A couple weeks ago a bunch of journalists from major international news outlets were having drinks somewhere (maybe The Billy Goat Tavern in Chicago’s basement) and wrote the same story.
Actually, they didn’t, but it’s surprisingly weird how close they were.
On Sunday the New York Times published “Is It O.K. To Kill Cyclists?”. Next, on Monday, Crain’s Chicago Business published “Why everyone hates bicyclists—and why they hate everyone back”.
Daniel Duane’s op-ed in NYT garnered a lot of response (7 of them are linked here, which doesn’t include Crain’s or The Weekly Standard). The Economist responded to the NYT article with “Cycling v cars: The American right-of-way” saying we should adopt laws like the Netherlands and gave several examples there of who’s liable for a crash between a car and bike (nearly always the driver). Bike Snob wrote the response I most agree with. Karen Altes of Tiny Fix Bike Gang got pissed. Twin City Sidewalks (in Minneapolis/St. Paul) wrote that “bicyclists need to stop blaming themselves for dangerous roads”, referring to the bicyclist in question, Daniel Duane, the NYT op-ed contributor.
Tanya Snyder, writing for one of my employer’s sister blogs Streetsblog Capitol Hill, headlined her own roundup post, “The Times Blows a Chance to Tackle America’s Broken Traffic Justice System”. Andrew Smith at Seattle Transit Blog said that he gave up cycling to work in the first week he tried it. Brian McEntee wrote on his blog Tales from the Sharrows about two scenarios to consider about “following laws” (which isn’t what cyclists or drivers should be aiming for).
David Alpert, who runs a Streetsblog-like blog called Greater Greater Washington, said that it’s not okay to kill cyclists, “but if a spate of other op-eds are any indication, it’s sure okay to hate them and the facilities they ask for in a quest for safety”. BikeBlogNYC later published myriad examples of how streets continue killing everyone who’s not driving a car.
Then The Weekly Standard published something very similar to Duane’s piece. I don’t know when – it’s in the issue marked for November 18, but I believe it went up Monday, with a sweet cover. It went by two names. On the cover, “A Plague of Bicyclists” (by Christopher Caldwell) and on the site, “Drivers Get Rolled: Bicyclists are making unreasonable claims to the road—and winning”.
Most of the proceeding discussions revolve around “who’s right”. And the Economist skirts discussing the answer and instead just gives the answer: the bicyclist, because they’re the ones who die.
When you are driving in the Netherlands, you have to be more careful than you would when driving in America. Does this result in rampant injustice to drivers when accidents occur? No. It results in far fewer accidents. As the ANWB [Royal Dutch Touring Club, like the AAA] says, some drivers may think the liability treatment gives cyclists “a blank check to ignore the rules. But a cyclist is not going to deliberately ride through a red light thinking: ‘I won’t have to pay the damages anyway.’ He is more likely to be influenced by the risk that he will land in the hospital.”
I like what Evan Jenkins, a sometimes urbanist blogger studying mathematics at University of Chicago, wrote on his Twitter timeline:
Glad to see the issue of automobile violence gaining traction among the (non-transit) tweeps I follow. I hope the conversation continues.
— Evan Jenkins (@ejenk) November 12, 2013
That’s encouraging. He linked to several of his past articles about cyclist murder.
Some stuff I’ve written on automobile violence: http://t.co/6hzGyO4WOj http://t.co/OXHsQUXDPH http://t.co/7RN8caMqoX
— Evan Jenkins (@ejenk) November 12, 2013
What’s also funny about this weekend’s bike-journo-fest is that Whet Moser, writing for Chicago Magazine, interviewed me two weeks ago about bike infrastructure and penned this uncomplicated, unruffled but comprehensive article saying “drivers and cyclists don’t have to be angry and fearful…with smart planning, a city can design safe roads for all.”
Chicago has started on that path. You know what might influence more change than any bike lane built? Speed cameras. And no, I won’t let them be removed.
Updated multiple times to add more responses to Duane’s op-ed.