Monday, December 04, 2006

What scares me more than reckless drivers?

It is people with attitudes like this.

A local man who goes only by the name of Lee wrote this piece in a blog. He was commenting on this story about a 19 year old girl who killed a cyclist with her car while downloading ring tones on her cell phone.

Here’s a quote from his blog:

“The driver was guilty of doing something stupid- but that's a pretty common offense for teenagers. It's what they do.
For my money the real idiot was the guy who got on that bike and decided to ride it in traffic. When you put yourself in that situation, and you're an adult who understands the potential consequences, you're an idiot.
You hear bicycle riders complain about bad behavior on the part of car drivers and how we should all "share the road", but they are idealists who are only kidding themselves. "Share the road" is a fantasy that only exists in a Utopian world.”

End of quote.

My comment: Share the road is a common courtesy, and unfortunately, common courtesy is disappearing from our society. Let’s face it there are drivers out there that don’t want to share the road with anyone, not just cyclists. That is self evident by all the horn blowing, and racing to get around slower drivers. Comments like yours only enflame people like these, and pretty soon it's open season on cyclists. That is what I find dangerous.

Blogger Lee continues:

"Now, I have seen my share of cyclist road warriors in their helmets and spandex tights that ride almost in the middle of the road with a line of vehicle traffic plodding along behind, trying to get around them in the face of oncoming traffic."

My comment: Now that is just not true. I have often been riding where the traffic lane is at least 12 feet wide; (I believe this is the State minimum) that is 3 feet for me, which is plenty, and 9 feet to pass. That is more than enough room to pass safely without crossing the centerline, but often drivers will not do so if there is opposing traffic. The result traffic backs up, and Mr. Lee at the back of this line gets the impression that the damn cyclist is riding in the middle of the road.

Drivers, especially those in SUVs, do not know the width of their vehicle and over compensate when passing a cyclist. This is evident when they do pass and go clear over to the other side of the road. While I appreciate the extra room, I don’t want anyone to put themselves or others in danger. I have eighteen-wheeler trucks pass without crossing the center line and give me more room than some compact cars. The difference is these are professional drivers.

I posted this story on Bike Forums. Here are some of the excellent comments, take a moment to read them Mr. Lee; try to see the other man’s point of view.

Lee said on 12/1:
"Share the road" is a fantasy that only exists in a Utopian world.

Lee said on 11/28:
Common courtesy and simple politeness is, little by little, vanishing in American culture.

Nice disconnect there.

The hilarious thing is that this guy doesn't think he's assuming a risk by getting into his car and driving it.
Has anyone read the Time magazine article from last week about perceived risk and real risk?

Ahh... I did. Interesting read. In many ways it would seem to support what many of us believe about cycling, i.e. that it's overall a pretty safe activity, and that the health benefits far outweigh the true risks. But because our psyche focuses on immediate things (getting run down by a motorist) we sort of ignore the comparatively tiny probability of that versus dying a long, protracted, painful death from, say, the complications of type 2 diabetes if you don't exercise.

Anyway, here is the Times Story draw your own conclusions....

Read it. very interesting article actually. they talk a lot about how feeling in control leads you to think you're safer. That’s why many people feel safer driving than, say, flying. Even though 44,000 people die per year in automobile accidents and only a few dozen die in airline travel.

They also talked about real and immediate dangers as opposed to hype. Take heart disease, for example, which kills something like 600,000 people per year. Then take the avian bird flu, or mad cow disease, which has killed 0 people in the US. You’d think more people would be concerned about taking care of their heart, but it's not the reality.

Thankfully 99.9% of drivers are very cool or we'd all be friggin DEAD.

Yes, we are vulnerable, but cycling is on the roadways is NOT a major risk...unless riding in oblivious bliss is your riding style. We're also vulnerable doing countless other things during the normal course of our lives...of which cycling doesn't even make the top ten - yet we do them anyway.

So what are the statistical odds of being killed while riding a bike? Isn't the average in the U.S. about 800 a year? It's probably a lot lower than your odds of dying from the flu. I hate this line of reasoning, because it's stupid. Yeah, we're exposed to a 2-ton plus vehicle, but what do you do about a silly microbe? Stay home? Didn't think so...
Another thing I hate are bloggers like this guy who have comment moderation enabled. Hey you wanna blog, then let us respond fairly, and post the comments! Otherwise stop wasting our time...

Just my observation
have a some non-cycling (in fact not athletic at all) friends and some day after few shots of vodka we started talking about cyclists and traffic and rights on the road - I was shocked how match they hate us. The only term they refer us is "Those idiots". Seriously, we few have cyclists in our company and we all are friends but when it comes to "share a road" - they just don't get it. And this is in Bay Area where on some roads you can see more cyclist than cars and supposedly tolerance level is pretty high.

Life is fatal 100% of the time. Do what you enjoy and stop being so darned scared.

Maybe he'll approve this:
I am also a cyclist but the fact that a cyclist is involved in this incident is almost beside the point. This driver was so far off the road that she hit him with the LEFT side of her car.
That means the victim could have been you walking down the sidewalk with not a care in the world, or a young mother pushing a stroller.

As far as the earlier comment - "A bicyclist who demands his rights on the roadways are just living in their own little worlds as well. Hmmm, 1/2 ton car vs a Schwinn, who do you think will win that one?"

I'll respond with this - Compact car drivers who demands their rights on the roadways are just living in their own little worlds as well. Hmmm, a 1/2 ton car vs a fully loaded 18-wheeler, who do you think will win that one?

The fact is cyclists ARE entitled to share the road, and drivers are obligated to treat them as motor vehicles. Sure, we'll lose the physical battle every time. However that doesn't make the auto driver any less wrong for causing the accident.

Here's the comment I posted on his blog. Let's see if he makes it visible:

Consider a different context: Who's the bigger fool? Smith, who works in a smelting plant? Or Brown, who also works there and carelessly knocked Smith into a vat of molten steel?

Being on the road is similar in that it's a potentially hazardous activity for all users, including the 44,000 non-bicycling fatalities each year. That shared risk demands a few things a all roadway users (and all employees at a smelting plant, for that matter): a level of attention to the task at hand, an extra dose of attention to compensate for those who may not have enough of their own, and a consideration for the risk one is posing to the other users. The workplace slogan of safety being everyone's concern is equally true of roadway users.

A bicyclist using the rules of Vehicular Cycling (Google "John Forester") is fulfilling every obligation that a roadway user has, and is acting in a responsible manner. Any attempt to make such a cyclist the guilty party in his accident or death is wrong. It is absolving the auto driver of his responsibilities and obligations as a roadway user, and is transferring the blame to the victim. It's akin to blaming a woman for her rape.

Using your type of reasoning, let's determine the fault in any auto-auto accident by putting the two vehicles on a scale: the lighter vehicle's driver is at fault automatically because he put himself at risk knowing there are heavier vehicles on the road. Then add how much of a shame it is that that's the way the roads in this country are, and wouldn't it be peachy if everyone took the bus instead.

Lastly, your prior blog post is about the loss of manners in society. Doesn't manners include looking out for the other person? If it applies to "Do you mind if I smoke?", how much more does it apply to "Do you mind if I kill you?"
End of Bike Forum comments.

The responses are still coming in so go to Bike Forums to read more.

I find it interesting that Mr. Lee as part of his personal profile answers a questionnaire. Here are two pertinent questions and his answers:

What is your single greatest fear? Loss of my independence, to live in a hospital or nursing home.

My comment: Keep yourself healthy, cycling is a great way and it is not a dangerous as you think.

What is the meaning of life? We're fellow travelers on a one-way trip to the grave. We should look after each other.

No comment necessary.


Anonymous said...

Not just everything you said, but by refusing to make our roads safe for cyclists our society ties our society to the car and the demands it places on our natural (and societal) resources. If cyclists don't assert our right to the road and work to make it a safer place for all cyclists (not just those with courage and good bike handling skills), there's not way it'll ever become a viable and beneficial alternative.

digdo said...

The State of Washington has the traffic crime of Reckless Driving. The crime is a gross misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. The crime is defined as:

(1) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving. Violation of the provisions of this section is a gross misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment of not more than one year and by a fine of not more than five thousand dollars.

(2) The license or permit to drive or any nonresident privilege of any person convicted of reckless driving shall be suspended by the department for not less than thirty days.

I think many prosecutors could successfully argue the clown driving while playing with her phone is guilty of at least Reckless Driving. Depending upon the levels of injuries sustained she might be charged of Vehicular Assault.

My thought is if teenagers cannot be expected to drive responsibly then no license for them.

Anonymous said...

It really takes an IDIOT to think that a bike rider is actually safe while traveling in an automobile lane.

These idiots should not be allowed to sue anyone if they are injured.

Why aren't these idiots limited to the sidewalk.

If they get killed, they are good canidates for the "Darwin Awards"!!

And yes, I'm posting as anonymous.
I don't think that I have "Stupid"
written across my forehead.

Dave Moulton said...

In response to the last anonymous comment,

Slightly more people are killed every year water-skiing than riding bicycles. A lot more people are killed hang gliding and sky diving. A person cannot live their life in fear and not do what they love to do simply because there are risks involved.

To say the cyclist is to blame because they are injured or killed is like saying a woman is to blame for her rape or murder because she decided to go for a jog in the park.

Anonymous said...

"Why aren't these idiots limited to the sidewalk."

There are still plenty of people who apparently don't know the dangers of sidewalk travel. With a bicycle that can be ridden at over 20 mph on the level, I'd be a hazard to pedestrians using the sideWALK as it's meant to be used.