The Truth About Bikes and Cars

August 6, 1998
  Tonight, a few words for Nancy of Oft-Clueless:

"Oh, shut up!"

This journal's on my car crash list; you know, the ones you avert your eyes from and then look at anyway between your fingers. I check in every couple of days as cardiopulmonary therapy -- she's such a wack that I usually end up laughing out loud at what a loon she is or having my blood pressure rise because she bugged me. She really takes the prize -- the booby prize.

She's this angry, over-the-hill hipster still clinging desperately to her teenage years, loves to natter on about what trendy beer she drank today, has a completely unearned condescending attitude toward fellow journal-ists (and the world at large), writes an inch-deep one-dimensional journal, and is obsessed with -- and two-faced about -- her superiority as a cyclist over those of us who aren't. But, bewilderingly to me, she's fairly popular, so you probably already know who she is and so knew all that.

What's got my dander up with her tonight is her dander being up over someone else. It seems this other journal-ist made a passing comment about being stuck behind a cyclist on a narrow road and suggested that the cyclist may have been at some risk in riding that particular stretch of road. What? Someone said something that, if one stretches one's imagination to its limits, could be construed as negative about bicycling? Oh no! Nancy's on the case! Stand by for rabid spewing.

Well, Nancy gave us her usual illogical what-for on the subject of why bikes are as good as or better than cars: Hey, that comment about it being risky to ride on a winding, narrow road where there's no shoulder for cyclists to pull off on; was that a veiled threat? How could it possibly be dangerous? Don't you know bikes are people too? Don't you know they have equal status on the road? Why do people think it's risky for a twelve-pound bike to block the road, but they don't when a two-ton tractor does it? So what if you got held up by a bike? What's your hurry anyway? Why do you have to go so darned fast? God, I hate cars, and I especially hate the people who drive them. Yadda, yadda, yadda...


Um... Excuse me, Ms. Hypocrite? You drive a car too, don't you? Oh, you only drive it when it's raining or cold or you're tired or you're late or you don't feel like biking in or the moon's in Jupiter. I beg your pardon, I obviously didn't understand. I thought you were really committed to this biking thing. I didn't realize that riding part-time gives you license to rail against everyone else who drives. The way you carry on, I'd expect that you'd refuse to even ride in a car, let alone [horrors!] drive one yourself...or own one. And I certainly wouldn't expect you to be happy that your husband's exhaust-spewing, smog test failing, pollution increasing truck got a two year pass before it has to be tested again. It seems to me that you're preaching a lot of "do as I say, not as I do" and getting mighty damned huffy while you're at it. I dunno, that just feels a bit hypocritical to me, a little false, a little... well... get-the-fuck-over-yourself. But that's just me. I drive a big ol' smokey truck that doesn't block traffic and won't get me killed in an accident, so what do I know?

Well, I think I do know a few things about common sense, so let me take a moment to try to educate you on why a bike isn't as safe as a car. It boils down to physics. If your bike collides with my truck, who's going to lose? You are. I might get my paint scratched, but your bike is going to be an accordion and you're probably going to end up in the hospital. It's a simple matter of my mass is greater than yours. Sure, you might have the right of way and I might be wrong for running you over, but guess what? You're still toast. And I'm not. But we'll inscribe "She Had The Right Of Way" on your tombstone. That'll even things up. Uh huh.

Look, it's a wonderful thing that you're riding your bike (when it's convenient) and thus saving the ozone layer, but you've really got to get over that Road Warrior attitude. It's going to get you killed, and it's ruining your mental tranquility in the meantime. When you're out toodling along in traffic lanes because, damn it, you've got the right, and you're getting all pissed off at how inconsiderate we drivers are, consider that you're intruding into Autoworld. That lovely, smooth tarmac wasn't put there for you bikers, right-of-way though you may have. It was designed to be used by thousand-pound machines travelling at high rates of speed, and that's how it's used when you're not around. We try to look out for you when you're among us, but you really oughtn't take offense when we get annoyed at you for getting in the way and slowing us down. Who's coming into whose world? You don't see us driving onto your bike paths and demanding that you speed up, do you?

So when this other journalist expressed some concern (not a threat, you paranoid wack) over a biker and his child's safety, she had a valid point. Sure, he may have had the right to be on that road, but that would be cold comfort if she'd come tooling around a blind corner at speed -- as the road was designed to be used -- and ended up with a grill full of biker because this yutz was grunting along at 10 mph in the middle of the road. It's dangerous for bikes to coexist with cars. Accidents happen, and when they do the bikers lose. If you're going to take your little bike into the car's world, it's incumbent upon you to watch your ass.

It's my road, Nancy. Welcome to it.

Copyright © 1998
Chuck Atkins