Cyclist's Guide to Safe Driving

A really interesting post on Connect Savannah [News, Arts and Entertainment for the Coastal Empire], which I, like you, read daily (actualy, h/t @vabike) due to its excellent bicycle coverage. Some parts I liked:

The topic of less–than–law–abiding cyclists is a sensitive one in the bicycle advocacy community. Across the United States and right here in Savannah, proposed bicycle infrastructure or safety enhancements are often met with complaints that cyclists don’t follow the rules and that any new accommodations should be earned through good behavior.
That’s an expectation never placed on motorists. Was the latest phase of the Truman Parkway contingent on drivers’ promises that they wouldn’t speed on it? Of course not.
Speaking of speeding, there’s also a popular but false notion that cyclists are more likely than motorists to break the law.
Yet studies have found that anywhere between 70 and 90 percent of drivers admit to speeding, which brings us to another difference between cycling and motoring scofflaws: the amount of pain, suffering and death they can potentially inflict.
It can be easy to exaggerate the risk to others posed by cyclists, even though it is miniscule compared to the clear and ever present danger of distracted and aggressive motorists. It’s true that reckless cycling is a very real threat to pedestrians (children and senior citizens, in particular) and to other cyclists.
Still, to fixate on cyclists as a major traffic safety menace is a little like worrying about someone pointing a BB gun in your direction, while ignoring the guy standing next to him aiming an assault rifle at your face. Even a legion of cyclists ready to do their worst can’t match the destructive potential of a single inattentive or enraged motorist.
Some parts I wasn't as crazy about:

Although they didn’t ask for the job, every person on a bicycle is a de facto PR representative for cycling.
Unfair as this is, “that’s the breaks,” to quote the immortal words of Kurtis Blow. Refusing to recognize this situation won’t make it go away.
Fortunately, despite being unpaid and largely thankless, the position of compulsory ambassador from the world of bicycling does offer opportunity for advancement and an excellent medical benefits package.
That is to say, following the rules of the road makes cyclists safer and therefore more likely to advance in age and less likely to need medical treatment.
I'm not a PR representative. I'm a guy on a bike trying to go to work. Pedestrians aren't PR reps, neither are drivers and I don't accept the idea that I should be one either, de facto or otherwise.
I also take issue with the idea that I'm safer from following the rules of the road. I'm safer when I don't crash and when I don't get hit by cars and while I can do some things to avoid those outcomes, there are a multitude of factors well beyond my control (like poor road design, lack of facilities, the poor behavior of others and the fact that automobiles are very heavy and can travel very fast) and I think it's a bit unfair to link my safety exclusively with my following the laws. And that brings us to the middle paragraphs:
Finally, some cyclists question the wisdom of following regulations they perceive as codifying the dominance of motor vehicles and elevating motorists’ convenience over the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. If the game is rigged, they figure, why play by the rules?
For these and other reasons, some suggest too much emphasis on traffic regulation compliance lends credence to unrealistic expectations of cyclists, amounts to tacit approval of an inequitable hierarchy of road users, and distracts us from the real threats to road safety. It may be a compelling argument, but like it or not, many peoples’ opinions of cyclists are forged by seeing them engaging in risky activities – even if they don’t register motorist misbehavior in a similar fashion.
Witnessing these episodes erodes the idea of bicyclists as legitimate road users, especially among folks who seldom or never ride themselves.
Cyclists, who want safer and friendlier streets and more respect from motorists, are working against these goals when they operate their vehicles in unsafe and unlawful ways.
I don't like the conflation of risky with unlawful- there are perfectly legal things I could do on my bike that are risky (carrying hot coffee) and a lot of illegal things that are vastly less than hazardous (failing to come to a complete stop at a stop sign, but instead slowing to a crawl pace, waiting for the intersection to clear and then pedaling forward). The way to combat the perception problem isn't to navel-gazingly obsess about our own behavior with a "why don't they like us?" look of angst- it's to get more people on bikes. The perception of an "us vs. them" problem is reduced when you get a lot more people in the "us" camp. Make bicycling as "normal" as driving and the hand-wringing will dissipate.

1 comment:

  1. Just like 4-wheel drivers, both motorcyclists and bikers should also focus on safe driving (or in their case, cycling), to make sure that collisions won't occur to them. Especially, since the risk of fatality for them is rather high.

    -Ethan Rehman