Friday, February 18, 2011

Resolving Conflict

If you come at me with your fists doubled, I think I can promise you that mine will double as fast as yours; but if you come to me and say, ‘Let us sit down and take counsel together, and, if we differ from each other, understand why it is that we differ, just what the points at issue are’, we will presently find that we are not so far apart after all, that the points on which we differ are few and the points on which we agree are many, and that if we only have the patience and the candor and the desire to get together, we will get together.

Carnegie, Dale How to Win Friends & Influence People. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1936.

President Woodrow Wilson first uttered this sage advice nearly a hunfred tears ago. It sums up a logical equation to resolving conflict in any walk of life. Since first reading the words while in my thirties, they have had a profound effect on my thoughts any time I ponder conflict resolution opportunities. For example, in the war brewing between Cyclist Nation and Non-Cyclists, I see it as yielding important lessons—for both sides.

(By the way, President Wilson was an avid bicycler.)

First, let’s consider the basic question: Why are Cyclists allowed to ride on any roadways not categorized as limited access, regardless of whether a non-cyclist deems the road safe?

We are allowed to do so in Tennessee because of a state law, TCA 55-8-172 (also known as The Bicycle Protection Act of 2007), which says we have that right; a freedom as unalienable to us as owning a firearm is for another person. Although that law does not guarantee that non-state roads cannot be restricted, often enough public outcries by cyclists sway and defeat any action by local lawmakers to establish such archaic and backwards into the policy fabric of their charge.

But why must there be two warring sides to the equation? As the late Rodney King once said after having been the poster child in the fight against really stupid police action, “Can’t we all just get along?”

Sure we can. All it takes is cyclists and non-cyclists coming to the table, sitting down opposite of each other and saying, “Let’s work out our differences.”

To be fair, there are many misunderstandings from faults of ignorant cyclists. Not criminally belligerent cyclists, mind you, just those few individuals who really haven’t taken time to understand the law, their responsibilities to the law, and how to marry the two every time they saddle up for a jaunt on America’s pathways of freedom. It isn’t rocket science and it won’t qualify them for a Nobel Prize. But the understanding of these laws should be a requisite of not only enjoying the opportunity to ride the roads but also the very right to ride the roads.

Likewise, there are also ignorant automobile operators on the flip side of the coin who must do the same. Again, for the most part, these automobile operators are not criminals, although a few have intelligence quotients that might be construed as such.

Why should both sides share this responsility as a condition of enjoying America's roadways? Because it is America, home of the brave, and land of the free. And the roads belong to all of us.

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