Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bikes v. Cars

The new "war" between cars and bicycles erupts anew in Portland, with the local media stoking the fires in a vain attempt to sell papers, increase viewership and to continue the strife. All the while, the cycling community feels more and more under attack from various angles. As a cyclists, we're used to being under attack. Everyday is a challenge and adventure between motorized traffic, other cyclists, the traffic environment (i.e. roads) and the weather, being under attack is a normal thing. But this new spate in incidents really takes to task the issues facing cyclists and drivers in a city with a burgeoning cycling culture.

Sparked by an incident over the weekend where a cyclist started beating a car of a man who had cautioned him to not blow stoplights, then this week where a driver responded in turn running down a cyclist who yelled at him to slow down. And the local media jumped all over it. From local bike blog Bikeportland.org, to the Oregonian and local TV news, like Pavlov's dogs they jumped on the story pointing fingers at cyclists and drivers to explain to odd change of situations. Most have backed off, toning down the inflammatory nature, some even trying to look at each side of the story. one evn going so far to showcase how in spite of the increasing numbers of cyclists in our fair town, the accient rate has actually been going down (dilution effect).

So what is the answer to the strife? Let me share...

1st: Everyone needs to calm down. Being uptight and ina rush to get everywhere does no one any good. In fact that entitled "me first" attitude has contributed to both cases above. We all need to realize that we all share the road, and not just between cars and bicycles, but pedestrians, scooters, wheelchairs, donkeys and porter chairs.

2nd: Cyclists need to get off their high entitled horse. Yes, it sucks to have to follow the laws, especially when it is things like stop signs and signaling to turn, but we are smaller, less protected and need to be more aware. Do I blow stop signs? On occasion. Do I blow stop lights? Are you crazy? By being the bigger person, we can show that not every cyclist is a stuck-up urban hipster who flaunts the law when the feel like it. So do the right thing: ride on the corect side of the road, use the bike lane when present, ride single-file when neccessary, follow things like stop signs and stop lights along with traffic control devices, ride like it is a privelege - not you right and try to follow that Golden Rule: do unto others...as you would ahve them do to you.

3rd: Drivers, pull your head out of your butts when you get behind the wheel. Put away the cell phone, make-up and fast food and pay attention to one thing: driving. Too often we see peole doing far too many things behind the wheel to the detriment of what they should be concentrating on. Realize that there are other people sharing the road with you, people who are less protected and more vulnerable than anyone in a car. Show these folks the common courtesy
that you would to other car, and in that same vein, show the other drivers that courtesy as well. But mostly, slow down. Getting there 2 minutes faster will not make true difference (unless you're heart surgeon or an ER doc) and by doing so you may negatively impact someone's life beyond what you believe.

I'm mostly a cyclist, I commute by bike and try to do errands as able the same way, but I also drive. I see things from both sides of the complaint, but am more biased towards those on bikes so I tend tosee things in that light. Mostly though I think folks need to take a step back, calm down, take a deep breath and get back to what really matters in life. Settle down folks, a little courtesy goes a long ways and karma is a bitch.

Be safe out there!

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