Wednesday, April 23, 2008

According to the Dispatch...

This morning I walked into school and this article was brought up by the first three people I ran into. They cited it as an example why I should not ride. I know, it is because they care about me. The truth is, there are tensions between cyclists and motorists. The argument is about as old as they come. Cyclists want motorists to respect their place on the road and be safe. Motorists want cyclists off the road because getting to the red light first is more important than the life of a human being.

(Yeah, I am biased.)

While I thought the article was mostly fair, there are some quotes I take issue with. For example:

"I see motor-vehicle operators who treat bicyclists without any respect, and I have seen bicyclists do stupid things and violate the rules of the road."

The fact that cyclists violate the rules of the road is always one of the reasons people use to explain why cyclists should be off the roads. While I do not advocate running red lights, breezing through stop signs, passing on the right at stop lights, cutting through parking lots or anything else, violating the law is never used as a reason why cars should not be on the road.

Try this: Come to the intersection of... hell, you can do this at any intersection in any city... and count the cars that run through the barely red lights. Count the cars that turn right on red who do not come to a complete stop.

It's OK when a car does it, but when a bicyclist rides through a red light we should hate all of them. That makes a ton of sense.

"But be considerate of the other drivers who are going to be able to go faster than you. You don't gain anything from slowing them down."

I do gain something by slowing down traffic. Safety. My commute to work takes me over three overpasses. I am amazed at the people who will cross the center line not knowing if a car is approaching. I know what will happen if there is an oncoming car. The passing car will swerve back into the lane and end up right where I am. That will not be a pretty sight. I can avoid this by taking the lane and being visible. I am inconsiderate. I do not care if it take you an extra 45 seconds to get home because I made you wait until it was safe to pass me.

I think that Aaron Beck is a cyclist. If I thought the article was slanted one way or another, I thought it was slanted against cyclists who do not follow the rules of the road. There is still the underlying thought, even though it is not being said aloud, that bicyclists are simply in the way of the "real" road users.

Jamie at Bike Commuting in Columbus read the same article but came up with different thoughts. Take a peek over there and see what he had to say.

Update #2:
Columbisite has weighed in on the same article.  Three different people, three totally different articles.  

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Jamie said...

Great post, Rick. The implication that cyclists aren't equal users of the roadways is absolutely oozing off this article. I encourage all cyclists to mail bomb the Dispatch's editorial department and make this known to them.

Smudgemo said...

It doesn't always work, but around here if you take the lane, most drivers tend to respect your legitimacy. I'm happy to stay off to the right side when there is plenty of room, too.

Often, I start slowly from a red light and let a bunch of cars go by me before I bring it back up to speed. It's courteous and only costs me a few extra seconds (not to mention adding some safety with fewer passing cars.) Of course, this is less feasible when the line of cars is unending...