Ugh, it makes me cry that I just used the phrase “cyclist vs. car.” As if it’s a zero sum game. As if it’s a debate with arguments of merit on both “sides”. As if there should even BE sides. Guess what, car drivers? Cyclists getting better infrastructure and support/justice following crashes does not cause you to lose a god damned thing. (Except maybe the ability to kill cyclists and get away with it, I guess?)
I once asked a driver who passed me dangerously close as I was navigating around a truck blocking half the lane — and yes, I signaled my intent to take the lane — to please give cyclists more room. I used the nicest tone I could muster, and tried to make it clear that it was about it being dangerous and scary for me, not that he was a bad person or doing it intentionally. I was trying to educate, not chastise. His response was to say, “Yeah, well you all should stop at stop signs!” and drive away.
It’s cartoonish how often that is said. “Bikes run stop signs!” As if 1. that were 100% true and 2. that excuses bad driver behavior or negates the need for better bike infrastructure.
One of the best points in Bike Snob’s article is that it’s much easier to obey the law when there are good, safe bike facilities, because you don’t have to worry about getting ahead of cars so they’re more likely to see you. And you don’t feel like you have to keep up with their speed. I mean, heaven forbid you slow a driver down for one moment on his holy mission to park in a no-parking zone (flashers on = it’s okay!) while he runs in to Starbucks for a muffin and some coffee.
Anyway, when I’m lucky enough to ride in protected/buffered bike lanes or cycle tracks, without even trying or thinking about it I tend to slow down, relax, and obey lights and signs. But when I’m stuck on streets with no infrastructre, I’m going faster, I’m more stressed, and I’m more likely to ride aggressively to assert my desire to not get killed today.
For drivers who are thinking “It’s not that hard to stop at every stop sign,” I encourage you to ride a bike west on Granville during afternoon rush hour.
I also love that the NYT article is written by a guy who admits he doesn’t really ride in the city – he retreated to a stationary bike in his basement. I don’t think riding in a city is or should be the mark of a badass, but a guy too scared to do so doesn’t really have the perspective to understand why city cyclists behave like we do.
I was going add a disclaimer along the lines of “Now, I understand some cyclists ARE reckless blah blah blah” but fuck that. I’ve done the even-handed thing before and besides, there’s enough coddling drivers’ feelings. If it hurts your feelings that some cyclists sometimes run stop signs, perhaps you need a sense of perspective.
It’s not Us vs. Them, at least it shouldn’t be, but I’m tired of having to sound “fair and balanced” as if all the arguments on the table carry the same merit.