Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I Knew That Law Degree Would Come in Handy...

Who knew that a $300,000 education would actually be useful at some point?

To that end, cycling as a sport is quite popular here in Southern Maine. There are plenty of good shops to choose from to purchase or service your ride here. I tend to give my money to two shops for purchases, and one for service, and it's time for shameless plugs for all three:

CycleMania: Good, solid shop with a smattering of offerings from Trek/Cervelo on the bike front, and then plenty of components kicking around.

Gorham Bike and Ski: I tend to head on over here when needing the consumable bike parts: tubes, for example. The apparel selection tends to be a bit stronger here, too.

Freeman's Bicycle Service: Josh Freeman is, well, the only mechanic I'll let touch my bike. Why? Because of his attention to detail, the appreciation you can actually feel when walking into the shop, as if to say, "Thank you so much for coming, and I'm going to reward you with putting every ounce of myself into helping you." Lots of places could learn a thing or two from the customer service Josh puts in. Small selection of parts (and you could order a whole hell of a lot more, too!), but you go here if you need the bike worked on. Go once. You won't go anywhere else after.

The reason why I post about these shops is because the Maine Legislature, in all of it's infinite wisdom (boy, the sarcasm-o-tron is on high alert today), it's decided that cyclists should be taxed more. House Proposal 880 would implement an additional two percent tax on all bicycles purchased within the state, on top of the already existing five percent sales tax.

Now, normally, this would just put me in a bad mood, but then hearing the justification for the bill from the sponsor, Rep. Ralph Sarty (R-Denmark), set me over the edge (source: Portland Press Herald):
The current laws regarding bicycle use on public ways place little if any responsibility or liability on the bicyclists. Almost all the responsibility and liability is on motorists. Perhaps we need a law stating that cyclists can't back up traffic for more than half a mile before pulling over and letting the traffic pass.
Within the same piece, Rep. Sarty tries to state that his bill is not "anti-bicycle."

Let's give this some context: Maine currently has what is called a "three-foot" law. This means a motor vehicle must give a minimum of three feet in order to pass a cyclist. Maine also does not require that the cyclist stay on the extreme right side of the shoulder; instead, a cyclist is to ride as far to the right as practicable. Given the condition of some shoulders, or roadsides, particularly after frost heave season, often times the furthest to the right a cyclist may get is the center of the traffic lane.

Nevermind that even under the current law, and riding all the way to the right, it does not prevent accidents. I was hit in the fall on Route 302 just outside of Windham. The road there has an eight-foot shoulder, plus the standard width of the traffic lane. I was about six-feet into the shoulder (so, six feet to the right of the white line marking the edge of the traffic lane) when I got hit from behind.

This proposal does nothing beyond providing a reverse incentive: don't purchase a bike, because lawmakers are trying to push you away. Rep. Sardy claims that the purpose of the money raised via the tax would be to construct "dedicated bikeways to be used by cyclists and pedestrians." Yet I don't see a proposal to, say, tax running shoes. (Note: don't send this idea to Rep. Sardy.) So cyclists will alone foot the bill?

What about the fact that most cyclists also own cars, and pay excise tax, which is meant to go towards the improvement of roads? What if Maine were simply going to take care of the roads that existed? If, say, Blackstrap Road from Westbrook to Cumberland were in better shape, I could always ride as far to the right to give more room to vehicles. It just seems that cyclists, because we are most visible on the roads, have targets on our backs.

To that end: stay vigilant. Write your lawmaker. And when out there: be aware. Stay safe. Assume the driver can't see you. Assume that you are the only one paying attention. Because odds are, unfortunately, that you are.
Programming Note: Thanks for being so patient with the lack of new material as of late. There's upcoming gear reviews, comparing three tri shorts, along with another swim post.

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