Whenever a cycling-related accident happens anywhere, it seems, the occasion of its reporting in local media brings out a certain group of people holding the belief that the only vehicles that belong on the street have motors.
Case in point: the recent drunk-driving case of Edward Miller and the late Steve Barbour. Story from the Dispatch, of course.
If you head out to the comments for the article, most people are calling for drivers to be more judicious about when they get behind the wheel after having had a few drinks, or about helping stop your friends from driving drunk.
But of course, there are a few who take this stance:
I feel sorry for the loss but when are bicycle riders going to wise up and ride where it's safe? I just find it STUPID to use the same access that a car uses - there are paths all over the counties now called BIKE PATHS! Blame it on alcohol - that's fine .. but watch out the next time someone behind the wheel behind you has a heart attack, aneurism, or something similar!Or this one:
Wait for all the facts. ANYONE who has seen bicyclist downtown running lights, going the wrong way,ileagally passing stopped traffic at stoplights , ect know the driver, MIGHT be telling the truth.If the deceased ran a stop sign, or jumped to the street from the sidewalk, ect he could have committed the first HARMFUL event in the incident. As bikes become more prevalent, it is incumbant on riders to obey ALL the traffic laws, all the time.
Or even this one:
Many bike riders seem to think they are invulnerable and will stay in the lane with cars backing up behind them. I have seen them flip people off and and say stuff and in general act very arrogant. But mostly it's the idiots that insist on staying in the driving lane when they know a car is coming up behind. It doesn't matter whether somebody was drinking in some cases. It could well be that the bike did swerve into the path of the car. Everybody that wasn't there thinks they have it solved.So let's start with the idea that bikes don't belong on the streets, but on bike paths alone. I'll give this commenter credit for not saying "get on the sidewalk." As many studies have shown, it's more dangerous for bikes to ride on sidewalks than on the street (see Ken Kifer's webpage for Why Sidewalk Cycling is Dangerous).
Bicycles are not simply toys and recreational vehicles. There are many (vastly increasing numbers, in fact) of people who use their bicycles for basic transportation worldwide. As the price of gas goes up, more people take to the streets on two wheels instead of four. And the trend seems to be that those numbers don't go back down all the way when gas gets cheaper. People discover just how convenient it is to ride to their destinations instead of having to drive, park, pay for parking, pay for gas, etc. They get exercise and in many cases get to their destinations more quickly.
If bikes were simply for recreation, then I can see an argument for using bike paths alone. But given the use of bikes as transportion, that argument fails. Bike paths are not designed with destination in mind. Look at the paths in Columbus (pre-Bicentennial Bike Plan, naturally). They follow the rivers, the intent being to give cyclists and other path users a pleasant ride while they enjoy their exercise. But the rivers in Columbus all run north-to-south. If a rider is trying to move across town east-to-west, there are no facilities for doing so. So forcing cyclists to use paths to get to their destinations simply is not feasible. And cyclists pay more than their fair share for the streets, a topic I'll get to in a future soapbox article.
The next comment brings up the predictable "scofflaw cyclist" arguments. The "cyclists don't stop at lights, don't use turn signals, ride erratically, etc." accusations always rear their heads in such discussions. And it's true - many riders don't follow the traffic laws. I'll be the first to admit that I see such cyclists every day, whether they flout the law because of lack of knowledge or simple wanton ignoring of the law.
But this is definitely a case of who's going to throw the first stone. If every motorist was to avoid rolling stops, stop behind the proper line on the road, use their turn signals, and most importantly NEVER speed; in other words follow all the rules of the road to the letter, then there'd be a place to argue this point. But we all know this doesn't happen. Prime example: I ride past the Franklin County Courthouse every day on my commute, and there are clear "no stopping" signs along High Street in front of that building. Yet, despite these signs, people stop to drop off passengers there almost every day as I pass. It's illegal, yet motorists just ignore the signs.
So who's to blame here? Well, the vehicle operators know the law and ignore it. But the ones who are supposed to enforce the laws, namely the police, let these sorts of things go all the time. Enforcement of supposedly minor traffic laws in the Columbus is hideous. I've ranted before about this topic, and even written a letter to the mayor about it on one occasion. If you're going to have a law but not enforce it, then it's the same as not having a law. And those who DO follow the law are put at a disadvantage to the selfish other people who don't follow it as the roads are less safe, road rage rates go higher, etc. Proper consistent enforcement of the existing law would clean things up quickly.
Finally, there's a lack of knowledge in this city about how to properly ride a bike. And this is on top of the previous issue of "scofflaw cyclists." I'm talking about drivers knowing why cyclists do things and what's legally allowed. Yesterday's post addresses that last comment immediately, as the commenter is quite clearly describing his dislike of cyclists who take the lane. The post discusses how and why to do it, and also quotes state law making it not only acceptable but legal.
I'd like to see motorist education be mandatory - including the testing of cyclist-specific knowledge in order to get your driver's license EVERY time you renew it. Teach it as part of driver's education. The League of American Bicyclists has a Motorist education course. With the preponderence of League Certified Instructors that Columbus will have (after this very weekend as Columbus is hosting its first LCI certification seminar, which I'll be attending) getting someone to teach such a class will be very easy.
So, as usual, it's easy to tear apart most motorists' dislike of cycling as pure selfishness and haste. Auto-related deaths (both bike/car and otherwise) number in the 40,000 range each year, but for some reason this is regarded as acceptable as long as people are able to get where they need to go quickly. Well, it's not acceptable. The key factor that should drive all roadway decisions, whether by drivers, planners and politicians, engineers, or otherwise should be safety. It's not, obviously, but hopefully we'll get to a point where it is.People, not speed.