Tuesday, November 18, 2014

9 things drivers need to stop saying in the bikes vs cars debate


Cross-posted from Wired -- There are certain things guaranteed to set off an internet firestorm. Talk about climate change, mention Monsanto, or bring up the treatment of women in video games. And you can, especially in recent years, piss off a whole bunch of people simply by writing about bikes and cars. Nothing seems to bring out the angry caps lock and personal attacks faster than transportation issues.

A recent report showing more cyclists are dying on US streets prompted a remarkable number of stories about cyclist safety. And in the comments section of each, people rehashed the same tired arguments over and over.

So, before the next big wave of internet arguing, I propose we retire a few overused and underwhelming opinions in the bikes vs. cars debate. Though I drive and bike, my allegiances skew toward cyclists (feel free to scroll straight to the comments and yell at me). But beyond my personal judgments lie a great many studies and data showing most of the pro-motorist arguments just don’t hold up. I know it’s hard to be wrong, especially on the internet, but here are a few sentences I hope we see less of in the future. 

1) Cyclists always break the law

Let’s get this one out of the way first, because it’s the one you hear most often: “I can’t respect cyclists because they ignore stop signs” or “Cyclists don’t seem to understand the rules of the road.” And yeah, when I’m on my bike, I sometimes bend traffic laws and see other cyclists doing the same.

The question is, how often does this happen? And how angelic are drivers? The data is a little hard to come by: Nobody, as far as I can tell, has placed a camera on the shoulders of drivers and cyclists and measured how well they follow the rules of traffic. But there is some information. One British study found that six out of ten cyclists admit to running red lights. Last year, New York magazine sent an intern out to see how cyclists handled traffic lights at three intersections. She found only 14, 22, and 36.6 percent of riders stopped at red lights, respectively.

How about cars? Well, an internet questionnaire found two-thirds of drivers admit to breaking the law at some point. The Society of Automotive Engineers concluded that US drivers use their turn signals just half the time when changing lanes, and only a quarter of the time when turning improperly, which could be responsible for as many as two million accidents annually. And that 14-to-36 percent compliance rate for bikers? It’s a little offset by the fact that New York City drivers collectively run 1.23 million red lights per day.

2) Roads are designed for cars  [Continue reading ...]

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