By Joe Baur
An important point often overlooked in the never-ending cars versus bikes debate is this: When bikes break the rules, it’s annoying. When cars break the rules, they can kill people.
The issue has already been written to death. At this point, it seems writers and journalists alike seem to feel the need to give fair treatment to motorists. These articles will begin with cyclists’ complaints of cars not respecting them on the road, ignorant of their rights, and perhaps a dash of statistics on the rise of car-cyclist collisions. Then, out of some apparent need to be fair, the article will voice the overwhelming feeling motorists harbor toward cyclists.
“They blow through red lights!”
“They swerve around traffic!”
“Shouldn’t they be on the sidewalk, anyway!?”
Then there’s usually some sort of pronouncement that both motorists and cyclists need to obey the laws, show some respect to one another, and only then will we all get along. That’d be great if there was even a remote chance in Hell of that happening anytime soon.
Respecting cyclists takes a culture shift. We’re not talking about some overnight transformation where suddenly the drivers of Greater Cleveland will wake up and realize it’s their obligation to slow down and give cyclists some space when passing.
We’re talking about decades. That’s what it’s going to take for drivers around here to understand that cyclists have just as much right to the road as cars. Meantime, it’s important we revisit and understand some basic concepts that are often forgotten while writers and politicos are busy trying to placate everyone as if both sides are equal offenders.
First and foremost: Cars kill people. Bikes don’t.
Cyclist Kills Driver In Hit-And-Run?
When’s the last time you’ve read of a cyclist killing a driver because they drunkenly blew through a red light? Has a motorist ever been paralyzed because a cyclist swerved into them? Better yet, has a cyclist ever even killed a motorist?
No real-life incidents of the above mentioned hypotheticals come to mind. But I can recall reading about cyclists being killed far too often in Cleveland, Ohio, and across the United States. In fact, most cyclists who are killed on the street are obeying the law and wearing a helmet. Just because you once saw some helmetless, tight-jeaned hipster blow through a red light on Euclid Avenue doesn’t mean the scales have been tipped in favor of motorist innocence.
A simple news search of “cyclist killed by driver” pulls up 7,390 results with headlines like, “Driver who killed cyclist sentenced,” “Cyclist Killed By Hit-And-Run Driver In San Jose,” and “Repeat Drunk Driver Hits Three Pedestrians and Cyclist in East Village.”
Flip the search query to “driver killed by cyclist,” and you simply pull up more stories of drivers killing cyclists. It’s as if the Internet Gods themselves sensed dyslexic-like confusion in the search and corrected the order of terms.
Malicious Intent And Potential
Along the same lines, it’s important to investigate who’s malicious on the road and who can actually act on that malicious feeling. Regular cyclists and cycling commuters can easily pull out stories of close calls or drivers purposely driving close to give a scare. I myself can recall a driver on Pearl Road in Parma driving well within three feet of me, screaming in my ear as they passed by to startle me. The unsurprisingly obese individual laughing in the passenger seat seemed oddly satisfied with their behavior.
Once more, you need only look for a Cleveland.com article on cyclists to pull up comments from motorists threatening to drive the next cyclist they see off the road. Funny, you never see a cyclist threatening to plow a driver off the road, because not only would the threat be impotent, it would be laughably impossible.
In summary, we have drivers in Cleveland with an inflated sense of entitlement to the roads we all pay for blowing by defenseless cyclists at high speeds with the potential to end an innocent life, sometimes doing just that.
Yes, there are two sides to the car versus bike debate. But they’re nowhere near equal.