Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bikephobes Should Shut the Hell Up

I wrote a draft of this over the weekend, but with another cyclist injured yesterday, which will undoubtedly be taken up by the ignoramus group as vindication that cyclists don't belong on the road, I think it is all the more important to have a say in this "discussion".

My wife feels strongly that I should not have a blog post with the title, "Bikeaphobes Should Shut the Hell Up." And maybe I shouldn't, but I am tired of people offering such stupid "arguments" about whether bikes should be on the roads or whether we should be forced to stay on the sidewalks or maybe rounded up and put in detention centers where the true Americans who pay their taxes can keep a wary eye on us cyclists who would otherwise just be out there using up their precious roads without paying our fair share.


So, as a public service I offer you the following point/counter-point for future cyclist vs. ignoramus discussions.

1. Bikes Should Stay OFF the Roads and Stay ON the Sidewalks where they belong.

According the the laws of our state and every other of which I am aware, bicycles have the legal right to be on the roads with very limited exceptions. Those exceptions include high-speed interstate-type roads where there are appropriate alternatives for bicycles. Other than that, we cyclists have the legal right to be there. If you don't like it, please contact your local political representative to propose changing the law, but leave me out of it until you get some dumb-ass legislator to go along with you.

You should also know that it is illegal for cyclists to use the sidewalks in many areas, specifically in downtown Spokane. In my many years in this area, I can only recall one instance of a cyclist injuring someone else, which was a bike rider on a sidewalk who hit a pedestrian. My recollection, which may not be correct, is that the pedestrian was stepping out of a doorway and was hit and quite seriously injured, and I think disabled permanently in some fashion.

On the other hand, I can think of numerous instances in which car drivers have hurt cyclists, including at least two deaths in Spokane this year.

So, how is that car drivers are getting the worst of this deal? Are there seriously people out there who still can only see cyclists as a 1950's version of Leave it Beaver children riding on the sidewalk to go to Jimmy's house? Anyone who wants to have any credibility in discussing transportation or cycling issues should have left this argument behind about the same time cavemen invented fire.

I read a comment yesterday that cyclists should pay registration fees and the money can be put towards creation of bike paths. This is frankly dumb in so many ways that it is hard to fathom. Let's at least be a little bit realistic in this discussion.

2. Bike Riders Should Be Forced to Obey the Rules of the Road, or alternatively, Bike Riders Shouldn't be Allowed on the Road because the Don't Follow the Same Rules!

Okay, as a starting point on this one, how about if we agree that all cyclists do not obey the rules of the road. Both cyclists and ignoramuses can agree on that, right? But more importantly, can the ignoramuses recognize that not all car drivers obey the rules of the road? Or, as a corollary, would the ignoramuses like to be considered as ALL being rule-breaking, law-flouting idiots because there are, in fact, rule-breaking, law-flouting, car-driving idiots on the road? Would that be the best way to proceed having a thoughtful conversation? I thought not.

So why is that idiot drivers who see a cyclist (or even more than one) run a red light decide that ALL cyclists run red lights and that ALL cyclists must therefore be godless communists who are a menace to our patriotic, apple pie and motherhood way of life? How many times have you seen Letters to the Editor saying that they saw a cyclist almost cause and accident and therefore ______________. Fill in your own blank because there are lots of options, but all of them start with the gross and absurd assumption that seeing one cyclist do something means that all cyclists must do exactly the same thing. Sure, just like all gun owners do the same things with guns. Or all smokers obey or disobey no smoking signs. Or all car drivers behave the same. Or all teachers or students or parents or cops or politicians or christians or muslims or gays or straights. They're all the same right? Each and every single one of THEM. By the way, important note. Please remember that gross generalizations only work for THEM. When it is US, that is really unfair.

3. People Who Ride Bikes are Wholly Different and Completely Separate People Than People Who Drive Cars.

A Letter to the Editor in the Oct. 2nd Spokesman-Review suggests that bike riders are getting a "free ride" on the car drivers expensive roads because bikes themselves are not licensed and/or registered and further that we use the example of car drivers and horse riders learning to get along and not make one side pay for all of the improvements necessary for cars to be on the dirt paths.

The letter writer, by the way, is Kat Fiessinger, who shares a first name with the person who commented at the Inlander and on this blog in a similar vein - and

So, putting aside the compelling argument that horse riders and horseless carriage drivers worked together, harmoniously and hand-in-hand, to pay for roads so that cars could then run down and displace the horses, could we briefly consider Ms. Fiessinger's main point? Which is that cyclists don't pay for roads but use them.

In Ms. Fiessinger's world, people who ride bikes do not own cars and pay taxes, licenses or fees for them; do not buy gas and pay taxes on it; do not own homes and pay property taxes on them; do not buy any goods and pay sales tax on them; and do not have jobs or incomes and pay income taxes. Because a person, no, excuse me, a cyclist, would have to do each and every one of these things to avoid helping to pay for the roads. In other words, every cyclist Ms. Fiessinger sees disobeying traffic laws and damaging her precious roads are also amazingly fiscally-adept anarchists, communists or otherwise dirty hippies. That is simply remarkable!

Also, this revelation that Ms. Fiessinger has brought to my attention makes me feel singularly foolish. You see, I ride bicycles with people who PURPORT to be among other things, doctors, lawyers, engineers, accountants, business owners, consultants, firemen, teachers, construction workers, sales people and a whole variety of other jobs and professions. I CANNOT believe that they have all fooled me for so long, just pretending to be contributing members of society when IN FACT they are using up our ROADS and NOT PAYING FOR THEM! HOW DARE THEY!

And here I am, being fooled like that AND I am still paying all of those damn taxes! Clearly, something has to change.

Oh, wait just a moment, I have an idea. What could change is that ignoramuses could pull their brains out of their henies and recognize that all members of a society contribute to that society and should have a say in how the society resources are allocated.

Oh my god, I just realize I have become a communist! Well, it was a slippery slope and the day I threw my leg over a bike it was just a matter of time. I guess this is the end of this blog as I will be dropping out of society so that I can ride my bike and not pay taxes full time. It looks like that is my only option. Either that, or we could, possibly, maybe, try to have a rational discussion about people having the freedom to choose whether they drive a car or ride a bike and how to allocate the resources that we ALL contribute to supporting that freedom.

No, that wouldn't work.


  1. If the various taxes that people pay to drive cars (gas taxes, licensing fees, etc.) covered the cost of road maintenance, then there would BE NO STREET BOND. Since that is a property tax, and not based on the damage caused to roads, cyclists and pedestrians pay MORE than their share of road maintenance.
    - Ventura

  2. I liked the title just as it is. Btw, I own two cars.

  3. Here's a funny one for you. Kat, who wrote the letter you link to above, wrote a letter in Oct. 2007 saying it's a shame cars park on the sidewalks and block infrastructure for pedestrians (Conveniently linked below her most recent letter:

    Last time I looked we didn't have a special "walkers' tax" or "sneaker tax" to fund sidewalks. We seem to have acknowledged that having infrastructure for people who walk (however incomplete it is, and that's a real problem here) is a normal part of the street that we all pay for through the many tax/revenue sources that go into paying for streets.

    Ms. Fiessinger may want to go back and look at the history of how the movement for paved roads got started in this country. She can think the League of American Wheelmen (now the League of American Bicyclists).

    Whoever seized the rhetorical advantage and created the perception that streets are just for cars did the public discourse no favors. Our transportation system is for the purpose of moving people and goods, and there are many ways of doing this. It would sure be nice if there were more posts on mainstream media sites from reasonable people who recognize this.

    The whole generalization piece makes me a little crazy too. Surprise, surprise--there are nice people, there are jerks, there are people who follow the law, there are people who don't. Some of them drive, some of them bike, some of them walk.


  4. I've attempted through the years to get a handle on the animosity towards cyclists -- after hearing some normally rational neighbors rant on about how cyclists should not be allowed on the roads. My conclusion is that much of it is fear. Their fear is that they are going to strike a cyclist some day and end up losing their wealth through lawsuits, higher insurance rates, etc.

    Re: Sidewalks

    On occasion there are street environments that are dangerous to cyclists and pedestrians. In my opinion, those are the times to ride elsewhere -- but at the pace of those who are walking. Sometimes it makes sense to hop off the bike and walk...

    How about those drivers who drive around with their eyes mostly on the communications device in their laps? The miracle is that there are not more accidents. At least 1 out of 5 drivers who come by my shop have their heads down and no hands on the wheel.