Saturday, January 09, 2010

righteousness on all sides, everyone loses.

A friend of mine forwarded me an article about the case where a doctor was convicted of assaulting some bicyclists when he abruptly applied the brakes to his car to "teach them a lesson". Two of the cyclists went into the doctor's windshield.

The case reeks of he said, he said. The driver claims that the bicyclists were being aggressive and rude, and the cyclists said the driver was driving hostilely. It is likely that the drive was excessively impatient and the cyclists got riled up and tensions escalated.

Bicycle advocates have written letters and appeals that the driver be given a harsh sentence to serve as a warning to others. However well intentioned the appeals, what seemed lacking in the coverage was the following:

1) The cyclists appeared to be recreational cyclists. They have every right to ride on the road, but my experience in the hills I live locally that many roadies who like hills, share the same traits as BMW drivers. Not a perfect indicator of aggressive rude behavior, but not a bad predictor either. Was attitude involved.

2) Recreational cyclists tend not to be commuting cyclists. In addition to drivers being reminded that bikes are legal vehicles on the road. Governments need to appropriate revenue for making bicycles first class citizens for all integrations. Part of the danger of cyclist automobile issues is that bikes are so rare relative to cars. In countries where bicycles are commonplace, cars are less freaked out by bikes. Recreational cyclists need to advocate for cycling as part of civic life not an afterthought.

3) Cyclists are the best ambassadors and enforcers for cyclists. If cyclists see bad behavior from their fellow cyclists they need to call it out.

Lest I be blamed for blaming the victim in this incident.

1) Drivers need to realize that they are operating a hazard. They are licensed for a reason. Trying not to miss a phone call and not missing a pedestrian or cyclist is not a balanced world view.

2) Drivers have to wonder, can a world structured for cars be sustainable. Taking a moment to get out of the car and trying alternative transportation such as cycling would foster empathy. The most likely response will be this sucks, I'm going to drive. But if one continues to drive, one can appreciate what cyclists are experiencing. Not everyone who rides their bikes has the same choice.

Righteousness is great in a perfect world, in a world of tradeoffs, perhaps a little mutual understanding could have avoided this unfortunate incident.


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