(SUV with tinted windows and dealer plates blocking entire crosswalk and wheel chair ramp at the Santa Monica Pier.)
Human conflict, violence, and war still exist, but for the most part, human society has long ago moved past, big man with big stick takes your meat. We have created police to protect the formalized rights granted our citizens, and given police the power to carry out the mission of protecting those rights. We do not tolerate a big bully with a club enforcing their will on others, that is anti-democratic. Yet in conversations about cycling, one of several echoing refrains that comes up time and time again, is cars are bigger, so they win, cyclists and pedestrians lose, so get out of the way. We don't tell kids that are smaller or weaker, don't go to school because you might get hurt by the bigger kids. Why do we tolerate this line of thinking on the road?
Here is a quote from the LA Times comment board, from the recent story circulating of the 81 year old driver that failed to yield while making a left turn and plowed into a group of cyclists, resulting in serious injuries and a helicopter emergency airlift for 3 of the 4 riders involved. I picked the comment below out because it typifies anti-cycling or mode bias sentiment. Like most of these sorts of comments, it follows a pattern, and could easily be interchanged with comments from a hundred different news stories on bicycling.
"Whose to blame? Sounds like the driver didn't give the cyclists the right of way or just flat out didn't see them. Hope they heal, but I hope this doesn't fuel the 'renegade' cyclists seeking equality on the road, but rather shows that they aren't safe and need to realize that the big dog is always gonna beat the little dog no matter how much barking the little one does."This wasn't the only comment like this, and some were far more blunt in saying bikes shouldn't be allowed on public roads for their own safety. Do we want a civilization that gives free reign to motorists to be bullies? Some citizens have guns, many do not. Do we tell the citizens that don't, hey don't go outside, you aren't as well armed? Besides what should be apparent and serious ethical flaws with such line of thinking, it does not hold up when you apply it to attitudes toward other vehicles of various sizes.
No one questions the fact that a 16 wheel semi-truck will smash a car to bits in a collision, but we don't hear these same motorists call to remove cars from truck traffic. Cars drivers are allowed to drive on the same roads as buses and cross intersections with trains. Collisions between a car and the much bigger train, truck or bus are all instances where a car, in spite of all it's whizbang crumple zones and fluffy air bags, is simply no match. What about cars of different sizes, should we ban smart cars from sharing the road with SUV's. Like most comments by bike haters, they only want to apply their logic in a way convenient to their own interest. They think cyclists don't belong, so they only apply their line of thinking toward cycling.
If you really follow down this path of logic, only large trucks should be allowed to use the roads and highways. They are after all the biggest dogs on the road. I'm sure truck drivers would love that, maybe they could deliver on time without all the inefficient cars in their way. Since I think most people would object to only trucks being allowed on the street, we have to figure out a way to coexist, and make our streets work and serve all users, efficiently and safely.
As a society, America has viewed a ballpark rate of 40,000 annual traffic fatalities as reasonably acceptable collateral damage in getting from A to B. That has to change. It's much more than a cycling issue, most of those killed are not cyclists, they are drivers and their passengers. For all the safety features of the modern automobile, in America we still lose on our roads the equivalent of about 6 jumbo jets loaded with passengers crashing every month. Most of them people who were inside a car. Could you imagine the uproar if passenger planes started falling out of the sky at that rate?
Planes have a lot of safety specific features, like modern cars do, but there is no replacement for a good pilot. We need safer drivers on our roads. Drivers who are well educated, responsible, and are not intoxicated, intexticated, or falling asleep at the wheel. Drivers who still have the mental capacity to handle the demands of turning left (one study found each additional year of age after 65 increases the odds of getting into a crash involving turning left by 8 percent).
We need to put life before license.
So no, we will not back down and let the bully win. If fighting for the rights of cyclists makes me a renegade, so be it. This little dog will keep on barking.