Saturday, March 14, 2009

Times Colonist readers are morons

Okay, maybe just the ones who comment on the newspaper's web discussion forums. An accident occurred on Lands End Road last weekend, near Sidney, in which a car rashly passed a pack of road cyclists (including two-time Olympic medallist Simon Whitfield) and then was knocked into the riders (putting two in the hospital) after it was struck by another car making a right turn (without actually stopping) onto Lands End. Whose fault? Well, it's complicated.... except in the mind of many T/C readers, who placed blame clearly on the "elitist" cyclists. The comment thread is long and depressingly familiar to anyone who reads the Colonist's Letters page after a cycling accident: Why aren't cyclists licensed, insured, they don't deserve to be on the road, etc. etc.?

Here is a classic reply, written by a reader I like to imagine is nicknamed "The Major" from the sherry-soaked comfort of his Oak Bay mansion:
When I was young (here in Victoria), we had to take a test to ride our bikes on the road. If we passed, we were given a small license plate that hung on the back of our seat. If we didn't have one of these plates, we were not allowed to ride on the road. If the police saw anyone riding a bike on the road without one of these plates, their bike was permanently confiscated. Then sold at a police bike auction. Which is where many of our parents got bikes for us when we were young. Why don't we still do that? Why do we make it so easy for people with no sense or regard for others to enter into traffic on a bike? I'm also a firm believer that bike riders should have to buy insurance to ride in traffic. Then, if they cause an accident, they can pay for it. On a daily basis, I witness bike riders blatantly breaking the rules of the road. Most of them act like they don't believe the rules pertain to them. My biggest beef is WHY DID WE START ALLOWING THEM TO RIDE ACROSS THE JOHNSTON STREET BRIDGE??!! What happened to the days when cyclists had to dismount and walk their bikes across the bridge on the footpath?? Also, what happened to the rule that cyclists had to dismount at an intersection and walk their bikes across in the crosswalk?? I constantly see cyclists ride across while the light is still red!! Why are they allowed to do that?? Cyclists are slower than cars; if they're riding more than two abreast, they are blocking traffic. People become impatient and try to pass. This is what caused this unfortunate accident. It had nothing to do with the fact that an Olympic hopeful was riding in the bunch. I don't know why the TC felt it necessary to make that the headline. Sensasionalism sells they say. I'm also happy to see that most of the people sticking up for the cyclists seem to have very poor spelling. That demonstrates their level of intelligence; so their opinion can pretty much be disregarded.
No wonder our planet is burning up...


richard said...

Drivers have a heavier burden, and too many of them/us are neglectful at best. But too many cyclists make it way too hard for anyone to love them/us.

Generally I'm on the side of the cyclists, but as I was pulling into a parking lot Friday (in vehicle, signal light clicking), a middle-aged cyclist with helmet dangling from his backpack shot straight past across the entry. Not sure how I didn't hit him, honestly.

But it's worth noting that there's an expanding range of vehicles whose drivers I irrationally but conclusively consider probable asses, just because of their choices of vehicle.

David L. said...

I've bounced back enough from the stomach flu to defend my fellow cyclists!

Oh wait, I can't. No, I often find the behaviour of all road users bewildering -- eg, I'm no fan of mandatory helmet laws, but amazed but how few riders wear a brain bucket, making them just a pothole or lazy driver away from being a vegetable.

And you'll notice that I said Times Colonist reader-commentators are morons, not drivers. Most are perfectly reasonable. (Some of my best friends are drivers!)

In fact, by my educated guess, I'd say that less than half, maybe even just a third of drivers are talking on their cellphones and/or drinking a coffee when they blow through the red light or crosswalk on Foul Bay between Fort and Oak Bay and nearly smote me and the kids. (Happened again on Friday.)

I've been walking more than cycling these days, and my bigger bugbear than drivers is the cars-first agenda of transportation engineers and municipal bureaucrats.

Why are shrubs allowed to overgrow across half a sidewalk, forcing pedestrians to step into traffic to get around each other, when anything blocking the flow of cars along a roadway is immediately ticketed and whisked away?

Where are the mandatory neck-brace and helmet laws for automobile operators?

Why aren't drivers required to step outside of their vehicles and press a button to be recognized by an intersection light rather than just scowling at me when, arriving by foot a millisecond too late, I decide to walk across at a green light (but red hand) anyway?

Oh jesus, now I'm starting to sound like a T/C-reading crank!