A lot eyes fairly rolled in the cycling community when Talk of the Nation announced it would have a segment on today's show asking whether bicyclists are their own worst enemy.
The topic is a minefield for anyone to wade into; they don't come much more emotional as we've found on NewsCut a number of times.
Spawning today's show was Bill Strickland, the editor-at-large for Bicycling Magazine, which published a piece in the latest issue, "We Met the Enemy." The article details the fight between pedestrians and cyclists over more bike lanes in New York.
It theorizes that when bikes are few, protestations about occasional rule-breaking are also few. But now, cycling has increased, requiring more self-enforcement.
Tom Vanderbilt, author of the New York Times bestseller Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says about Us), said, "A Harvard researcher talks about the 'four stages' of social norm change: silly, controversial, progressive, then obvious. In the first stage, we had a sort of reflexive denial: New York isn't Europe, that won't work here, etc. I think we're somewhere between the second and third stage when it comes to cycling in New York; opponents are finding they can't make viable arguments against cycling as a transportation mode on safety or traffic-flow reasons, so now it's more about the left-wing, Copenhagenizing cabal."
In the fourth stage, Vanderbilt explained as I joined him on a weekend ride out of the city to the pretty town of Nyack, on the Hudson River, changes such as bike lanes are widely considered not just positive elements but so desirable as to be obvious needs.
Vanderbilt is also on today's show.
I've had very few issues while on a bicycle in downtown area (sure a few motorists attempt to murder me every now and then, but those same motorists try to hit my car, buses, police cars, and anything else that a car could hit...) it's the suburbs where people aren't looking for bikes, where the lights don't change for bikes because the sensors aren't set to detect a cyclist... that is where the danger is... even rural roads, people are surprised to see a cyclist and give a wide birth generally, suburbs and low density urban areas where bicycles are common enough to not get a second glance, but rare enough that people don't know that they can kill one with a automobile.
In my suburb, we have dedicated bike paths, tons of them. I wonder if that makes it more problematic for the cyclists who ride on the shoulder?
Lots of suburbs have dedicated bike paths that are really just sidewalks in disguise, and sidewalks are the most dangerous places to ride bikes. The problem comes when the path crosses a street. Motorists don't expect a bike to come flying out onto the road, so an accident is far more likely than if the cyclist had just been on the road all along.
I think the fight between pedestrians bikers and cars is very apparent on a typical nice sunny day around the Lakes. There you will find the extreme bikers who will push 20mph in the bike lanes and then yell at anyone in their way. There you will find those bikers who will fly through red lights even though there is on coming traffic. I understand that there are those drivers who do not look for bikers--whether downtown or at the lakes--which make biking very difficult, but let's not forget about the bikers.
Cyclists are their own worst enemies = hoodie wearers are their own worst enemies.
The few lawbreakers have made it more dangerous and challenging for the vast majority who are law-abiding and considerate.
When I'm cycling, I notice the motorists who try to kill me/don't see me/see me but almost kill me anyway (I follow the laws of the road, btw). When I'm driving in my car, I notice all the cyclists who don't stop for red lights or stop signs, who think they have pedestrians' rights, who get so outraged that they would probably beat me up if they could for tapping on my horn to warn them of something they're doing that's stupid or dangerous.
I'm a bike rider (rode my bike to work today!). When I come up to an intersection I am constantly looking at the traffic. If there is not a need for me to slow down or stop, I don't. Why is that OK? Because it is just me an my 30 lb. bike, not me and a 3000 lb. car. If I need to stop quickly, I can -- I can stop much faster than a car. If I hit a car (which I'm not going to, because I have nothing blocking my vision and I'm not talking on my phone), I suffer the most. Yes, the car might get a dent, but it is much different from being hit by a car. Needlessly slowing down or stopping makes my ride harder and slower. Needlessly slowing down or stopping when driving a car doesn't delay you a bit (because somewhere along your drive you are going to have a necessary stop which will be shorter by 5 seconds because of the 5 second unnecessary stop you had earlier).
Jeff - good points all. But I would hate to see them on your tombstone.
The reality is that drivers are not as aware as they could/should be, and if you break traffic laws and get killed or injured, you're not only at fault legally, but you have burdened the driver with a lifetime of guilt.
Get the laws changed, or hear a lot of "serves 'em right" from the grave.
Perhaps I should have pointed out that, along with NOT stopping or slowing down if there is NOT a reason to, I DO slow down or stop if there IS a reason to. They won't be saying "serves 'em right" as they bury me because I won't be at fault. Even if I do have the right of way at, say, an intersection with a stop sign for the car on the other street, I'm going to be constantly on my guard to make sure that the driver sees me and *does* stop.