If it’s that awful…

Buy a motorcycle or scooter or take the bus… or suck it up and drive your car. Better yet, take a bike ed class and learn how cycling in traffic can be easy and enjoyable.

Yes, we all face BS from motorists from time to time. And even those of us who pro-actively protect our space get buzzed by a Neanderthal once in a while. But overall, if we had to “risk life and limb” every day to get to work, how many of us would do it?

In case you didn’t see it already, Friday’s Wall Street Journal sported the sensational cover story “Risking Life and Limb, Riding a Bike to Work in L.A.” I’ve seen it reprinted (without comment) by at least a half dozen cycling blogs and websites. In fact, when the above link stops working you’ll be able to search by name and find it forever.

I found the article annoying. Perhaps not as annoying as the MSNBC article in which I was quoted out of context from another news story that had NOTHING to do with the topic of the article (cheap, lazy and unethical journalism). But I digress.

As I’ve mentioned before, we all have the innate propensity to blow negative incidents out of proportion. But we do ourselves a disservice when we accentuate the negative, and especially the danger.

The Danger Myth

First of all, the Danger Myth is thoroughly disproved by both statistics and the collective experiences of competent vehicular cyclists. But more importantly, this myth leads to very destructive behaviors by novice cyclists, motorists, the justice system and even bikeway promoters:

  • Cyclists who believe the danger myth operate in ways that actually increase their conflicts and risks.
  • Motorists who believe the danger myth believe we are doing something “unsafe/hazardous” and feel justified in harassing us and devaluing our safety.
  • Traffic justice has long been a tragic issue for us, largely because of the perception that we are doing something as risky as skydiving.
  • Some bikeway promoters know that many people are deterred from cycling by the danger myth, and they feel justified in spending billions of taxpayer dollars on facilities that make cyclists FEEL safe, while actually decreasing their safety and efficiency. (I’m talking about cycle-tracks, specifically, though I’m not a fan of urban bike lanes. While I think conflict-free suburban/semi-rural MUPs are a nice break, separate facilities don’t work, and are not necessary, in a dense urban area)

Other Responses to the Article

I haven’t seen a comment yet from Dan Gutierrez or Brian DeSosa, but their videos of riding on L.A. arterials speak for themselves.

I’ve found two interesting blog posts about the article.

Will Campbell hated it, saying:

I’ve commuted by bike to varying degrees throughout most of my life, and presently ride 30-miles roundtrip every workday in L.A… No doubt I’ve encountered the occasional close-call or irate/inconsiderate motorist, but I choose this alternate method of commuting ultimately because I enjoy it thanks to the vast majority of the miles I’ve pedaled being entirely uneventful… That may not make for good copy, but its far closer to the reality than the limb-risking picture you’ve helped perpetuate.

On the other side, Scott Livingston was pleased with the article. And, well, it’s not a mystery why:

A motorist squeezed me against the curb three separate times as she passed me! I kept going by her as she slowed for traffic and lights.

OK, friends and neighbors, what’s the definition of insanity?

The people who complain most bitterly in life are often creating their own problems, it’s not much different in cycling. No matter where you live, there are lots of things you can do to make your cycling experience frustrating and stressful. And no matter where you live, there are a few easy things you can learn to make it easy and stress-free.

Which would you prefer?