Cyclists v. drivers — who’s to bless and who’s to blame

So let’s pick up where we left off the other day.

I ended on Monday by saying, if I may be allowed to briefly quote myself:

…While it is in everyone’s best interest to encourage everyone to ride safely, as cyclists, we bear no more collective responsibility for the two-wheeled jerks, than other drivers do for the four-wheeled ones who are undoubtedly speeding down the 101 or 405 at this very moment.

Which is to say, none at all.

Later that day, I was flipping through the March issue of Bicycling, and found an excerpt from a truly devastating article by David Feherty, the bike riding CBS golf analyst who was nearly killed last year in a collision with a truck:

…I am sick up to my coin purse of hearing cyclists apologize for the behavior of a tiny minority of morons on two wheels. Sure, they give the rest of us a bad name. Get over it. This problem is caused by careless and inattentive drivers, period.

Read the article. Seriously.

But read it on an empty stomach. Because his description of the accident and its aftermath will make whatever you have in there want to come back out — the hard way.

I can’t agree with his contention that drivers are the only ones responsible for bicycling accidents. I’ve seen riders do some damn stupid things. Myself included.

But he’s absolutely right that it’s time to stop apologizing for the actions of a small minority of riders.

I am not responsible for the jerk I saw drafting on a Big Blue Bus through Santa Monica traffic last year. Neither are you. Unless you happen to be that jerk, in which case I’d really like to have a serious conversation with you.

No more than I am responsible for the driver who followed a city bus through a stop sign in Westwood yesterday, without even pausing. And nearly hit my car in the process.

We see it every day, whether we’re in the saddle or behind the wheel, crossing the street or riding the bus. Drivers speeding and weaving, running red lights and stop signs, making U-turns in traffic, reading behind the wheel, chatting on their cell phones or putting on makeup.

Yet no one would suggest that drivers are responsible for the careless and irresponsible actions of other drivers.

Frankly, I’m tired of being blamed for things I didn’t do. And having my life endangered by drivers who can’t be bothered to observe their legal responsibility to drive safely and attentively.

The problem is, we live in a society where most drivers aren’t held accountable for their actions. The legal requirement that all drivers carry liability insurance means that there is no financial penalty for having an accident — except in the most extreme cases — other than a possible increase in insurance rates.

And drivers are seldom held legally responsible for their actions, simply because we as a society insist on believing that most collisions are simply “accidents,” rather than the result of carelessness or a failure to drive safely and maintain control of the vehicle, as required by law.

Meanwhile, as noted by Bob Mionske, we face an institutional bias against cyclists, both in law enforcement and in the media, and an attitude of blame bicyclists first.

It’s not going to change.

Not unless we demand that it does. Demand that our elected officials enact laws that protect our right to the road, and place the burden of responsibility on the operator of the more dangerous vehicle. And support candidates who support cycling.

Demand educated and unbiased law enforcement, knowledgeable in the rights, as well as the responsibilities, of cyclists. And insist that the press report cycling incidents fairly and objectively, rather than just parroting police reports.

 

A Santa Barbara writer insists on her right to be irritated when a cyclist impedes the progress of her Suburban, while another writer encourages bikers to increase their chances of survival by riding responsibly. An Austin cyclists befriends other riders — and steals their bikes. CityWatch’s Stephen Box notes that LADOT’s bikeway successes remain works in progress. And Fox News discovers four of the country’s deadliest highways are right here in Southern California.

One comment

  1. I know I’m a little behind on my reading but I just wanted to stop by and say that I think that this post is spot on and awesome. Lates,

    AT

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