Thursday, August 6, 2009

It Could Be Worse—You Could Be Biking in Detroit

Posted By on 08.06.09 at 07:03 PM

Diagram on safe passing distance from the Commute Orlando blog (commuteorlando.com)
  • Diagram on safe passing distance from the Commute Orlando blog (commuteorlando.com)

The law passed yesterday in Colorado making it illegal to throw things at cyclists inspired this gem of a talk radio segment on the Detroit morning show Deminski & Doyle (also discussed here).

The passing of this law—which Whet posted on yesterday, prompting a flurry of comments—apparently "tells you how many drivers there are who are disgusted with how selfishly bicyclists take to the road." For one thing, the hosts are outraged that in many places (including Chicago, FYI) drivers are required to give cyclists three feet of space when passing. "You can't always do that." No? Who has control of your car, then, if not you?

Deminski and Doyle also find the idea of throwing things at cyclists hilarious when they're not fantasizing about trying it: "How many people have seen a bicyclist and you just want to lob something at their head?" The host then follows up by clarifying that he's not advocating it. Of course he's not. Nor is he actually advocating violence against cyclists when he says "Oh god, you just want to go Grand Theft Auto on them. But of course you can't."

One caller actually laments the fact that he can't hit cyclists because he'll wind up in jail for manslaughter if he does, eliciting sympathetic murmurs of agreement from the hosts. Another caller sums it up thusly: "If I hit you, I get manslaughter. You, on the other hand, get crippled for the rest of your life."

And this is what's so stunning about the whole discussion: who could possibly think cyclists aren't aware of this fact? I'm reminded of it every time a huge SUV whizzes by me with mere inches to spare or I nearly get hit by a driver making a left turn when I have the legal right of way. It's the reason many people I talk to are afraid to ride their bikes in Chicago.

Don't get me wrong, I realize there are asshole cyclists out there who make the roads dangerous for drivers and other cyclists alike. I don't like them any more than I like the drivers who become enraged when they're delayed for a few seconds by cyclists. But you know what's not going to make anything better? Ignorant talk radio hosts trying to stir up hatred against cyclists.

One host comments, "I don't see how they're so arrogant when they're riding something that up against your 4,000-pound vehicle could launch them like an acorn into a tree. But they don't care, they know you're not going to do anything." For one thing, that's blatantly untrue: drivers "do something" all the time (it only took a quick Google search to find half a dozen news reports of drivers purposely hitting cyclists in the last month alone). And there's nothing like self-righteous rage to provoke violence, so they may be even more likely to now. I feel sorry for cyclists in Detroit.

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