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Monday, May 18, 2015

I’ve been asked by a ton of people what my feelings are about cycling on Georgia roads since the death of 4 cyclists in two weeks a while back. I refrained from talking too much about it to allow the dust to settle and families to grieve. Many on social media are quick to judge and too ill-tempered for me so I chose to stay away from the inconsequential banter that gets us nowhere. 

Mine is without doubt a biased opinion because I love to ride bicycles. And my opinion carries just as much weight as any car driver…because… I drive a car. Just as much weight as any tax payer… because I pay way too much in taxes. Just as much as any insured person because let’s face it, I pay my health insurance premiums so others can continue their unhealthy lifestyles without regard to future consequences. My opinion carries weight as a husband and a father of two children. A small business owner. A Christian. A survivor of a rear end collision that claimed the life of a dear cycling friend riding with me in 2010. A founding member of an Athletic Club dedicated to the promotion of healthy living and fighting childhood obesity in the third fattest state in the nation. And as a head coach in the High School/Middle School Mountain Bike League. So I’ll tell you my opinion of what is happening with cycling in Georgia if you care to read it. But let’s first agree that if you don’t ride, heck if you don’t even exercise your body, you will never understand or agree with me. You can just stop reading now and leave a little early in case you’re slowed by an accident or a train or heaven forbid a cyclist.

This won’t be the first time I’ve given my opinion on the subject of cycling in Georgia. I once stood in front of some State Representatives along with 300 other like-minded cycling people and defended my hobby. http://chadsnews.blogspot.com/ It was very enlightening and I thought at that time we were turning the corner. In my “speech” I outlined the problems as I saw them. In our state, unlike other states it seemed, there was some anti-cyclist prejudice. By the same token, we cyclists were our own worst enemy by behaving badly on the roads. I asked the cyclists in the room to do better and promote better relationships when on the bike. And while it was relatively easy to get a message to the cycling community at the time, I’m sorry to say, that ability is starting to diminish. Why? Because cycling is growing. Like it or not cycling is getting bigger and bigger with more and more people throwing their uneducated legs over the saddle of uncle John’s hand me down bicycle. And why are they doing that? Because they’re fat! They can’t run with all that fat so the doctor said get on a bike! And guess what happens when they start riding, outside, in the fresh air? They love it! They get healthier, they stop medications, they start dreaming of joining others and riding 30 then 50 then 100 miles on their bicycle. But what doesn’t change is their long held belief as a driver that these are “my roads to wander”. They stupidly believe they can just ride around and not be courteous, not signal, not stop completely and not move to the right because THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT THEY DO WHEN THEY DRIVE A CAR!

God made us all different. Some of us are kind and level headed. Some are mean. Some weren’t spanked enough as children. And one thing is for certain, we all have to deal with the most ignorant among us at some point in life, whether you like it or not. Bad drivers, bad cyclists, bad hair dressers. No one is trouble free in this world.

So what are we going to do about the increase in cyclists on the roads? Nothing. Treat them as if you love them. Treat them like the farmer on his tractor. Treat them like the Dads and Moms that work on the road crews. Treat them like real people. Treat them fairly.

There's blame everywhere! All I ask for is that if a motorist is passing either too close or illegally then they should get ticketed. If they are at fault when a crash has occurred then any/all citations be given to the motorist. If a cyclist is at fault then they get any/all citations. Simply investigate all crashes equally and citations given.” – BikeFriendlyATL

Cycling is not going away, it is growing. Even the government knows it and I’m no fan of the government but those people study statistics and spend our money based on predictions. See those bike lanes being added to every new patch of road? Hear about the city bike stations? Our infrastructure is being retrofitted to ease the terrible burden those gangster cyclists are placing on you busy drivers. Look, both sides have rights, both sides must follow the law. I could chase down bad drivers in my car every day to make sure they get a ticket, but why? The best we can do is education, advocacy and tolerance. Accidents are going to happen. People will make bad decisions in a car or on a bike. Let’s just try and keep it real. This is America after all.
A good friend pinned this just the other day and I think I’ll end my letter with it. As I said at the beginning, you may never understand why I love to ride like I do. But I don’t have to understand why you love the stuff you do either. The great thing about this country and even this state is that we get to do them, for now, at least until the government tells you it’s bad for your health.

Cycling is one of the few remaining places where the modern individual can stake a claim that is their own. Success or failure is up to you alone-
The bike also prepares you for life in a way that non-cyclists are not.
Pain and suffering? Civilians avoid it at all costs. Cyclists look forward to it because it is on this highwire where peak performance lives. Pain is our companion, suffering a welcome friend.
This also enables the cyclist to experience joy in a deeper and more profound way. When you crest the hill, make the final turn or cross the finish line, the depth of emotion is unimaginable to the non-cyclist.
Lastly-freedom...to most 'adults' it is always just out of reach. For the cyclist, it is a turn of the pedals away. All of the cares and concerns melt away into a solitary focus...and you soar above the daily and trivial into a world of your own-you are the litmus-you are the measure-you out run your demons and leave them gasping for air behind...” – Kevin A.

Thanks for reading!
Chad Hayes