Bicycle Diaries: A motorist rants, a roller rolls

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A motorist rants, a roller rolls

August seems to be the unofficial month of the roller. All the local newspapers have been running articles on bikes and bike culture including this recent letter to the editors of the Chicago Sun Times. It rants about bikes. I'm posting it in italics with my responses to each point.

Bike riders do more harm than good

C.R. Green
Albany Park

The proliferation of bicycles on public roads is damaging the quality of life, and it's time we all faced some realities on the subject.
Damaging may not be the right word. Bikes are transforming the quality of life as they did at the beginning of the 20th century when wheelmen and wheelwomen groups founded the Good Roads Movement. While its aim was improved pavement for bikes, motorists benefited as well.
First, people need their motor vehicles and aren't going to give them up. It is simply not practical to flood our streets with bicycles while it remains vital to society that people and goods get where they're going with the speed, efficiency and comparative safety that motor vehicles provide.
I’m not anti-car. I do have problems with biker whose approach to dialogue with motorists is screaming, Two Wheels Good, Four Wheels Bad. Nevertheless for trips up to 3 or 5 miles, going around the city is faster, more efficient, and potentially safer than by car.
Second, bicycles are not going to stop global warming. What today's cars and bicycles have in common is that they are both outmoded technologies. Part of the answer to global warming is clean automotive technology -- not, as Seinfeld told Kramer, ''Just what the city needs -- more cumbersome, slow-moving vehicles,'' which in this case save less than a drop in the bucket's worth of pollution.
Bikes are just one approach to reducing global warming. Numerous studies show that using cars for short trips around the city considerably reduces fuel efficiency. Therefore, as more and more folks turn to bikes as a viable alternative, fuel use and hence global warming will be reduced.
It is true that cycling is good exercise. So are walking, jogging, swimming, aerobics, working out at the health club and any number of sports activities that don't block traffic or expose the exerciser to broken limbs. Given the options, bicycling is one of the poorest choices possible.
I disagree with the first part of this. Cycling isn’t all that good as an exercise. Unfortunately, it’s the most energy efficient mode of human-powered transport. I'm fundamentally lazy; that's why I roll. As for broken limbs, that’s a problem caused by a lack of respect between bikers and motorist. What is needed then is more training for motorists on how to deal civilly with bikers and visa versa.
Driving a motor vehicle requires maximum attention at all times. The more bikes are on the street that motorists have to defer to, the more attention is taken from everything else they have to watch for. The more cyclists take to the streets, therefore, the more accidents they are going to cause.
Common sense, backed up by studies, reveals that motorists already do all kinds of things that distract them: eating, applying make-up, and talking on cell phones, now illegal. Other fascinating studies show that motorists, because they wrongly believe that the streets are reserved for them alone, tend not to see bikers.
The amount of unnecessary stress this causes motorists, who more often than not are just trying to get to or from work or get their errands done, is unconscionable. But if motorists must put up with bicycles on the road, would it be too much to ask that cyclists take some responsibility for their own safety? Requiring cyclists who want to use the same roads as motor vehicles to carry insurance the same as motor vehicles would be a good start.
Again, I am not anti-car. I am for increasing transportation alternatives especially since I pay the city and county taxes that maintain the streets. And yes, we as bikers should take responsibility for our safety. I share the frustration over bikers who don’t wear helmets, hop on and off the sidewalks, go the wrong way on one-way streets, as well as cheat traffic lights and stop signs. As for insurance, it’s definitely something to consider.
Ultimately, there is not one valid argument in favor of increased bicycle activity, and plenty of arguments against it. Please leave the bicycles at home. They are doing more harm than good.
Come on, a little historical context is needed here. Pedestrians, bikers, and horse riders made exactly the same criticisms when cars began to dominate the streets late in the 19th Century.
The fact is that increased use of any vehicle alters the realities of transportation. And it is the clear responsibility of the old and the new vehicle operators, as well as local governments, to work out effective and fair ways for sharing the streets.

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Anonymous andrew said...

I couldn't quite figure the insurance bit in the letter. It sounds as if the writer thinks that having insurance makes things safter.

16/8/06 11:56  
Blogger Da' Square Wheelman, said...

I think what he's getting at is similar to the complaint insured motorists
level on the unisured. I don't know how much damage a bike can do to a car
but he seems to think it's enough to warrant accident insurance for bikes.

BTW- thanks! You are my firt comment!


16/8/06 14:58  

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