[New York Times] SAN FRANCISCO — EVERYBODY who knows me knows that I love cycling and that I’m also completely freaked out by it. I got into the sport for middle-aged reasons: fat; creaky knees; the delusional vanity of tight shorts. Registering for a triathlon, I took my first ride in decades. Wind in my hair, smile on my face, I decided instantly that I would bike everywhere like all those beautiful hipster kids on fixies. Within minutes, however, I watched an S.U.V. hit another cyclist, and then I got my own front wheel stuck in a streetcar track, sending me to the pavement.
I made it home alive and bought a stationary bike trainer and workout DVDs with the ex-pro Robbie Ventura guiding virtual rides on Wisconsin farm roads, so that I could sweat safely in my California basement. Then I called my buddy Russ, one of 13,500 daily bike commuters in Washington, D.C. Russ swore cycling was harmless but confessed to awakening recently in a Level 4 trauma center, having been hit by a car he could not remember. Still, Russ insisted I could avoid harm by assuming that every driver was “a mouth-breathing drug addict with a murderous hatred for cyclists.”
I’m not going to republish the entire article here, but rest assured this editorial goes on for paragraph after torturous paragraph lamenting the awful plight of the urban bicyclist and offering up strawman argument after strawman argument for the author to heroically shoot down.
This is just the latest shot across the bow in the never ending public relations battle that bicyclists seem to be waging to make themselves out to be martyrs. I mean holy shit, I run a blog that is ENTIRELY dedicated to hating on bicyclists and spewing invectives at them, and even I would never title a blog “Is It O.K. to Kill Bicyclists?” Because that’s stupid. It’s so goddamn stupid that it’s insulting to even see it in print.
The point that the author wants to make is that drivers are not adequately punished for injuring and killing bicyclists. Which may be true. I frankly don’t know enough to weigh in on that. So if you want to make that point you’re more than welcome to try and back it up. The trouble arises when you talk about the struggle of bicyclists in CITIES and back up your claims with sentences like “studies performed in Arizona, Minnesota and Hawaii suggest that drivers are at fault in more than half of cycling fatalities.” What is “more than half?” 51%? Given that bicyclists are unwilling to EVER admit to being at fault for these accidents, the fact that they are in reality responsible for almost HALF of them is something that I would have been screaming from the rooftops if I had been aware of it. But my favorite part is how these unnamed “studies” that are supposed to convince me that city bicyclists are facing driver-sponsored genocide were conducted in three of the most rural states in the entire country. It’s like me announcing that too many people in New York City are being eaten by bears, and citing a study done in Montana as proof. It might be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen.
But it’s also typical. Straight out of the bicyclist playbook. Start with an inflammatory title, set up a strawman argument, then assume that you’ve already won everybody over to your side and there’s no need to back it up with actual evidence. The money line comes here:
“We do not know of a single case of a cyclist fatality in which the driver was prosecuted, except for D.U.I. or hit-and-run,” Leah Shahum, the executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, told me.
If that sounds ridiculous, it’s because it’s not true. It’s blatantly not true. I know this because five seconds of Googling immediately turns up a handful of cases matching that description, such as this one or this one. Of course, Ms. Shahum has intentionally narrowed the criteria to make it difficult to find more such cases. Because despite what bicyclists would have you believe, well under 1,000 bicyclists are killed by motorists each year, and most of those accidents are just that–accidents. Why aren’t more “non-DUI, non-hit-and-run” bicyclist fatalities prosecuted each year? Probably because the number of sober and conscientious drivers intentionally murdering bicyclists is fucking miniscule, and, the article’s psychotic assertion notwithstanding, the vast majority of drivers are not “mouth-breathing drug addict[s] with a murderous hatred for cyclists.”
And if I really wanted to engage in the strawman argument game here, I could direct you to articles like this one and point out that if bicyclists really want to complain that drivers don’t face enough jail time for killing bicyclists, they should probably be ready to face the same argument when it comes to bicyclists killing pedestrians. To paraphrase Clarice Starling, you see a lot, bicyclists. But are you strong enough to point that high-powered perception at yourself? What about it? Why don’t you look at yourself and write down what you see? Or maybe you’re afraid to.Follow @footstepsfaIco