Friday, 14 September 2012

Are Bicycle Zealots Running Over Common Sense?

Or is it that a 'journalist' just wants an excuse to hate on cyclists?

I spotted an op-ed piece by conservative blogger and so-called 'journalist' Katy Grimes of Cal Watchdog that raised my ire, and the annoying thing about it is that, as an integrated cyclist, I might be inclined to agree with most of what she is saying.

I think she may be right that AB 819 is a wasteful law. The road, in my opinion, is safest for cyclists. Adding specialized bicycle facilities only complicates matters. This bill encourages bike facility production, and I think that's a mistake. Cyclists belong on the road, not shunted off into some side path, where they are at heightened risk for intersection collisions.

I disagree with her on SB 1464 - I think it will probably do some good, if only in terms of helping cyclists be less likely to be found at fault when an overzealous police officer cites them for impeding traffic. Its problem is that in terms of the 3ft passing requirement, it is unenforceable.

I agree that AB 2245 seems a little odd. I would hope that all road improvements would go through a process to ensure they are necessary, harmless and actually useful. Sadly, bike facilities are all too often unnecessary, harmful and useless. This bill, at least at first glance, seems set to make the problem even worse.

But I do have a problem with the article. It's not really the author's points that I have a problem with - it's the thinly veiled anti-cycling attitude that they're drenched in. Here are some excerpts:

"SB 1464 by Sen. Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, would require drivers on a two-lane road to veer at least three feet around a cyclist to pass."

To 'veer'. I wonder if the author refers to 'veering' when she's overtaking a slower motor vehicle. I suspect not. 'Veering' sounds uncontrolled, like a swerve, and doesn't suggest competence by whoever it is that's doing the driving. If cars are likely to 'veer' around cyclists, maybe California does need that 3ft passing law, and a way to enforce it.

"The bicycling lobby has become almost as pushy as the environmental lobby. They resent that streets were designed for cars"

Apparently, requiring motorists to behave safely around cyclists is 'being pushy'? Yeah, those uppity cyclists! If only we could lynch a few of them to show who's boss.

Also, the author has no idea that streets were developed long before the automobile appeared on them, and that the first improved roads were lobbied for by cyclists for cyclists.

Finally, the author fails to recognize that roads are not designed for any particular type of vehicle - they are designed for ALL vehicles. More importantly, they are designed for PEOPLE, and some people choose bicycles as their vehicle of choice. Why do they choose the bicycle? To save money, to reduce their medical bills and avoid becoming a burden on others in old age, to conserve American energy infrastructure and reduce our reliance on foreign oil, to keep America strong, and other pinko Commie stuff like that. Damned Hippies!

"I am hoping that legislators introduces [sic] a bill mandating bicyclists to follow traffic laws."

Erm... that law already exists in the California Traffic Code. I wonder if the author has read the California Driver Handbook, which states:

  • Have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicle and motorcycle drivers.
  • Must obey all traffic signals and stop signs."

Having said that, I expect all cyclists to follow the law at about the same time all motorists start following it - that should happen about when Hell freezes over. If there's a benefit to some cyclists failing to follow traffic law, it's that their vehicles weigh a lot less than motor vehicles, so when they do stupid things and crash into people, they tend not to kill. When motorists do stupid things, they are driving 2 ton vehicles, with the result that a million people worldwide are killed every year in automobile accidents.

Clearly, the author is a motorist with a big blind spot when it comes to motorists posing a danger to cyclists. If it were not for this blind spot, maybe she would understand that cyclists ought to be treated with some respect on the road. I find her assertion that cyclists are being 'pushy' by demanding that motorists drive safely very telling.

As for the many knee-jerk anti-cycling comments that the article has generated so far: well, ignorance bears the motto 'Ubique' for good reason, and I need to keep my blood pressure down, so I'm going to try (emphasis on the word 'try' - I'm already failing, LOL) to limit my responses to the article itself. Haters, as they say, gonna hate.


  1. Gawd, that was a dumb article, Ian. I suggested in the comments section that Cal Watchdog readers wander over here and read your piece.

    1. Thanks Khal.

      I posted an earlier version over there, but they didn't publish it for a while, so I figured they'd deleted it. So I added it to my blog and by the time I checked back over there, my comments had appeared there. Silly impatient me.

      But I've been tweaking it over here and I think it's a better piece as it appears here. I should stop tweaking, as I have a tendency to ramble on.

  2. I think you nailed it with your link to hack journalism. Anyone can put out a blog and call it journalism. I prefer to just call it a blog, and another person ranting into the Internet. Katie is a looker, but I'm not impressed by the rant.

    At the risk of being hoist on my own petard:

    1. Thanks for the chuckle, Khal! I'm reminded of what became my favorite quote regarding the internet, first seen over ten years ago. To paraphrase: "It used to be said that an infinite number of monkeys in a room with an infinite number of typewriters could replicate the works of William Shakespeare. The internet has proved this assumption false."

    2. Bikeolounger, you had me rolling on the floor. That indeed is what the Internet has proven.

  3. Reading that tripe, I felt I couldn't left you lefties have all the fun...

    1. Proof again that we can work across the aisle, Steve.

  4. "Finally, the author fails to recognize that roads are not designed for any particular type of vehicle - they are designed for ALL vehicles."

    -- Do you really believe that? I agree that (in California anyway, certainly not everywhere) cyclists have the same legal right to the road as motorists do, but the vast majority of roadways are clearly _designed_ for motorists. Just look at the standard lane width. Funny how it's just a little wider than a car. Likewise for parking spaces. Coincidence? The placement of signs and lights, car-activated by traffic lights, etc., etc.

    Today's roads *are* designed far cars, face it.

    1. Well, roads appeared in their current form before cars were even invented, and cars are usually about 6-7ft wide, whereas the standard lane width is 11ft - that's nearly twice as wide as a car and hardly " just a little wider". Cyclists had a lot to do with the design of roads when they led the Good Roads Movement in the 1890s and the 11ft width is actually perfect for bicycles, for a number of reasons, as has been discussed in an earlier blog post here at the Desegregated Cyclist. Here's the link:

      Parking spaces, I'll grant you, are designed for cars, but that's because the need for these things only came to be well after cars were invented. Signs and lights are placed where they can be seen by all, not just by motorists. Traffic lights are activated by any metal over the sensor, and bicycles activate them if the sensors are correctly calibrated. If they are not, the city/county/state DOT has to come out and fix the error. They would hardly come out if the sensors were only required to be activated by cars.

      So you are clearly wrong. Today's roads are designed for all users and not just for cars. If roads were built for cars, lane widths would be the same width as garage doors - 8-9ft, and the inflexibility of such a system would mean there would be be a heck of a lot more accidents on the road.