7 Cycling Misconceptions and Facts

It would seem that there are many people who would love to ride a bike more, but have fears that keep them from doing so. There are also some people who, for different reasons, are against bikes being able to share our streets. Unfortunately, both attitudes toward bicycling are often based on myth, so it is important to educate with facts to help dispel these misconceptions so people have a greater understanding of bicycling, both as a desirable mode of transportation and as culture.

1. People riding bikes are "elite athletes"

While people who ride bikes in busy traffic lanes generally have at least an average skill level, they are by no means always a cycling athlete. Most people on bikes are just trying to get somewhere by choosing to use a bicycle.

2. Roads are funded by gas taxes, why should bikes get to use them for free?

When a bicyclist takes a trip, they do not pay for gas, and therefore they do not pay for gas nor gas tax. In additions, they do not pay tolls, parking, license or registration fees. All these fees in turn pay for roads, their maintenance, and policies associate with the infrastructure. Bicyclist do not even pay insurance as motor vehicles do. However, bicyclists may also own a car and if they do not, from time to time may rent one. In these instances, they pay regularly. The truth is, most gas taxes do not pay for roads either. Transportation budgets come from many sources. Grants, general funds, property tax and levies, sales tax on a purchase, and many other sources contribute to road infrastructure which is paid by everyone, not just motor vehicle drivers. In addition, a bike and rider have far less impact than a 3,000 lb. (1.5 ton) car or 25,000 lb. (12.5 ton) bus.

3. Bikes just do not belong on the road

Ideally, all people of any age or ability should be able to move freely around a community. This entails offering choices, whether on foot, or by bike, bus, or car. This transportation diversity also decreases the wear and tear on streets, reduces maintenance costs, and our impact on the environment. Diverse transportation modalities support healthy and sustainable communities, keep more money in people's pockets, increase economic competitiveness, and add to the character of a community.

4. People on bikes disobey traffic laws

Unfortunately, no matter how people get around, there will be those who break the laws. Pedestrians jaywalk, drivers fail to yield and/or exceed speed limits, and commercial truck drivers may disobey weight or lane restrictions. Unlawful behavior is certainly not encouraged by the cycling community, as it puts people in danger.

5. Riding a bike is not safe

While statistically speaking, driving a car could be considered less safe, the fear of riding a bike mixed with heavy and fast moving car traffic is real and valid. Many cities lack the adequate infrastructure that invites people of all ages and abilities to ride. This is an even more compelling reason to advocate for protected bike lanes and road share programs.

6. There are not enough good weather days to ride a bike regularly

It is true that riding a bike on a sunny day that is not too hot or too cold is ideal. However, in Scandinavian countries, there are generally more rainy and cold days than in the U.S. and their cycling mode shares are much higher. Research has proven over and over again that weather and climate has very little to do with bicycling rates while infrastructure is a much stronger predictor. On the days that it does rain, the Danes, Dutch, and Swedes simply put on a rain jacket. Many cities also have special snow plows that clear the cycle routes just as they do for cars.

7. My neighborhood has too many hills to make riding possible

Consider an electric assist bike. It can still be pedaled normally, but when faced with a hill that exceeds the rider's level of fitness, one can engage a motor to help ascend, then go back to cycling when the rider gets to the top.

In summary, there are many misconceptions about bikes, roads, and bicycle riders. To help increase the number of people who would use a bicycle, it is important that we educate people to the realities, and benefits, of using a bicycle as a reliable, safe mode of transportation.

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