Wednesday, December 04 2013 @ 06:09 PM EST
Contributed by: B' Spokes
By Bob Mionske, Bicycling
“It is better to run over a bicyclest [sic] than to get in a head on accedent [sic] because they don’t share the road.” This was the message that somebody posted on a sign along a rural road in San Diego County in California. Within days, news of the sign had gone viral. Naturally, cyclists were outraged. Had it ever occurred to the sign maker that there was another option available to motorists—to make a legal pass when it is safe to do so? Apparently not. Never mind that the better option was also the only legal option, when there were seconds to save and cyclists to kill.
First, let’s get something straight. Drivers who complain about cyclists aren’t angry just because cyclists break the law. No, drivers are angry because traffic is frustrating and cyclists are an easy target. Drivers are just as angry at the cars that are “in their way,” but they can’t bully other drivers as easily. They might actually face some consequences if they run another car off the road, or ram another vehicle hard enough to kill the driver. But when they do those things to a cyclist, no consequences.
So when the op-ed made the obligatory mention of “scofflaw cyclists,” and advised cyclists to “obey the letter of the law … to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect,” it missed the mark. Yes, cyclists should obey the law. But what about drivers? They are operating lethal machinery, and nobody thinks to take drivers to task for the daily lawbreaking that virtually every driver engages in. Nobody ever suggests that drivers won’t be seen as “legitimate users of the road who deserve respect” until all drivers stop their lawless ways. Nobody would ever dare to post a sign calling for the murder of random motorists because they are “in the way,” and nobody would ever stop to tell a news crew that they agree with the sign because drivers “break the law.”
And let’s face facts here: The majority of bike-car collisions are caused by drivers. And yet, following every collision, the “scofflaw cyclists” meme is trotted out, even when the collision is caused by a law-breaking motorist running down a law-abiding cyclist. Time and time again, most of the national “bikes vs. cars” controversies have nothing to do with scofflaw cycling, and everything to do with scofflaw driving. In short, cyclist lawbreaking is not the root of the problem, and suggesting that cyclists ride lawfully is not the solution to the real problem.