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Bikes and cars don't mix.
July 24, 2002 10:51 AM   Subscribe

Bikes and cars don't mix. At least, according to the author of this column. As someone who cycles for fun and commuting, I was alternately amused by his anti-bike spewing and terrified that he's a case of road rage waiting to happen. Remind me never to bike in Pittsburgh.
posted by RakDaddy (77 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
From the article: When those spoke-thin road hogs start paying their fair share of road costs, like motorized vehicles do, then maybe we could consider allowing them on a few isolated roads like in our city, county and state parks...

This guy is real a progressive, in a "hey let's bring back slavery sort of way."
posted by zpousman at 11:05 AM on July 24, 2002


Can't wait 'til the Critical Mass crew gets wind of this...
posted by GriffX at 11:05 AM on July 24, 2002


I share the road with bikes, but I don't like sharing the sidewalk with them.
posted by timeistight at 11:07 AM on July 24, 2002


Cars are dangerous to bicycle riders, so we must remove the cars from the road for the safety of the environmentally conscious, health conscious cyclist.
posted by benjh at 11:07 AM on July 24, 2002


I am so completely confused by this guy, what is his point? I guess someone got in his way into work this morning?

Looking At His Old Columns, at least he's consistent, no of his pointless blathering makes any sense, or does any good for anyone.

The real question is why are stories like this even published?
posted by Blake at 11:07 AM on July 24, 2002


How do this man's reasonable arguments constitute spewing? I speak now as someone who was forced to ride my bike on a heavilly travelled motorway last weekend just to get to an adjacent community where there are abundant bike trails. Not long ago, while driving to work in my lovely automobile, I was passed by a speeding ambulance. At the next light, I was confronted by the sight of a horribly crumpled bicycle, bits of unidentified wreckage, and about ten feet away, a bicycle helment lying in the gutter. This could be you or me. We need to pressure our cities to provide bike trails. In places where there ARE bike trails, we need to USE them. Where there are sidewalks (even though they're bumpy) we need to use the sidewalks. We need to keep our upended butts out of the faces of automobile drivers. And if we ride in the street and wind up getting killed, well, we shouldn't complain.
posted by Faze at 11:09 AM on July 24, 2002


Well, I guess we can wait for Darwin to take care of his segment of the population...
posted by badstone at 11:09 AM on July 24, 2002


time: you should probably stop driving on the sidewalk then. (nyuk nyuk)

Seriously though, in my hometown there are some spots where cars are doing 60km/h and there is little to no space between the car and the sidewalk. I keep waiting for a cop to stop me so I can give him my bike and helmet and tell him to brave the road. Not that I would or anything...
posted by ODiV at 11:11 AM on July 24, 2002


Bikers should follow the laws like cars. Here in Philly, bikers like to ride down the street the wrong way. That's just fucked up. I can see rolling through a stop sign on a quiet street as perfectly fine, but why would you ever drive directly into oncoming traffic?

I think that the government should invest more money in bike lanes and enforcing biking laws. That would help ease some of the pain felt by those of us stupid enough to drive in the city.
posted by password at 11:12 AM on July 24, 2002


I don't like riding on the road either. At least I live in Santa Barbara where there are plenty of bike paths and I can keep my bike/car interaction to a minimum.

Sounds like the guy who wrote this article could use an enema.
posted by MaddCutty at 11:14 AM on July 24, 2002


[takes deep breath] in michigan bikes are treated as the legal equivalent motor vehicles. they occupy the same lane, travel in the same direction and are subject to the same laws, with certain exceptions: they are permitted to travel two-abreast, and they are not subject to minimum speed laws. they are not permitted on limited access highways. they are not required to yeild the way to cars no matter how many they have "barricaded" behind them. they suck. they should be treated legally as pedestrians - required to travel the opposite side of the road facing into oncoming traffic, required to travel single file, and granted all the right-of-way a pedestrian has. this would be far safer for the bicycle enthusiasts, and far less annoying to motorists.
posted by quonsar at 11:16 AM on July 24, 2002


It'd be nice if all the laws were observed by all of the people, but there's some unspoken antagonism going on from the car drivers (and a little from some bicyclists).

The main problem is that cars can kill pedestrians and bicyclists (and motorcycle riders, for that matter). Car drivers don't tend to think their attention span matters to anybody but them -- after all, another driver will watch out and not hit them, because it could be costly (in the *financial* sense).

Having been hit twice by people who didn't bother looking both ways *when I had the right of way*, even with the amount of extreme caution I've practiced, I think the law is secondary to survival and threat. That's why I think bicyclists should follow the existing laws like traffic lights (just as seriously as a car driver) but that it might eb their perogative to go the opposite way in a dangerous area because of car drivers that don't even notice they hit you until someone (else) stops them.

Case in point, in my neck of the woods, they've taken to nailing tickets to bicyclists who break traffic light and stop sign laws. If we want to be taken seriously, we're going to have to take up our 1908 laws and use them wholeheartedly, not selectively, before our place on the road is beyond reproach by all but the biggest murderous moron.
posted by Hilarion at 11:24 AM on July 24, 2002


Faze: Where there are sidewalks (even though they're bumpy) we need to use the sidewalks. We need to keep our upended butts out of the faces of automobile drivers. And if we ride in the street and wind up getting killed, well, we shouldn't complain.

Mile for mile, demographic studies have consistently found that the street is the safest place for bicycle travel and sidewalks are the most dangerous. It looks like the most critical factor in regards to bicycle accidents is not proximity, but visability.

Quonsar: they should be treated legally as pedestrians - required to travel the opposite side of the road facing into oncoming traffic, required to travel single file, and granted all the right-of-way a pedestrian has. this would be far safer for the bicycle enthusiasts, and far less annoying to motorists.

Feeling homocidal today? Granted, riding single file is a good idea but riding against the flow of traffic is probably the only practice more dangerous than riding on the sidewalks. A lot of the arguments that bicycles should be treated as pedestrians is based on very faulty reasoning. Overtaking accidents in which a bicyclist is rear-ended by a car are rare. Cyclists are much more likely to become involved in accidents at intersections and driveways and the best defense is to be visible and behave like a car.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:31 AM on July 24, 2002


I'm an avid bike rider and although I deplore this guy's hostile attitude, I have to admit that a lot of bicyclists are complete twits. I can't count the number of times I've seen my fellow cyclists run stop signs, turn without signaling, ride the wrong way on the road, and act like all-around jerks to both peds and motorists. In other words, they're just as annoying and stupid as your average automobile driver.
posted by MrBaliHai at 11:35 AM on July 24, 2002


My dear fellow bicycle riders, please tell me this: How are you able to ride in the street without absolutely dying of self-consciousness? Without shrivelling at the thought that you are making a royal pain in the ass of yourself to the uncounted drivers accumulating behind you? How can you relax knowing that the slightest inattention on your part might make you swerve into the path of a hurtling two-ton vehicle that will kill you instantly? How can you relax and enjoy your ride knowing that a hundred people are at that very moment hating your guts for blocking the roadway? What insulates you from these feelings? How are you able to be so incredibly inconsiderate of the driver who may someday kill you -- through NO FAULT OF HIS OWN -- and have your death on his or her conscience for the rest of his or her life? Is your self-righteousness so monumental that it has blinded you to all human feeling? Is your belief in your own eco-perfection stronger than your consideration for your fellow human beings, their convenience and terrible likeliehood that you are putting yourself in a position to be accidentally killed by them? Yes, I ride my bike on the roadway, but the experience is entirely without pleasure or comfort, until I come to a proper, designated bike path.
posted by Faze at 11:36 AM on July 24, 2002


I feel like a broken record: bikes travel most safely in the road, in the direction of traffic. Riding a bike on the sidewalk (or against traffic) is asking for an accident.
posted by daver at 11:36 AM on July 24, 2002


MrBaliHai, those clueless cyclists are more annoying than average car drivers, because they harden the attitudes of twits such as the columnist in the front page post.

KirkJobSluder nailed down the relevant points about bicycle safety. Studies show that cyclists and car drivers are much safer when cyclists ride on the street, with traffic, and obey the traffic laws. And it would help if my fellow cyclists would not only obey traffic laws, but behave courteously.

While commuting to work on my bike yesterday, I saw a pack of bikes going in the opposite direction, with people riding three and four abreast into the only traffic lane. A car driver was creeping along slowly behind them. I yelled "Car back!" but when I looked back a few seconds later, they were still riding in the middle of the road, delaying the motorist.

Bunch of assholes.

I wouldn't do that shit, but do you think that driver will understand that if he winds up driving behind me? No, because of his encounter with a group of jerks, he will assume that I'm a jerk and he won't feel any compunction to pass too close or cut me off.

The solution: Cops should ticket cyclists for traffic violations. Run a red light? Ticket. Blow a stop sign? Ticket. Riding on the left side of the road against traffic? Ticket. Riding on a sidewalk? Ticket. Riding in the middle of the street, blocking car traffic, when there's plenty of room on the right in which to ride safely? Megaticket.

It drives me crazy when I'm on my bike and I'm stopped at a red light and some bozo on a bike runs it without even slowing down. Give that fucker a ticket. He makes me look bad, and he's going to inconvenience an innocent, law-abiding driver who accidentally runs into him.
posted by Holden at 11:47 AM on July 24, 2002


Faze, with all due respect, that's a load of crap.

It's one thing if a cyclist is being a moron, riding the wrong way, not wearing a helmet, acting as if the road is all his. I have no sympathy for anyone doing that. They're just waiting for their Darwin Award.

It's quite another when you're riding in the street, following the rules of the road, looking out for drivers and other cyclists, and yet you still get cut off, pushed around, and almost run off the road by some jerkoff who thinks that just 'cause he's in a car, the road is all his. Bullshit. Cyclists need to respect the mass and speed of cars, but cars need to respect cyclists right to share the roads. That's right: share the road.

Bike trails are not the answer, as they tend to a) meander and wander and are completely antithetical to the speed and directness of route needed for commuting by bike and b) get clogged by joggers, rollerbladers and other people who obviously can't read the BIKES ONLY sign painted in the trail every twenty feet. Just ask anyone who's ever biked along the beach trail here in Los Angeles. Peds have their own path, yet they use the one for bikes and are outraged (outraged!) that you're politely telling them that you're going to pass on their left.

I'm all for clearly marked bike lanes on the streets. Bikes have to be treated as vehicles, and cyclists have to be held accountable for disobeying the rules of the road. His Righty-Woe-Is-Me rhetoric aside, our man in Pittsburgh here goes too far by demanding that bikes be taken off the road.

I highly recommend looking at Effective Cycling by John Forester, who has spent a large amount of time studying and coming up with some good ideas how cyclists and cars should share the road.
posted by RakDaddy at 11:51 AM on July 24, 2002


Riding a bike on the sidewalk (or against traffic) is asking for an accident.

I'd rather be a pedestrian hit by a biker than a biker hit by a car. Even if it's twice as often.

I think the problem is that, in most places, roads came before bikes and serve the needs of cars OK but not cars+bikes well. In these places (Boston I can attest to personally) bikes should be limited to bike trails and sidewalks. Where roads have been equipped with bike lanes, bikes should use them exclusively.

Both bikers and drivers act like they own the road in my observation. Except that the road was made for cars and paid for by drivers (through gas taxes) so there is a fair amount of weight to the notion that cars should get priority where safety is a concern. I'd support a compromise law that limits bikes to roads with speed limits at or below 30mph. There's enough of those to get most anywhere within the city without being a slow moving nearly-invisible obstruction in the middle of a higher-speed road.
posted by plaino at 11:55 AM on July 24, 2002


The big problem that I see is simply stupidity and selfishness. I bike to work everyday, and my ride is usually split down the middle in terms of riding on the sidewalk and riding on the street. There are places where the traffic is simply too heavy, so I stick to the sidewalks (and yes, it is possible to share with walkers), and there are more deserted parts of my ride where I bike down the back streets.

Having biked over 800 miles this year commuting to work and back (11 miles round trip...), I've only had a very few bad encounters, and that's in a town which is supposedly very hostile to bikers. Most of the time, people in cars treat me as if I'm another car, and if they acknowledge me, I try to wave back to them in a friendly way to show that I'm grateful. The positive reinforcement helps more than you'd suspect. If I'm biking in the road, I stick to the rightmost part of it, and if I'm on the sidewalk and near people, I adjust my speed accordingly. Some cities simply don't have the infastructure to encorporate bike lanes into their already existing roads, so it's a matter of making due.

Granted, there have been moments where I've almost been hit by a car, but I just swear under my breath and remember to pay attention. I've also seen fellow bikers doing things that are absolutely stupid, which would piss me off completely if I were driving my car (Yes! I do both!). In the end, the best way to handle things is if you're biking, think of the people in the cars around you and act like you'd want a biker to act if you were driving by them in your car. If you're driving, know that you're bigger and can get around faster, and if a biker is actually following the rules of the road, don't get bent out of shape. In the end, you're still going to get to your destination, and if you calm down a bit, you're not going to put anyone's life in danger.

Basically, everyone needs to just take a little breather and realize that we all have to put up with each other, because one or the other isn't going to go away in the near future. Treat the other person (whether you're a biker or auto driver) as you'd want to be treated. We've all heard that before, right?
posted by almostcool at 12:00 PM on July 24, 2002


Plaino, roads came because of bikes. Paved roads, that is. The League of American Wheelmen (now the League of American Bicyclists) lobbied for paved roads before cars were mass-produced.
posted by Holden at 12:02 PM on July 24, 2002


By the way, in regards to Faze's second, hand-wringing post:

How much more self-important and self-righteous is the asshole in the SUV? The solo driver? The slob who drives a block rather than walk it? When I'm on my bike, I will look out for and respect cars. I will obey the rules of the road. But I don't give a stony rat's ass if cars are slowed down and held up by me and my goddamned right to ride my bike on the streets which I pay for with my taxes at the pump and when I register my car. I ride because it feels good, it's healthy and it's fun.

Is my belief in my eco-perfection stronger and more important than some guy's need to get to some place just ten seconds faster than usual?

You bet your ever-lovin' A it is.
posted by RakDaddy at 12:10 PM on July 24, 2002


Holden, the roads we are talking about here were all paved after the advent of mass produced cars. They were designed for cars. lt really isn't relevant whose idea it was first.
posted by plaino at 12:11 PM on July 24, 2002


A couple of points Plaino, I'm sure you're not trying to say that because some roads are paid for by gas taxes they should lack crosswalks, right? Glad we've established that it isn't relevant who's idea it was first, but I think you need to re-examine your ideas about who the roadways are designed for.
posted by daver at 12:19 PM on July 24, 2002


Consider that most bicyclists also drive cars and pay taxes. Should we have an "I pay taxes too" card for them? And maybe their kids should be covered by the parents taxes?

I used to ride my bike to work and I was harassed by those who didn't know the laws. In RI, bikes must ride in the street, not the sidewalk. They must "keep as far to the right as is practicably possible." No riding several abreast and blocking the road. But it doesn't mean that I have to ride through potholes in the shoulder either - although I had to frequently to avoid speeding cars. Whenever I'd take my wheels in to be trued, the clerk inevitably would ask me , "what do you do to your wheels to get them so out of true?"

It won't kill the car drivers to slow down once and a while to yield to a bicyclist.
posted by Red58 at 12:19 PM on July 24, 2002


Doh! Forgot a link to John Foresters site, and the Bicycle transportation institute where you can find a lot of good information about cycling safely.
posted by daver at 12:21 PM on July 24, 2002


OK, Plaino, but you're the one who said "roads came before bikes."
posted by Holden at 12:22 PM on July 24, 2002


It won't kill the car drivers to slow down once and a while to yield to a bicyclist.

Exactly. Why, when a lot people get into a car, do they suddenly decide that they absolutely, positively must get from A to B in the shortest time humanly possible? If you're rushing to get somewhere (speeding, cutting someone up, whatever) then you're either in the grip of an emergency, a natural-born asshole or simply too shortsighted to factor in a little 'extra' time to make your journey. The first I can understand but the other two...
posted by MUD at 12:27 PM on July 24, 2002


A few weekends ago I was biking around in Portland, supposedly the most bike-friendly city in the U.S. Even though it's bike-friendly, there are still *lots* of cars there. I was constantly on guard, expecting to get run off the road. At some point I realized that I was acting like an abused dog hiding under a table. None of the car drivers did anything aggressive towards me or the many other cyclists in that city. It was as if we were all buddies. It seriously freaked me out.
posted by gluechunk at 12:32 PM on July 24, 2002


Certainly there are irresponsible cyclist, but the bulk of the problem lies with incompetant drivers unwilling to take responsibility for their actions (which go a long way in explaining their hysterical attacks on cyclists). Damn straight, I'll head for the sidewalks if 99% of the Jeff Gordon wannabees think that "turning signals" are a friggin' "option".

Tighten up driving laws. Enforce the current ones. Make it easier to lose a license -- then I'll take anti-bike rants more seriously. But when I see Officer Friendly downtown ticketing some student chaining his bike to a tree, while car after car right behind him shaves the corner against the light and sans blinkers -- somehow, I don't think this will come to pass.

We have become a nation of whining nannies. We know what's best for everyone. We insist on poking our nose into everything. We have no control over important things, so we latch onto trivial things and blow'em out of proportion to cover our impotence. Count on it -- mandatory helmet laws for bicyclist will be the next item on the nanny hit parade.

Ravin' (When are they gonna get around to booze?) Dave
posted by RavinDave at 12:39 PM on July 24, 2002


I think you need to re-examine your ideas about who the roadways are designed for.

Crosswalks serve the same purpose for pedestrians as bikelanes (which I favor) would serve for bikers. In fact, law restricts pedestrian traffic to crosswalks and sidewalks and ought to similarly restrict bicycle traffic to sidewalks and bikelanes.

I should also clarify that, earlier, I meant that most of today's roads were built before bikes were a common form of commuter transportation (as opposed to a leisure activity). I'm probably wrong about that too but that is, in fact, what I meant.
posted by plaino at 12:43 PM on July 24, 2002


It would be nice if motorists respected the rights of cyclists, but it just isn't going to happen.
Last year, I was the victim of a hit-and-run driver; I was riding in a designated bike path on the NYC W. Side Highway. The helmet protected my head, but both of my arms were so severely mangled that each required the installation of several pins and plates.
I loved riding that bike to work; I miss the view of the city that can only be experienced through that mode of travel.
But it wasn't worth that, and I'll never do it again.
posted by lilboo at 12:46 PM on July 24, 2002


I posted this article in the bicycleforums, his e-mail box is going to be jammed. Of course, he probably feeds off this. Asshole.
posted by rotifer at 12:48 PM on July 24, 2002


More sites on cycling safely:
Ken Kifer's site, in particular an article on wrong-way riding, explaining the risks.

John Allen's site: including a summary of research on bicycle safety.

Plaino, not sure where you hail from, but I believe peds in Washington state have the right of way in and out of crosswalks.
posted by daver at 12:59 PM on July 24, 2002


Why do people think that something called a sideWALK is intended for cyclists?

Sidewalks are for walkers.

I know a guy who was riding on a sidewalk and passed a pedestrian. He didn't notice the dog leash until it was too late. He ended up with pins and plates in an arm and a leg. He rides on the road now.
posted by Holden at 1:04 PM on July 24, 2002


As for the article in question, it's from the Trib, Richard Mellon Scaife's paper, from which he orchestrated his eight-year emotional assault on the Clinton White House. As he bought it primarily to have a mouthpiece from which to whine about Bill and Hill in an 80%-registered-Democrat county, it's not much of a paper in its own right -- it's light on news, heavy on "ain't it great to live in the 'burbs" fluff. The writing sucks to the extent that it's not even decent fishwrap. So I wouldn't get too worked up over the article.

As for bicycling in Pittsburgh... The city itself is a joy to ride in, with trails along two of the three rivers (with plans to connect to continuous trail to Washington, DC in the works). Everything's fairly close to everything else in town, so you can actually ride places you might want to go, and roads that are fairly slow anyway so Type-A SUV drivers tend not to blame bicyclists personally for adding two minutes to their hour-long commute. I moved here from Atlanta, where road-raging ignorant rednecks chucked beer bottles at a bicyclist friend of mine - more than once - so I was a little leery of riding in traffic. But if you follow the rules of the road, motorists generally won't so much as honk at you unless you do anything surprising (popping into traffic from the parking lane) or stupid (winding across the lane to keep them from passing you).

Of course, I've never ridden out in the suburbs. No reason to be out there, for one. There are some narrow, winding roads that I wouldn't want to share with a car...these are of course the same roads that aren't safe in a car even without a bicyclist on them. Methinks Mr. Vassilaros got his panties in a bunch after having to slow down a bit for South Hills traffic - which is murderous by Pittsburgh standards - saw a bicycle nearby, and decided to assign blame.
posted by Vetinari at 1:12 PM on July 24, 2002


Nice to know, Vetinari. I always thought the riverside would make for a nice bike ride.

So, that's Scaife's paper? What a sad, sad rag. Urge to kill...lowering...
posted by RakDaddy at 1:19 PM on July 24, 2002


this guy should really take up cycling. could probably relieve some of his unhealthy anger and clean those arteries he claims are clogged. i personally think he can wait a few seconds until it's safe to pass the bikers. i'm not gonna sit in my house gaining 20 pounds from inactivity so this douchebag can get home faster. i'm riding my bike. right....now.
posted by aLienated at 1:39 PM on July 24, 2002


I'd rather be a pedestrian hit by a biker than a biker hit by a car. Even if it's twice as often

Actually, as pointed out, riding on sidewalks makes it more likely you will be hit by a car, not that you will hit a pedestrian.

As for what pays for roads, I guarantee you that the majority of city streets where bikers ride and where this debate is focused are funded mostly by sales taxes, not fuel taxes. The roads that receive the most fuel tax money are intercity highways, particularly limited access expressways on which cyclists are not allowed. Even then, sales taxes paid by everyone contribute a large portion of the funding in most states.

City streets could probably be better designed to accomodate cyclists, but dedicated bike lanes along the right sides of streets introduce a lot of the same safety risks that riding on sidewalks does. Separated bike paths are the safest, but in many cities such paths are designed as recreational paths instead of commuting paths.
posted by daveadams at 1:43 PM on July 24, 2002


Ironically, most the designated bike trails in my city somehow mutate into yuppie jogging trails and doggie latrines -- probably used by the same type who shake their fist at cyclists on the open road when they are inconvenienced by a fourth of a second.
posted by RavinDave at 1:56 PM on July 24, 2002


It's great that a lot of you like to ride your bikes, and to commute on them. That's good for your health and for the environment. The fact remains, however, that you will never be as safe doing so as you would be commuting in a car. It is unsafe for cars and bicycles to share the same road given the differences between them, and no amount of cursing at drivers--many of whom deserve it--will change this basic fact. Look at the anecdotal accounts of serious injury already in the very limited sample size here. Roads are de facto for cars, and in the interests of safety and efficiency for all, bikes should be banned from many of them.
posted by rushmc at 1:57 PM on July 24, 2002


MrBaliHai, those clueless cyclists are more annoying than average car drivers, because they harden the attitudes of twits such as the columnist in the front page post.

On any given day I get far more annoyed by motorists than I do by bicyclists...simply because there are more of them, I suspect. But the point I was trying to make is that the vast majority of bicyclists are also motorists, therefore I have to assume that their bad habits are equally pronounced while driving. The moron who's running a stoplight on a bike is probably doing the same thing in his car.

I should also point out that lack of etiquette is a serious problem on bike paths and trails as well. I'm constantly running into groups cycling 2 or 3 abreast, blocking an entire two-way path, who refuse to move when you try to pass them, or getting winged by clowns traveling at twice my speed who pass me without calling out.
posted by MrBaliHai at 1:58 PM on July 24, 2002


Gasonline taxes and vehicle registration fees do not cover the entire cost of roads. Usually sales taxes, property taxes, and other general revenue is used to subsidize roads, bridges, and highways. Only toll roads come close to being financed by the users of the road.

Cyclists (and pedestrians) are already paying their fare share and more since bicycles are not heavy enough to put any measurable wear and tear on the roads, and pedestrians don't use them at all.

A bicyclist can easily go 10-15 mph, which is more than fast enough to keep up with the flow of traffic on a residential street.
posted by erogers at 2:03 PM on July 24, 2002


Separate bike paths are a poor option in most cases. These recreational trails usually do not provide usefuly connections between homes, businesses, schools, etc. Many people use the roads because roads are the only way to go from point A to point B rather than just go around in circles in the park.

Also, most trails/paths are mixed-use trails that also accommodate runners, walkers, strollers, rollerblades, etc. I have had more close calls on trails and paths than I have ever had in the streets.
posted by erogers at 2:08 PM on July 24, 2002


It is unsafe for cars and bicycles to share the same road given the differences between them, and no amount of cursing at drivers--many of whom deserve it--will change this basic fact.

It can be unsafe, but it can also be a safe experience, depending on how the drivers and cyclists act. There are some places where cars and bikes get along fine, where there aren't major problems. This has less do with with physics and more to do with the attitudes of the drivers/cyclists.
posted by gluechunk at 2:09 PM on July 24, 2002


Sometimes being right really doesn't matter, you know.

Regardless of what the law says, and regardless of what people should do, whether in cars or on bikes - - - anytime you mix automobiles and bikes, there's gonna be trouble.

Given that all the truth of "It was the driver's fault" won't bring you back from the dead, why even risk it?
posted by yesster at 2:23 PM on July 24, 2002


How are you able to ride in the street without absolutely dying of self-consciousness?

Yeah, these shorts are pretty tight, arn't they.

Without shrivelling at the thought that you are making a royal pain in the ass of yourself to the uncounted drivers accumulating behind you?

Where I live there are some pretty narrow streets and this has never been a problem. If the street is so narrow that passing is a problem, the cars rarely get above 14 mph in the short distance from stop sign to stop sign.

If they do accumulate, I just hit the wide shoulder and let them pass.

How can you relax knowing that the slightest inattention on your part might make you swerve into the path of a hurtling two-ton vehicle that will kill you instantly?

How do you do it in a car? Also, I'm more likely to get killed instantly by a hurtling two-ton vehicle if I ride on the sidewalks or against the flow of traffic. I minimize the risks I can control (by operating my vehicle in a safe manner) and let the rest take care of its self. Heck, even walking is more dangerous on a mile by mile basis than riding in the street.

What insulates you from these feelings? How are you able to be so incredibly inconsiderate of the driver who may someday kill you -- through NO FAULT OF HIS OWN -- and have your death on his or her conscience for the rest of his or her life?

Well, here is the problem. If I'm run over by a car because they were so incompetent that they could not safely pass a three foot wide moving vehicle or wait until I let the pass (I usually provide plenty of oportunities, most cyclists are not interested in intentionally blocking traffic.) Then it is the driver's fault. (The last I heard, rear-ending another person was treated as an automatic at-fault accident.) In addition, what insulates me is the fact that I'm MORE likely to leave my death on another person's conscience by riding on the sidewalk or riding against the flow of traffic. So if you really want to prevent deaths, the answer is clear, teach people to ride their bicycles in a safe manner on the roads. Don't teach them to ride their bicycles in an unsafe manner on sidewalks or against the flow of traffic.

Is your self-righteousness so monumental that it has blinded you to all human feeling? Is your belief in your own eco-perfection stronger than your consideration for your fellow human beings, their convenience and terrible likeliehood that you are putting yourself in a position to be accidentally killed by them? Yes, I ride my bike on the roadway, but the experience is entirely without pleasure or comfort, until I come to a proper, designated bike path.

Riding in roadways is even safer than riding on mixed-use pathways. So you want to reduce human suffering, teach people to ride in the roadway safely.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 2:34 PM on July 24, 2002


Can someone explain to me how, when cycling legally in a city, I usually get where I'm going much faster than car-driving collegues, yet at the same time I can be accused of delaying them?

Its traffic that holds up traffic. Suggesting that traffic delays are caused by cyclists is missing the point in the extreme. If a motorist is caused to lift his foot off the gas for a moment because of a cyclist, when rushing between red lights or queues, excuse me if I lack sympathy.

As for safety, let me second those that have pointed out that sidewalk cycling and cycling against the flow of traffic are much more dangerous than behaving like any other vehicle on the road. The reason is that the majority of crashes between motor-vehicles and cyclists happen when cyclists are crossing the path of traffic - which happens much more frequently when cyclists aren't a part of the traffic. Junctions are dangerous. Its very rare for a cyclist to be hit directly from behind.


anytime you mix automobiles and bikes, there's gonna be trouble

It all depends how you engineer the roads and the experience of the average urban motorist and cyclist in a given town, but it certainly ain't necessarily so, and blanket statements such as this don't really help anyone understand the issue.

In the several years I spent cycling around in central London for example, the annual average number of adult cyclist deaths was 12, in population of about 60,000 regular commuter cyclists and with a road environment very hostile to cycling. To the inexperienced it may look dangerous. But as any reasearcher into industial safety or risk compensation will testify, perceived risk and actual risk are often very different.
posted by normy at 2:40 PM on July 24, 2002


It can be unsafe, but it can also be a safe experience, depending on how the drivers and cyclists act.

That simply isn't so under a lot of real-world road conditions. The price one must pay for poor road conditions, unpredictable events, a mechanical failure, or moment's inattention (yours or the driver's) is far higher on a bike than in a car.

Suicidal behavior undertaken for ideological reasons remains suicidal behavior.
posted by rushmc at 2:41 PM on July 24, 2002


It's great that a lot of you like to ride your bikes, and to commute on them. That's good for your health and for the environment. The fact remains, however, that you will never be as safe doing so as you would be commuting in a car. It is unsafe for cars and bicycles to share the same road given the differences between them, and no amount of cursing at drivers--many of whom deserve it--will change this basic fact. Look at the anecdotal accounts of serious injury already in the very limited sample size here. Roads are de facto for cars, and in the interests of safety and efficiency for all, bikes should be banned from many of them.

Actually, bicycles are already banned from most major arterial roads. In addition bicyclists tend to prefer roads with minimal traffic. But the question is safe enough. I was a motorcyclist for two years, which is a very risky activity. Should motorcycles be banned from roads because they are less safe than cars. Statistically cars are less safe than public transit, should we ban cars instead of buses? In most cases we argue that the

In fact, it is amazing that people still argue about whether bicycles belong on the road when the alternatives are even more dreadful. Over and over again studies have found that the majority of risk associated with cycling involves behaviors such as sidewalk riding and wrong-way riding. Bicycle paths are even a greater risk. In addition, in more than 2/3rds of cycling fatalities the cyclist was found to be intoxicated.

Suicidal behavior undertaken for ideological reasons remains suicidal behavior.

Well now, there is where the statistics reveal the truth. USDOT statistics find that in the U.S. there are 26 fatal cycling accidents per 100 million trips. The most I can manage in a day is perhaps 4 trips. Compared to 9 for bicycles. But perhaps more importantly, riding a bike is safer than walking on the sidewalk. (29 per 100 million trips), and yet, no one has made a call that walking on the sidewalk is suicidal behavior motivated by ideology. In additon the majority of those fatalities DID NOT HAPPEN TO BICYCLE RIDERS RIDING WITH THE FLOW OF TRAFFIC.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:36 PM on July 24, 2002


Getting in a car and driving anywhere is "suicidal" if by that you mean that it increases your risk of getting killed. It's all about balancing risk, and making inflammatory statements about "suicidal behavior" is a ridiculous response to a serious discussion.

Pedestrians get killed crossing the with the light. I still walk around. Bicyclists get killed riding on the street while following traffic laws. I still bike. Follow your logic and we should all be driving giant SUVs, or better yet, tanks, to reduce our transportation risks as much as possible. That's not the way I'm going to live.
posted by blissbat at 3:36 PM on July 24, 2002


As a cyclist, who has been knocked off by a twerp turning left and not worrying about whether anyone was in the way, I have more sympathy with cyclists.
As a motorist who likes to drive faster than 18 mph, I still sympathise more with cyclists. Cyclists however, have to accept that courtesy on the road cuts both ways. It is very discourteous to block a narrow road by riding two or more abreast, yet I see this happening more and more frequently. It's no wonder some drivers get annoyed.It seems to me there is a breed of cyclist out there who will claim their right to roadspace regardless of the inconvenience it may cause others; they do neither themselves nor their fellow cyclists (me included) any favours.
posted by Fat Buddha at 3:53 PM on July 24, 2002


Faze: How are you able to be so incredibly inconsiderate of the driver who may someday kill you -- through NO FAULT OF HIS OWN -- and have your death on his or her conscience for the rest of his or her life?

Last year a car/bike accident here in the UK which left a 12 year old boy permanently brain damaged went to court after the driver attempted to sue his parents, partially as a result of the distress she suffered.

With the assistance of the CTC the case got overturned - but the backlash against the driver and her insurers was considerable.

Would you really feel less sympathy for a boy who now has the mental age of an 8 year old than for the woman who did that to him simply because she was in a hurry?
posted by arc at 4:09 PM on July 24, 2002


USDOT statistics find that in the U.S. there are 26 fatal cycling accidents per 100 million trips.

Wow, and I've witnessed a couple myself (and certainly have never seen 100 million "trips")! If only my luck was as good at the lottery....

Getting in a car and driving anywhere is "suicidal" if by that you mean that it increases your risk of getting killed.

Of course that isn't what I mean (as you well know, so why say it?). I simply question your assessment of the risks, which seems tremendously out-of-touch with the realities of the situation.
posted by rushmc at 4:14 PM on July 24, 2002


who did that to him simply because she was in a hurry

That's quite a claim; can you support it at all?

Sympathy and an acknowledgement of responsibility are two entirely different (and NOT mutually exclusive) things.
posted by rushmc at 4:16 PM on July 24, 2002


I simply question your assessment of the risks, which seems tremendously out-of-touch with the realities of the situation.

Sufficient people in this thread have offered explanations of why cycling in traffic is safer than otherwise, have linked to research that concludes likewise and even offered official statistics to validate this evidence.

Perhaps it is now your turn to present the contrary evidence and statistics, rather than simply assert that someone is "out-of-touch" based upon your anecdotal assesment.
posted by normy at 4:34 PM on July 24, 2002


Some people simply will maintain their irrational and somewhat bizarre misconceptions no matter how clearly they're proven wrong, hey?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:14 PM on July 24, 2002


What's all the fuss about? Aren't we all going to be riding our Segweys around re-engineered cities any time now?

And speaking of Segweys, my local postal delivery person was riding one the other day. It was cool and exciting. For about two seconds.
posted by kirkaracha at 7:17 PM on July 24, 2002


Wow, and I've witnessed a couple myself (and certainly have never seen 100 million "trips")! If only my luck was as good at the lottery....

Do I need to point out that this is fallicious reasoning?

Of course that isn't what I mean (as you well know, so why say it?). I simply question your assessment of the risks, which seems tremendously out-of-touch with the realities of the situation.

At this point I think its down to "show me the money" time.

There have been more than a half-dozen links in this discussion providing evidence that your assessment of cycling as suicidal is out of touch with reality and that your proposals will lead to a more dangerous environment for everyone involved. The other thread posted today is interesting pointing out that one is more likely to die from falls, prescription drugs, complications due to surgery than from cycling. As far as sports go, no one argues to keep swimmers and boaters out of the water.

Transportation studies are clear that walking on the sidewalk is a greater risk than cycling in the road with the flow of traffic. To put the numbers in perspective, more children die every year in the U.S. getting to and from school than all people in cycling accidents (900 per year vs 800 per year.)

So it's put up or shut up time. Where is the research showing that cycling needs to be regulated much more than walking on the sidewalk (currently a greater risk than cycling)? Where is the research showing that cycling on the sidewalk is safer than cycling with traffic? Where is the research showing that outright bans are a better solution than wide curb lanes and cyclist education? Given that the majority of cycling accidents involve cases where cyclists were breaking traffic laws, doesn't the answer point to law enforcement and cyclist education?

Certainly I'm willing to open my mind to the possibility that I'm wrong, but I'm not going to be convinced by simple hand-wringing when 30 years of reasearch supports my position.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:06 PM on July 24, 2002


Without shrivelling at the thought that you are making a royal pain in the ass of yourself to the uncounted drivers accumulating behind you?

The speed limit is just that, the LIMIT. Contrary to the attitude of many drivers, it is not the minimum. I hope you don't live near my elderly grandparents or anyone who is just learning to drive.
posted by erogers at 9:10 PM on July 24, 2002


(lies back and blesses his country).
posted by thijsk at 1:33 AM on July 25, 2002


Har har har. It's all true. I'm an avid biker with calves like bricks, I run stop signs going the wrong way up one way streets on the sidewalk, every day. It's great, cars are afraid to hit you, peds are afraid of getting hit, and in downtown traffic cops couldn't catch you if they wanted too. If it wasn't for riding like a maniac in traffic I would have never learned my love of the sprocket.

I totally understand where drivers are coming from. I bike for fun, I own a sports car. I have no beef with drivers. What I loath are self important cyclistics. People who shout at me for being on the wrong side of an empty road and then ride in the lane slowing down traffic yelling at cars for passing them. "Oh oh, you're breaking the rules! Feel bad or something!" Guess what goober? It's just making me feel better, cause you're POWERLESS TO STOP ME. Har har har.
posted by Leonard at 7:29 AM on July 25, 2002


RushMC: That's quite a claim; can you support it at all?

It's stated in the article I linked that the boy was hit while riding down a bus lay-by. Cars shouldn't enter these but frequently do as a means of jumping past a queue of traffic - which is what is supposed to have happened in this case: the car certainly shouldn't have been there.

Pardon my reaction but I'm disgusted by this type of victim blame and the fact that the drivers who kill and injure usually get away with nothing worse than a minimal fine.
posted by arc at 2:19 PM on July 25, 2002


Sufficient people in this thread have offered explanations of why cycling in traffic is safer than otherwise

On the contrary, no one has explained how cycling in traffic might be safer than not cycling at all.
posted by rushmc at 3:22 PM on July 25, 2002


the car certainly shouldn't have been there.

Then, by extension, since we've established that bicycles are subject to the same traffic laws as cars, surely neither should the bike have been?
posted by rushmc at 3:23 PM on July 25, 2002


On the contrary, no one has explained how cycling in traffic might be safer than not cycling at all.

"...the health benefits outweigh the accident risks by a factor of 20 to one, and the average daily cyclist enjoys a fitness level equivalent to someone ten years younger."*

*British Medical Association, Cycling towards health and safety, Oxford University Press, Oxford, New York, 1992.
(not available online, unfortunately)

posted by normy at 4:30 PM on July 25, 2002


Then, by extension, since we've established that bicycles are subject to the same traffic laws as cars, surely neither should the bike have been?

I understand that the case in question occurred in the UK and involved a car hitting a cyclist in a bus-lane. In the UK, cyclists are legally permitted to use bus-lanes.
posted by normy at 4:36 PM on July 25, 2002


On the contrary, no one has explained how cycling in traffic might be safer than not cycling at all.

Again, why should cycling in traffic be regulated and not the more risky walking on the sidewalk?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 5:49 PM on July 25, 2002


Look, peeps, it's patently obvious that RushMC was traumatized by his Huffy as a child, and will never see reason. Abandon the effort: it's futile.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2002


To all the anti-bike people: As a serious cyclist, I can reach speeds of up to 30mph. Downhill, I can get up to 45mph or more. Do you serioulsy think that I can ride at those speeds (safely) on a bike path or on a sidewalk?

I pay taxes just like you. Part of my taxes goes towards roads, and I want to use them. There's a reason why "road bikes" are called ROAD bikes.

I use my bike solely for the health benefit and personal satisfaction, but I also ride 15 mi to work everyday. And unless you don't have a shred of common sense, you will realize that it's not me clogging up the roads. I'm part of the solution, not part of the problem.

And don't worry, as long as you get off your cell phone, look in front of you, and maintain safe speed, you won't "accidentally" run me over.

Lastly, I would like to mention that after three years of serious riding (No. VA, Washington, DC, MD) I came to the conclusion that at least drivers in my area are very nice to bicyclists. I can count on one hand the times when I though I was in trouble. Most of these times were because of inattentive, bad, or aggressive drivers. I have a few thousand miles under my belt and have yet to crash.

Witold

BTW. I don't feel goofy in my cycling attire. Why? Because I don't give a s**t what you think :)
posted by Witold at 4:23 AM on July 26, 2002


Yes, let's encourage bikes, tricycles, skateboards, soap box derby racers, foot-powered Flintstonemobiles, pedestrians, unicyclists, joggers, race walkers, scooters, golf carts, little red wagons, tractors, and horses to share our roads with our SUVs and 18-wheelers, since they are all equal in speed, mass and safety and won't interfere with one another at all. They all transport taxpayers, for godsake!!

You folks are nuts.
posted by rushmc at 8:57 AM on July 26, 2002


You folks are nuts.

Oh. Ooops. I see the error of my ways now. Thanks, Rush. I will stop being nuts now. Thanks for the helpful advice.
posted by daveadams at 3:55 PM on July 26, 2002


I keep hoping that rush is playing the Devil's Advocate and that the original piece is just a bait to bring about some changes in how Americans choose to use their roads and landscape.

I cycle for pleasure. I have cycled to my job in the past (from Cambridge to Boston) resulting in a shorter commute than by any other means (car, walking, subway, bus). The fact that it helps my heart and body is a welcome side effect.

Currently, I am riding in the French countryside, about one hour from Paris (in the prefecture where the last stage of this year's Tour de France will start). The French consider a bicycle a vehicle. Before attempting to pass a cyclist, overtaking cars must be certain the oncoming lane is clear. Sneaking by because the road is just wide enough is generally not practiced (except in the city). When cars do pass cyclists, they use their signal and use the other side of the road, as if passing a car.

In Denmark, northern Germany and the low countries, bicycle lanes accompany nearly every road and, in Amsterdam in particular, it is by far the best means of travel around the city. Pedestrians are well advised to stay off the red pavement along the sidewalk -- that is bike territory. Bicycle lanes are so well respected that they are even off limits to motor scooters. Many intersections have special signals for bicycles.

When cycling for pleasure, I prefer farmland roads (e.g. Washington County in western Maryland is where I fell in love with road riding) and it is only on these roads that I gain real pleasure from the activity. Riding in the suburbs is, for me, worse than urban riding. In the city you are moving about as fast as everyone else, in the country there are so few cars it just does not matter. If someone has a problem as I am tooling along those beautiful rolling strips of asphalt they can just kiss my lycra covered ass.

The lack of accommodation for cycling in America is part tolerance but also one of urban and regional planning. Suburbs are established as isolated islands with limited or no through access -- leaving no choice but to have large collector roads which are not bicycle friendly. (Pittsburgh has some special conditions of geography that limit the number of through roads.) Even with a bike lane I would prefer to not ride along a six lane road. Road planning policies have isolated pedestrians as well, making it unpleasurable if not impossible to walk from the Target to the Kroger's without using a car.

Next up: Keep those mountain bikes off that single track: you're ruining the trail! ;-)
posted by Dick Paris at 4:25 AM on July 27, 2002


Yes, let's encourage bikes, tricycles, skateboards, soap box derby racers, foot-powered Flintstonemobiles, pedestrians, unicyclists, joggers, race walkers, scooters, golf carts, little red wagons, tractors, and horses to share our roads with our SUVs and 18-wheelers, since they are all equal in speed, mass and safety and won't interfere with one another at all. They all transport taxpayers, for godsake!!

You folks are nuts.


Woah, a post devoid of anything other than falicious arguments! You might as well accuse cyclists of being contemporary Hitlers and officially loose the fight with a bang.

Again, the question that you keep ducking. Why is there a compelling need to ban bicycle traffic from roads given that walking on sidewalks is statistically more dangerous and given that cycling with traffic and obeying traffic laws is less hazardous than any of the alternatives? Your proposals have been examined and have not stood up to the test of research. Where is the research to show that banning bicycles from the roadway will be an effective method for reducing the 800 fatalities per year?
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:51 AM on July 27, 2002


Next up: Keep those mountain bikes off that single track: you're ruining the trail! ;-)

...and we haven't even touched upon bicycle helmets, yet.
posted by normy at 11:11 AM on July 27, 2002


...share our roads with our SUVs and 18-wheelers, since they are all equal in speed, mass and safety and won't interfere with one another at all.

rushmc, you're aware that each year there are about 45,000 auto-related fatalities, right? Even if you remove the bikes, "Flintstonemobiles," and little red wagons from the road, you're still going to have vehicles smashing into each other and into phone posts. Since that seems to be so unsafe do you feel we should also ban cars from using roads?
posted by gluechunk at 5:52 AM on July 28, 2002


Speaking as one who has suffered a (near-terminal) head injury, wear a helmet.

The rule of thumb is this: if you *knew* you'd be crashing today, what would you have on? Dress for the crash, not the ride.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:02 AM on July 30, 2002


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