The continued clash of bike and car commuters

This New York Times article, Moving Targets, is a fascinating read about the growing animosity between cyclists and drivers on the roads. While the main subject focuses on the issue of sharing the road, there’s also several interesting nuggets of information gold buried in there. Here’s my take on it…

This is my favorite paragraph from the whole article:

This summer, the number of new cyclists has increased strongly across the country. In June, nearly 11,000 first-time riders participated in Denver’s Bike to Work Day. Dahon, makers of folding bikes popular with commuters, reports a 30-percent sales increase from a year ago, with many models having been sold out since the spring. Transportation Alternatives, a bicycling advocacy group, estimates that 131,000 people cycle daily in New York, up 77 percent since 2000.

Everything is up up up! Sales of commuter specific folding bikes, number of people cycling, etc. We all know it’s true, but it’s nice to put numbers with it.

The increasing violence continues to strike fear in my heart:

A Brentwood, Calif., doctor was charged with assault. Police say he intentionally braked in front of two cyclists, with one smashing into his rear window and the other crashing to the pavement.

In bike-utopia, Portland, Ore., where 6 percent of the people cycle daily – the national average is under 1 percent – a cyclist knocked off his bike clung desperately to the hood of a moving car. And a car passenger fought with a cyclist after yelling at him to wear his helmet.

Last weekend, Utah state police arrested the driver of a pickup truck, suspected of plowing intentionally into cyclists on a morning ride.

The article continues for a full three pages and I encourage you to read the whole thing, however it basically reiterates the same things I see everywhere:

  1. Some cyclists act like complete dumb asses
  2. Drivers focus on the dumb asses and use it as an excuse to attack ALL cyclists
  3. “Normal” cyclists that obey the laws take the brunt of abuse

And I keep coming back to the top two things you and I can do to make a difference:

  1. Ride confidently and courteously
  2. Obey ALL the laws
  3. Educate people every chance you get

Another quote from the article:

But the bottom line, say driving behavior experts, is that the learning curve has just begun. Tom Vanderbilt, author of “Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do” (Knopf, 2008), said that because drivers do not expect to see cyclists, they don’t.

Therefore, said Andy Clarke, president of the League of American Bicyclists, an advocacy group, the turmoil will abate when enough cyclists are on the road, so that everyone learns to share the space.

Keep ridin’ and smilin’

Thanks to Nick for pointing out the article to me

Picture credit Hiroko Masuike

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