Thursday, April 29, 2010

Easy Targets

Apparently, truckers are at war with bicyclists.

The truckers are ticked off with us because Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood likes us, and because the number two guy in the Department of Transportation, John Porcari, prefers freight be moved by water or rail before trucks.

I'll pause here a minute while you read all of those above links. Hmm-de-hmm-de-doo. Okay, done? Great. Now you are just as informed and confused as I am.

First, I have to admit that I haven't really seen a whole heck of a lot of evidence that truckers are angry with me. Maybe they're scowling at me as they drive by, but they give me a heck of a lot more room than almost any Hummer -- even though a Hummer is wider than many semis. I can count on one hand the number of trucks that have blasted their horn at me as they passed, and I certainly haven't had any play chicken with me lately. (This is good, because they will win. I'll say it loud and proud right now to any trucker that wants to play chicken with me: Cluck-cluck.)

So, assuming that there have been more baleful glances cast down upon me from passing Peterbilts, and I have been spending too much time watching the road and other vehicles to notice, I gotta ask: Why?

The head of the government agency whose department is critical to your livelihood says, basically, that we need to start working harder to make roads safe for bicycles. Then, one of the guys that reports to that guy says that we need favor shipping stuff by rail and/or water first, and then use trucks for the final leg of the delivery.

And truckers think that this is a conspiracy? Maybe they think that, ultimately, the DOT plans to equip everyone with cargo bikes so that we can haul our own goods, leaving the trucks to rust by the side of the road.

Much as I like this vision, we all know that it is not practical. We've seen pictures of people bringing home their new refrigerator using their xtracycle, but that only works in Portland, Oregon. Here on Earth, I'm not going to drive the RandoDaughter back from college next week on the back of a tandem, pulling a trailer with all of her clothes, her computer, her mini-fridge, and so forth.

To put this plainly: We all need trucks. Even those of us who ride bicycles need trucks. We will continue to need trucks to bring groceries to Publix even when we all go green and have those new grocery panniers from Arkel. If there were no trucks, we would have to bike all the way to the factory in Canada just to pick up those new Arkel panniers. I've biked in Canada -- it's cold there.

So, truckers obviously have nothing to fear from cyclists taking their jobs, and really shouldn't be angry with Ray LaHood (we love you, Ray ... no matter what the truckers may feel about you) or John Porcari (we don't know you, John, but you seem okay ... just not as great as Ray). Ray wants the roads to be safer for bicycles. John is just stating the obvious in that moving freight by water and rail uses less fuel and has less environmental impact than moving freight by truck, and that shippers should use water and rail for long-haul. Hell, if I was a trucker I would be all over that, because it means than I only have to drive 500 miles rather an 3,000.

So, truckers, assuming that you are pissed off at bicycles, I again gotta ask: Why?

The obvious answers are:
  1. Bicyclists are easy targets. Unfortunately, this is true literally as well as figuratively. We look dorky. A lot of us are skinny, and those of us that aren't skinny look silly in spandex. (Actually, even the skinny ones look a little silly in spandex.) We have helmets, and big bags on our bikes, and flashing blinky lights, and jerseys that say dumb things.
  2. You are being suckers. The guys that run the trucking companies and the unions know that they can't fight the DOT -- mostly because in this instance the DOT is right. They also know that they can't fight their real business competition here, since that's the railroads and the shipping lines. They work with those guys -- in a lot of cases, they are those guys -- and they make lots of money from them, so they have to play nice.
I would like to think that we've all had enough of being confused by spinmeisters into fighting the wrong enemy, but I could be wrong. This is just another case of the smart coward in the schoolyard diverting the bully into picking on the more dorky, even littler kid.

It's even easier when that kid is wearing spandex.

1 comment:

  1. Hey RB, go look at the cost (in fuel) of moving a ton of X by train ir barge versus by semi. You'll be shocked. Semi is one of the worst ways to long haul freight. Semi is only the fastest next to air.