Biking and the Supreme Court of the United States

Madison, Aug 26 th 2013

Not sure the Supreme Court of the United States has dealt with many cases involving cyclist’s rights, or bike lanes and trails. Not sure either that many of the Justices ride a bike ( maybe Stephen Breyer?)So, what is the link ?
Many decisions of the Supreme Court deal with a central issue: the balance between individual rights and collective needs. To a French observer this delicate balance is strongly different in the US and in France. It will require a whole book to explain why ( I am working on it) but today let’s just give the example of the bike.
We are stunned by the wonderful bike trails we have seen and biked in the last six weeks in the 9 states we visited. They have been dramatically expanding in the last few years. They are extremely well maintained and they procure bikers every required amenities, like water, restrooms, shaded banks etc…
Needless to say that theses bike lanes have been debated at length in every county between all the interest groups and political deciders. At stake in each case are the delicate balance betwen individual interests of farmers, land owners, property owners, and the public good of walkers, joggers, bikers.
With the railroad construction in the second half of the 19 th century, the Supreme Court developed the arguments that allowed railroad companies to cut through privately owned lands in the interest of public transportation. Since then, individual liberties of American people have been shrinking everyday in favor of public interest. Everything here is regulated.The wonderful liberty to ride a bike through beautiful landscapes is expanding in America, as biking has become more popular. Like every liberty in this country, it is strictly framed in public rules. With the exception of owning a gun, which remains almost unlimited. But that is another debate…

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