Greater Greater Washington

Do we need a name for anti-bike-ism?

Bicycle advocates were surprised and disappointed that Virginia legislators, particularly Republicans, defeated a seemingly innocuous measure to change Virginia's standard for drivers passing cyclists from 2 to 3 feet, to match the practice in most states.


Photo by velobry.

Based on their summary, the bill mainly didn't go down to defeat because legislators thought 2 feet was better. Rather, they perceived cyclists as a group not deserving of any added protections from the law.

Here are some arguments the Virginia Bicycling Federation reported hearing from legislators at the hearing:

  • "Bicyclists are often law breakers, unworthy of any added protection under the law."
  • "Bicyclists are inconsiderate when they delay drivers from getting to their destinations, especially in narrow lanes or roads."
  • "Bicyclists should police themselves before coming in asking for added legal protections."
  • "A 3 ft. passing rule would inconvenience and hazard motorists by requiring them to move into the adjacent or oncoming travel lanes."

Only the last item is actually about the passing distance itself. But even with a 2-foot rule, drivers still have to either get into the adjacent lane, or at least move substantially enough into that lane that they might as well move in entirely.

Many drivers think they can or should pass cyclists by squeezing through in the same lane. That's dangerous and illegal in most places. To pass safely, a driver needs enough room to move over to the adjacent lane, at least temporarily.

More worrisome is the attitude which we hear all the time from letter writers to local newspapers, talking heads, blog commenters, and even legislators, that bicyclists are lawless hoodlums not deserving of any protection from the law.

Yes, some cyclists break laws, and some cyclists ride very recklessly. Of course, many motorists break laws too, like speeding, not stopping at stop signs, not yielding to pedestrians, driving in bike lanes, assaulting each other, pedestrians, and cyclists, yelling at police officers, and more.

That doesn't excuse cyclist misbehavior, but it's also totally unfair to blame all cyclists for the dangerous actions of a few or the mildly illegal actions of many when drivers do the same thing. Most drivers generally act respectfully but do break laws in small ways like speeding, and a few drivers are really bad. Same for cyclists.

When a majority builds up and expresses incorrect and biased attitudes about a minority group, we call that out. If white people say that black people don't deserve the same rights or respect, we call that racism. If men say that women don't deserve the same rights or respect, we call that sexism. If straight people say that gay people don't deserve the same rights or respect, we call that homophobia.

This anti-cyclist attitude needs a name, too. These Virginia legislators aren't just misinformed and pigheaded, they're also cyclist-ist. Or something. I haven't seen a good name for this prejudice. Have you? Any ideas?

Update: Racism, sexism, etc. are of course far worse than cyclist hatred, and I don't mean to mean that oppressed cyclists are being mistreated as badly as ethnic groups once were and often still are. However, that doesn't make this attitude not a form of prejudice, and one worthy of being named and criticized, even if it's lower on the scale of prejudices than some.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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Maybe cyclophobia?

The attitude typically goes hand-in-hand with autocentrism.

by Eric F. on Feb 18, 2010 11:38 am • linkreport

autojingoism

by darren on Feb 18, 2010 11:41 am • linkreport

How about autochauvinism? It carries the negative connotations of "chauvinism" with the vaguely naughty "auto-" prefix?

by Stanton Park on Feb 18, 2010 11:41 am • linkreport

I was with you right up until the second to last paragraph. As a general rule, comparing the "discrimination" against cyclist to the very real, persistent, society-wide, historical oppression of women and African-Americans is a bad idea. Racism and sexism are attitudes that a certain class of people is less human, less important, and deserving of fewer rights than the prevailing class.

What your discussing here is not discrimination against cyclists as a class. It's discrimination against cycling as an activity. Which is a problem. But it's not like we live in a world where cyclists are refused access to education, or receive inferior service, or are not considered for jobs or promotions due to perceived shortcomings based on unfair stereotyping. Dial. It. Down.

Now, discrimination against cycling is a real thing, and while I don't think it's as pervasive or as problematic as, say, racism, I agree it's an issue. We live in a culture that values driving over cycling as a means of transport, despite the economic, social, health and environmental benefits of cycling. I think greater outreach by cyclists, talking about why they bike and where they bike and how certain laws and behaviors can make that dangerous, go a long way towards shifting the balance away from cars and towards alternative forms of transportation.

But taking that imbalance personally, and acting like cyclists are an oppressed group, doesn't further the conversation. It only serves to make cyclists sound entitled and obtuse. The fact that a car sometimes passes you to closely is dangerous and you have every right to complain. But you risk wearing out my sympathy by acting like your Martin Luther King.

by Emily on Feb 18, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

Emily: You're right that those are much worse. I've added something to clarify that to the post:
Racism, sexism, etc. are of course far worse than cyclist hatred, and I don't mean to mean that oppressed cyclists are being mistreated as badly as ethnic groups once were and often still are. However, that doesn't make this attitude not a form of prejudice, and one worthy of being named and criticized, even if it's lower on the scale of prejudices than some.

by David Alpert on Feb 18, 2010 11:50 am • linkreport

Is this worse than being an anti-dentite?

by TimK on Feb 18, 2010 11:56 am • linkreport

I dunno. On one hand I sympathize with what Emily is saying. On the other hand, when a car passes me too closely it is quite literally putting my life in danger. That's serious.

So while I agree that we do not want to rub fence-sitters the wrong way, I also agree that we should call responsible parties out when lives are unnecessarily put in danger.

So sure, let's have a name, and (most importantly), let's put the focus on safety, rather than cycling. The name should not mean "person who doesn't like cycling", it should mean "person who wants to kill cyclists".

I propose manslaughter apologists. It doesn't roll off the tongue quite so easily as, say veloist would, but IMO it gets across a better message.

by BeyondDC on Feb 18, 2010 11:59 am • linkreport

i'm a fan of cyclophobia, but two-wheeled hate sounds good to me too (riffing off of two-minutes hate from 1984).

by IMGoph on Feb 18, 2010 12:01 pm • linkreport

@Emily:

When a majority builds up and expresses incorrect and biased attitudes about a minority group, we call that out. If white people say that black people don't deserve the same rights or respect, we call that racism. If men say that women don't deserve the same rights or respect, we call that sexism. If straight people say that gay people don't deserve the same rights or respect, we call that homophobia.

I've gone back and read the original post, and David never implied that institutional discrimination against cyclists is *exactly* as bad as racism or sexism.

At least there are strong legal protections that are intended to prevent the latter; clearly there are no such protections for the former, at least in Virginia.

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 12:07 pm • linkreport

no surprise considering Virginia ranks as the lowest state in per-capita bike-ped funding

by Andrew on Feb 18, 2010 12:08 pm • linkreport

I dunno. On one hand I sympathize with what Emily is saying. On the other hand, when a car passes me too closely it is quite literally putting my life in danger. That's serious.

Get over it. Riding a bike is a "choice". Go to one of those fundamentalist Christian groups that promise to "cure" you by turning you back into a driver.

It may look like I'm hating you, but remember, I'm hating the sin, not the sinner!

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 12:10 pm • linkreport

First off, I need to apologize for the rampant typos in my first comment. I was a bit fired up. Normally I proofread.

Second, while I appreciate the added caveat, my argument is that you are talking not about class prejudice, but about activity prejudice. Prejudice against cycling is not a lesser form of the prejudice against women or ethnic groups. It is a different animal altogether.

Your are talking about our cultural preference for cars and driving (and thus more roads, more lanes, mare parking structures, etc.) over other forms of transportation, including cycling. This is not a prejudice against a class of people; it is a bias for one activity over another, competing activity.

"Riding a bike" is not an immutable characteristic, like race, gender, or sexual orientation. Riding a bike is an active choice some people make. You make the argument on this blog that our society should value that activity more than it does. I agree with that sentiment. But you undermine your argument by pretending like the social preference for driving is actually a social preference for drivers.

I see why you might infer a prejudice against cyclists, based on the quotes from the VBF in your post. Certainly, if you substituted the word "African-American" for "Bicyclists" in the quotes, I can see where you're coming from.

But I think a big part of the problem in the debate between driving and cycling (other than the fact that it frequently overlooks pedestrians), is the tendency for both sides to act as though they are morally and personally better than the other side. Drivers who make blanket accusations about cyclists being dangerous law breakers are trying to paint their opponents in a negative light. It's a debating tactic. It's not an actual, actionable prejudice. As far as I know, the driver-archy has never tried to prohibit the children of cyclists from attending schools. I would change my tune if I found out that cyclists were being denied jobs because hiring committees disapproved of their cycling ways. But this isn't the case. Again, these are just words being thrown around to make the other side look bad.

But by attempting to draw a line between racism and "cyclism" or whatever you want to call it, you're doing the exact same thing. Instead of talking about the activities of driving and cycling, and how our social preference for one over the other is a bad thing, you're trying to paint drivers who complain about cyclists as prejudiced assholes. It's a debating tactic. And when you drag systemic, historic issues like racism and sexism into a normative community debate over how we get from one place to another, it's insulting.

by Emily on Feb 18, 2010 12:11 pm • linkreport

>Get over it. Riding a bike is a "choice".

>It's a debating tactic. It's not an actual, actionable prejudice.

This is why I think we should focus on the danger cyclists are being put into unnecessarily, rather than on hate against cyclists in general.

by BeyondDC on Feb 18, 2010 12:18 pm • linkreport

When a person bikes that person is a different class of road user from a car driver. Two classes of users, one road. The same person can experience the chauvinism in treatment between biking and driving. I am treated very differntly when I use the road as a driver compared to when I use the road as a biker (road design, infrastructure, etc). If I bike only on bike trails its not an issue. There's no chauvinism against the activity of biking as long as you don't try and use the road. The chauvanism is against using the road to bike on, not the activity of biking. Its a fine point and maybe semantics but its a distinction worth making because it helps to recognize there are two classes of road users and one class gets treated better then the other, that is one is "normal" and the other is not.

by Bianchi on Feb 18, 2010 12:19 pm • linkreport

Don't use toys in the middle of the street and you won't be in any danger.

People who are victims of any real "-isms" can't actually make such an easy choice.

by Nathan on Feb 18, 2010 12:27 pm • linkreport

Common sense?

by MPC on Feb 18, 2010 12:27 pm • linkreport


All very reasonable till you get here: "a big part of the problem in the debate between driving and cycling (other than the fact that it frequently overlooks pedestrians), is the tendency for both sides to act as though they are morally and personally better than the other side."

Quite frankly, this may be true in case of some very small portion of cyclists; for the vast majority, where someone is just riding their bike to work, or out for some exercise, it's as much a fucking bullshit stereotype: cyclists as holier-than-thou. Find me *one* cyclist who believes that cars have no right to be on the road, and we'll talk. Otherwise, the claim that all cyclists have an air of moral superiority is as valid as claiming blacks have no impulse control, or all women dress to provoke cat-calls.

"Drivers who make blanket accusations about cyclists being dangerous law breakers are trying to paint their opponents in a negative light. It's a debating tactic. It's not an actual, actionable prejudice."

You don't ride much, do you? Next time I get a bottle thrown at my head, or have a driver yell "Get the fuck out of the road" as they pass 4" from my handlebar, I'll try to keep in mind that it's a "debating tactic."

by attempting to draw a line between racism and "cyclism" or whatever you want to call it, you're doing the exact same thing. Instead of talking about the activities of driving and cycling, and how our social preference for one over the other is a bad thing, you're trying to paint drivers who complain about cyclists as prejudiced assholes. It's a debating tactic.

Again, you clearly don't ride much. As far as I can tell, no one here gives a shit about "drivers who complain about cyclists". They care about drivers whose daily practice of putting those prejudices into action endanger people on bikes.

You're like a homophobe hearing me complain about being beaten outside a gay bar, and responding, "You can't *make* me approve of homosexuality." Great, but perhaps if not approval, refraining from physical assault would be a good start.

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 12:28 pm • linkreport

I agree w/ BDC. The problem with the inherent chauvanism is that it needlessly puts bikers in life-death situations. I like 'manslaughter apologist'. It describes the prejudice. It covers the prejudice against people who walk too.

by Bianchi on Feb 18, 2010 12:29 pm • linkreport

@nathan:

Don't use toys in the middle of the street and you won't be in any danger.

I already satirized douchebags with that mentality upthread. No reason to repeat it, thanks.

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 12:30 pm • linkreport

How many bicyclists must be killed or injured by people in cars who look upon bicyclists as a scourge? I understand how using terms like "racism", "sexism" even "anti-Semitic" and trying to equate hatred and intolerance for bicyclists in the same breath may not seem politically correct or morally equivalent. But let's not diminish the fact that there is a large segment of the society out there who have a deep-seated, prejudicial hatred for bicyclists. They regularly blog, create Facebook pages and Twitter about how they gleefully have harassed cyclists with their cars.
How they wish death and injury upon bicyclists. How they urge other car drivers to inflict injury and death upon bicyclists.

That kind of hatred, intolerance and homicidal attitude may not reach the level of say, "lynching" or "mass extermination", but it should be noted that cyclists are victims of hate crimes simply because of their choice of transportation. It is a Federal Hate Crime to willfully injure or cause the death of a person based upon their race, ethnicity, sexual preference or religion. Being attacked and harassed because of your transportation choice, should be a hate crime, but it isn't. Until it is, all bicyclists are in danger.

by Stuart on Feb 18, 2010 12:34 pm • linkreport

This debate about whether autochauvinistic velophobia is really bad or just kinda bad is very interesting, but I'd love to also get everyone's suggestions on the specific question, which is what to call it.

by David Alpert on Feb 18, 2010 12:41 pm • linkreport

This will probably be one of the longest threads of the year.

1. Get over it. Riding a bike is a "choice." Tell that to the legions of people who can't afford a car. One of the biggest blocs of cyclists in the DC area are lower income hispanics who use bikes to get to and from work. I'm not sure if you are being sarcastic or not, but I felt it was worth mentioning.

2. Like Orangeington, it doesn't need a word. Better to focus your blogging efforts on listing the contact info of every legislator who voted against the rule, getting sympathetic readers to call/email them, and explain why these biases are dramatically unfounded.

So, here you go:

Delegate Charles W. Carrico, Sr. (R) - House District 5


Delegate G. Glenn Oder (R) - House District 94


Delegate Thomas Davis Rust (R) - House District 86


Delegate T. Scott Garrett (R) - House District 23


Delegate John A. Cox (R) - House District 55


Delegate Jeion A. Ward (D) - House District 92

I'm going to assume that you can just call up the Republicans.
Delegate Betsy B. Carr (D) - House District 69

by JTS on Feb 18, 2010 12:41 pm • linkreport

I totally relate to oboes passion. Its hard to describe the depth and intensity of feeling that is aroused when your life is needlessly and carelessly threatened.

by Bianchi on Feb 18, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

Car nazis.

by Mark J on Feb 18, 2010 12:56 pm • linkreport

I actually agree that cyclists do not need any "additional" protection under the law (warning, I'm from CA, not Virginia). What we really need is for the current laws to be enforced. The law already protects us. What would be really great is an education campaign to promote safe driving around cyclists...something that humanizes us. Would it be so much to ask for some PSAs that show us as HUMANS riding to work, school (children), for recreation, and as families, and showing the good and bad behavior of motorists as they drive around us?

I find that the majority of motorists who pass me or drive near me (as in meet at an intersection) seem to harbor me no ill will, but still behave dangerously because they do not understand they are getting to close to me (and they do it, unknowingly but negligently) to pedestrians too. Most of them have never ridden a bike in traffic before, and, therefore, do not understand that when they pass as close as possible, it's very scary and dangerous to the cyclist.

I think education on current law is much more appropo than new laws that merely reinforce the existing law.

by danceralamode on Feb 18, 2010 12:58 pm • linkreport

@Emily:
I'm not sure I completely understand your activity prejudice versus a class prejudice argument. I understand the terms, I'm just not sure it matters. And since you brought up sexual orientation, remember that a large portion of the population still considers discrimination against gays and lesbians an "activity prejudice." That doesn't make it any better.

I have been a biker for many years now in several cities. I've been yelled at, intimidated, and threatened with physical harm. As a gay man, I can say the exact same thing because of my sexual orientation.

The fact of the matter is that Virginia lawmakers don't consider the life of a cyclist to be more important than any delay to motorists. That is very discouraging, especially since much of the anti-cycling fervor comes from a prejudice.

Racists and sexists aren't against people different from them just because. They justify their actions somehow, just like autochauvinists justify their behavior: "I'd support cyclists if they didn't break the law" ... "If they'd just bike on the sidewalk, where they belong, I wouldn't complain"

You say that "comparing the "discrimination" against cyclist to the very real, persistent, society-wide, historical oppression of women and African-Americans is a bad idea." And yet, as a member of a group you define as a class (gays), I find that many use the exact same arguments - especially with regard to comparing heterosexism/homophobia to racism.

There are far too many cyclists out there who have been killed, injured, or maimed not by irresponsible drivers, but by vengeful motorists. Among those are two cyclists severely injured by a doctor in Los Angeles, who used his car as a deadly weapon. He will spend 5 years in prison for that. Many are never caught.

So tell me, why does it matter whether prejudice is based on "class" or "activity"?

This is a free country. It shouldn't matter whether I choose to ride bikes or love men, justice is blind. Laws should be too.

by Matt Johnson on Feb 18, 2010 1:10 pm • linkreport

But riding a bike is a choice! It's a choice I support and encourage, but still a choice.

Ok, let's try this:

There was a period of time, after cell phones had become widely available, when there were several kinds of people in our society. There were avid adopters, who used their cell phones almost exclusively, and maybe didn't even have a land line. There were regular adopters, who had cell phones, and used them, but only in certain ways, like for work or just to keep track of their kids. And there were non-adopters, who didn't even own cell phones, and relied on land lines and answering machines.

The avid adopters and the non-adopters would clash. Non-adopters resented the way cell phone use changed the way people kept in touch and the way they made plans. They resented being left out of an activity because rather than planning in advance, all the cell phone users just got in touch during their evening commute and went out for drinks. The avid adopters resented the non-adopters refusal to get on board with the new technology. Avid adopters resented not being able to contact someone at any time, or having to wait hours, even a day or two, for a call back.

Cycling, like cell-phone use, is an activity, not a personal characteristic. And as with cell-phone use 10-12 years ago, some people have adopted the activity a lot, some have adopted it a little, and some don't want to adopt it at all. This creates societal friction because there isn't agreement on how we do certain things, like pass each other on the road. And on either side of that friction are the folks who simply cannot understand the other side. Avid cyclists, who bike every day and use bikes for everything from getting to work to picking up groceries, resent drivers for hogging the road and putting cyclists in danger. Meanwhile, avid drivers, who never get on a bike and therefore have no idea how uncomfortable and dangerous certain driving behavior can be, resent cyclists for forcing them to change lanes or for weaving through and around traffic jams or for sometimes seeming to dart in away that feels unsafe to the driver.

If the avid cyclists demonize drivers as prejudiced assholes, we're no closer to reaching come kind of community resolution on these issues. The more divided both sides become, the more strident avid drivers and avid cyclists will be in their driving and cycling behavior, exacerbating the problem. If drivers immediately think "entitled jerk" every time they see a cyclist, they are less likely to pass at a safe distance. And if cyclists think "entitled jerk" every time they see a car, they are less likely to be conscientious about staying in the bike lane or signaling to the driver for a turn.

This isn't a war. Or at least it doesn't have to be. It's about behavior, not personal characteristics. And the nice thing about that is that behavior can change. With time, more people adopted cell phones and as a society, we were able to establish some rules of thumb as to how they should be used. I would love to see more bikes on the road, which would almost certainly result in more reasonable laws and behavior regarding cycling. But if the avid cyclists alienate everyone by focusing on trying to think of a word, which sounds kind of like racist or chauvinist or sexist, to call drivers who pass too closely or oppose laws making this illegal, we get no closer to resolving the societal friction that results from different folks having different priorities. I'm not saying this because I hate cyclists. I'm saying it because I like bikes and the people who use them, and I would like to see better integration of the activity into our everyday lives. Plus, I selfishly hope that if the users of all kinds of road vehicles learn a little bit more deference, it will benefit me, an avid pedestrian.

by Emily on Feb 18, 2010 1:16 pm • linkreport

I agree with danceralamode above because of the many times I have driven to work (I don't know how to ride a bike) I've seen police watch as cyclists have been endangered.

I do have a question for cyclists out there and proponents of this new law: why can't (or shouldn't) cyclists ride on the sidewalk? It seems that with the DMV area's relatively thin roads and the near impossibility of keeping up to speed limits on a bicycle that sidewalks would be a good option. Also, isn't it less dangerous to have cyclists among pedestrians who can move out of the way and both groups are moving slower, rather than among cars, where the stakes are much higher?

by Alan K. on Feb 18, 2010 1:17 pm • linkreport

Alan K.,

Again, I live in Los Angeles, so I'm going to tell you CA law, although Vehicular Code is pretty standard in most states. In CA, it is NOT illegal to ride on the sidewalk (or in the crosswalk, contrary to popular belief) as long as it is not otherwise prohibited by local ordinance. If it is prohibited by local ordinance (like in Venice Beach) you usually know because there is signage everywhere that states it is prohibited.

However, riding on the sidewalk can be unsafe for both pedestrians and cyclists. First off, I ride at an average leisure speed of 16mph. That's far too fast for me or a pedestrian to dodge each other, should a pedestrian walk out of a restaurant entrance while I'm on the sidewalk. I don't want to ride 5 mph to get to work when I can easily get up to 20 without breaking a sweat. It's further dangerous because, even if I have a green light in a crosswalk, a car turning right may not see me as I proceed through the crosswalk. I am not required by law to walk my bike, but honestly, it is safer, so I don't want to have to get off my bike every time I need to cross a street.

Using the road is safer because motorists can see me. When you ride on the sidewalk, when you cross driveways and intersections, you begin to basically dart in and out of traffic and motorists, who aren't looking for you, won't see you and you could get hurt. If you're in the road, motorists, while perhaps not happy to see you, at least see you. When I approach an intersection riding in the street, I know that every car at that intersection has seen me.

Furthermore, my commute by car takes 30 minutes, but bike takes 20 (and that's obeying all stop signs/lights, etc.). I'm not a racing cyclist, but I ride fast. I make it to work faster than motorists because I'm not clogged up by the same traffic congestion that they are in. So, the idea that cyclists are moving at the pace of pedestrians is way off. Basically, it comes down to this: I ride where I know that motorists can see me, and I'm not a surprise to them (meaning I don't dart in and out of parked cars to hug the curb). So, if you see a cyclist "taking the lane" it's usually to make sure they are seen, not to piss people off.

Good question though. Many drivers don't understand why we ride in the road, but I think if you understand why it makes more sense. I mean, have you ever been walking on a sidewalk and seen a bike speed by so fast they almost knock over an elderly person?

by danceralamode on Feb 18, 2010 1:30 pm • linkreport

While I like autocentrism to describe this, because it includes anti-pedestrian practices as well, I think there is a unique level of bias directed against cyclists. It comes up not only in road design and the writing of laws, but in the enforcement of laws and decisions by juries. It is a real and measurable bias. I think it is similar to, though not identical to, racism, sexism, homophobia and religious intolerance. Just because cyclists aren't denied the same level of civil rights and the bias isn't quite as institutionalized as those other items are, or have been in the past, doesn't make it fundamentally different. It is a difference of degree. Calling it an "activity prejudice" is a distinction without difference. Going to a certain church or not is an activity. Being Baptist is not an immutable characteristic. A bias against Catholicism, for example, is a bias for one activity over another, competing activity. Are you arguing that religious intolerance is a "different animal" from racism?

It's true that drivers are not preventing cyclists and their families from working or going to school, but that is not the standard for "prejudice". If the police overwhelmingly decide that cyclists are responsible for crashes, despite the evidence to the contrary, and issue them tickets, is that not actionable prejudice?

To answer David's point I'd go with "cycling intolerance" and one who exhibits it as "anti-cyclist".

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 1:31 pm • linkreport

I agree with Emily that these arguments are just a debating tactic, and a poor one at that. The problem is that most people are not cyclists. They do not know the law, or how to behave around cyclists on the road. So they get frustrated and lash out.

When it comes to cyclists our legislators are just like everyone else.

But there's another thing working in our legislature, and that's partisanship. When toeing the party line our legislators throw logic out the window, and revert to the same dumb arguments. Continually refuting these arguments may help in the long term, but in the short term it can be like talking to a wall, because the issue at hand isn't the issue.

by mattotoole on Feb 18, 2010 1:34 pm • linkreport

@Emily, but cell phone users are not being discriminated against by society and cyclists are, in the ways I've mentioned above. I'm not, and neither is David as near as I can tell, advocating demonize drivers as prejudiced assholes. I only want to demonized prejudiced anti-cyclists as assholes. And some of those are drivers. This isn't about how to deal with drivers, it's how to deal with those who dislike cyclists because they're cyclists. And that is an all-too-real problem.

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 1:40 pm • linkreport

@ Emily, boy do I hope oboe has some snappy witty response for your comparing a seeming conflict between using a phone in a restaurant or not to the very real death and dismemberment bikers are threatened with and experience at the hands of drivers. Yes some of the drivers just need some education or 'sensitivity training' but its also true some puposefully harass bikers. Can you minimize the value of human life any more? Lets compare death from getting hit by a car to some other non-existent trivial conflict: toilet paper under or over.

@Alan K. on crowded sidewalks one must get off his/her bike and walk, which defeats the purpose of biking. Biking's faster then walking. Also, not every corner has ADA ramps. This is a real barrier to riding on the sidewalk. Also, in many places there aren't sidewalks, or they aren't contiguous, or there are utility poles in the middle of them. There are many reasons why riding on the sidewalk isn't practical. Some of these reasons reflect antipedestrianism, ie. missing, non-contiguous and blocked sidewalks. Thanks for your sympathy and thanks for asking! XO

by Bianchi on Feb 18, 2010 1:41 pm • linkreport

I think naming the prejudice will actually help NOT demonize drivers. It's not most drivers that are the problem, it's just the drivers who demonize cyclists.

I drive more than I bicycle. I actually don't bicycle that much. But I treat every cyclist on the road with utmost respect and make sure to pass them with plenty of room, and if there isn't room, drive slowly and patiently behind them until there is.

Cyclophobic seems not ideal since it's not "fear of" (-phobia) it's "hatred of". (What's the Greek or Latin root for that?)

by David Alpert on Feb 18, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

@oboe:

I don't think cyclists are all entitled jerks. I agree this is a stereotype. But I have a couple problems with your argument. First, cyclists like yourself are just as likely to paint drivers as entitled jerks as vice versa. You might be surprised to learn that the vast majority of drivers are on the road not to maim and kill cyclists, but to get from point A to point B. I happen to agree with you that cycling is a preferable form of transport. But many people choose to drive anyway. And they do it for reasons (convenience, personal enjoyment, speed, necessity) very similar to the ones cyclists have for cycling, or I have for walking.

Second, the reason I object to the premise of this post is precisely because it makes cyclists sound like entitled jerks. Throwing a pity party about how everyone hates you and how drivers who do not pass by 3 feet or more are like racists (sure, not as bad as racists obviously, but in the same vein) is completely unhelpful when it comes to addressing the actual problem at hand, which is finding ways for cyclists and drivers to share the road safely.

Also, it's awesome how you concluded your argument really respectfully by telling me I'm "like a homophobe". Because obviously, taking respectful, thoughtful, and well-explained opposition to the post in question is totally like watching someone beat you up outside a gay bar and not giving a shit. It's cool how, when I pointed out that name-calling is unlikely to make this problem better, you singled me out and called me a really shitty name. You're rad.

by Emily on Feb 18, 2010 1:44 pm • linkreport

I wonder how far the esteemed Virginia legislature would follow this argument, if directed against gun owners instead of bicyclists. Guns are used to commit crimes, gun owners sometimes act badly (even hunters!), etc.

Not trying to be a troll (too much).

by Gary on Feb 18, 2010 1:47 pm • linkreport

"Being attacked and harassed because of your transportation choice, should be a hate crime, but it isn't. Until it is, all bicyclists are in danger."

Really? So the snowball fighters on U Street who threw snowballs at the cop driving the Hummer (because it was a Hummer) were guilty of a hate crime?

Leaving aside the First Amendment objections of some to criminalizing conduct based on the motivation behind it (I don't agree with those objections, but they do make some valid points), that seems like a reach (to put it kindly). Transportation choice is not, as Emily points out, an immutable characteristic. That's one of the main justifications for hate crime legislation in the first place. You can just as easily make the argument that a poor person who commits a robbery is guilty of a hate crime because he chose his victim because of wealth choices.

by dcd on Feb 18, 2010 1:48 pm • linkreport


Look, this isnt just an anti-bike thing. Its essentially a function of anti-urban and anti-multicultural attitude in most of the US. I've travelled ALOT for my job in the federal govt. and seen this attitude manifested in dozens of ways. In this case its manifested as biking = urban, white, elites.

by Eric on Feb 18, 2010 1:49 pm • linkreport

"mildly illegal"? that's like being a little pregnant.

perhaps when bike advocates stop minimizing bicyclist lawbreaking, they'll start to be taken more seriously.

i'm not enamored of the car-centrism of richmond, and i deliberately chose to live in an area well-served by public transportation - but reading articles like this don't make me sympathize more with the difficulties and dangers faced by cyclists.

by AJSHAH on Feb 18, 2010 1:51 pm • linkreport

AJSHAH: Do you ever exceed the speed limit while driving?

by David Alpert on Feb 18, 2010 1:55 pm • linkreport

@Emily, you state, "Throwing a pity party... is completely unhelpful when it comes to addressing the actual problem at hand, which is finding ways for cyclists and drivers to share the road safely."

I'm usually inclined toward this moderate approach. But the 3-ft passing law was to be exactly what you describe -- a seemingly innocuous no-cost way to enhance the perceived and actual safety of car/bike interactions, and imposing so very little on the motoring public. Where else are we going to find any common ground? With nowhere else to go, why not call out this bias in more immoderate terms?

by darren on Feb 18, 2010 1:58 pm • linkreport

I'd like someone to spit-ball a number for me. How many cyclist (on average) do you think bike (for whatever reason, fitness, work, errands)on a daily basis in Virginia?

By average I mean the typical day to day number, weekends and weekdays averaged in, all year long?

by nookie on Feb 18, 2010 2:02 pm • linkreport

@darren:

I'm in total agreement with you on the the 3 foot passing law. I think it's a good idea and I'm disappointed it didn't pass. I think a lot of drivers either aren't aware or are willfully ignorant of even the 2 foot passing law in place, and I think greater enforcement of the existing law would even go a long way towards road safety.

The original post wasn't about the merits of the 3 foot passing law. It was about what word, like racism or sexism, cyclists should use to describe the perceived prejudice against them. All of my comments have been meant to criticize that idea, which I find counterproductive and ridiculous.

I've actually been very careful to point out that on this matter, I am on the "side" of cyclists here, in large part because my main mode of transport is walking. I feel that pedestrians are actually most vulnerable on the streets, and I worry about my safety in the face of irresponsible drivers and cyclists. So I support the creation of laws that encourage deference between motorists and non-motorists, and I support enforcement of any law intended to make the roads safer.

by Emily on Feb 18, 2010 2:11 pm • linkreport

David, I believe it's mis- in Greek.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 18, 2010 2:17 pm • linkreport

Nookie, I'd like to spitball something for you. How many people would bike on a daily basis if they weren't in fear for their lives every time they hit the road?

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 18, 2010 2:18 pm • linkreport

@Emily Throwing a pity party about how everyone hates you and how drivers who do not pass by 3 feet or more are like racists That is a mischaracterization. The point is not that drivers who don't pass by 3 feet are like racists, it's that lawmakers who refuse to update a law to meet current safety standards because they think all cyclists are scofflaws who inconvenience drivers are like racists.

@nookie Nationwide 1% of all trips are by bicycle. I don't see a reason to think Virginia is too far from the norm.

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 2:21 pm • linkreport

No, I am serious. Any serious (realistic) guess will do. I am honestly asking for anyones opinion?

by nookie on Feb 18, 2010 2:21 pm • linkreport

For those not already familiar, it is worth pointing out that anti-cyclist discrimination is pervasive in our society. It is not just on the roads. It is in the media and in the courtrooms.

In MD, you can mow down a cyclist in broad daylight and be fined a mere $313 (it happened to one Mr. Leymeister late last year). That is what a cyclist's life is worth. $313. In many, many similar cases the motorist says "I didn't see him" and the police do _not_ treat this statement as the confession that it is (how is causing a death while not looking where you are driving _not_ criminal negligence?).

Just as The Sentencing Project has shown that in court, the rich outrank the poor and that white skin outranks black skin, case after case in America's courtrooms show that motorists outrank cyclists. In case after case, DAs do not bother to prosecute hit-and-run crimes against cyclists until circumstances force their hand. For example, the above-cited L.A. driver was previously reported to the police for attempting to injure cyclists with his car. The police waited until he did it again, _and_ angrily confessed at the scene of the crime, to act.

Interestingly, police will prosecute "drunk drivers" even if the "drunk driver" is just a person with a past DWI arrest who was sober at the time of the accident (I guess cyclists outrank drunk drivers. Yippee.)

Anti-cyclist prejudice is pervasive in our society. It is not just "perceived," it is real and documented (Google "anti cyclist prejudice"). I agree that we need a word to describe it. Otherwise we will keep having this discussion, over and over, with people like Emily who just can't seem to believe that it is as bad as all that.

Personally, I think we should call people who see the world as having been built by and for motorists "motorheads."

by Jonathan Krall on Feb 18, 2010 2:27 pm • linkreport

I like the terms "autocentrism" and "autochauvinism".

I also like the idea of us law-abiding cyclists being able to share our experiences of being endangered by ignorant morons. How about a feature segment on radio and TV during Bike-to-Work Week?

Here's another idea--how about focusing on education (safe cycling and driving) instead of apologizing for manslaughter? The worst offenders on both sides need to learn to share the road. If drivers would ride a bike every now and then, they would think about safety a whole lot more. Conversely, whenever I drive, it prompts me to think about ways to be more courteous to drivers when I'm cycling.

One argument that autocentrists use to justify removing cyclists from the road is that anyone can ride a bicycle without a license or vehicle registration fee, but that's not the right response. Instead, we should give cycling education the same emphasis as we give driver education (or more, judging by the effectiveness of the latter). In Holland, cycling education is a standard part of the curriculum, which will probably never happen here, but we can always hope.

I realize that this thread was prompted by politicians who are not inclined toward constructive discussion, but that's what we're here for. Does anyone have ideas on how to improve education in this area?

by Matthias on Feb 18, 2010 2:33 pm • linkreport

@nookie

Well, let's start a little smaller. The '06-'08 ACS estimates that 52,225 (1.4%) +/-2,511 people commute to work in VA using "other means" This is, almost assuredly, all bicycle (although would include skateboarding, rollerblading, cross country skiing, etc.). 86,591 (2.3%) +/-4,123 walked. The scarier number, by far, is that 2,944,608 (77%) +/-12,110 of the commuters in the state partake in Single Occupancy Commutes (SOC). That's not sustainable.

In any event, we are looking at improving the lives of 50k people with little to no cost to the other 6m or so drivers in VA (not just employed drivers). Even modest reductions in medical expenses due to injuries to the 50k cyclists would cover the societal costs to the drivers.

Changing tracks here for a second, I'm incredibly disheartened by the argument that having more cyclists would improve the plight of cyclists. I would suggest that improving the safety of cycling is the only way promote more people doing it. Whenever cities add bike lines, they see massive growth in cycling. Whenever gas prices shoot up, far fewer people drive (clearly their driving was pretty discretionary, no?). All things being equal, more cyclists aren't going to just show up. Passing laws to improve safety like this, building cycling infrastructure, and educating drivers is how more people will convert to cycling. People aren't going to just start riding and then press those other options. This is doubly true when at every turn we strain ourselves to make driving cheaper and easier than ever before, whether that's through building more parking constantly, or widening lanes, or offering up moratoriums on gas taxes. It takes active sacrifice to make the decision to bike for most people, and those who are forced into it economically aspire to one day have a car so they don't have to bike anymore. This is a difficult mountain to climb.

by Matt on Feb 18, 2010 2:37 pm • linkreport

But I have a couple problems with your argument. First, cyclists like yourself are just as likely to paint drivers as entitled jerks as vice versa. You might be surprised to learn that the vast majority of drivers are on the road not to maim and kill cyclists, but to get from point A to point B.

Maybe I didn't make myself clear enough: I don't think all drivers are entitled jerks; even if I did, I wouldn't care. I object to the *behavior* of a small subset of all drivers--and more than that, to the refusal of our *institutions* to protect the legal rights of the minority. Obviously, the majority of drivers are there to get from Point A to Point B, just as cyclists are.

You hear this same tired argument all the time on this site and others. Could you find a *single* comment or post by *anyone* on the pro-cyclist side who argues that drivers aren't trying to get where they're going? That they're merely trying to make cycling dangerous to cyclists? Or that begrudges driver's right to use the road in a legal fashion?

*That* is what I object to in your posts. You act as though you're arguing in good faith, but you're not. Surely you don't believe there's some equivalence between *any* cyclist and the minority of drivers who *do* begrudge cyclists their legal rights to use the public road, and are willing to go so far as to physically assault cyclists in order to do so? Of course you don't.

Finally, it's no wonder you're so upset about folks pointing out that there are some similarities to other -isms. Your argument is essentially the conservative critique of every Civil Rights struggle in the nation's history. Shut up; sit down; eventually the majority will gift you with your rights. Sure Jim Crow's bad, but lawbreaking is worse. The bottom line is, often there's anger that goes along with these issues. "Deal. With. It." as the kids say.

Finally, as Matt Johnson eloquently pointed out, I don't think your "personal behavior/personal characteristic" dichotomy is anywhere near the slam-dunk rhetorical point you seem to think it is. I'm glad to hear that you think homosexuality is a personal characteristic, so gays are safe. Meanwhile, the transgendered folks (or those into BDSM) can join in with cyclists in either assimilating or look forward to a beat-down. After all, we can't expect some small subset of the majority to keep their impulses under control in the face of tradition.

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 2:39 pm • linkreport

@David C and Bianchi

I understand that while the driving/cycling debate is largely one of safety, my cell phone/non-cell phone analogy is not. I was looking for an example of an activity where adoption or non-adoption causes conflict, but where the decision to adopt the activity doesn't have anything to do with a personal or immutable characteristic, such as race or sexual orientation.

But the safety issue is certainly paramount when it comes to sharing the road. I have to concede that while I have seen accidents involving bikes getting hit by cars, and pedestrians getting hit by cars and bikes, and motorcycles getting hit by cars, and cars getting hit by cars, I have never seen the following: a cyclist being verbally harassed or purposefully injured by a driver or anyone else, because he was a cyclist.

I'm not saying it's never happened. It's just that in order to accept this as something that happens all the time (as opposed to almost never), I would need to see some statistics.

But more likely, the safety issue is not so much about an army of cyclist-hating drivers who get in their cars every day, armed with beer bottles and epithets to throw, and then proceed to mow down innocent cyclists for the fun of it. The safety issue is more about who needs to yield, how much of a buffer cars, bikes, and pedestrians should get, who is allowed to use which lane, etc. Current laws and enforcement are biased towards cars in many cases. And drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians are all guilty of flouting safety rules for their own convenience.

Which is why I think the cell-phone analogy is appropriate. While not a safety issue, it is a question of establishing clear rules and then getting people to follow them. It's not a question of whether people who use cell phones are morally superior than those who don't or vice versa. And it's certainly not a question of one group being systematically oppressed -- like I said, we're all guilty of breaking the rules of the road.

Part of me wonders if somewhere out there, there's a blog post asking fellow beleaguered drivers for suggestions on what to call the cyclists who seem to hate them so much. Probably not, but after reading a lot of the comments above, I wouldn't be surprised. Because there is a lot of vitriol here. Just an observation.

by Emily on Feb 18, 2010 2:39 pm • linkreport

To try to keep some focus on language, I do think there's some value in having a word that does mean "hatred of cyclists" in some way. Because that really is part of it, and in particular, seemed to be a factor in the legislators' actions. If you call them "manslaughter apologists," I can see how that has an effect, but they weren't intending to excuse manslaughter, and impartial observers might say it's unfair, whereas they really are being prejudiced against cyclists.

by David Alpert on Feb 18, 2010 2:41 pm • linkreport

How about naming it after a person, the way we call some communists Marxist. Too bad Christopher Thompson (the guy who attacked cyclists in LA) has such a generic name. Or we could name it after someone who's virulently anti-cyclist... Cantorism? Though maybe that would make Republicans like the idea.

by David Alpert on Feb 18, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

I have never seen the following: a cyclist being verbally harassed or purposefully injured by a driver or anyone else, because he was a cyclist.

No snark intended, whatsoever, but:

I think this actually throws a *lot* of light onto the debate. First, I want to say, I believe you. Secondly, as someone who commutes daily by bicycle on the city streets, I find this inconceivable.

It's pretty much the exact analogue of me (a man, btw) saying that I've never seen a woman being verbally harassed by a man.

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 2:47 pm • linkreport

AntiCyclisthttp://www.anticyclist.com/"> is what they call themselves. And yes, it is a group with its own website. I prefer self-naming (it's why I try to refer to the groups in the abortion debate as pro-life and pro-choice, for example).

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 2:50 pm • linkreport

Ok, someone said that 1% of trips are made by bike. We will go with that.

VA has 7.5 million registered vehicles, and 7.7 million people. Of those 7.7 million, 5.5 million are above the age 18 (I know 16 is the age to drive but lets keep this simple). We will go one further in the vein of uber conservancy, lets assume that only half of those remaining 5.5 million people (2.75 million) make 1 trip per day.

So in Virginia, we have 2.75 million trips by car per day, and 27,500 bike trips per dayÂ… 1%.

This is my point and it has been circled around above a couple of times.

Roads are infrastructure and their usable area is finite, just as a water pipes diameter, and consequently volume output is limited. If there were 10 equal size houses on your street, but 1 house got 90% of the usable water (without even having paid for the cost of the pipe), you would be incredulous. A simplistic example to be sure, but not far off the mark.

Secondly, roads are paid for a variety of ways, the most notable is the ~20 cent gas tax the feds collect, which amounts to 36 billion dollars a year. Bikers donÂ’t buy gas and consequently donÂ’t pay into this fund.

State and local jurisdictions also kick in their share, paid for via local taxes that everyone pays (bikers and non-bikers alike) and taxes they donÂ’t (local gas taxes, vehicle registration and or yearly car taxes) which bikers donÂ’t pay. The broad strokes here being that those who drive cars, fund the lions share of those roads. Yes there are exceptions, I realize people (like myself) both own cars and cycle to work etc as well, but lets keep this black and white for comparison.

Bikers who constitute 1% of road traffic already have full access to both the roads, and sidewalks (in most jurisdictions). While cars that represent 99% of daily trips, and who are funding the lions share of these roads have to share full rights and responsibilities with that 1%. Cars obviously donÂ’t have access to sidewalks.

If we were simply allocating road by percentage of use, then every 10Â’ traffic lane would be occupied by a 9Â’ lane for cars and a 1Â’ lane for bikes.
If we were allocating road by percentage of funding to build and maintain such road, the bike lane would be even less.

I love cycling and I do it to work a couple times a week during most of the year, but I think it is a little ridiculous to think that 1% of the traffic should have equal access to that resource and I get equally upset when I get caught in a long line of traffic behind a biker riding down the middle of the road 20 mph below the speed limit, with no regard of the traffic behind themÂ…a circumstance that is more the rule than exception.

There isn’t this “bike envy” or bike hate” that many of you seem to have created out of nowhere. It is annoyance that 100% of the resource gets allocated to 1% of its users, users who, more of then than not, do not follow the same laws that the cars do.

Yes, cars crawl stop through stop signs. But I can also count on one hand the number of times I’ve seen a cyclist stop at a red light, waiting in turn behind the car in front of them for the light to turn green. Usually, said cyclist drives between the lanes of cars, gets to the front and then darts across the street while the light is still red, treating the red-light as a “loose guideline” rather than a rule. And signaling their intended turn? Yeah, right…I actually get amused looks from other bikers on the road every time I stick out my hand to signal my turn…as the ol fuddy-duddy who thinks he has to signal.

Just this morning, me driving south on Connecticut Ave, all lights green, cyclist darts out from side street onto Connecticut, completely blowing through their stop sign and forcing the car to the right of me to lock up its brakes a cut left (nearly hitting me) to avoid hitting said cyclist. The response from the biker at the ensuing horn blasts? A proud middle finger.

IÂ’ve rambled here but I think, at the end of the day cyclist need to get over them selves. You are 1% of the traffic and already have full access to roads you donÂ’t really pay for, and you honestly want more of the road set aside for your specific use?

by nookie on Feb 18, 2010 2:51 pm • linkreport

@nookie, Someone? I have a name. You can't just use me for factoids and then cast me aside like I don't matter. I will not be ignored! I'm cooking a rabbit in your kitchen as I type this.

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 2:53 pm • linkreport

@nookie,

You're absolutely wrong on the funding. "User fees" pay a paltry 50%. Any assertion that we have a road user fee is a fallacy. http://subsidyscope.com/transportation/highways/funding/

Do "cyclists" never drive? I do. Most do. So those like me who want a road system that does not exclude bicycle use certainly pay in their fair share, both in non-user revenue and the paltry gas tax.

I'll leave your scofflaw cyclist rant for David C.

by darren on Feb 18, 2010 3:00 pm • linkreport

’ve rambled here but I think, at the end of the day cyclist need to get over them selves. You are 1% of the traffic and already have full access to roads you don’t really pay for, and you honestly want more of the road set aside for your specific use?

Hey that's great! You should publish this in a peer-reviewed journal. First you'll have to resolve this issue: "The broad strokes here being that those who drive cars, fund the lions share of those roads." Since, as far as local roads go, that's not the case.

Just about half of all *highway* funding is paid for by user fees. The other half is paid for by non-user fees and bonds. (This doesn't include local roads, incidentally.) Oh, and of course your 1% of trips by bikes probably account for something like .00000000000001% of all wear and tear on roads.

Don't forget to include the napkin when you submit your paper!

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 3:04 pm • linkreport

@Emily,
I don't get harassed every day for being a cyclist. But at least one in 10 times cycling, someone does something with a car to endanger my life/health. Approximately one time out of 50 times cycling, someone harasses me verbally. That rate is not as high in Washington as it was when I lived in Atlanta.

Much of the antipathy for cyclists is probably due to road rage or "entitlement syndrome".

I should point out that I am a strict vehicular cyclist. I obey all traffic laws applicable to bikes, including full stops at stop signs, only proceeding through red lights when they are green (or yellow), and yielding to pedestrians in the crosswalk. I absolutely refuse to bike on the sidewalk. If the road is not safe for me to bike on, I will walk my bike on the sidewalk.

Despite that, I still get flak from drivers.

I was once biking east on Edgewood Avenue in Atlanta. In this particular place, there are two eastbound lanes and a parallel parking lane. There is a slight uphill grade. I was actually biking in the "door zone" of the parallel parking lane. Despite the fact that I was not holding up traffic, and that there were two lanes of traffic to my left in which drivers could pass, a lady in an expensive car came within inches of hitting me with her mirror, slowed down, and through the open window shouted "get on the sidewalk [expletive deleted]." In Georgia, riding a bike on the sidewalk is illegal.

We can all present anecdotal evidence on either side. But all motorists on the roads deserve equal protection and owe equal courtesy to other users. The fact of the matter is that this is not the case.

I once saw someone in an SUV ram a cyclist from behind, knocking the cyclist down and totaling his bike. The Atlanta Police cited the cyclist for obstructing traffic. He was riding in the bike lane, which in this case, is separated from the general traffic lanes by a bus lane. So not only was the driver not in the area reserved for cars, they crossed all the way across a bus lane in order to strike a biker in the cycle lane. And then the cyclist did not get justice from those charged with enforcing the law.

But those who complain that bikers break the law are correct. I can't say that I've never bent a rule. I'm sure you can't either. But we all deserve protection anyway.

by Matt Johnson on Feb 18, 2010 3:07 pm • linkreport

@nookie

Wow hey, ok, one second here on the paying for things equitably argument. In 2007 the Gas tax collected approximately $38b in revenues. What do you think it costs to maintain and build the roads in this country? I mean, the ICC was estimated to cost $2.4b to build in 2006. It's going to be much more now. That's one very small road in one pretty small state and we're already 7% of the way to all of the revenues from 2007. The gas tax does not pay the lion's share of road maintenance. Oh but wait, what does? Why taxes of course! An although bicycles inflict none of the wear and tear on a road that a car does, emit none of the pollutants, and also take up less than a third of the space of a car, each and every cyclist is paying taxes to support road infrastructure.

@Emily

Since this is painful to watch, I will help you make your argument for you a little bit. The mix of bikes and cars on the road is similar to the mix of SUVs and cars on the road. When everyone was in cars (pre-90s), the similar heights of vehicles allowed for easy visibility on the road. As a few SUVs were introduced, the situation deteriorated. As more SUVs were introduced, it slowly became more dangerous to be in a car than in an SUV. Now SUVs have become the defacto safety standard that must be accounted for. It would be challenging to go back without somehow tipping the scales (gas prices!). Cycling has the same problem, in as much as not cycling is decidedly safer than doing it.

Touching on your other points, there were 71 rapes for every 100,000 women in 1996 (that works out to something like 7000 rapes). I've never seen, nor participated in a rape, but I am confident they happened and in every case it was awful. Just because an event is rare, doesn't mean it's not deplorable and shouldn't be stopped.

by Matt on Feb 18, 2010 3:09 pm • linkreport

@ oboe:

I have spent the last six years of my life commuting to work, the gym, the grocery store, bars and restaurants, and friends homes, almost entirely on foot (fine, I take a cab now and then when I'm drunk). This daily walking has exposed me to the behavior of pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers in U Street, Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Shaw, Dupont, Chinatown, Woodley Park, Glover Park, Georgetown... so yeah, pretty much all over NW Washington.

If I saw a driver throw a bottle at a cyclist, I would lose my shit. I would write down the license plate number and report it. I would make sure the cyclist was okay. It would enrage me and make me feel crappy about humanity. I've just never seen that happen.

Here's the kind of thing I see all the time: Drivers not observing passing rules, acting entitled to the lane even when cyclists are in lane keeping up with traffic, failing to yield to cyclists and pedestrians, turning without signaling, etc. I also regularly see cyclists turning without signaling, blowing through cross-walks, ignoring red lights or stop signs, etc. I also regularly see (and sometimes participate in) pedestrians jaywalking or not paying attention to traffic.

Those things suck. We are all guilty of flouting the rules at some time. Doing that stuff makes all of us less safe, and makes it harder for all of us to get around. But it's not oppression. It's human beings acting a little entitled and selfish. And I support laws and enforcement that curb that behavior. And I actually agree that drivers are the worst violators. I also think they should shoulder more of the burden because (1) they are less vulnerable in the event of a crash, and (2) their use of the road produces more wear and tear.

I've made every effort to be civil here. I've acknowledged common priorities and common opinions. I've taken your criticisms seriously. But congratulations. I'm leaving now. Partly because I don't appreciate how rude some of the folks here are being to someone who is largely on their side regarding road safety. But mostly because David has made it clear that he wants the comment section to be about naming the anticylists (or whatever), and most of the other commenters seem to prefer that this space remain a place where like-minded people can come and agree with one another.

I won't begrudge you that.

by Emily on Feb 18, 2010 3:14 pm • linkreport

Good gravy this site needs a better comment/thread system. These long threads are getting darn near unreadable.

by eleventh on Feb 18, 2010 3:14 pm • linkreport

I love blogs. They try so hard to be reasoned and authoratative, but usually fail. Like above.

Hey, I didn't come up with the 1% usage fee folks, and I said "lionshare", not 100%. Of the total 100%, what percentage do you think are only bikers? 3%...5%?

Listen, you are rabidly for biking anywhere, anytime, its all "me, me, me", cars = always bad, bikes = good and deserve more road rights than the other 99% of the people who use the road; bikers can do no wrong, blah, blah, blah. There is nothing that could ever be said to change your mind so I won't try. You should know that it is exactly that blind adherence to that superiority complex where 1 is better than 99 that fosters this opinion of cyclists.

If were were talking about anything else, and the 1% was getting priority over the 99%, you would be up in arms.

by nookie on Feb 18, 2010 3:17 pm • linkreport

The reason racism and sexism is seen as worse than other "isms" is, in part, because there is strong lobby devoted to protecting the minority that is harmed by it. What is now called racism was once the standard thinking. If a minority is marginalized, assaulted and killed, and recieves little protection under the law, solely for being a minority, we call it out: whether that minority is of a different race, religion, disabled, or ride bikes.

by SJE on Feb 18, 2010 3:24 pm • linkreport

It's a shame Emily left before she managed to read nookie's post, since he makes an almost perfect example of the auto-centric mentality, particularly the part where he characterizes that time he had to pass a bicycle as "100% of the resource [the road] get[ting] allocated to 1% of its users [a bicycle]":

There isn't this "bike envy" or "bike hate" that many of you seem to have created out of nowhere. It is annoyance that 100% of the resource gets allocated to 1% of its users, users who, more of then than not, do not follow the same laws that the cars do.

Like ships that passed in the night.

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

@nookie
Not the "motorists paid for the roads" argument again! Roads are mainly paid for from general funds (property taxes for local roads, sales tax for state roads), not gas taxes. And most cyclists are also drivers anyway.

How about this? Motorcentrism: the belief that roads were built by and for motorists.

by Jonathan Krall on Feb 18, 2010 3:25 pm • linkreport

Emily: I'd be sorry if you leave the conversation, because you were making a lot of good points and contributing a lot. It's not supposed to be a space only for people who agree with one another.

Back to the words: How about cyclopathy/cyclopathic? It's related to antipathy, -pathy means relating to a disease (which hating cycling is), and it's the closest thing to an appropriate suffix I can find. (mis- or miso- definitely means hatred of, but misocyclist sounds like stirring soup.)

by David Alpert on Feb 18, 2010 3:27 pm • linkreport

So in Virginia, we have 2.75 million trips by car per day, and 27,500 bike trips per dayÂ… 1%.

Wrong. 1% of all trips are by bike but the other 99% are not by car. There are pedestrians, transit users etcÂ…

Bikers donÂ’t buy gas and consequently donÂ’t pay into this fund.

Some of that money goes towards transit and pedestrians too, and they donÂ’t pay gas taxes either. Are they also not entitled to use the sidewalks and roads?

The broad strokes here being that those who drive cars, fund the lions share of those roads.

To some extent, there is a relationship between how much you drive and how much you pay. Though, if you never use the road at all, you still pay. In a sense, cyclists pay a one-time fee and then can bike as much as they like, whereas drivers have to pay that fee as well as a per-mile fee, based on how fuel efficient their car is. Drivers may pay the lion's share of the road, but then they use the lion's share as well.

Bikers who constitute 1% of road traffic already have full access to both the roads, and sidewalks (in most jurisdictions). While cars that represent 99% of daily trips, and who are funding the lions share of these roads have to share full rights and responsibilities with that 1%. Cars obviously donÂ’t have access to sidewalks.

Wrong. Cyclists don’t have access to many roads – especially the most expensive ones and many of the larger bridges.

If we were simply allocating road by percentage of use, then every 10Â’ traffic lane would be occupied by a 9Â’ lane for cars and a 1Â’ lane for bikes.
If we were allocating road by percentage of funding to build and maintain such road, the bike lane would be even less.

Wrong. You fail to consider that drivers cause most of the damage, and induce most of the cost, to roads and bridges. If a cyclist crashes into a guardrail they donÂ’t bend the metal and a cyclist simply doesnÂ’t weigh enough to reshape the asphalt, cause potholes or any of the other damage that makes a road last about 7 years. Bike trails last twice that and are built to a much lower standard, and for a much lower cost, than roads for this reason. Most of the money spent on a road is to make that road suitable for cars. Asking cyclists to pay the same amount per mile is like charging the same amount to ship a letter as you do to ship an elephant.
Also, I doubt cyclists get 1 foot of traffic lane (which is 10% btw, not 1%) for every 10Â’ of roadway. I also doubt they get 1% of the roadway.
YouÂ’re also thinking about this wrong. Right now, theoretically, there is one bike on the road for every 67 (or whatever) cars. But since a car uses about 100 times as much space, both actual physical space as well as buffer space in front, behind and on the sides, cyclists are actually using much less of the roadway then their actual percentage. So the ratio of bikes to cars might be 1:67 but the ratio of roadway used is 1:6700 or something.

I love cycling and I do it to work a couple times a week during most of the year, but I think it is a little ridiculous to think that 1% of the traffic should have equal access to that resource

1% of all cars (as of 2006) are hybrids and they use less gasoline, so they pay less taxes so, by your logic, they shouldnÂ’t be able to use as much of the road. Seriously, this doesnÂ’t make any sense. It would be ridiculous if ONLY cyclists were allowed to use the roads and drivers were not, but that isnÂ’t the case. Everyone gets to use the roads.

I get equally upset when I get caught in a long line of traffic behind a biker riding down the middle of the road 20 mph below the speed limit, with no regard of the traffic behind themÂ…a circumstance that is more the rule than exception.

How do you know they have no regard for the traffic behind them? IÂ’ve had cars behind me and felt very bad about it and looked for the first safe opportunity to let them pass. Besides, since cyclists make up such a small percentage of the road users, this should happen very rarely.

There isn’t this “bike envy” or bike hate” that many of you seem to have created out of nowhere. It is annoyance that 100% of the resource gets allocated to 1% of its users, users who, more of then than not, do not follow the same laws that the cars do.

Again, wrong. Cyclists would only get allocated 100% of the resources if drivers got 0% (otherwise it all adds up to more than 100% which, if my math is correct, is impossible). And, car drivers follow the law? Do you have a source for that fact?

"Bike hate" is real. It is documented.

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 3:29 pm • linkreport

@ Emily, Get on a bike and you will experience it. Report back how it feels. Hint: its very different from someone on the train asking you to speak more quietly into your phone or your brother haranguing you because you don't have a cell phone already. You need statistics? How about a quote: "One dead Russian soldier is a tragedy. A million dead Russian soldiers is a statistic". Joseph Stalin. This denial on your part is tantamount to the differences in the presence of racism/homophobia/religious hatred in society as reported by whites and non-whites/gays and non-gays/muslims and non-muslims. The fact that you don't see how trivializing it is to compare an innocuous social behavior like phone use to laws and norms you admit are biased, biases that can and do lead to needless loss of life and limb reveals your lack of understanding or even a willingness to try and understand.

Its about changing a bias and thereby preventing DEATH, not about being able to feel "morally superior". The only behavior comparison that is legitimate is to one that equally threatens lives.

@ Nookie, you're omitting the point that if there were more options for travel other then by car there would be more people opting for those alternatives. Pointing out that a small proportion of people bike in an environment that is clearly biased against biking and concluding that people naturally don't like to bike is like pointing out that there's a dearth of people swimming in the Anacostia river and concluding that people don't like to swim.

"misocyclists"

by Bianchi on Feb 18, 2010 3:45 pm • linkreport

@nookie you are rabidly for biking anywhere, anytime, its all "me, me, me", cars = always bad, bikes = good and deserve more road rights than the other 99% of the people who use the road; bikers can do no wrong, blah, blah, blah.

Please cite some examples of where you believe cycling advocates on this blog have said these things

1. Biking should be allowed anywhere, any time (I actually think interstates are inappropriate places for cycling, for example)

2. cars = always bad, bikes = good

3. Cyclists deserve more road rights than the other 99% of the people who use the road

4. bikers can do no wrong

5. Me, me, me

6. Blah, blah, blah

I await your response.

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

We already have a sociological term for the phenomenon, autocentrism. The logic displayed in the debate over the bill reflects a belief that anything that gets in the way of a car is pointless and stupid. What we need is a playful term to anger the opposition until they sound ridiculous to more than 5% of the population.

Gassholes goes with the self-centeredness of "massholes" and I rather like it.

by Neil Flanagan on Feb 18, 2010 3:55 pm • linkreport

Not all cyclist-hate is because of cyclists being on the roads with cars. Some of it (how much, I don't know) will stem from cyclists being on the sidewalks with pedestrians, where cyclists can be as scary to pedestrians as drivers can be to cyclists.

I suspect there are more people who both drive & walk but don't cycle, than there are people who do any cycling at all; not to mention there are far more heedless kids on cycles than behind steering wheels. So a non-cycling driver + walker may have encountered (apparently) dangerous cycling as both driver and pedestrian, whereas it's primarily (not exclusively) cars that threaten cyclists.

To a cyclist encountering a pedestrian, the cyclist feels the control of their cycle and knows what their margin of safety is. It is often larger than a pedestrian imagines it to be when seeing 130+ lbs coming toward them at 15+ mph. So a cyclist can easily terrify pedestrians even while cycling in a way that seems perfectly safe to the cyclist. The same is true of cars with respect to cyclists.

Unlike cars or pedestrians, though, cyclists use roads & sidewalks both. The counterpart of cyclists' appearing to have this special privilege of cycling wherever they please is that they are expected to yield to the majority traffic (car or pedestrian). So until cyclists are perceived as respectful of the majority traffic they're not going to receive much respect in return, including support for cyclists' particular interests — especially from a person who, as both driver & pedestrian, may encounter *apparently* dangerous cycling behavior wherever they encounter cyclists at all.

All of which is to say that cyclists will not be able to legislate their way to equal status with drivers (would anyone support a law requiring cyclists to pass pedestrians by at least three feet?). From what I've seen of law enforcement around here it'll be a cold day in the bad place before anyone ever gets cited merely for passing a cyclist by two feet instead of three.

by DrBubbles on Feb 18, 2010 4:03 pm • linkreport

I used to know someone who biked wearing a t-shirt that said in big letters on the back "Thank You for Not Killing Me".
"gasshole" heeheehee. Whats the opposite? the driver who successfully "shares the road"? They deserve recognition.

by Bianchi on Feb 18, 2010 4:11 pm • linkreport

The counterpart of cyclists' appearing to have this special privilege of cycling wherever they please is that they are expected to yield to the majority traffic (car or pedestrian).

Interesting. Your argument that "cyclists should yield to all other traffic" seems to hinge on cyclists having a "special privilege of cycling wherever they please."

But all things being equal, who would prefer to ride on the sidewalk as opposed to the road? And isn't sidewalk riding illegal in most municipalities? (If not, it should be, pace "w"...)

Or is it that cyclists ride on the sidewalk because they feel it's unsafe to be in the road where they belong?

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 4:11 pm • linkreport

"gasshole" heeheehee. Whats the opposite? the driver who successfully "shares the road"? They deserve recognition.

We call these people "adults". :)

by oboe on Feb 18, 2010 4:12 pm • linkreport

@ oboe, good one. sidewalk only when road is percieved as too unsafe.

by Bianchi on Feb 18, 2010 4:22 pm • linkreport

+1 gasshole.

by JTS on Feb 18, 2010 4:30 pm • linkreport

I'm thoroughly enjoying this thread, mostly because the second I see a point I want to argue, some one else already handles it for me...

My friends and I in LA have a term for motorists...Cagers (cause their stuck in a cage, ya know?)...it is negative and applies to all drivers, unfortunately, but I have noticed that even the most conscientious people, who are profess road equality, etc., change (ever so slightly) when they get behind the wheel. I even do it. It's not about safety, but attitude. We all get a little chip on our shoulder when we get behind the wheel, and whether or not we can keep it in check or end up road raging depends on the person, I guess. (The above statement is based on my opinion and experience. I do HOPE there are people out there who drive with completely no emotion whatsoever, I have just never seen it.)

I like Cager though...

by danceralamode on Feb 18, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

While some people here clearly disagree, I think comparing it to racism makes the most sense:

# Black people are often law breakers, unworthy of any added protection under the law.
# "Black people should police themselves before coming in asking for added legal protections."

Emily argues that:

""Riding a bike" is not an immutable characteristic, like race, gender, or sexual orientation. Riding a bike is an active choice some people make."

I disagree. Many people are forced to ride a bike because they cannot legally drive a car, perhaps due to their eyesight. Others cannot afford to own a car, in many cases a byproduct of their race or national origin.

While it may be white, middle class spandex riders that march on capital hill, central american immigrants and the disabled also benefit.

When someone in a car races up behind me and starts assaulting (remember the legal definition of assault) me by laying on their horn, and they're doing so ONLY because I'm on a bike, that's a form of discrimination. I'm trying to get to work, and I cannot legally drive a car.

by J on Feb 18, 2010 4:46 pm • linkreport

"Many people are forced to ride a bike because they cannot legally drive a car, perhaps due to their eyesight."

sorry, I did a double-take when I read that. I guess I better be more careful as a pedestrian now that I know there are all those sight-impared indivuals riding around on bikes 'cause they couldn't get a driver's license ... for fear that they'd run folks over ...

by Lance on Feb 18, 2010 4:49 pm • linkreport

@Nookie- Check the 2010 Alliance for Biking and Walking Benchmarking Report for the number of cyclists. I can't remember off-hand. That will do better than a ballpark guess.

I like the term "windshield perspective," maybe because it is a little softer and less threatening. I think it would do better to disentangle two kinds of people that we may be mixing together. There are those who have these prejudices against cyclists, including the VA legislators quoted above, and then there are the homicidal psychopaths who have these prejudices AND like to act them out in real life by intimidating cyclists, etc.

As a practical matter, it seems better to isolate the truly dangerous cases from those who can just use some more understanding about what it feels like to cut-off, passed closely, etc. Call out the truly unacceptable as extremists, and work to build bridges with the more moderate.

Cyclists are the minority and will be into the foreseeable future. The combative approach is nice to blow of some steam, but it won't win points unless its finely targeted.

by Daniel on Feb 18, 2010 5:02 pm • linkreport

It's long, but I like "4 wheels good; 2 wheels bad"

by hugo on Feb 18, 2010 5:07 pm • linkreport

@J

Discriminating against bikes is actually very similar to discrimination based on religion. You know you can choose you religion? That doesn't make it legal.

by Matt on Feb 18, 2010 5:16 pm • linkreport

I don't understand why bike advocates don't wrap their causes in the rhetoric of protecting children. Kids ride bikes, right? Surely we want to protect innocent children from dangerous driving? Kids seem much more sympathetic than those dastardly, unsafe, hipster/spandex-wearing (pick one) bicyclists.

Also, we need more visible bike commuter role models. Former NIH director Harold Varmus famously biked from his home in Woodley Park to the NIH campus in Bethesda. It's hard to peg the director of the nation's medical research as some kind of weirdo.

by Gavin Baker on Feb 18, 2010 5:25 pm • linkreport

Let's face it, as a lifelong Virginian, I can tell you there is only one reason it didn't pass - it was sponsored by a liberal Democrat so the reactionary asshole Republicans voted against it. That's it. Nothing to do with any other kind of prejudice.

by Kim Hannemann on Feb 18, 2010 6:08 pm • linkreport

Bicycle advocates aren't going to win over their political opponents with name calling.

Instead of getting caught up in semantics, identify what information needs to be communicated to the public and policy makers that is most likely to make them agree to the changes you want.

by Mike on Feb 18, 2010 6:34 pm • linkreport

@Gavin, the problem with using the kid argument is that it makes bikes seem like toys, something we want to avoid, and it leads to questions like "why are kids riding on Route 29 anyway?" Plus it's a little disingenuous. I want the law changed mostly for the sake of adults, and I think I become less convincing when I'm lying.

Another role model is the Commandant of the Coast Guard. I think he bikes to work often. Also not a weirdo.

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 6:48 pm • linkreport

Mike: Its hard to focus activism and legislation against dickish behavior until you have a word for it. Naming something is usually the first step in trying to understand and control something.

by SJE on Feb 18, 2010 6:53 pm • linkreport

@Eric commented:

"Look, this isnt just an anti-bike thing. Its essentially a function of anti-urban and anti-multicultural attitude in most of the US. I've travelled ALOT for my job in the federal govt. and seen this attitude manifested in dozens of ways. In this case its manifested as biking = urban, white, elites."

This is the only comment you need to read.

by BC on Feb 18, 2010 6:53 pm • linkreport

VELOPHOBE would be the right term, with the '-phobe' suffix of 'xenophobe' (and the 'velo-' of 'velodrome', if that wasn't obvious)

It also pairs with VELOPHILE - an established term for a lover of bicycling.

by egk on Feb 18, 2010 7:08 pm • linkreport

Kim Hanneman hit the nail on the head but it also doesn't help that we have a backward-ass hillbilly cop chairing a key transportation committee.

by Appalachia Atcha on Feb 18, 2010 7:43 pm • linkreport

What is lacking in most discussion about biking is: why are people on the road biking to begin with?

While some people use cars for pleasure rides (e.g. the Skyline Parkway), most car travel is to get from point A to point B -- they won't be on the road unless they needed to be somewhere else. The same is far less true of bike travel. While I know many people who commute to work via bike, or do their grocery shopping traveling by bike, I observe that most bicyclists are riding their bikes for recreational exercise rather than to travel from point A to point B. I see few bikes with baskets on them. I regularly see entirely groups of people traveling together as part of a training practice. I bike shop near my home even organizes such events, and I frequently encounter them on my way home the days I need to drive.

I am all in favor of exercise and recreation, but we can legitimately ask if using public streets are the best place for such activity. Streets are a limited resource -- few people seem to want more streets. Bikers want their own lanes -- wonderful, if space and money allows. If it doesn't then two different groups share a limited resource, and each feels infringed on: bikers feel unsafe, car drivers feel they are slowed down.

The cause of safety and public financial prudence is best served if recreational bikers stayed off public streets, and used a gym instead. Recreational cyclists deserve safety, but realistically shouldn't expect an absence of danger. Roads are designed for cars.

by Michael on Feb 18, 2010 7:53 pm • linkreport

Oh Michael ... something tells me that were this blog a room, you wouldn't be getting out of here alive ;)

by Lance on Feb 18, 2010 8:29 pm • linkreport

@Michael. I was actually following your point about recreational cyclists using a transportation facility, but then you had to go and ruin it.

First of all, I don't know if it is correct that most bicycling is recreational. It may seem that way depending on where you drive, but if you ride around downtown DC during the day, nearly 100% of riders are transportational.

Second, if it is your point that cyclists shouldn't use roads for recreation, how far should that extend. Should drivers be banned from recreational driving? What about organized motorcycle rides like Rolling Thunder? Should jogging be banned from sidewalks? What about leisurely walks (pedestrians can still slow drivers down at intersections and crosswalks)? What if a cyclists is riding their bike to a bike trail? Is that transportation or recreation? Road biking for training is better done on a road. And riding a bike outside is half the pleasure of the experience. It makes as much sense as sailing in a gym. Which brings up the question about boating. Should recreational boating be allowed? Rivers have a transportation purpose and are limited resources.

Third, if "space and money allow?" So, we are allowed only scraps?

Fourth "Roads are designed for cars." And that's the problem, isn't it?

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 9:00 pm • linkreport

@Mike

Well, everyone seems to be addressing the bike side of things, but let's consider the car side. If all, or even the majority of car trips were necessary and for getting from Point A to B, then driving would be perfectly inelastic, any change in gas prices would generate no change in driving. We know that to be patently untrue, though. An enormous volume of the driving being done is discretionary. In some cases it is cruising (some 20-40% of traffic in cities is from people circling the block trying to find an under priced street space). In other cases it is additional unnecessary trips to Walmart, or Target. Or in the case of my office, despite being built next to the metro, it is also on top of a huge garage, so everyone just drives instead of taking the metro. Someone was complaining about the garage in our building always being full, and I asked them why they don't park in the garage on the other side of the metro, since it's always half empty when I look out the window. Their response was that by the time they parked there and walked back, it would be faster to ride the metro. We're talking about a 5 minute difference here. What does driving have to cost to discourage this kind of behavior (independent of cycling)? In any event, all this is leading towards the idea that a huge amount of trips made by care are actually due to convenience, not any particular need. That convenience should be replaced with recreation in the case of bicycling should not demote it to some sort of red-headed stepchild of transportation.

by Matt on Feb 18, 2010 9:28 pm • linkreport

The paradox facing transportational bicycling:

In the competition between cars, buses, subways, streetcars, pedestrians, and bicycles as transportational modes, a bicyclist's clear advantage is the ability to 'not play by the rules'. To not slow down at stop signs (never mind thinking of stopping), to go up one-way streets the wrong way, to not wait one's turn at a 4 way interestion or anytime other traffic in general is queing up for any reason and waiting their turn, to ride on sidewalks, lawns, plazas, or even indoors if the need arises.

Yet, if bicycling is to become a true transportational alternative capable of handling the volumes which the other transportation modes handle, then it will have to start 'playing by the rules' ... However in doing so, it will lose its comparative advantage ... thereby driving users away. And the paradox is that the very recognition that bicyclism seek as a transportation mode, will seal its fate as a non-competitive player in the transportational mode game. I.e., Getting splashed on AND having to wait behind a line of cars, bikes, buses, etc. to get to work would just suck.

by Lance on Feb 18, 2010 11:13 pm • linkreport

@Lance, here's the myth of the scofflaw cyclist again. At least four things you mention aren't illegal (filtering - aka lane splitting, riding on sidewalks, riding on lawns, riding on plazas). So let's not group that in with "not playing by the rules". It makes you look ignorant of the law.

Drivers don't play by the rules. Why are cyclists held to a higher standard?

A cyclist can play by the rules and still have a competitive advantage. Bike lanes allow cyclists to pass drivers at a light, and effectively queue-jump. Lane splitting, aka filtering, is as mentioned legal. Access to bike paths can often make for short cuts. Cyclists can go against traffic on sidewalks. Then when you add in the time savings of not going to the gym, it gets pretty competitive.

by David C on Feb 18, 2010 11:47 pm • linkreport

@Lance

Let's not forget that bicycling is also far cheaper and cleaner than all other forms of transportation besides walking. It is also far more convenient, especially when it comes to parking.

As far as your 'playing by the rules argument,' David C hit it on the head, and I'd add that this is a major reason so many on this and similar blogs routinely speak in favor of more bike facilities, including dedicated bike lanes, cycle tracks, and woonerfs.

Bicycling is not going away. It occupies a special place in the transportation puzzle. More than that, no other method is as enamored. People love their bikes; not so anymore for their cars. America's urban bike culture is one of the country's most interesting and unique cultural facets. So it comes down to us, as cyclists, working for better infrastructure and educating fellow cyclists, and you, as a driver, ceding some of the road.

by JTS on Feb 19, 2010 7:06 am • linkreport

Just to add: the whole question of utility versus recreational use pisses me off. Whenever I'm riding through Rock Creek Park, and inevitably get passed by someone yelling, "Get on the bike path!", I always yell back, "Get on Connecticut Ave!"

Not to wrap myself in the flag and start waving sparklers or anything, but we live in America. If I want to go out and see the city on a bicycle, or go for a pleasant stroll to the park, that's my prerogative. In Adult-land, unless you're driving an emergency vehicle, you don't get to choose which of your fellow drivers get priority--whether it's the little old lady driving once a week to her church choir, or the heroic Galtian salesperson heading to his important sales meeting. The same applies to cyclists.

And anyone who wants to weigh in--especially on account of my making *their* trip marginally less convenient--can move to North Korea, and fuck themselves with a frozen banana while they're at it.

[Apologies for my selfish, holier-than-thou, scofflaw cyclist attitude...]

by oboe on Feb 19, 2010 8:50 am • linkreport

@David C: "here's the myth of the scofflaw cyclist again. At least four things you mention aren't illegal (filtering - aka lane splitting, riding on sidewalks, riding on lawns, riding on plazas). So let's not group that in with "not playing by the rules". It makes you look ignorant of the law"

Boy did you missed the point of my argument. I never said "illegal", I said "play by the rules". If bicycling is to become a true transportational mode capable of handling the volume of users that buses, cars, streetcars, and sidewalks (for peds) serve, then all those 'legal' maneouvers you list will quickly become impossible to accommodate in such volumes and be made illegal.

I.e., Society can 'wink an eye' at the one off cyclists that causes cars to have to veer into the oncoming traffic lane or pedestrians have to run for their lives as the cyclist barrels down on the crosswalk without stopping. But if bicycling is to become a true transportational mode carrying the same number of users as the other transportational modes, then this 'winking of the eye' won't any longer be possible. When you have 20 cyclists on a stretch of road vs. one, no one will think it reasonable or possible for motorists to continually dodge into on coming traffic to get by. Cyclists will either be expected to keep up with traffic, or in the case that they can't, probably be banned altoghter from such situations. Similarly with the crosswalk thing which btw I really don't think IS legal even now. Pedestrians (and other vehicles) are now willing to look the other way when a cyclist barrels through an intersection causing cars waiting their turn and pedestrians trying to cross to momentarily halt to allow the priviledged cyclist through. When you have 20 of them barreling through at a time, that courtesy won't (and can't) be extended anymore. You'll see cops there pulling these errant vehicle operators over. Ditto for waiting at a red light or any other location. When you have 20, 30, 50 bikes approaching an intersection from one direction ... and the same number from each of the other 3 directions, won't they need to learn to take turns? ... I mean even pretending their are no pedestrians or motorists or streetcars or buses there, won't the rules have to be changed to 'taking turns' just to accommodate the many many bikes coming from all directions if bicycling is to become a true transportational mode?

The point I am making is that the paradox of bicycling as a transportational mode is that if it succeeds, it dies. If it doesn't, it lives ... albeit for the fewer who currently can benefit from 'not having to play by the rules'.

by Lance on Feb 19, 2010 10:10 am • linkreport

Ugh.

Lance, meet Copenhagen. Copenhagen, Lance.

Not saying we'll ever be there. Just saying that it clearly works. Bicycling Infrastructure is incredibly cheap, durable, and dramatically more efficient. infrastructure for your go-kart is not.

by JTS on Feb 19, 2010 10:22 am • linkreport

I never said "illegal", I said "play by the rules". If bicycling is to become a true transportational mode capable of handling the volume of users that buses, cars, streetcars, and sidewalks (for peds) serve, then all those 'legal' maneouvers you list will quickly become impossible to accommodate in such volumes and be made illegal.

This is just sophistry so long as motorcycles exist (lane splitting, etc...). And as far as your prediction that "Cyclists will either be expected to keep up with traffic, or in the case that they can't, probably be banned altoghter from such situations", you'll probably want to bring that up with the judiciary, since it's the courts that have protected cyclists rights to use the public roadways, and certainly not the legislatures.

In any case, your argument seems to be that if cyclist behavior doesn't change when the cycling environment changes radically, then...um....something.

After all, we "wink and nod" at pedestrian scofflawism (jaywalking is universal, and so is crossing outside of crosswalks) In some suburban and rural areas, there aren't many pedestrians. In some urban areas, there are lots of pedestrians. Pedestrian behavior differs. But we certainly don't hear doomer scenarios about how pedestrians will be banned from crossing at street-level unless they stop jaywalking.

That just sounds like silly wishful thinking. Just like your banned cyclist scenario.

by oboe on Feb 19, 2010 10:22 am • linkreport

Lance, meet Copenhagen. Copenhagen, Lance.

Right, but as we've learned here and elsewhere, no one in the whole of Denmark ever bent a rule on a bike. Or in all of northern Europe for that matter.

In any case, given past experience, I think Lance finds such evidence of existing realities a little less compelling than elaborately-constructed thought experiments.

by oboe on Feb 19, 2010 10:25 am • linkreport

@Oboe: "Whenever I'm riding through Rock Creek Park, and inevitably get passed by someone yelling, "Get on the bike path!", I always yell back, "Get on Connecticut Ave!"

Where there is a bike path, a cyclist has a dedicated lane to themselves and should not be on the motor roadway ... otherwise what is the sense of the cost of construction and maintenance of that separated roadway *i.e., the 'bikepath') for cyclists?

And your arguement that a motorist shouldn't be using a roadway that was specifically built as a parkway for motorists to use makes absolutely no sense.

You're exhibiting the 'priviledged' expectations of some cyclists that irk so many drivers, pedestrians, and bus users. It's really not all about you.

by Lance on Feb 19, 2010 10:30 am • linkreport

Where there is a bike path, a cyclist has a dedicated lane to themselves and should not be on the motor roadway ... otherwise what is the sense of the cost of construction and maintenance of that separated roadway *i.e., the 'bikepath') for cyclists?

Walkers? Folks with jog strollers?

In any case, I think you're trying to slip one in there with the "ie "the bikepath", since as you're probably aware, it's not a "bikepath" it's a multi-use trail. And a poorly maintained one at that.

In any case, I appreciate your giving us a pitch-perfect example of my original point. It all hinges on your use of the word "should". Pardon my French, but what exactly gives you the right to decide what I should or should not do, any more than I reserve the right to decide whether your use of the park as a commuter route is appropriate?

I wouldn't presume to do so for you, of course, or any other road user. But, of course, you claim a right to do it for me just as naturally as breathing. And, of course, that means *I'm* the one being the narcissistic asshole whose "exhibiting privileged expectations."

by oboe on Feb 19, 2010 10:43 am • linkreport

Incidentally, if I *did* have privileged expectations, here's what I would argue:

When there are folks trying to use a national park for commuting, and there's a perfectly good six-lane arterial just a quarter mile to the east *and* to the west--one that most cyclists are polite enough not to ride on so cars can travel more easily--drivers should not be in the park unless absolutely necessary.

by oboe on Feb 19, 2010 10:47 am • linkreport

..."Frozen Bananaism"...

by Bianchi on Feb 19, 2010 10:59 am • linkreport

@Oboe, Rockcreek and Potomac Parkway was built specifically to serve the needs of motorists. The idea of a 'parkway' for people in automobiles was an idea that began in the early part of the 20th century (with the introduction of the automobile) and greatly expanded during the depression years when federal 'youth camps' labor was used to construct these parkways for cars including the George Washington Parkway on the banks of the Potomac which at one time encompassed the parkways on both banks of the Potomac including that portion of which we today know as the Rockcreek and Potomac Parkway (i.e. the DC part of the George Washington Parkway.) The fact that the DC part didn't get so built up that bikes would have to be excluded as a matter of safety (as happened to the Va. part) is not something that should be used that cars should now be excluded from a road built specifically for cars. The fact that the bike path may not be as well built as you like is another issue altogether. The bike paths running along the Va. side of the GW Parkway are certainly more than adequate for bikes ... as I know from doing the run to Mt. Vernon and back many a time. If you have a problem with the DC side not being good enough, then please argue for that. Don't pick on drivers who are using a parkway for what it was built for.

by Lance on Feb 19, 2010 11:04 am • linkreport

Look, Lance, you seem like a reasonable guy. And I know with congestion around the greater DC area is very frustrating. But regardless of your personal feelings on this, and whatever the history of these roads, and which road user they were "built specifically for", it's a matter of settled case law that "roads are for cars" is false. You don't have to like it. You can even argue that people on bikes who marginally inconvenience you in going about whatever your daily duties require are selfish, narcissistic, Big Meanies, or whatever. I don't expect you to look into my heart and find goodwill and absence of malice. We'll leave aside the question of who between the two of us has the out-sized sense of entitlement. But the bottom line is, it doesn't really matter whether you think roads are for drivers, trails are for equestrians, or skateboard parks are for skateboarders (and not for BMXers).

Courts have found over and over and over again that car operation is *not* the only entitled use of the public roadways. Now if you have a problem with that, you might want to initiate a lawsuit and see if you can change the courts' mind. Best of luck to you.

In the meantime, get out of my mess kit.

by oboe on Feb 19, 2010 11:19 am • linkreport

Where there is a bike path, a cyclist has a dedicated lane to themselves and should not be on the motor roadway ... otherwise what is the sense of the cost of construction and maintenance of that separated roadway *i.e., the 'bikepath') for cyclists?

Lance: Please. Borrow a bike and take a little spin down the medley of tree roots, potholes, 90-degree turns and cracking pavement that is the Rock Creek multiuse trail. You will have plenty of time to observe these results of endlessly deferred maintenance, since your average travel speed will be 5 mph - joggers, stroller-pushers, dogwalkers, and friends walking hand in hand, side by side down the path will slow you to walking speed for much of your journey. Then come back here and tell us how it's equivalent to "a dedicated bike lane" for commuting.

You know how you can tell when there's a dedicated bike lane? People use it. Few cyclists choose to cycle in the car lane or on the sidewalk if there is a proper, purpose-built alternative.

by Erica on Feb 19, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

Lance, (1) If you weren't referring to the law, which "rules" do cyclists need to play by? Can I see these rules or are they written down in tiny scrawl in a quadrille ruled lab notebook entitled "Lance's Rules for the World".

(2)If cycling reaches high volumes all of those maneuvers will be easier- not harder, because there will be fewer cars and thus more space on the roads.

(3) motor roadway? really?

(4) As oboe states it doesn't matter who these Parkways were built for. Do I need to list all of the things that were built specifically for men or for white people and then ask you if that means that we need to kick Obama out of the White House because it clearly wasn't built for an American of African descent to live in (Charles Pinkney is rolling in his grave)? What matters is how we use them now and NOW the law (aka "the rules") allow cyclists to use the road. Basically what I read is you're totally content to invoke the law when it prohibits cyclist behavior, but you conveniently ignore it when it allows cyclists in the "motor roadway." Classic anti-cyclist behavior.

by David C on Feb 19, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

Lance - Parkways were built for "pleasure driving." The parkways on Long Island actually ban commercial traffic - I remember my grandfather getting a ticket because he drove on Northern State Parkway in a station wagon with his stationery samples in the back. If you drive to work on Rock Creek Parkway, you are using it for a purpose it was not intended for. And auto commuters interfere with pleasure driving far more than bicyclists.

by Ben Ross on Feb 19, 2010 11:55 am • linkreport

But what about a name? How about Novaks? true he ran down a pedestrian and left the scene but thats close enough. Drivers who don't respect the lives of bikers certainly don't like people walking near them either. Then when some driver yells at you and sideswipes you, you can say you were Novaked. too irreverent given his illness?

by Bianchi on Feb 19, 2010 12:19 pm • linkreport

Bianchi, what about Thompsonites, after the former Dr. Thompson who is now in CA prison for assaulting two cyclists because he was, as he put it "tired of them"?

What about pedalphobics?

by danceralamode on Feb 19, 2010 12:35 pm • linkreport

I don't like "phobe" b/c its not a disbaling fear (of bikes). Maybe one could be "Thompsonlike" or a Thompsoner or Thompsonist (as a follower of Thompson) or Thompsian.

by Bianchi on Feb 19, 2010 12:50 pm • linkreport

How many of you want to be intimidated by a bigger vehicle? We don't allow big motorized vehicles (tractor trailers, dump truck, large SUVs) to intimidate smaller vehicles. So why can't people see that someone on a 15-20 pound bicycle vehicle (at least it is in MD)should not feel intimidated by bullies in motorized vehicles.

I'm not calling all drivers of motorized vehicles bullies. My experience says that most aren't. But it only takes one to snuff out a bicycle.

When I am driving a motorized vehicle, I find that far more inattentive drivers slow me down than bicyclist.

by Jim Q on Feb 19, 2010 4:51 pm • linkreport

"But it only takes one to snuff out a bicycle."

But isn't that a good argument for not allowing cyclists into regular traffic in the first place. I mean I've ridden my bike in traffic many a time, but if you think hard about it ... what on earth is a person sitting on a 20 lb frame doing in the middle of heavy traffic? We don't allow people to take skateboards out into the middle of traffic, do we? And were it not that bicycles came about concurrent with cars, we probably wouldn't allow them either. Sorry, but I don't see how a rational individual would want to ride in heavy and/or fast traffic. I know I'll easily choose a bike path over a roadway where I have that option. But I also know I wouldn't choose to use a bicycle for essential travel. It's just not built for it ... not when you have so many better options available .. unless of course you're looking for a way to excercise concurrent with your commute ...

by Lance on Feb 19, 2010 5:04 pm • linkreport

@Michael: you seem to presume that someone is riding recreationally because his bike lacks a basket and is in a group. In my commute on the CCT, I rarely see a bike with a basket. Also, if I am riding at the same pace as someone else, or see a friend, we ride together. Its more social, and safer. Its the same story on the road.

You also use the limited resource/cost argument to argue that recreational riders should stay off the road. Leaving aside the enforceability of that, if you were to look at resources, you would limit cars, or charge them more to use the road. Cars take more of the "limited resource" roads, and are harder on them, and create also sorts of externalities. Currently, use of the road is subsidized out of general revenues, and so any tax paying cyclist is subsidizing a driver.

The issue of "realistically shouldn't expect an absence of danger." In most other areas of law and social policy, we charge those who cause the hazard more than those who are likely to suffer. Thus, we regulate and charge fees etc to those who drive tanker trucks, since they pose a greater risk to others, instead of telling other drivers to get off the road so they won't get injured.

As for "roads were built for cars." No, they were built for people. THey have since been modified to maximize convenience for cars. However, until cars are willing to pay full price for exclusive access (e.g. $10/gallon gas, toll roads, etc), they have no right to exclude others.

A lot of the renewed interest in public transit, bikes, walking is not because people hate cars. My family shares two cars. Its that we realize the costs and downsides of a car centric culture, and want to consider and explore alternatives.

by SJE on Feb 19, 2010 5:26 pm • linkreport

But I also know I wouldn't choose to use a bicycle for essential travel. It's just not built for it ... not when you have so many better options available .. unless of course you're looking for a way to excercise concurrent with your commute ...

That's fine for you. Now if you go stand on 16th Street, NW or on North Carolina/East Capitol Street on Capitol Hill, you'll see throngs of people on bicycles commuting to work. They do it because--for them--it's the best option available. It's faster than driving, and you don't have to pay for parking.

Weird, it's almost like different folks prefer different modes. In the interest of comity, just let me know how you want me to live my life, and I'll go ahead and do it your way. After all, I don't want to be accused of selfishness. :)

by oboe on Feb 19, 2010 5:47 pm • linkreport

Everytime I go to type a response, Oboe does it for me! Get outta my brain already!

"not when you have so many better options available"

Why are those options better? And what constitutes better? Does it mean faster? Does it mean more fun? Does it mean less expensive? Does it mean something that promotes safe communities and liveable neighborhoods? I happen to believe that my bicycle is a far better option. It doesn't pollute, it doesn't tear up the pavement, it's much more fun than driving, I do get the suggested "concurrent exercise", and cycling promotes community. You can say hello to people, easily stop and talk to people in the neighborhood, etc. I see families out for bike rides and regularly strike up conversation with them. They aren't car-free, but they love to ride and enjoy going places as families on bikes. They want their kids to be happy and healthy, and they see the family bike outing as akin to the family dinner.

Furthermore, if other options are better because they are inherently faster, then that's crap. If I drive to work it take 30 minutes, if I ride my bicycle, it takes 20 and I don't have to look for parking. It takes longer to bike to the grocery store than drive, and all the biking I do is good for my heart, my lungs, my legs, and my ass. I'm gonna live for freaking ever and look damn hot doing it too...that is, unless some one in a car runs me over...

Furthermore, cycling is far less expensive than driving, even if you cut out just one to two driving trips a week and replace with walking or cycling. People drive to the grocery store two blocks away...that's just lazy (provided you aren't disabled in some way).

by danceralamode on Feb 19, 2010 5:57 pm • linkreport

@Oboe (and danceralamode): "It's faster than driving, and you don't have to pay for parking."

But you keep making my point about the paradox! (though you might not be doing it intentionally). It's faster and it's cheaper at the moment because you don't have to 'play by the rules'. There are so few of you that now one minds if you 'cut ahead of the line' at a stop sign or red light, or if you go the wrong way down a 1 way street, or if you use a park or sidewalk as a 'shortcut'. And when you get to work, it's okay if you just lock your bike to one of the meters near your building, or maybe even bring it inside with you ...

BUT everyone will care about all that if your numbers multiply. Other bicyclists aren't going to want to see you cutting in front of them at a stop sign or red light. Cars and buses and streetcars aren't going to let you just go whizzing through an intersection without taking your turn like everyone else, and the police are going to start ticketing you for going down a one way street the wrong way or using the sideways 'en masse' while pedestrians are trying to go about their business. And no one is going to let hundreds of bikes be parked on the sidewalks in front of your place of work impeding the flow of pedestrians.

In brief, IF you get your wish and bicycling becomes a true transportational mode, it WON'T be faster anymore, and it WON'T be free to park anymore either. I.e., It's the paradox of bicycling as a transportational mode. If it thrives it dies. And if it doesn't it survives. In plain English, the comparative advantages of bicycling can't be ramped up. They can't be extended to the point where it is a true transportional mode. And I'm not even going to get into the obvious ... i.e., that other than for a very limited 20s (and maybe early to mid 30s group) it's not like sitting on a 20 lb frame in the middle of heavy traffic is going to be a very desirable transportational choice among the many options out there ...

by Lance on Feb 19, 2010 10:34 pm • linkreport

Whoa, Lance!

I don't make your point for you in the slightest! Where did I say that I run stop signs or lights, ride on the sidewalk, or ride the wrong way on a street?! I obey all traffic laws, and it's still faster on my bike. I "play by the rules" the same rules that cars must obey. The law states that where the road is wide enough I ride to the right, which I do. I'm not skipping to the front of the line, as you state, I'm doing what the law and "rules" allow me. You're arguments are starting to get ridiculous because you obviously don't understand cycling or vehicular law.

Furthermore, bike racks cost a lot less than parking lots and take up a lot less space.

AND, cycling already IS a true transportational mode. I don't own a car. I ride everywhere. I put more than 50 lbs of groceries on my bike. I've put a sewing machine on my bike. I've ridden over 150 miles in one day on a road trip on my bike. It's just as viable as a car. If you don't want to do it, fine, but you saying it's not a true transportational mode is equal to saying that women aren't inherently as smart as men and therefore shouldn't vote or being homosexual isn't a viable lifestyle.

Don't argue against what you obviously have never done.

by danceralamode on Feb 19, 2010 10:44 pm • linkreport

Erica, I don't disagree with you that the bikepath in along Rock Creek needs work ... lots of work. The last time I took it (some 5 yrs ago) it was pretty bad. I'd imagine it's only gotten worse. But that's still not a reason to disrupt traffic along Beach Drive. If one chooses to use a bike then one chooses the path laid out for it. Can you lobby for a better path? Of course. Can you use the regular road if you can really keep up? Why not? But if you can't ... why not just use the path?

by Lance on Feb 19, 2010 10:44 pm • linkreport

One more thing: we don't expect that EVERYONE will ride. We know that there are many people who bicycling (or walking) is not viable for. We merely want equal protection under the law for those of us that do. And we want people to stop hating us because we choose a different and completely legal mode of transport.

Nobody is forcing you onto a bike. But don't say I can't ride mine when the law says otherwise.

by danceralamode on Feb 19, 2010 10:49 pm • linkreport

But Lance, your whole argument falls apart - as someone else eloquently stated above - when you consider Copenhagen or Amsterdam. If an increase in mode share destroys the advantage of cycling, how do you explain cities where bicycle mode share is 10% or 20% or 40%?

If an inadequate and unsafe bike path isn't a reason to ride in the road, what is? And bikes, btw, ARE traffic. I frequently find myself waiting on cars that can't keep up, can I tell them to get off the road?

by David C on Feb 19, 2010 11:16 pm • linkreport

Wait, wait, wait...one more thing!

If there were massive amounts of cyclists on the road every morning on the way to work and at night on the way home from work, that would be awesome. Being able to chat and meet new people on the ride home, being able to slyly admire the cyclist's rear in front of me...seriously, I would fake blow outs just for that. Cycling creates community, Lance. When you get more people on the road, you meet more people, people know each other, people help each other, people meet their neighbors, and communities inherently become safer. I'm sorry, but your arguments are completely unfounded.

If more people rode bikes, government would allocate more money to bike facilities; that's how it works. Politicians respond to their constituencies, and unfortunately, right now, that's the automobile industry.

by danceralamode on Feb 19, 2010 11:18 pm • linkreport

@David C: Two things ... look at the pics that were posted in the link on Copenhagen above. (1) there are specific facilities built for the cyclists. (2) the cyclists are 'playing by the rules'. (See them all stopped at the stop light in the last picture?)

I'm not saying that you can't increase the share, just that in order to do so, the two biggest 'benefits' I keep hearing on here --- speed and not having to pay for parking --- will no longer be benefits when that occurs. And I think some of the biggest supporters of increasing bike traffic in the city will find they've sacrificed the two things they liked most about bike commuting (i.e., speed and not having to pay for parking) by encouraging others to join them. And that is the paradox, the comparative advantages of bicycling over other forms of transportation deminish in an inverse correlation to the number of people availing of themselves of this mode of transport. And yes, you could argue that that is the same thing that happened to car-centric suburban America. (At least in the older suburbs).

by Lance on Feb 20, 2010 9:45 am • linkreport

What you are saying is not based on reality. Biking in Amsterdam, Copenhagen, Portland etc... is still faster than driving for most people. Bike Parking is free in all of those places too. Your paradox does not exist. Here's a challenge, find me a place where this has happened.

1) Bike share increased to above 5% of mode share
2) Cyclist felt like the advantage of bicycling was diminished.

Find me one piece of evidence that backs up your assertion. Without evidence you don't even have a hypothesis.

by David C on Feb 20, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

Lance - we're making progress here. I think you're probably right in relation to a few cyclists - mainly, vehicular cyclists and the hardcore speeders out there. But that does not constitute, by any stretch of the imagination, the average cyclist in DC. Most are utilitarian - outfitted with secondhand bikes scrapped together from other bikes. Speed is not a priority - getting to a destination is. For those cyclists, any increase in cycling will only compound positive aspects of bikes. Namely, more bikes = greater demand for bike infrastucture = safer streets (for motorists as well) = lower risk thresholds = more bikes.

Will there be a cost? Absolutely. Cyclists may need to pay. But don't forget that bikes are far less deleterious to the streets. less wear and tear = longer lifespans of streets = more money for capital investment in bike infrastructure = more bikes = less wear and tear. Fewer cars on the roads means less demand for parking, which means more space for bike racks (possibly at a cost to the user). Increased numbers of people who are engaged in active transportation = lower health costs and less pollution.

So, to me, this is the crux of the argument. As cycling commands a greater share of road users, a positive reinforcement mechanism kicks in. Just like with cars. However, the reinforcement mechanism associated with cycling leads to generally positive externalities, where cars don't. We have loads of data which underscore this point. Cities that have invested in greater cycling and pedestrian infrastructure reap scores of benefits. Downtowns are revitalized and transportation dollars go further. Which means that, on the whole, the entire endeavor is far less costly than its vehicular counterpart, with far greater benefits. A person on a bike does not require the same financial support that a person in a car does. This can be repeated a number of ways, but I'll stop there.

Yeah, in the process we may hear some grumbles from the Lance Armstrongs out there, but honestly, I know lost of them, and they are as excited as anyone else.

by JTS on Feb 20, 2010 11:26 am • linkreport

@Emily
Emily finds two sorts of discrimination (a) on the basis of something that is not their choice (e.g. race/gender) and (b) things that are a choice (e.g. cycling).

This is wrong for two reasons.
1. We protect against discrimination of the latter type all the time: religion, political views, etc.
2. It relies on a subtle chauvanism that was pointed out to me by a black writer: when you say that the reason you should not discriminate against black people because their skin color is not their choice, you are assuming that a person would not CHOOSE to be black.

by SJE on Feb 20, 2010 12:05 pm • linkreport

I find it interesting that in two instances on this thread, one being Lance's (the other far up at the start), "speed limit" was mentioned, and treated as the minimum speed instead of the LIMIT. Beach Drive has what speed limit Lance? It's 25 mph. And what do 99% of the cars drive on it? 30-35 mph. I know this more from the perspective of a motorist than as a cyclist, having "had" to drive it quite a bit, and being constantly tailgated by impatient, narcissistic, rushed drivers. Golly, imagine that. I've also sat in the ridiculously long lines of morning and evening rush hour. Yeah, it's the cyclists which are the problem.

To quote the cab driver I talked to a few weeks ago, "It's all these people who think they need to drive the speed limit that cause all the problems." So maybe the solution would be just to up all the speed limits? That is the point to life, right? To increase it's speed?

And it's hard to even go just the limit when you are stuck in gridlock. As another poster mentioned, the auto-centric plan is not sustainable. You do understand that the population is increasing, yes? I cannot understand why any driver would be advocating for MORE cars on the road. Do you own an auto related business or something? (lightbulb!)

For the record, I have unfortunately spent many years commuting by car, and also many years living car-free/lite. In my urban/suburban existence the car is overblown as a necessity. It is in many circumstances an expensive luxury. Unfortunately, racing bicycles have been the primary example of bicycling in the US, and this leaves the population ignorant to the true potential of cycling. Yes, of course the infrastructure needs to be created/improved in order to attract more to cycling, but perhaps just a bit more civility would also help. But that's probably just too much to ask for (gimme gimme gimme).

Lastly, I was going to mention something about sharing, but realized that in the eyes of the Lances of the world I can only share the road when I DRIVE. If I am in the road on a bike then I am just taking/using something that isn't mine to use. The caveat of course to sharing while driving is that I must do it begrudgingly, and not show too too much kindness to the lowly cyclist, as I shan't wont to bring him/her any falsely raised notions of place!

"Cars and bikes mixin'?!? Why, that just ain't right!!"

by Max on Feb 21, 2010 4:51 am • linkreport

And the point I was attempting to make with my first paragraph was this: If drivers might crazily be actually driving the speed LIMIT as a LIMIT, then perhaps coming across the lowly scofflaw cyclists going their pathetically un-horsepowered 10-20mph might not be so dreadful. It might be something akin to overtaking a slower moving motorized vehicle. But I do suppose the physical mass would still not be there to command your respect. That is what it boils down to, right? Respect? Decency?

by Max on Feb 21, 2010 5:04 am • linkreport

Max: what really slows down traffic are accidents. What causes accidents are people driving too fast.

by SJE on Feb 21, 2010 3:54 pm • linkreport

Do you own an auto related business or something? (lightbulb!)

Pretty amusing if you've read Lance's stuff elsewhere, where he's been accused of being a real estate agent. I think the salient feature with Lance is that he constructs certain theories (here and elsewhere), which he then falls in love with, and which he is constitutionally incapable putting to rest when their flaws are pointed out--like a lot of us.

He's pretty sharp, and correct a lot of the time. Just patently wrong here.

by oboe on Feb 22, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

Where does the idea come from that "speed and not having to pay for parking" are the main benefits of cycling? I'll give you my main benefits of cycling:

1) It allows me to get exercise as part of my daily routine, without paying for an expensive gym that's a hassle to get to;

2) I am out in the fresh air seeing the city and smiling at my fellow riders, not trapped in a steel cage being honked at. I enjoy riding my bike and I don't enjoy driving a car, at least not in the city;

3) It's environmentally friendly. I know that for some people, just admitting that I care about the impact of my activities on the planet automatically makes me "smug." But I can acknowledge that many people don't have a choice about car-commuting (I didn't for about a year of living in DC) while still wanting to make a difference, myself;

4) I have none of the hassles and costs of car ownership - no car payment, repair bills, paying for gas, paying for a garage, digging the car out of the snow, looking for parking when I get home, etc.

I've never been to Copenhagen but I have been to Montreal where there are a lot of cyclists and dedicated, protected lanes. Riding in these lanes, yes, I sometimes had to go slower than I would have liked because I was behind someone else. But this small drawback was FAR outweighed by the joy of not having to worry about being run over by a car, since cyclists had reached a "critical mass" to demand and receive proper, purpose-built infrastructure from the city, and respect from drivers. On the morning commute there were often many cyclists waiting at an intersection, but there were no bicycle traffic jams, because bikes just fundamentally require less space than cars.

So the "comparative advantage" in no way diminished for me. Nor did it diminish for my fellow riders, many of whom (like a woman carrying a baby on her bike) said they would never dream of using a bike for transport in a city like DC without adequate provision for cycling. The key is that most of the new riders will be those for whom the benefits I listed above outweigh the desire for maximum speed. (And during rush hour, we still went much faster than the stuck-in-traffic cars!)

by Erica on Feb 22, 2010 11:30 am • linkreport

Anybody tempted to be an apologist for drivers in this debate should read this account of a driver trying to run-down a cyclist.

This stuff really does happen. It is not acceptable.

by BeyondDC on Feb 22, 2010 12:23 pm • linkreport

i think this is a valuable conversation.

a lot of the hatred we cyclists get from drivers is exactly the same as has stemmed from racism, sexism, and homophobia. car drivers have had full run of the roads forever, and now cyclists are asking for a small sliver of rights, and drivers are _not_ happy about it. whites didn't want to give up any rights to blacks, men to women, straights to gays. drivers don't want to give up any rights -- exclusive rights to the roads. it's to be expected.

drivers have and will continue to defend their privileged lifestyles zealously, often with hatred, violence, and threatened violence (i.e. terrorism), no matter how immoral. that's the way it works, unfortunately.

things are changing slowly but surely -- and it'd be a big help if we could get all the cyclist self-haters to stop making such a big deal about cyclists running stop signs and the like -- if you need something to do, go sweep a bike lane or something -- don't be banging on people who are terrorized every day -- we have enough to worry about.

by Peter Smith on Feb 22, 2010 1:11 pm • linkreport

Having people not like you because of your choice of hobby is not at all the same thing as systematic discrimination against Women, People of Color or LGBT folks.

So no, your difficulties with the legislature not passing bike friendly ordinances are NOT examples of "anti bike discrimination" - it's just a question of the legislature not liking your HOBBY.

And considering the nauseating sense of entitlement that many bike hobbyists have, I really can't blame your legislature for it's attitude!

by Gregory A. Butler on Feb 23, 2010 7:48 pm • linkreport

I won't let this idiot finish out the thread.

As a career unionist, I know that you know what it's like to feel entitled. You feel like it's your right to have a two hour lunch break just like I feel like it's my right, as a taxpayer and citizen, to vote for the guy that like bike lanes. You feel like it's your right to make it prohibitively difficult to let nonunion competition underbid you by trashing their construction projects just like I feel like it's my right to choose to get to work in a manner that makes the most sense for me, and would like to make it safer for others to have the freedom to make that choice as well.

Asking transportation experts to consider multimodalism when they plan projects is to ask experts to remember that not all of us can afford a car, or may not be able to drive. As taxpayers, we are all entitled to our share of the road. Autocentric entitlement is what planners used to justify building a highway through the residential neighborhoods of Anacostia, which, if I remember correctly, displaced a lot of middle class folks, including many union members.

by smax on Feb 23, 2010 8:34 pm • linkreport

GB, If legislators decide they don't like a whole group of people because of what they do, and then vote against a law solely because they don't like them, what do you call that?

I give your analysis a 0 out of 10. I also think you're here only to get a link to your sad little movie reviewing blog in the hopes of raising your pagerank, and I wouldn't mind seeing David delete the link.

by David C on Feb 23, 2010 8:59 pm • linkreport

All links from comments have rel="nofollow", which tells search engines not to assign pagerank to the links. That doesn't stop the essay writing service spammers from trying a few times each night, though they almost always get blocked.

by David Alpert on Feb 23, 2010 9:12 pm • linkreport

Smax,

I'm a union carpenter in New York City - we only get THIRTY MINUTES [1/2 hour] for lunch, plus 10 minutes in the morning to drink our coffee.

Let's keep it real.

by Gregory A. Butler on Feb 24, 2010 1:10 am • linkreport

We all know you're white, no need to deny it. And I think you all seriously need to find something better to do with your time.

by marissa on Feb 24, 2010 3:49 am • linkreport


this is a bummer!

The french word for bicycle is velo,

VELOPHOBIA

would be my choice. It sounds nice.

by Mark Sherman on Feb 24, 2010 10:17 pm • linkreport

add all the isms we need - but the problem is a human one. designed, created, and reinforced by our fellow citizens, corporations, politicians, and planners.

most streets and roads and state and local highways and biways are public rights of way. mode 'choice' is exactly that - a choice. humans still need to move about - be it on foot, bike, skate, skoot, or 'auto'. at some point we left the 'human' part of our designing, planning, and transportation behind for the notion that specific modes be enshrined with perceived special rights.

for those that argue that cycling is a choice, true. but moving from here to there is not - this is typically a right. 'auto' driving is as much a choice as walking or cycling. and at last check - walking and cycling didn't need any special state licenses, registrations, taxes, insurance, and etc. in many cases walking and cycling requires far less infrastructure, energy, rules, regulations, and etc. than any other mode we've invented.

imagine if the big rigs felt that those pesky little cars were simply getting in the way of them moving goods and services to market! 'don't drive a toy in the road with the big boys' could be the cry. get those unsafe, scofflaw sports cars and family cars off the roads! they are clearly a hazard - zipping to and fro and clogging up the roads for the REAL vehicles - trucks - because without trucks - america stops!'

it is foolish to have let this drift to arguments about mode. the road and a persons / humans ability to use it is a right. in limited circumstances and by law these rights are curtailed (interstates, toll roads, etc.) - but a human moving to and fro is under their own power is normal and natural. a human moving to and fro in an automobile is a recent development in our world - and we failed to plan accordingly. so we legislate, insure, enforce, and kill and maim along the way. driving and automobiling is a choice, and in our country - a privilege that is perceived as a 'right' of passage. cars and trucks (and bikes) have no rights - the people behind the wheel do - and in our world the people behind the wheel or turning the cranks need to move about - regardless of mode.

if anything - our autocentric world is anti-human, favoring machines and fuel and systems and hardware more than anything else - including dead drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians alike.

by mike on Mar 9, 2010 1:36 pm • linkreport

People say that bike riding for transportantion is a choice. Some people don't have a choice. Some people are handicap. And unable to drive a car so they ride bikes to get around and survive. They are not lucky anough to have their family take care of them and buy them a thirty or forty thousand dollar car. People on bikes would obey the same laws and would be nicer about it if vehicles showed some reapect to cyclists and padestrians. We are humans too. Give us room and alow us to surive too. People theink they are holier than thouh cause they got a fancy car.

by wicky on May 27, 2011 4:17 pm • linkreport

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