The only thing Americans hate more than taxes and soccer is a bicyclist. We are a car culture. Cars are the moral majority around these parts. Anything or anyone that messes with out beloved automobiles fills us with a righteous fury that can only be quenched by beer, guns, or both.
Recently California enacted a law mandating a three-foot buffer between cyclists and vehicles when both are traveling on city streets, regardless if there is a bike lane. This is to ensure that people on bikes aren’t killed, something that happens more in America then anywhere else in the world. It is a good law, yet there are people out there that hate it. This is not because drivers want to actually run over cyclists. It’s because most people think that cyclists act like gaping a-holes.
So many cyclists think the rules of the road do not apply to them. (Not you. You rock. I am sure you are a law-abiding cyclist.) Countless times I have seen LA cyclists ride through a stop sign only to yell at me when I blow the horn as I almost hit them. Because it is my fault. If you are a cyclist on the road, then you have to obey the same rules as the rest of us. You don’t get a free pass because you are wearing Lycra and trying to eliminate your carbon footprint.
Bikes are faster than walkers yet more agile than cars. That gives a lot of room for cyclists to take advantage and act like rat bastards. And as we all know, we tend to remember the bastards in our lives more so than the good people. So while there may be a multitude of safe and conscientious riders out there, it only takes one or two idiots who weave in and out of traffic, ignore traffic lights, and fail to signal ever to make us hate the whole lot of people who decide that biking is a lifestyle they want to embrace.
At the same time, let all of us automobile drivers remember that we are in what basically amounts to a rolling motorized invention of death. You know how you can crush your eight year-old nephew in foosball without even trying? That is exactly what a car does to a bicycle (literally), only worse because the end result can be death. (While the end result from the foosball game is tears, but only from the smack you are talking to your nephew.) So while bicyclists are by law technically considered an automobile, it needs to be acknowledged that they obviously don’t have the same amount of force and power as a car. It’s like saying, yeah, a baby is a human but you can still kick its ass in arm wrestling.
According to a Dutch travelers’ association called the ANWB, the Netherlands treat pedestrians and cyclists “as weaker participants in traffic” and thus, with the exception of only the rarest of cases, always holds the automobile driver fully liable in an accident. This leads to way less automobile-caused accidents in that country, which is great. But what also helps is that Netherland bicyclists actually obey the rules. And therein lies the problem in the United States. It’s always an US vs. THEM scenario where nobody wins.
To make matters worse, in most parts of the country cycling on the sidewalks is illegal. It is considered the same as if you decided to drive your Toyota Corolla on the sidewalk. And yet, countless cyclists do it. Why? Because the roads are so goddamn dangerous because of the drivers, that’s why. So now the cyclists flee to the sidewalks, making it unsafe for the pedestrians, and everyone hates everybody else. It is a vicious… wait for it… cycle.
The main thing to remember is this: It’s not so much that riders are imbeciles or that drivers are jerks. It’s more that the entire human race is both of these things. Whether on a bike or in a car, the world is filled with jag-offs. The best things you can do are to be responsible, be considerate, and take public transportation if at all possible.