Don’t Make Cyclists More Visible

Background Reading


A bike lane, where — if you’re lucky — a car won’t try to hit you. Probably. (Matt McClain for The Washington Post)

A bike lane, where — if you’re lucky — a car won’t try to hit you. Probably. (Matt McClain for The Washington Post)

About 100 years ago, the auto industry pulled off a neat trick:

It stole the public roadways from us.

See, in the early days of the motor vehicle, there used to be this quaint idea that the person operating the giant machine should look out for other people. Then came mass production and the Model T. Suddenly there were automobiles all over the place, and by the end of the 1920s, cars (or, more accurately, their drivers) had killed more than 200,000 people.

We clung to our humanity, though. Cities called for stricter traffic laws and better enforcement. The auto industry responded by mounting a propaganda war masked as a safety campaign. One of their most successful salvos was inventing the concept of the “jaywalker,” which effectively robbed us of our right of way. (You can read more about all this here.)

It’s still carnage out there now, but we’ve long since sublimated any outrage over death-by-auto into victim-blaming. Crossing the street has long been criminalized, save for the handful of seconds you get when the “walk” signal appears. Effectively, we’ve lost equal access to the public roadways unless we’re willing and able to foot the hefty bill for a car. Instead, what we have is an infrastructure optimized for private vehicles and a nation of subsidized drivers who balk at the idea of subsidizing any other form of transit, and who react to a parking ticket as though they’ve been crucified. Sure, drivers, cyclists and pedestrians are all supposed to “share the road,” but see how equal you feel riding in the gutter on broken glass as cars speed by. It’s the American idea of “equal,” an insidious form of inequality in which we pretend the powerful and the weak are exactly the same.

(And no, I’m not saying there shouldn’t be cars. Hey, I have a car. It’s just that cars are like white people and Wall Street — they don’t need any more defending from anybody.)

But all that’s changing, right? Millennials are moving back to the cities and demanding livable streets! Cities are installing bike lanes and bike shares! Every Sunday they close a street in your neighborhood for a farmers’ market, and smiling professionals walk and cycle back to their townhouses to cook up the locally grown organic greens that will fortify them for yet another work week of pricing you out!


This theme that goes ‘cars stole the roadway from us‘ is getting tiresome. It has always been lame. And evidently because the True Believers of the Church of Urban Cycling cannot bare to the thought of Excommunication from it by the edict of the Pope of Bicycle Heaven they will continue to mouth this propaganda until their teeth rot.

But here are the facts:

  • If you want someone to see you, you make yourself ‘visible‘.
  • That means that you even paint cyclists’ bike lanes a nice visible shade of green or even blue
  • If you are single and want to attract a mate you dress well and display attractive manners and you will get noticed
  • If you have an advertising billboard that people should see, you make the image on it shocking or the colors attractive and you sell more stuff
  • If you want to sell your home you give it a fresh coat of paint, keep the lawn mowed and remodel your kitchen and bathroom to make them more attractive
  • If you want to get a job and you send in a resume you make it stand out visually
  • If you have a business card you use color and imagery and perhaps even fonts to make it have a distinctive look
  • If you want to sell any product you search high and low for good looking models and pay good money to have a designer build a set for the photo shoot you are about to make
  • If you have a nice bike and want to make it seem like a better buy than the ones sold by your competitor you give it great looks and a wonderful paint job
  • If you want to make a car look really fast you give it a great design that is distinctive and then to top it off you paint it red or yellow.
  • If you are equipping your fire department trucks you paint them red or yellow and given them sirens and flashing lights
  • If you are equipping your cop cars you given them distinctive graphics and very bright lights on top so that when the officer steps out he is less likely to get creamed by an inattentive driver
  • When your highway workers are walking around during construction you dress them in hi-vis yellow or orange and even make their outfits with reflective material around the sleeves and cuffs
  • Those signs that your school district places in the crosswalk have bright colors and even the crossing guard is holding up a very brightly color red octagon on a stick to be seen
  • If you want people to notice the edge of the platform at a train station you paint it a bright yellow

You get the picture.

If you want something to be safer or better seen you make it nearly impossible for the viewer to overlook it.

This is not evidence of a conspiracy by the government or the church. It is the result of decades perhaps centuries of observation of human behavior. If something should not be missed make it visible. If you want to hide do not do so in bright orange. Camouflage patterns and colors are available for military dress in both sandy and wooded terrain. Even winter white is available for those who fight in snow covered terrain.

Trying to make this idea of being visible on a bicycle anything other than Common Sense is indicative of the emotional and mental space being shared by the likes of the Tea Party and the Urban Cycling Movement’s True Believers.

Both these cults have their hot button issues. For the Tea Party types it is anything that POTUS Barack Obama wants to do. They have their lunatic fringe leaders like Sarah Palin and others who keep trying to convince us that the man is a Muslim and not a Christian and most certainly not an American citizen.

The True Believers have their mad hatters as well. The Insane Dane is their poster child for all of the silliness that issues from this group. Everything they think and say is all about their War On Cars.

Most of their logic is purely insane. It makes no sense either to the average person or to them for that matter. But these weak-minded mental midgets are incapable of deviating from their Collective Script.

They have a narrative that places them on the throne of ‘Victimhood‘. Take for instance that rather tired line which serves as the caption for the lead image:

A bike lane, where — if you’re lucky — a car won’t try to hit you. Probably.

Anybody who has been awake for the past 12 months knows that this unfortunate caption would be equally true of someone walking in the crosswalk. If they were lucky perhaps a bicyclist in Central Park or the Castro District in San Francisco would not run them down from behind or plow through the crosswalk to knock them over and leave them to die a few days later from TBI.

That scenario is something they have no stomach for. Their mental images is of themselves as hapless victims and never the perpetrators of a crime. That is dishonest and silly. But again we are dealing with folks who disdain bike helmets in favor of tinfoil beanies.