Promote a healthy community, or pander to the sentiments which destroy community?
Here is the latest installment of the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial disdain for the rights of bicycle drivers to influence their own safety without the onus of discriminatory laws. This cartoon ran over the weekend.
Aside from demonstrating a lack of understanding of the issue, the inflammatory nature of this cartoon is irresponsible. This is hate-mongering against people in our community who are exposed and vulnerable to attack. How would this be received if they substituted a person from another unpopular minority and attributed a completely fallacious stereotype to him? It would be equally mean-spirited and unfunny, but probably draw significant outrage.
Let’s get real
Motorists can back up traffic for miles all by themselves.
I don’t know any bicycle drivers who enjoy holding up traffic or would do so if there was a safe alternative. Fortunately, in my experience, it is rare to cause significant delay and nearly impossible to cause delay that would affect a motorist’s total trip time. Hundreds of car drivers pass me every week without so much as a second of delay. Perhaps a dozen or so have to wait 10 seconds. Occasionally, someone might have to wait 30 or 40 seconds because all the other car traffic makes it hard for them to change lanes (this usually happens after a traffic light where they’ve queued up behind me).
I once held up traffic for a little over 1/2 mile (almost 3,000ft) because I had no safe alternative. I found it uncomfortable even though no one honked. I took the very first driveway that came up on my right and turned off to allow the cars to pass. I waited for a long gap, then went back onto the road. I eventually caught up to all those cars at the next traffic light, just as they had caught up to the ones ahead of us.
We suffer from impatience and lack of perspective on the road. People in cars inch along in traffic on I-4 for hours. They sit through multiple light cycles at major intersections every day, cumulatively losing hours of their lives. Why? Because most people choose to drive single-occupant vehicles. Then they decrease their gas mileage by 30% accelerating to the next traffic light so they can wait some more.
On the other hand, a person pedaling a bicycle might cause a person reclining comfortably in a car to slow momentarily in order to pass safely (i.e. not hurt anyone!). Yet that warrants a political cartoon characterizing people who use bicycles as selfish for not wanting to be mandated to a door zone, conflict-zone or debris-filled gutter lane for the illusory convenience of people who use cars.
Imagine a healthy community
Imagine how much more civil our roads would be if we could restore proper perspective to this! Imagine what a beautiful, livable community we would have if more people felt comfortable choosing a bicycle for transportation because they didn’t fear hostility from people who choose a car. Imagine if choosing a bicycle didn’t make you a barely-tolerated, second-class citizen in the mind of our traffic culture — reducing the worth of your safety to less than the tender, momentary convenience of the people choosing cars.
Fortunately, the vast majority of the car-driving citizens I encounter in the urban core of Orlando are courteous. Their behavior does not reflect the ugly sentiment behind the Sentinel’s cartoon. I reward them for that every day with smiles and friendly waves, because the environment they help create makes the choice to drive my bike a superior experience to driving my car. I want to extend the quality of life I have here out to the larger metro area. It’s easy to be nice. If people in Orlando can do it, people in Altamonte Springs can, too. Civility benefits everyone in the community, no matter what form of transportation they choose.
Positive leadership from the media sure would go a long way to help raise awareness and foster understanding and civility.