Tuesday, March 18 2014 @ 03:23 PM UTC
Contributed by: B' Spokes
By Gregory A. Clark, Standard-Examiner
But one contributing factor is inappropriate motorist attitude: Roads are for cars, not bikes. Another is that American motorists typically receive little or no penalty for injuring or killing cyclists -- even when the accident is clearly their fault. A third is the lack of cycling infrastructure.
These need to change.
When it comes to attitude, all too often people are ready to blame the victim.
As one commentator put it after another recent local accident, "Often the blame should be shared. ... Cyclists have to do their part to stay out of the way." (Read)
Sure, cyclists sometimes fail to obey the letter of the law. Me too. But that is not the major problem. Motorists are at fault in the majority of cycling fatalities.
Nearly every motorist, on nearly every drive, also breaks the law: Failing to come to a complete stop at stop signs, failing to obey the posted speed limit, failing to signal appropriately, and so on. Me too. If receiving respect required giving respect for the letter of the law, then motorists would deserve no respect, either.
Despite our own routine driving infringements, we don't claim that other drivers should be absolved of blame for hitting our cars. Or that roads and infrastructure shouldn't be built or maintained. Or that cars shouldn't be allowed on roads. Yet that is much the attitude many motorists wrongly convey toward bicyclists.
Pedestrians also often violate the letter of the law, crossing in the middle of the street or against red lights. Me too. But that's no excuse for motorists to run them down, or to deny them infrastructure.
Instead, pedestrians are correctly presumed to have the legal right-of-way over motorists. That makes sense, given the discrepancies of size, speed, and injury potential between cars and people.
The same legal principle should apply to cyclists. And where that principle has been put into legislation, it works. Such legislation -- with enforcement -- doesn't "result in rampant injustice to drivers ... it results in far fewer accidents." (Read) Nor does it result in rampant law-breaking by cyclists, who must worry about their physical harm far more than about traffic tickets.
Overall, bicycle use reduces, not increases, traffic and parking problems. Traffic jams and slowdowns are caused by too many cars, not by too many cyclists. (Read) Nor are traffic jams caused by the few extra seconds (if any) it takes for drivers to pass slower cyclists.
Further still, bicycle use saves the taxpayer money. That's a kind of "green" that most anyone can love.