There are many people out there who want to bike around our streets. There are also some people who are totally against bikes being able to ride on our streets. What people say can be confusing, so we’ll try to point out some of the common myths and misconceptions about bicycling:
Myth: People riding bikes are “avid cyclists”.
Lance Armstrong is a “cyclist”…he gets paid (or used to get paid) to ride bikes fast. People riding bikes around Seattle are just that…people. Most people on bikes are just trying to get somewhere by choosing to use a bicycle for transportation or fitness or recreation. Just like people driving a car. Most adults using bikes also take buses, walk, and drive cars or trucks. Consider thinking of it this way…someone riding a bike is one less car on the road clogging traffic, and one more seat on the bus that’s available to someone who needs to drive or use the bus. And that the person you see riding a bike is someone’s son, daughter, father, or mother, and your neighbor!
We are not taking part in a “war on cars”. Some of us even collect and restore old cars. Some of us make a living driving trucks and buses. We are simply advocating for road safety and accommodation of people on bikes as well as in cars, trucks and buses, for a sustainable, efficient transportation system.
Myth: Gas taxes pay for our roads, and people riding bikes don’t pay their “fair share” to use the roads.
Gas taxes contribute very little to the overall transportation budget for streets used by people on bicycles. And most adults who ride bikes have cars, so they pay for licensing and registration. You can read SDOT reports for yourself if you want to verify how road infrastructure is paid for.
People who drive cars actually don’t pay their “fair share” for using the roads. There’s plenty of data showing that people who get around by bike, bus, etc, subsidize the cost for people to drive a car. Think about it for a minute: Do bikes damage the roads? Do bikes cause death and destruction? Do bikes pollute?
Myth: Biking is not safe.
You are more likely to get into a collision in a car than on a bike. You can certainly slice the data in many ways, but if you ride a bike predictably and with awareness of your surroundings, then you can be safe on a bike. It is not the bicycle that is dangerous. It is the vehicle that hits the person on the bicycle, or the person on foot that is dangerous. That is why we are working for better roadway safety features like Greenways on residential streets and protected bike lanes on some busy arterial streets.
Myth: “Cyclists” are scofflaws (they don’t obey the law).
Yes, there are people who don’t obey the law. It happens with people driving cars or trucks, riding bikes, and walking. You are as likely to witness illegal behavior, such as speeding and failure to yield, by car drivers as by someone riding a bike. And the consequences of such behavior by a person driving a multi-ton vehicle can be so much more severe in a collision. Some failure to obey traffic laws by people on bikes may be for self-preservation, to get out ahead of vehicle traffic at intersections. But we do not condone jumping red lights or ignoring stop signs, for reasons of safety, predictability, and because it seems to trigger irrational road rage that may be directed at innocent people riding bikes.
Myth: Riding a bike takes longer than driving.
This depends. There are plenty of examples where riding a bike is much faster and more predicatable than driving time. Some West Seattle Bike Connection members commute to work daily on their bikes in less time than it takes to drive, including some commutes are ~10 miles each way!
A lot of people in West Seattle complain about the traffic on the bridges. The lower bridge is never backed up in the biking lane, no matter what time of day!
Myth: West Seattle has too many hills that can’t be (easily) ridden by bike.
Yes, Seattle is “topographically challenged” when it comes to getting around. It’s no easy task biking uphill. Riding a bike can be physically challenging for a lot of people, but a lot of people who are now avid bike riders started somewhere. Plenty of people walk their bikes up some hills, and it doesn’t take that much longer. One way to strengthen yourself is to gradually increase the distance you try to ride up hills…no need to kill yourself, just ease into it and soon enough the hills will be easy!
Another possibility, becoming more popular, it to use an electric-assisted bike. It still requires pedaling, but a battery powered motor gives a nice boost to flatten out Seattle’s hills.
Myth: It rains too much to ride a bike.
Sure, Seattle has many rainy days. But we actually enjoy a very mild maritime climate. Our weather is much less challenging to ride year round in than, say, Minneapolis or Houston. Mornings are rarely too hot or cold to even require changing clothes at work or school for most commuters. If you check the radar on weather sites, you can often find a dry window between showers.
You can choose to ride wet, and drip dry or change at your destination, or stay dry and comfortable with appropriate clothing and gear. There’s plenty of waterproof clothing available (breathable/waterproof/vented jackets, capes, pants, gloves, shoes or over-booties, etc). It does not all need to be bike-specific. What works for fishing, skiing, or watching a soccer game in the rain may be just the thing for the bike, too.
The rainy months are also darker, and drivers do not see as well in the rain. So be bright! Use light colored clothing in daytime and clothing and gear with retro-reflective stripes or accents in the dark. Use front and rear lights to see and be seen. A bright front light, run steady and not blinking at night, aimed at the road and not directly into the eyes of other riders or drivers, is most effective. State law requires a red rear reflector, but get beyond the horse and buggy days and use a good rear ight, too.
Fenders really help in rainy weather. They prevent your tires from spraying you, riders behind you, and your bike’s chain and gears with grime from the wet streets.
There are a lot of myths about bicycling out there. Here’s some more links to articles about the myths of riding a bike:
- http://www.cibike.org/Documents/Nine Bicycling Myths.htm
We hope this was helpful. Please contact us if there is anything that should be updated on this page.