Below is an exchange between two members of the BentRiderOnline Forum community. I happen to agree with my fellow Chicagoan that John Riley (a very intelligent and well-read individual) is on this one point “dead wrong”.
John Riley, ‘BentRider Legacy Partner
Motorists complain about bike behavior, but I think motorists are just as unlawful as cyclists. They just tend to break different laws. (Speeding is popular.)
The real issue here is car drivers want cyclists to be submissive on the road. They want them to be on the sidewalk or in the gutter; “out of the way”…
They don’t want to see them as being equals on the road. They don’t want to have to look out for them, to respect them. They want their presence to be so minimal that cyclists can be ignored.
They also don’t want precious road space to be handed over to cyclists.
They see aggressive cyclists and complain about their lawlessness, but really the thing that gets them is that the cyclist is asserting himself.
Car drivers get upset at aggressive _car_ drivers, but they don’t conclude that cars are a bad idea.
IMO we need to not get caught up in these discussions about cyclists’ behavior. I think it is a red herring.
I completely disagree. I take an “assertive” lane position, take the whole lane at intersections, do vehicular lefts, etc,etc. I don’t get buzzed or honked at or flipped off.
I also don’t:
Blow through traffic signals/stop signs
or generally act like a jerk on the road.
I do think that’s correlated. My behavior has a whole lot to do with how I’m treated.
The recent Slate article titled “Why You Hate Cyclists” has caused a bit of a stir even on the relatively staid BentRiderOnline Forum. The demographics of this forum suggest that older, fatter, more technically savvy riders are often more likely to get involved in a different kind of “pissing contest” than is often seen on the ChainLink Forum.
But this article written in a decidedly sardonic manner makes it clear that the author is decidedly upbeat about the prospects for cycling as a game changer in the transportation landscape horizon:
As the studies show, more and more commuters are trading in their parking passes for bike locks. In light of those numbers, it’s heartening to hear that the number of fatalities per bike trip has decreased in Philadelphia, New York, and elsewhere. That suggests to me that these new-to-biking commuters are riding less aggressively than the old urban vanguard of bike messengers and Tour de France wannabes. If the present trends continue, we’ll see asshole bicyclists like me become an even smaller minority of bicyclists as a whole. And some of us are trying to get better. I’ve recognized that my bad behavior keeps others from taking up riding, and keeps politicians from investing in things I care about, like more bike lanes. So I’ve stopped riding on sidewalks and try to keep my illegal lefts to a minimum. But I’ve been a jerk for a real long time. So, let me say this to drivers, pedestrians, and my fellow riders alike: I’m sorry. See, aren’t cyclists the nicest, most polite people in the whole world?
Matt Fleigenheimer’s NYTimes article refutes the contention that fatalities are going down. In fact quite the opposite is true and the pundits are already weighing in on why this has happened following a stormy year of protest over the installation of bicycle infrastructure. The Transportation Department Commissioner is reported to have said:
“The reduction in traffic deaths as a result of our safety engineering means nearly 300 New Yorkers are alive today who would not have been if we had simply sustained the fatality rate of five years ago.”
And as if things could not get worse for bicycling infrastructure advocates we get news from Oregon about the needless death of a cyclist who was doing everything right and yet lost her life because of in inadvertent mistake by a truck driver. The driver in this situation was not found guilty of causing the accident because it was determined that he could not “see” the rider hidden behind the side profile of his tractor hood.
A similar situation is New York City was reported in the NYTimes. A postal truck driver killed a prominent female cyclist and was acquitted of the crime because once again being visible to the driver was found to be the cause of the situation.
And finally when it comes to scofflaw behavior I think there are few situations more tragic than the death of a Wisconsin priest who failed to obey a stop light and it cost him his life. The incident was thankfully report by the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin. Without their taking the time to explain the situation we would be left with the usual blather about cyclist behavior being a “red herring”. Unfortunately nothing could be further from the truth.
Scofflaw behavior is endemic. It has reached levels that are indefensible. And anyone who complains that these discussions are simply a way of minimizing the importance of respecting cyclists on the open road is in my opinion dead wrong.
I am reminded of the recent discussions about “date rape” of a decade or so ago. During that period perfectly sane adult males (many with daughters) pooh-poohed the notion as so much feminist fluff. But there was pushback that was sorely needed as we learned the phrase “No, means no!”
Part of the problem with date rape is of course the extremely high levels of consensual non-marital sex that goes on not only on college campuses but everywhere in American life. Against the backdrop of this phenomenon many people were unable to distinguish between an abusive act and two young adults have a difference of opinion. In fact the males who were collared for this behavior often said they thought “she was just kidding about the ‘no’ part”.
Today with the admissions of people as influential as the NYTimes write Randy Cohen, who is after all an “ethicist”, it should be clear that we do have a situation in which a particular kind of behavior by cyclists is now entirely acceptable across the board in most communities. To deny this is to be foolish enough to think that only a few “bad kids” are engaging in pre-marital sex and that most of them are from the ghetto. That of course flies in the face of the fact that the daughter of a recent vice-presidential candidate had a son out-of-wedlock and she and her boyfriend had taken a pledge of chastity.
So it really makes me worry about the level of denial in which we are currently engaged when we do not acknowledge where we are in the regards to the state of bicyclist behavior. You may not agree with that behavior or you may as most do accept it but you cannot deny that it is endemic. Steve Vance likes to refer to the cycling community’s new mores. I find this thought appalling. But frankly it is an indisputable fact that cyclists run red lights and blow through stop signs with abandon in just about every corner of the country.
I have no idea yet how this blatant behavior has affected young children but we already know the effect that “free love” has had on the society. Children have become sexually active at increasing younger ages. Our schools are struggling to cope with the education necessary to inform young boys and girls about the consequences of their actions. Kids in both grade school and high school in perfectly “good communities” are strongly engaged in oral sex as an alternative to vaginal sex believing that it foregoes not only pregnancy but sexually transmitted diseases.
If I were a betting man I would wager that school kids will adopt the behaviors of their adult role models and find new and ever increasingly inventive ways of running stop lights at busier and busier intersections. And they will be encouraged by their hormone levels to do what all teenagers do and that is “ignore their limitations”.