Rant Mode: ON Grar Level: 7

Bike Snob NYC yet again encapsulated how I feel about the cyclist vs. car debate in response to this piece of shit NYT opinion piece.

of fucking course it's not.

of fucking course it’s not.

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.

6 Comments

  • Dave Stanford November 12, 2013 at 9:05 pm

    As crush said on twitter — It’s not like cars actually stop at stopsigns either so they shouldn’t really get that high and mighty about it.

    I really welcome the camera enforcement, because it’s constant, and non-arbitrary (ie racist) and can show the extent that drivers don’t follow any of the rules of the road, and cause real change in how drivers drive, at least in the sight lines of the cameras.

    Reply
  • Barbara November 13, 2013 at 1:51 am

    I don’t blow through stop signs, I carefully roll on past them at a reduced speed after watching the intersection for other vehicles or pedestrians — exactly what cars do.

    Reply
  • Emily November 13, 2013 at 2:24 am

    A motorist once pulled out of a parking space without signaling and when I yelled that he almost hit me and to please look before pulling out, he said that I didn’t belong there anyway.

    I turned and screamed, frustrated and scared: “Tell me what laws I break let you kill me and I promise I’ll never do it again.” Because that’s really what they’re saying.

    Reply
  • Carl November 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    How can you get drivers to care about killing bikers when drivers don’t even care about killing each other? (or themselves?)

    I honestly don’t see a whole lot of uniqueness in how drivers treat bikers. They treat other drivers just as poorly.

    Reply
  • Charles Herrick November 13, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    90 % of automobile driving should be outlawed. They are supporting mid east terrorism with their oil and multinational corporate pervert consumption patterns. Its bad enough that the US Govt is subsidizing terrorists but any US consumer of automobile/industrial/petrochemical/military industrial complex ghetto scenes and war machines/ is guilty before they even set foot on the road. Bicyclists’ ( not withstanding even some of their pervert activities ) in general are only 1/100 as immoral as automobile drivers even before the movement begins on asphalt jungles and highways.

    Reply
  • Today’s Headlines | Streetsblog Chicago December 5, 2013 at 10:39 pm

    […] Local Responses to “Is It OK to Kill Cyclists?” (Steven Can Plan, Tiny Fix) […]

    Reply

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