Los Angeles Business Journal

Getting in Gear on Bikes

OP-ED: Arguments against sharing the road with cyclists should no longer be driving the discussion. By RICHARD RISEMBERG Monday, May 9, 2011

With close to 150,000 Angelenos basking in the afterglow of bicycle fest CicLAvia, it is easy to forget that all too many other Angelenos are assiduously sharpening their tongues to continue the vicious spite campaign against any support whatsoever of practical cycling.

A cursory exploration of blogs and newspaper article comment sections clearly shows this. The ubiquitous Mr. Anonymous is ever ready to drop his cluster bombs of accusations, slurs and imaginary factoids in a relentless campaign to prevent even the most minor cession of a smidgen of road space to cycling in a city whose roads are choked, not by bicyclists, but by drivers.

Yet more and more middle-class Americans are taking to bicycles for transportation. They are tired of having their lives dominated by their cars, and since 40 percent of trips made in this country are less than two miles, why not make sense once in a while?

So, let us review the four fallacies of antibike vituperation, and see how they stand up against reality:

• The “scofflaw cyclists” argument

I find it grimly amusing that motorists are so affronted by cyclists who roll through stop signs and even red lights. Not because I approve of running stop signs, but because motorists are so thoroughly addicted to the practice themselves – and so much more dangerous when they do it, outweighing cyclists 200 to one. For laughs, I once spent a month counting the motorists who actually came to a full stop at a stop sign. Answer: two. In New York, where a Draconian crackdown on “scofflaw cyclists” is underway, Department of Transportation and Police Department data for the five years ending in 1999 show the following:

Pedestrians killed by bicyclists: 1 annually.

Pedestrians killed by motor vehicles: 250 annually.

This is in a city where few drive. It does indicate where any crackdowns should be focused, though.

• The “cyclists don’t pay road taxes” argument

This is particularly rich in hypocrisy. As a matter of fact, according to numerous studies (my favorite being one by the Transportation Department in good ol’ conservative Texas), car and fuel fees and taxes never pay for more than half the cost of building and maintaining roads for motorists. In fact, since 1947, the shortfall in user fees for these asphalt handouts has been $600 billion, making private driving the most socialistic program the United States has ever seen. Those who drive less or not at all are overtaxed in every other aspect of their lives to pay for “free” roads, “free” ways and “free” public parking for motorists. Cyclists just want the right to use a little of that road space that they have paid and paid for over the years, but keep getting shoved out of by self-righteous drivers.

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