The Sunday Greensboro News-Record prints a letter to the editor from Charles Taylor that begins:
Every day there are more people donning Spandex and taking to the
roads on their bicycles. I don’t support banning bicycles on the road.
That said, most people, bicyclists included, have witnessed cyclists
coast through red lights, cross medians, pass cars halted at
stoplights, ride several abreast, etc., giving lawful cyclists bad
reputations and angering drivers.
Yes, there are cyclists who run red lights, ride two abreast, yada yada. Just as there are drivers who exceed the speed limit, drive under the influence, etc. Bad apples on both sides, okay?
But the really objectionable part of his letter is implication that accident statistics are linked to the behavior of recreational cyclists. The reasoning goes like this: There are recreational cyclists on the roads. Some ride irresponsibly. There were 41,000 injuries to U.S. cyclists in 2003 (a stat he cites), of which almost a third in NC were due to cyclists failing to yield the right of way. Those injuries have something to do with the way rec cyclists are riding.
I ride three to five times a week with groups of rec riders. Generally, the groups tend to be self-policing; we see someone in the group riding unsafely, and we speak up. However, along our routes we pass plenty of other folks on bicycles who ride on the wrong side of the street, weave back and forth into traffic, and generally behave as if they are oblivious to automotive traffic. But they’re not dressed in cycling clothes, so they escape the notice of folks like Mr. Taylor.
In the couple of years I’ve been riding recreationally in the Triad, I’ve known one person who was in a car/bike accident. The cause? The driver was drunk and hit the unlucky cyclist from behind. Other accidents I’ve seen or heard about were due to cyclists colliding and dogs running into bikes’ paths. Meanwhile, the cyclists who end up as statistics in news stories aren’t spandex-clad riders — they’re folks who are using their bikes to get from point A to point B.
Whoever the cyclist, it’s a tragedy when the accident happens. But it’s incorrect for Mr. Taylor to point to the most visible cyclists on the road and imply that we’re the cause of the problem.