Back in mid-May, in the days before my latest Assault on Mount Mitchell, I heard from my old friends at Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine. They wanted me to contribute to a piece about whether bike lanes should be built on the Blue Ridge Parkway.
That article came out just this past week. You can read it here.
When they first approached me, they believed that I would be in favor of bike lanes. If you read my body of work, it makes perfect sense. I’ve long been a strong advocate of giving cyclists an unimpeded place to ride. I said yes, and I agreed to write the response in favor of bike lanes.
The deadline was very short, just a couple days, and I was in the midst of a busy week preparing for Mitchell. I wrote my 500 words with the best argument I could muster, but my writing was half-hearted. I wasn’t feeling it. Since time was an issue, I turned it in anyway.
The editor, possibly sensing the weakness of my argument, asked a good question. She wanted me to recall in the article a time where I thought a bike lane could be useful.
I racked my brain, looked at a few Parkway photos, and couldn’t come up with anything. As I thought about it further, I realized that bike lanes on the Parkway are a terrible idea. There had never been a time where I wished for a bike lane, and I probably never would.
Since the pro bike lanes article was already out there, I turned in the revision. It was still half-hearted, but I’m of the opinion that either side of a debate can be argued. This one just didn’t align with my true philosophy.
I freed up a little time, and went ahead and wrote the same argument from the other side. This time I had passion in my writing, and put together a solid argument. The editor at BRO loved it. The only problem was that they already had someone else writing that perspective, and didn’t need one from me.
A few days passed until I heard from them again. I had put them in a tough position, and I wondered whether my piece might get tossed aside.
They came back and really wanted to use my argument against bike lanes. I was relieved. I felt so strongly about the topic that I was questioning whether I wanted to have my name on an argument taking the other position.
Since the limit was only 400-500 words, I had to keep it short, and they even did a little bit of editing. I could have gone further. One thing that I didn’t get to include was the political aspect. In today’s budget-tightening climate, there’s no way the Park Service would get the millions of dollars of funding to add bike lanes. If they did get the funding, I would much rather they use it on areas where cars and bicycles interact more, such as in big cities. The Swamp Rabbit Trail in Greenville is a great example of where this has benefited all parties, while also boosting the local economy.
What do you think? Do you agree that bike lanes are not necessary on the Parkway?