Cars Can Kill People

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.

Culture Shift

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.

 

 

Joe Baur is a freelance writer, filmmaker and satirist with a diverse array of interests including travel, adventure, craft beer, health, urban issues, culture and politics. He ranks his allegiances in the order of Cleveland, the state of Ohio and the Rust Belt, and enjoys a fried egg on a variety of meats. Joe has a B.A. in Mass Communication with a focus on production from Miami University. Follow him at http://JoeBaur.com and on Twitter @BaurJoe.

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4 Responses to “Cars Can Kill People”

  1. Anon

    You lost me at “cars kill people. Bikes don’t” and again when you cited search results as statistics. The assertion that bikes don’t kill (and are therefore perfectly and always safe?) is false and should not be considered justification for disobeying traffic laws. Of course the amount of damage a car can do to a bike is far greater than than that of a bike to a car, but cyclists have injured and killed pedestrians. Sutchi Hui and Dionette Cherney might not have shown up in your Google search for “driver killed by cyclist” because they were pedestrians.

    We certainly do need a cultural shift to increase motorist respect for cyclists but is this the right way to predicate that shift or to earn that respect? By advocating for the disobedience of traffic laws? Don’t cyclists have a responsibility to operate their vehicles on the road according to the law and with the safety and well being of others in mind?

    I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t follow all traffic laws in all situations so feel free to write me off as a complete hypocrite. But more often than not, I wait at the red light and I give a full stop at stop signs because it is the right thing to do. I would rather lose my momentum, adding a few seconds to my ride than give motorists another example of some “crazy disrespectful cyclist” that they’ll tell all their friends about OR WORSE, cause injury or harm to another human. Maybe the laws need to change to be more bike-friendly and yes, there certainly seem to be more irrational anti-bike zealot drivers out there than the other way around but I think we can do better than “bikes are lighter and don’t cause harm so we should be able to break the law.”

  2. Rick

    :”The issue has already been written to death.” Should have ended there.

  3. Abby

    You make good points, but the power and persuasiveness of this article was weakened by your unnecessarily disparaging remark about the “unsurprisingly obese” passenger. Keep hateful prejudice out of your writing and your larger message will more effectively reach people.

  4. Pamela

    Yes, automobiles can kill, bikes can not! This is the reason that traffic and safety rules must be taken seriously by all.

    Personally, I have been involved in several incidents where cyclists have blown lights, directly in my path, and if I had not been astute and stopped at green lights, grave injury would have occurred. When I say several, I do not mean once or twice in the last few years. In my city, Lakewood and the surrounding areas, it is once or twice a week during the Summer months (or daily if I’m on the road more often).

    I’m glad that people are biking. I believe that biking is wonderful exercise. I myself was hit by a car while on a bike at the age of 12, by a panicked motorist who hit me while trying to avoid me. Let’s remember, bikes are not motor vehicles and cannot be equated with motor vehicles on the road. Bikes, generally, do not go the same speed automobiles. There are differences between the two, and the differences must be respected and the rules obeyed.

    Thank you

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