By Sherry Ackerman
A young friend of mine was run off the road while bicycling last week. He was over on the shoulder when a car, moving at speed, forced him into the ditch. This young man, interested in reducing his carbon footprint, bicycles for transportation.
If one is serious about reducing emissions, s/he will gravitate toward walking and cycling. However, in order for these alternatives to be viable, people need to feel safe on the roads.
It is erroneous to think that roads were developed for automobiles. In fact, the impetus to create good quality country roads came from bicyclists. It was cyclists who spawned The Good Roads Movement that occurred in the United States between the late 1870s and the early 1920s. Over a century ago, steamships, canals, and railroads were the technological marvels of the 19th century. Yet the invention that sparked a revolution in transportation was a simple two-wheeler: the bicycle. Its popularity in the 1880s and 1890s spurred interest in the nation’s roads. Soon after the Good Roads Movement kicked up, the League of American Wheelmen, bankrolled by Albert Pope, manufacturer of Columbia bicycles, the leading brand of the day, started advocating for better roads.
In February 1893, the Senate passed a law creating the Office of Road Inquiry. This office – charged with researching best-practices and learning what the Good Roads Movement had spent the best part of 20 years lobbying for – later became the Federal Highways Administration.
On October 3, 1893, General Roy Stone, a Civil War hero and Good Roads advocate, was appointed Special Agent in charge of the new Office of Road Inquiry (ORI). With a budget of $10,000, ORI promoted new rural road development to serve the wagons, coaches, and bicycles on America’s roads.
In 1908, Henry Ford introduced his low-priced, highly efficient Model T. For the first time, gasoline-fired automobiles began to share the roads with bicycles, horses and pedestrians. Over the next century, however, automobiles went from sharing the road with other forms of legal transportation to an entitled misconception of owning the road.
As author James Howard Kunstler so aptly points out in The Geography of Nowhere, cars became such an integral part of life that Americans developed a cultural amnesia about there being only one type, among a myriad many, of transportation. American automobile drivers began to think that roads were exclusively for cars… and, thus, any other form of transport on those roads was “a nuisance”. This is both historically and legally inaccurate.
Roads are a part of The Commons, which constitute the cultural resources accessible to all members of a society. These resources are held in common, not privately owned.
Roads are shared in common by all citizens and thereby provide legal access to many forms of transportation. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, horses, farm equipment and pedestrians all have legal rights to the road… and must, accordingly, share it. Roads are not for the exclusive, private use of automobiles.
If we are going to give credence to encouraging people to be more environmentally minded through cycling and walking, it is imperative that we take the dictum to Share the Road seriously!

By Sherry Ackerman A young friend of mine was run off the road while bicycling last week. He was over on the shoulder when a car, moving at speed, forced him into the ditch. This young man, interested in reducing his carbon footprint, bicycles for transportation. If one is serious about reducing emissions, s/he will gravitate toward walking and cycling. However, in order for these alternatives to be viable, people need to feel safe on the roads. It is erroneous to think that roads were developed for automobiles. In fact, the impetus to create good quality country roads came from bicyclists. It was cyclists who spawned The Good Roads Movement that occurred in the United States between the late 1870s and the early 1920s. Over a century ago, steamships, canals, and railroads were the technological marvels of the 19th century. Yet the invention that sparked a revolution in transportation was a simple two-wheeler: the bicycle. Its popularity in the 1880s and 1890s spurred interest in the nation’s roads. Soon after the Good Roads Movement kicked up, the League of American Wheelmen, bankrolled by Albert Pope, manufacturer of Columbia bicycles, the leading brand of the day, started advocating for better roads. In February 1893, the Senate passed a law creating the Office of Road Inquiry. This office – charged with researching best-practices and learning what the Good Roads Movement had spent the best part of 20 years lobbying for – later became the Federal Highways Administration. On October 3, 1893, General Roy Stone, a Civil War hero and Good Roads advocate, was appointed Special Agent in charge of the new Office of Road Inquiry (ORI). With a budget of $10,000, ORI promoted new rural road development to serve the wagons, coaches, and bicycles on America’s roads. In 1908, Henry Ford introduced his low-priced, highly efficient Model T. For the first time, gasoline-fired automobiles began to share the roads with bicycles, horses and pedestrians. Over the next century, however, automobiles went from sharing the road with other forms of legal transportation to an entitled misconception of owning the road. As author James Howard Kunstler so aptly points out in The Geography of Nowhere, cars became such an integral part of life that Americans developed a cultural amnesia about there being only one type, among a myriad many, of transportation. American automobile drivers began to think that roads were exclusively for cars… and, thus, any other form of transport on those roads was “a nuisance”. This is both historically and legally inaccurate. Roads are a part of The Commons, which constitute the cultural resources accessible to all members of a society. These resources are held in common, not privately owned. Roads are shared in common by all citizens and thereby provide legal access to many forms of transportation. Cars, motorcycles, bicycles, horses, farm equipment and pedestrians all have legal rights to the road… and must, accordingly, share it. Roads are not for the exclusive, private use of automobiles. If we are going to give credence to encouraging people to be more environmentally minded through cycling and walking, it is imperative that we take the dictum to Share the Road seriously!