I subscribe to the silence approach. No response at all is the best way to deal with these types of editorials.
I don't agree that the "morally superior" route is a good idea either.
That said, I thought it would be a fun exercise to craft a response poking a bit of fun at the scornful motorists and hefting our "superior" cycling ways into the face of the "opposition." Keep in mind that this was just a bit of sardonic humor for us here at BF, with perhaps just a hint of truth. . .
I think the problem is simple. Many people are stupid. Unfortunately, these same people don't even know why they're stupid, so I don't believe that the solution is simply "education."
Why are these people stupid? Because they don't even realize that it's not even bicyclists that are really upsetting them. Some may call it ignorance rather than stupidity, but the vehemence and irrational thinking goes so far outside common sense that I can only characterize it as stupidity. There is at least one group of people that knows exactly what causes the angst among most drivers - automobile marketers.
You ever see the Mazda "Zoom, zoom" advertisements? Or how about the insinuation that if you buy a certain vehicle, a long straight stretch of road with traffic signals will suddenly switch to green. What's the common theme? Fast, uninterrupted travel. Besides the government, what do most people in this nation complain about? Traffic. Listen to your coworkers' or friends' conversations during a day and invariably the topic of traffic will draw a heated remark or two. What it boils down to is that people don't even really like to drive...actually, to qualify, they don't like to drive in the everyday, suburban or urban environment. What just about every driver would wish for is to enter a vehicle, press the gas and gently steer for awhile, then hit the brake, just once, when they reach their destination. I would surmise that most drivers don't even want to steer around a sharp, perpendicular intersection, or hit the brakes (ever!), flip a turn signal, glance in mirrors, watch for pedestrians and other traffic, etc. Most drivers don't like any part of the typical driving experience. They will curse everything: a signal turning to red, an approaching emergency vehicle blaring sirens, a queue of cars at the bank or a fast-food drive-thru, a crossing pedestrian, train crossings, road construction, and of course, a bike on the road ahead. These things draw ire because they force a motorist to engage further in an activity they seemingly and unknowingly despise. Yet, somehow, through it all, everyone LOVES their car. I believe that this paradox causes their poor brains to overload and stupidity ensues. I don't even attempt to argue with them because arguing with a stupid person just brings out more of their stupidity.
Look at some of the "arguments" presented by motorists in these types of "discussions" about why cyclists die: (quotes from: http://www.topix.net/forum/source/ku...4LAJTUEBCVF9JF and http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/409b...manibusan.html)
1. "...he [/she] was probably one of those jerks that ride in the street." and "Highways and roads are for motorized vehicles only." and “Cyclists block the road."
First, checking the legal code concerning bicycles and their status on the roadway confirms that these dictums are undoubtedly wrong. Further, given that these comments were offered as possible cause for the death of a cyclist, these statements suggest that anything other than another automobile in the street, positioned in the intended path of travel, will be smashed and destroyed. Seems odd and irrational that a driver would not simply steer around a bike rider. But, the required overt steering action is contrary to the driving fantasy that falsely promises an effortless glide along the road without need for brake application or much manual guidance. However, this fantasy is quickly rejected with a giant swerve if the object is a large boulder, tree or semi-truck - this type of collision would likely cause substantial damage to a person's prized vehicle. Somehow, in the warped mentality behind the posited argument, slight vehicle maneuvers and damage to the auto are to be avoided, yet extinguishing the life of a mere cyclist may not be worth the bother of a simple twist of the power-assisted steering wheel? I'm fairly certain that passing without due care is contrary to most jurisdictions' laws, but given today's traffic climate, I guess I'm not surprised that many laws are forgone for the sake of misperceived convenience. I use the term, misperceived, because it seems pretty convenient to only require a two inch jog of a steering wheel to quickly maneuver around a two foot wide cyclist in the road. But, the argument insinuates that a cyclist doesn't belong in the street, so I guess in a perverse and psycopathic sense of reasoning, these motorists consider that a road rider deserves to be killed. To summarize the motorist illogic -- although it is perfectly LEGAL and HARMLESS, I, as a motorist, don't think you should be cycling in the street so you deserve to die.
Well, I'm sure I can find a number of legal and harmless things people do, so I guess they all deserve to die. Sounds pretty stupid, doesn't it?
The third comment in my #1 list is an oft repeated mantra of motorists, “Cyclists block the road.”
Really? A narrow, two-wheeled, single rider machine blocks the entire road? Yet, the seven foot wide behemoth the motorist is piloting doesn’t? I fail to see the logic that a tiny obstacle taking a mere fraction of space relative to every other vehicle is to blame for traffic blockage. Rather, if every other vehicle were smaller, the cyclist ahead would be irrelevant as everyone would have more space to maneuver. Imagine a 400 pound, hugely obese person walking down the hall and complaining that a 60 pound child tucked up against the wall is “blocking the hallway.” That person would sound like an idiot. If that person weren’t such an obese monstrosity, there would be no problem walking the length of the hall.
Anyway, the original sentiment from #1 is quite clear in this direct motorist comment, "You should know by now that no one slows down and uses caution. Hence it is the cyclist that decides to risk his life by 'taking the lane'. Stay to the right or become roadkill, your choice." This brings us to another tendered excuse.
2. "All I am saying is if you do something dangerous (jump out of an airplane, ride my bike in the road where big cars are) then you should accept the consequences." and "You ride on the street, you risk your life, simple as that."
This is similar to #1 with the addition that the motorist may be projecting a bit of their own fear of cycling in motorized traffic onto the cyclist and thereby vilifying the activity and perhaps enabling the motorist to rationalize harm upon the cyclist. The motorist may feel that a cyclist deserves fatal consequences for performing what the driver considers a risky venture because it absolves them of the responsibility of safer driving - they don't want to relinquish the nonchalance and ambivalence they are striving for in their driving experience. If these drivers were to care about the lives of the more vulnerable road users, rather than condemn them, the motorist would have to exercise more vigilance and perform several overt maneuvers to avoid collisions. Based on my hypothesis, attentive driving is directly contrary to the inattentive experience drivers want. I find it unfathomable that a person's life is apparently not worth some concentration, a foot tap and some slight arm movement. Coincidentally, some of these same motorists might even swerve and threaten a cyclist with their vehicle in an effort to prove out their cyclist-endangerment theory and perhaps, hopefully, scare those crazy cyclists off the roads they shouldn't be riding. Also, as I mentioned above, I'm fairly certain that passing without due care is contrary to most jurisdictions' laws, but this fair point seems irrelevant to the vitriolic motorist. To summarize the motorist illogic -- I, as a motorist, FEEL that cycling on the road is DANGEROUS, so you, as a cyclist, deserve to die.
Since many people are killed and injured on the road, regardless of transportation mode, I feel that everyone imperils themselves when driving around town. I also think that anyone exposed to the causes of heart disease and cancer are in mortal danger. So I feel that people in traffic and people subject to the precursors of disease and cancer deserve to die. Again, sounds pretty stupid, doesn't it?
Granted, some motorists don't react with glee when a cyclist is run down, but even the more genteel motorists will often opine about poor judgment and criticize the cyclist's behavior. This attitude is demonstrated in comments such as, "What gets me is up here in Weld county some of these bicyclists just have to ride on narrow 2 lane roads and highways like S.H. 66, for example, with traffic speed limits of 65 MPH including a lot of truck traffic. And they act all surprised when people almost end up in the ditches to avoid running them over. Cycling is good I agree but use good judgment before riding on highways and heavily traveled city streets." This type of thinking implies that only certain roads should be ridden by cyclists. It also suggests that motorists are being forced to use emergency maneuvers to avoid cyclist collisions. Apparently, rather than drive attentively, these motorists must suddenly snap themselves out of their attention lapse to apply brakes and steer themselves off the road, with the implication that this is somehow the fault of the unsuspecting and innocent cyclists. Why they don't maneuver the car around the cyclist using the available roadway, rather than the adjacent ditch is anyone's guess. . . stupidity? In any case, this line of reasoning is just a shade away from #3 below, which is a classic.
3. "Motorists have paid for the roads through gas taxes, registration fees, and other taxes and fees. Cyclists in traffic are a danger and seem to feel they have a right. Let them start registering and paying for road permits so lanes can be built for them. Streets are for cars."
This is a gem. I challenge anyone to find a person that doesn't pay taxes. If you find one, I want their secret! We all pay taxes, either directly or indirectly. But, I guess we've already begun to establish what I term the "stupid pattern" so I guess we shouldn't expect the expressed motorist views to reveal much intellectual power. Even if I buy no gasoline, I pay gasoline tax. Why? Because if I buy anything, that product was undoubtedly shipped from elsewhere and whatever the supplier paid in gasoline tax is certainly passed on to the consumer to pay in the form of product price. In fact, every successful producer's expense is covered by the price of their products, so as a consumer I'm paying the gas, registration, taxes and fees for entire fleets of vehicles. Wow! Not only that (and this may shock some) I, as a cyclist, also own and maintain a motorized vehicle. A great big one in fact - a Dodge. I pay gas, registration and fees for this vehicle that I barely use. Also, if anyone bothers to look into the matter, the roads aren't necessarily paid for with gasoline taxes. Many roads are built with property tax money. But, I also own property and pay a hefty annual tax for that as well. So don't worry, most of us cyclists are paying for our road use rights. Ah, but there is a problem with that statement. . . the right to travel non-toll roads with legally recognized transportation modes doesn't require purchase. We as citizens pay taxes that are used to provide many things that are offered to the entire community, not just taxpayers. Also, the relative amount of taxes an individual pays does not necessarily entitle them to any more right-of-use for these tax-subsidy offerings. To summarize the motorist illogic -- I, as a motorist, PAY MONEY that I THINK pays for travel along what is actually a free-to-the-public avenue, so you, as a cyclist, that I ignorantly ASSUME doesn't pay ANYTHING/ENOUGH for the free-to-the-public avenue, deserve to die.
This is a good one. I think my attempt to summarize the illogic pretty well illustrates the stupidity of an excuse that essentially states, "I think I pay for free stuff and you probably don't so you should die!" It's hard to deny that this ridiculous rant sounds stupid . Let's move on to #4.
4. "It is very simple, give them a license plate, and they will be forced to abide by the law, or face tickets and fines." "Cyclists do not have the same accountability as drivers. If you drive a car like a complete moron people can call and report you, and it is possible you will pay the price later on, can the same be said for cyclists?"
This may just be motorist naiveté. I've seen many people "drive a car like a complete moron." I've also had a few drivers swerve their car at me while riding my bike. I've called and reported these drivers, with license number at the ready, to the police and each time the officer on the phone told me that there is nothing they can do unless a police officer witnesses the infraction. However, the officers have informed me, if these people's actions constitute a criminal offense, an officer will investigate the situation. So, guess what, the field is level. Motorists can disregard traffic law in the face of everyone but a police officer and there is no consequence or "price" to pay, just as for cyclists. But, if a police officer witnesses a cyclist violating traffic law, that cyclist can be cited. Several cyclists here in the Portland area have been ticketed for riding without a brake lever and rolling through stop signs (http://bikeportland.org/2006/07/28/j...t-with-fixies/ , http://bikeportland.org/2006/05/11/p...-to-complaint/) -- just like those tagged auto drivers.
5. "It is illegal for bicyclists to run stop signs and signals; it's illegal for them to swerve in and out of traffic; but that doesn't stop them from doing it."
Yes, I've seen hundreds of cyclists violate traffic law. I've also seen thousands of motorists flout traffic law. Apparently, the cyclists should die for their minor transgressions (most traffic infractions (excluding traffic crimes) are just that, minor transgressions). The corollary of this would also require the death of motorists that violate traffic law. Imagine, everyone caught speeding would be subject to death. This reasoning is somewhat absurd, since bicycles are so much smaller and lighter, a rider's disregard for traffic law hardly endangers anyone's mortality, while a speeding auto could theoretically fail to stop abruptly enough and thus kill a pedestrian. Somehow, the relative risk of the cyclist infraction versus the motorist infraction has inversed the motorist's opinion about penalty severity - minimul risk = maximum penalty and maximum risk = no penalty (common defense being that speeding = flow of traffic). A motorist offered a common complaint that, "Cyclists in traffic are a danger...,” which I think lends credence to the idea that many motorists engage in backwards thinking about cycling vs. motoring risks/consequences. Let's apply this same reasoning to other situations. A similar argument would have a deranged lunatic that walked into a shopping mall and opened fire on the crowd with an automatic rifle cited for a noise disturbance, while a jaywalking pedestrian would be hung from the gallows. The deranged lunatic launching a flurry of bullets = maximum risk = minimum penalty and the jaywalker = minimum risk = maximum penalty. To summarize the motorist illogic -- I, as a motorist, see SOME cyclists commiting minor infractions, so you, as a cyclist, whether law abiding or not, deserve to die.
Notice the addition of the clause, "whether law abiding or not." Excuse #5 does not specify that the dead cyclist was violating any law, only that the motorist has seen some other riders commit infractions. Poor reasoning skills might allow the motorist to conclude that ALL cyclists violate the law and thus deserve to die even if obeying the law the instant they are killed. Since I'm sure that every motorist has exceeded the speed limit, I think they all should die - serves them right! You probably think that sounds pretty stupid. You would be correct, it is stupid.
6. "Why is it necessary to ride on the busy streets downtown when you can go 2 blocks in either direction and ride on a smaller side street without all the cars?"
This is another classic motorist rant. I wonder why this same question isn’t directed toward themselves. Why doesn’t the motorist use that same alternate route they suggest? It takes considerably less effort and time to divert an automated machine away from cyclists, so why not just turn the wheel and press the accelerator toward a detour? Maybe the motorist is just too stupid to realize that an automobile can do the very things those marketers advertised: quick handling, smooth acceleration, zoom, zoom. Idiots, I tell you.
Some of the excuses I've covered above, amount to motorists whining about their frustration concerning bicycles and the law. Often a motorist's complaints are replete with misconceptions about bicycle legalities. When a motorist proffers excuse #1 and is confronted with a retort, backed by evidence, that bicycles ARE indeed legally allowed travel on the roadway, often the #1 morphs into, "Well, there SHOULD be a LAW that excludes bicycles." This is just their stupidity backed into a corner. Why, would they reason, should a bicycle be excluded? Among the reasons given, I can imagine the overwhelming majority would say because they’re too slow. Great, sound reasoning right? So, only the fastest vehicles should be allowed on the road: Porsche, Ferrari, Corvette, Buick Grand National, etc. Oh, wait, that doesn’t work out for the SUV drivers. How about only vehicles that can travel over 40 miles per hour? Hmm, but that doesn’t work for that farmer needing to drive those hay bales down the road, or those semi-trucks trying to get over a pass in the Rocky Mountains. OK, how about, size. . . only the largest vehicles. Well, the SUV can now take to the road again, but the Honda drivers are out of luck. OK, we’ll qualify size with a minimum weight of 2,000 pounds. That eliminates motorcycles, but hey, they’re a minority anyway. . .and forget about walking or running anywhere - fat ass America, here we come! Oh wait, we’re already there. . .
Anyway, what the above mish-mash of warped justification ignores is that roads were merely created to travel from one destination to another via whatever means chosen or available, be it walking, horseback, cycling, automobile. In the U.S., unhindered travel is probably an “equal protection” right and a law of discrimination based on the class of transportation mode would likely violate that. Of course, if the law were to only allow a large, green Dodge to travel the roadway, I could mow down a few puny Honda drivers with self-rightousness and impunity since those Honda plebes probably deserved it.
The matter really goes right back to the fact that the average, urban/suburban driver just doesn’t want ANYONE in their way when THEY are on the road. Any deviation from the “zoom, zoom” fantasy that requires an extra turn of the wheel or a push on the brake pedal before the trip is through aggravates and irritates the motorist. The stupidity lies in the fact that these motorists encounter thousands of other motorists clogging the streets and crushing their dreams every day and the occasional, skinny bicyclist is to blame for the entire mess and that goddamn cyclist has a death wish about to come true!
Stupid people don’t embrace education, so that approach is doomed to failure.