The Polarization of Drivers vs Cyclists

During my morning reading, I came across an article about how motor vehicle drivers are putting bicycle riders in danger. While I agree that riding your bike on the road is a dangerous means of exercise and travel, I don’t blame drivers for the majority of incidents that happen on the road. I think this is a case of people speaking about a topic through the lens of a wish rather than looking at it via reality itself.

I’ll explain it.

The basic summary of the article: drivers are irresponsible and don’t have any respect for those on bikes. They don’t watch out for bikes, they don’t use their signals properly, and they are a danger to everyone around them.

Before I give my perspective, I will say the following: there are undoubtedly bad drivers out there. There are certainly people who fail to pay attention, use their cell phones, and put makeup on in the car on the way to work. There might even be a few sociopaths who also act nefariously.

I would say that all of these potential offenders combined are the minority. I would also say that it should have never become the responsibility of drivers to keep people on bikes safe. Lastly, I would like to point out that the author of the article attached a picture of the biker he was slowly driving behind that inspired his post. Nobody pointed out the irony and irresponsibility of using a cell phone while driving before writing about irresponsible drivers.

I digress.

This is the reality of biking on the road where I am from. For starters, the bike lane (if there is one, which there usually is not) is on the damn road. This means that two-ton vehicles and ambulating sacks of flesh are moving at high speeds along the same path. To me, this is like taking a group of three-year-olds and putting them on the practice field of NFL football teams. The players would never intentionally smash into a toddler, but eventually, the accident will happen, and the toddler will be in horrible shape. Logistically this is a disaster waiting to happen.

Bikes should have their road, much like an elevated sidewalk that removes them from traffic. It would also be nice to have controlled zones (much like many European cities) where highly populated areas do not have car access. At the very least we should have a public transit system that makes the need for driving in the city obsolete.

This would be ideal. Unfortunately, where I’m from this is not the structural reality of the city, and we can’t go back in time and fix our poor insights. This means that as of right now, biking is dangerous.

Here is another reality of stupid humans. The things we see little of in any situation we naturally pay less attention to. This is an actual pruning that happens inside of our brains at a synaptic level. This means that when you see one bike for every 250 cars while driving, your mind becomes less receptive to images like people on bikes. This means that if you are on a bike, even drivers who take care are much less likely to see you than a car.

And lastly, let’s not forget that some people on bikes are just as irresponsible and reckless as people in cars.

I would love to ride my bike more. I have a road bike, and I would use it to commute on every beautiful day if I wasn’t afraid to die on the road. But I don’t directly blame drivers. I don’t even blame the city. I know that a car is made of thousands of pounds of metal, and my body is made of flesh. If a car hits me while I’m on my bike, I might as well be a watermelon. It doesn’t help me to complain about drivers when I think about physics.

Our roadways need to be improved. Bikes should have safer routes. But this usually ends up in retroactive patchwork that doesn’t solve the problem. When you attack drivers (who are the overwhelming majority of people in your city) instead of looking at the logistics, you create a mass of people who spitefully refuse to support you rather than a team of influential citizens who are willing to fight for what you’re fighting for.

I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Cyclists should never be in danger. And this is why I believe it is more important to discuss the reality of cycling danger rather than attacking drivers. Do you want to make a point, or do you want to stay alive?

I want to spend more time on my bike. I also have two young kids and a third on the way. They will want to ride their bikes, and I want them to be safe. The best way to do that is to have my kids bike in places where there is little to no chance of them getting hit by a car- Not by putting them out on the road and expecting drivers to all of a sudden be good at driving or shaking my fist at the side of the road.

There are irresponsible drivers. I do not doubt that. But I see the danger to cyclists as an issue of infrastructure rather than drivers who don’t care about the safety of cyclists.

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