Roads were built for cars? Not so
Getting There has had a ton of comments on the subject of the respective rights of bicycles and motor vehicles on the road in recent days. One of the most frequent comments has been an variation on the theme of: "The roads were built for automobiles."
The problem: It isn't so. There's no basis for that statement in law or in American history.
Law? There's not a state in the Union that reserves the use of the roads for autos only -- with the exception of limited-access highways. Otherwise, Hummers and Schwinns enjoy equal access (if not throw-weight).
History? Here's a tidbit from Suite101.com:
In May, 1880, riding clubs and manufacturers met in Newport, Rhode Island to form the League of American Wheelmen. Its main purpose was for the support of bicycling burgeoning and to protect their interests in Washington D.C. Then in 1891, the League went national and started to publish their magazine known as Good Roads Magazine. The national magazine started to garnish much attention in readership and solidified a movement celebrated as the Good Roads Movement.
That movement gained momentum with the support of auto enthusiasts after 1900, but from the early days of paved roadways in the United States, they were built with bicycles in mind as one of the users.
In many cases, the engineers who designed those roads did a miserable job of adapting them to shared use, but never was it intended that they should be excluded. And there's much to be debated and discussed about how bicyclists and motorists should interact.
But the notion that roads were built for motor vehicles only has never been true. What's happened is that a certain segment of the population that grew up in an era when bicycles were regarded as toys rather than transportation (roughly the 1950s through the 1980s) were ill trained to deal with bicycles on the road. Rather than learning, they have stubbornly resisted the fact they have always been required to share the road.
There's no getting around it: Watching out for bicyclists and interacting with them safety is a basic driving skill. Those who can't do that should seek remedial instruction or stop driving.