Cyclists on high horses, told to get off them

Cyclists on high horses, told to get off them

That is according to Ali Clarke.

This Family Feud episode just won’t stay down. If it were an isolated incident outside of the never-ending struggle between cyclists and motorists, it wouldn’t have even registered. As it happens, it is very much on the leading edge of an extremely hot topic – a topic that is centered around the worth of a group of people’s personal safety. Huge numbers of cyclists are extremely interested in improving the dangerous conditions they are faced with each day on the roads at the hands of motorists. Motorists – most likely a small minority of them – are keenly interested in not wanting to accommodate that, and respond with hostility. On top of that, popular media has taken the side of the motorist to the point of (with the point of?) irresponsibly inflaming the issue, cyclists then feel increasingly marginalized and targeted, and now the Family Feud episode has taken this topic and made light of it.

Ali Clarke doesn’t quite get it. She says that her and her family and friends all ride bikes, but somehow she’s still missing the bigger picture.

In an opinion piece she wrote for The Advertiser – and let’s keep in mind that it is an opinion piece – she thinks the strong reaction from cyclists to the Family Feud debacle is a huge overreaction from a self-righteous group of people. She then brings in the Emily Greenwood case and uses this to show how cyclists are just as bad as everyone else, just as dangerous, and just as in need of strict regulation as motorists.

To claim that cyclists are on high horses (stubborn arrogance, superiority) would infer that their claims are without basis, and that they consider themselves to be more important or valuable than they indeed are.

Generally speaking, then, what are cyclists claims? The most immediate claim is to have the ability to use a bicycle as a mode of transport without the ever-present threat of being dangerously harassed by motorists to the point of being injured or killed. A secondary claim is that cycling is a beneficial practice in terms of improving the health of the country and saving the country money, both in more general terms and from a decreased load on the health care system (and here, for another example), of improving traffic congestion (and here), parking congestion, workplace efficiency, mental health, personal finances, and the list goes on. How could you possibly ignore the benefits of cycling? Oh yeah, that’s right, cyclists annoy you.

While one could argue that, considering these things, cyclists might have a legitimate reason to be on high horses, generally speaking, they are not. Of course, some are, but show me a group of people who don’t have at least a couple of rouge members? Cyclists by and large just want to be able to cycle, not make sweeping controversial moral judgements about non-cyclists. The only time cyclists are elevated to moral outrage is in situations where we are put in danger by the carelessness of motorists, and definitely when that is made light of and ridiculed.

But Ms Clarke feels that cyclists are whining when no one else would be. That it’s undeserved. No one would get upset if Family Feud asked what annoys us about bus or taxi drivers, she asks. Well, taxi and bus drivers would, but that’s a different situation. Taxi and bus drivers aren’t going through a seemingly never-ending debate over their legitimacy as road users, nor is anyone making light of their rights or actively campaigning against things that would make them safer. As I said, if cycling were an uncontroversial and ubiquitous mode of transportation and wasn’t dragged through the mud by popular media at every opportunity, I would quite agree that this wouldn’t be an issue whatsoever.

That’s not the case, sadly.

So I’m left wondering, who are on their high horses, exactly? Average cyclists, or those who are so vocally against them? Apparently making fun of a dangerous situation is no big deal and cyclists need to pipe-down, and anyway, what about Ms Greenwood (sorry, this is an abysmal piece of writing, but it’s really the only article to cover the story)? Yeah, that’s right, cyclists! What have you got to say about yourselves now!?

I’ll take this one: it’s bad. Yep, the cyclist (who I am unaware of any charges being laid against, to date) hit her, which he shouldn’t have. Whether or not she was looking down at her phone while proceeding into the road wouldn’t remove any of the blame on the part of the cyclist. The lack of insurance is a seriously complicating factor in this case, and it would be better if there were something in place to protect pedestrians in these instances. I should think that some general fund collected from a general source would suffice, so as not to send motorists into a rage that they are subsidizing the actions of lawless cyclists.

Now, those instances. The cyclist/pedestrian one’s. Ms Clarke is appalled by the statement made by Craig Richards, CEO of Bicycle Network, on The Project (Jan 14, 2015), who said, “how often is there a collision between a pedestrian and a bike? It’s really not that often”. Oh, snap!

Except, he’s right. It’s not. Cyclists just aren’t that dangerous. Sure, they could be, I guess, but they’re not. It’s a rare enough occurrence for a cyclist to injure a pedestrian, never mind kill them, that I don’t see a problem with any exceptional cases being financially settled from a general fund (where people’s health insurance doesn’t cover any medical costs). Better that than some complicated registration scheme developed and administered to all cyclists that would likely put quite a few of them off cycling, and thereby lessening all the benefits of cycling listed above. For the number of instances that actually result in actual injuries to pedestrians, you could probably put a 50¢levy on all new bikes sold that would more than cover it given that well over 1 million bikes are sold each year in Australia (those are some high horses), if you want to put the cost squarely on cyclists.

Ok, so, the insurance issue is an issue, but not one that is, practically speaking, a significant one. Yes, lets talk about it, if you want to talk about it like adults.

The real, significant, and ongoing issue is that of the general attitude towards the safety concerns of cyclists at the hands of motorists, which is a big cause of cycling not being taken up by more people, and therefore a significant factor in keeping cycling from realizing its full benefit to society on a rather large scale.


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