NASCAR Nation and the Bicycle
Let’s face it as a national group we’re in a hurry. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ranks speeding as the single largest contributing factor to auto-related fatalities in the US today. Everyone is a race-car driver; it’s a NASCAR Nation!
The mentality that we all must go faster is quickly creeping in to the social fabric of transportation. You can easily see it on the arterial streets of Portland. I even see it on the so- called residential neighborhood streets where the speed limit (at least in Portland) rarely, exceeds 25 mph. It’s not uncommon to witness folks driving through these areas at speeds of 40mph or faster.
It’s not just the cars that are going faster either. Bicyclists are getting in on the fun too. No doubt when you combine the bicycle with this NASCAR mentality it is inevitable there will be problems. Stop at any major bike route intersection around the city and take a look for yourself. Track bikes, Race frames, drop bars, Aero Rims, Titanium this and that, LYCRA, muscles twitching. Suddenly, the light turns green, and they’re off…like a shot, everyone going as fast as possible as if we’re all in some race and I forgot to get my bib number. Darn, I knew there was something I needed to do.
It’s understandable that we want to distance ourselves from those cars sitting at the same stoplight. After all we have to compete with them for the same space. But in reality we will never be able to out run them. No matter how much Lycra and Titanium you have they’re going to catch you, and then pass you at most likely an increasingly higher rate of speed.
So how should we behave in the poorly integrated bike/car traffic patterns of the Good ol’ US of A? Yes even in the ‘bikers paradise’ of Portland it still could be better, a lot better in my opinion. The fact is the pace of traffic need to be changed along with the mentality of those on the road. I’ve made more of an effort to remedy this in the past year. Slow down. That’s my mantra. It’s as simple as that. Slower is safer. Slower is more relaxing, less sweaty ( ewww!) and slower is nicer to those around you. Where do I see myself going with this attitude? I’m not entirely sure, but at least it will be at a leisurely pace.