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A deleted Facebook Cambridge Cycling rant

August 17, 2019

So, people who come here to complain about cyclist behavior, why?

  1. Can you actually show us it’s a problem with actual harms? So far it is incredibly anecdotal, nationwide we get one or two pedestrian deaths per year from a bike crash, usually in a crosswalk, usually with a bike moving 20mph or faster. For comparison, last year car crashes killed about 6200 pedestrians, if you average this out to per-trip, driving is about 15 times more dangerous for pedestrians. “I’m an avid cyclist and I have feels” is not enough evidence. I have feels too, what makes your feels more important than mine? Collect video, collect statistics, make your case.
  2. If you claim it’s about bike safety, have you noticed that the stats don’t support you? Most crashes in Cambridge are car problems — doorings, driver failures to see bikes in the road or yield to them if they do. Even in cases where cyclist law breaking was a factor, there are other mitigations that also work, like separate infrastructure and truck wheel guards. Humans cut corners and make mistakes, concrete is there all the time.
  3. If your claim is it’s about road respect, where’s your evidence? Nothing else works this way, we don’t hear “take away crosswalks and shorten crossing times because pedestrians jaywalk.” We don’t hear “let’s not add more lanes to the road because drivers speed”. What’s so special about bikes that this would be different?  An excess of car crashes on a road where everyone speeds is actually used as justification to spend millions of dollars on road improvements, for example, Route 2 at Crosby’s Corner.
  4. EVEN IF THESE WERE TRUE, what the heck do you expect anyone here to do about it? I’ve actually tried, twice, it’s hard work to catch a light-running cyclist (they run lights, after all) and when you do and say “this makes us all look bad”, they just ignore you, and god knows that does not scale. Drivers do not then recognize that you are an awesome scofflaw-correcting cyclist and let you take the whole lane w/o honking, turns out actually they just want you out of the way.

Lest you think I am some scruffy law-breaking cyclist, no, I was Very Effective for about 30-35 years, I helped gather information about bicycle laws in other states to support Brownsberger’s changes to bike laws a few years back. I’m an actual Avid Motorist, driven in many parts of the US (drove stick in SF!), drove to work for years, worked on engines, transmissions, brakes, did some on-road rallying when I was a kid.  It was after chasing down scofflaw #2 above that I realized most of the points above — that “cyclists need to obey the laws if they want respect” is a scam; we don’t apply that rule to anyone else on the road, and there’s no way that I myself can obtain group perfection, and my efforts to obtain that impossible goal would go unrecognized.  

What I’d like to see is sensible laws, and sensible enforcement. Treating slow, yielding, bikes as pedestrians is a great default, the existing sidewalk bans in Cambridge (Harvard, Central, Inman, Porter, a few other crowded places — probably ought to add Kendall) make plenty of sense. Idaho stop (again, yielding to pedestrians) works fine.

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