Friday, August 15, 2008

Death to Bicyclists

Are bicycles the same as cars? What do you think? I think they’re not. Not as fast and entirely human powered. Bicycles are in fact regulated more than cars; the rules say, essentially, get out of the way of cars. Stay to the right. I’m not sure what we are supposed to do when we want to go left. It appears that some people would prefer that we just stay off the road, or maybe disappear altogether.

In the wake of the announcement of the bike czar, two blogs made statements about bicyclists. John McIntire called bicyclists annoying, and reckless bastards (in his post “Annoying Bikers Edition”). And Bram Reichbaum (on the Burgh report) said that “As of today, 100% of cyclists have egregiously broken at least one traffic law -- disregarding stop signs, blowing through red lights, blowing through red lights to make left turns, weaving in and out of traffic.” (emphasis his). I sent McIntire an email, which he ignored, but I used the comments area at the Burgh Report to complain to/about Bram’s post. I mean, do people even notice when cars glide through stop signs? But that’s ok, they’re cars, and they belong on roads. Bikes don’t.

Into this fray comes the great commenter Chad Hermann, with another long, wordy post (I know, pot calling kettle). Dr. Hermann is another blogger who doesn’t actually believe in democracy in that his blog is not set up to receive comments. Anyone who has read his blog knows how he handles comments, I will leave it at that (res ipsa and all that). I believe Dr. Hermann wants to be seen as the voice of common sense, just someone intelligently commenting on life in a sea of idiots. But Dr. Hermann is, in real life, a speech writer for a Republican Congressman running for re-election. His agenda is advancing the agenda of the Republican party, the people who brought you the “conservation is a personal virtue, but has no place in policy” energy policy.

Dr. Hermann suggests that cyclists see criticizing them as the same as criticizing the pope or Barack Obama (making sure to link Obama to a religious figure, to get that little shot in). He says he is entertained and infuriated by “the clockwork accumulation of silliness, of moral relativism and ethical obfuscation, from the (for lack of a better term) pro-biking commenters”. Mind you, McIntire called bicyclists annoying and Bram said all bicyclists break laws every time we ride, both prior to any bicyclist comment. But we are the self-righteous moral relativists.

I’m sure that there have been cases where a bicyclist caused someone else’s death in a traffic accident. But I think we are talking fingers on a hand numbers, not the tens of thousands in auto accidents. I really think this is a case of people complaining about the mote in my eye, not considering the beam in theirs (oh great, a biblical reference, who does he thing he is, Obama?). I should point out that many of the bicyclists in the thread on the Burgh Report essentially confessed their sins, admitting about blowing through traffic lights and stop signs. Not one driver admitted rolling through stop signs or driving 70 mph on the Parkway or Route 28. The drivers did say that bicyclists would get respect when they started obeying the laws. I suspect African Americans would find that statement familiar. Of course, as long as one bicyclist breaks one law, we will all be tarred with the same brush, branded as annoying law breakers, while drivers continue rolling through stop signs, blasting along at 70 mph in a 55 mph zone and killing bicyclists.

Bicycles are both transportation for the poor and toys for the rich. You can buy a bike at a yard sale for $25 or at a bike shop for a thousand. But bikes as commuting vehicles do not use (scarce) gas, do not pollute and don’t take up much space on the road. As I say, bikes don’t cause traffic deaths (except perhaps from heads exploding because of bicyclists sheer moral relativism and ethical obfuscation). But my wife heard a discussion on a bus as it passed me cycling to work one day. The bus driver was being encouraged to run me over. You just don’t hear about how car drivers should be killed just for being on the road.

Again, the basic theme on Dr. Hermann’s post was that bicyclists were admitting breaking the laws and he took them to task for it. But if a bicyclist suggested drivers also break traffic laws, he dismissed them as being juvenile. When a car and a bike tangle as a result of either law breaking or accident, the bicyclist will end up in much worse shape almost all the time. Which is I guess what Dr. Hermann wants: the death penalty for riding bikes.


Bram Reichbaum said...

I know the commenter "Bikecommuter" did the same thing, but if you're going to use my quote, "As of today, 100% of cyclists...", you really should make mention of the previous sentence: That I personally play a car game in which I observe bikers when I happen to see them, and out of that pool, 100% thus far have broken a law.

Now, "100%" may be a bit of bluster on my part, but I swear it's really not that far off -- go ahead and try.

My point is, there's no reason to make me sound like an enormous jerk who thinks he's omniscient, when I was really only being a modest jerk who at worst holds bicyclists to unreasonably high standards.

EdHeath said...

Well, if you are perfectly comfortable with the "modest jerk" label, who am I to question your wisdom? I suspect the label could be and possibly is applied to me six days a week and twice on Sundays. At least some of the time its probably the mildest thing said about me as I swing around a parked car in traffic.

And I won't say that I think it is someone else who thinks he is an enormous jerk who thinks he is omniscient ...

Instead I'll just channel the spirit of Rodney King.