I want that fucking acknowledged already! I want that acknowledged by government, by people in cars, the general public, and by people who are paid to write ridiculous articles about things they don’t understand.

I want it fucking acknowledged that our driving culture isn’t inevitable, because a lot of other cities have people biking–a lot. And in a city as flat as Chicago it is insane that we don’t have more people riding. Bike lanes do indeed take space on roads (but cars use a lot more). And, if we have people bike at the rate they do in Amsterdam (22-40% of trips), Copenhagen (26-37% of trips), or Osaka (25% of trips)–a city as big as Chicago–you simply need less space for cars. Things even out. Alas, according to City Clock Magazine Chicago’s highest average percentage of trips by bike is a measly 1.7%. San Francisco, a city defined by hills, is almost double this. Minneapolis, a city defined by winter, is even higher than San Francisco.

Obviously something is wrong. The visibly obvious problem is the lack of infrastructure. Weather could be a problem, but that doesn’t make sense when we consider the Twin Cities. Clearly there is amore deeply rooted rot in our car culture that denigrates anybody else in harmful ways.

So yeah, I’m a cyclist. I’m entitled and rightfully so. Get over it.