Sunday, March 08, 2009

Concerning the Bicycle

You'll be undoubtedly relieved to know that I've replaced the bicycle that got busted on a Benz last month. I don't have a name for the new one yet, so for now, we'll call her Katherine Parr. And she's a beaut:
And since we're on the subject, I'll draw your attention to an article that showed up in the New York section of today's Times. The author, Robert Sullivan, himself a biker, takes up the question of cyclist civility; generally, he's saying that since bikers have become a relatively ordinary part of city traffic flow, they should stop acting like the persecuted minority they once were. (The title, "The Wild Bunch," I found both gratifying and a little insulting)

The problem he’s trying to rectify is the hatred pedestrians and drivers feel toward bikers. If only bikers displayed a little more civility—giving pedestrians their space, and acting with a sense of self-preservation—we might all like each other a bit more.

He lays out four proposals for the biking community:

* NO. 1: How about we stop at major intersections?
* NO. 2: How about we ride with traffic as opposed to the wrong way on a one-way street?
* NO. 3: How about we stay off the sidewalks?
* NO. 4: How about we signal?

All that is fine. Certainly, a cyclist should ease on the brakes so as not to freak out a pedestrian. But, as he points out in the article, the idea that bikes hurt or kill a lot of pedestrians is a total myth—cars are still far more dangerous both to bicyclists and pedestrians.

It would be nice if bikers were nicer (I do my best to be nice, most mornings) and everybody liked bikers more, but it's not really the problem.

He skirts the hairier questions of bicycle behavior. What about minor intersections? Do we stop there? At stop signs? Suppose there's no traffic at the intersection? What about the Idaho stop? Is it all right for cyclists to pull in front of crosswalks, so they don't fall prey to a right hook? All of the crashes I've suffered in recent years have been the result of drivers forgetting about bikes—opening doors without looking, turning across bike lanes without looking, etc. This conversation still needs to be about protecting bikers and pedestrians from cars-- that's the problem.

I enjoyed Sullivan’s article, and I would recommend it to you as Sunday afternoon reading, but it’s a little fluffy. Wake me up when we start talking about what matters.


Blogger Annie said...

I do know one person who was in a coma for a few weeks due to getting hit by a bike while she was a pedestrian near MIT.

On a separate matter, pedestrians also need to watch out for cars and bikes and not cross dangerously and feel as entitled as "persecuted minorities."

8/3/09 10:16 PM  

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