Columns / Discourse / April 11, 2018

Bike Nice: Let’s take a perfectly-timed spring fling on our bikes

Then again, let’s not take a spring fling … if it means going over the handlebars because your front wheel hit a real-world pothole.

We live in an area with numerous, deep freeze-thaw cycles. We want to do business 24/7/365 regardless of weather, so we salt our roads, which creates even more freeze-thaw cycles. Small cracks are blown larger by the weight of traffic. In our part of the world, potholes are inevitable.

We could move to the desert … or spend more on our roads. And complain about taxes. But numerous, deep potholes won’t fix themselves.

Should cyclists help pay for road work? Every time someone mentions taxing bikes or riders, cyclists raise a stink. We give everybody history and economics lessons, along the lines of:

“The cost of bicycle infrastructure … is dirt cheap by comparison to any other sort of transportation project …”

And: “car drivers assume the roads were built for them, but it was cyclists who first lobbied for flat roads more than 100 years ago.”

Cyclists need good roads. And bikes may not contribute much to wear and tear. So we “lobbied for” good roads. But we expect someone else to pay for them? That sounds like the textbook definition of lobbying, aka freeloading on the general public, if you ask me.

The gas tax may not be perfect and roads consume a truckload of other tax revenues above the gas tax. But the idea that the state and nation will radically restructure road funding any time soon … it isn’t going to happen. The public perception is that cyclists contribute nothing to road funding and in politics, perception is reality.

So, bikers, stop complaining and start paying. A bike registration fee, bike sales surtax, something to give us a place at the table. And to help pay for nicer rides.

Speaking of nicer rides, two of my favorite spring, summer or fall jaunts in the area: Galesburg to Oak Run or Green Oaks, via County Road 7 (aka East Fremont St.) and Galesburg to Lake Bracken via Knox County Road 500 E (aka South Farnham St.).

Assuming those two roads have not become pocked with potholes …

Before you take off on the first big ride of spring, you may have to fix your bike, considering that, as I complained in an earlier column, bikes are always needing maintenance.

But instead of paying someone else, learn to DIY — books and YouTube videos and helpful friends are a good start.

Do it enough and it could be a paying job. According to the governing.com website, one of the fastest growing jobs for the next decade is projected to be that of the lowly bike mechanic. You wouldn’t be the first Knox grad to take that career path after graduating in the spring to a ride through the real world.

Peter Bailley

Tags:  bike nice biking pothole

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