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July 19, 2007

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My July 3rd entry scored me another 15 kilobytes of fame when it was excerpted here.

I think it's funny when people speak of cyclists and drivers as if they were different species, when it's really circumstantial. You're a cyclist when you cycle, a driver when you drive.

Anyway, maybe it's because I'm in the zone already working on my farewell issue of Carbusters that I took the time to respond to the commenters at Seattlest. If I weren't already sitting at the computer considering how our cities could be made more habitable, I would've been out there riding to the beach today, practicing instead of preaching (although both have their places). My reply:
I'm a little sorry that this blog entry carried such a provocative headline, enough to rekindle the road rage of some of the commenters here....

First of all, this discussion needn't be about divisiveness (i.e., cyclists vs. drivers). The point is we are all sharing public space, and when we're in/on vehicles, we are obliged to follow certain regulations. When I'm cycling, I stop at red lights and stop signs. I ride with the flow of traffic. If I need to take it up on the sidewalk, I gear down to walking speed. I cycle right and am sick of people characterizing ALL or even most cyclists as reckless, lawbreaking daredevils. Some are, it's true, but likewise there are many scofflaw, inconsiderate, and incompetent drivers.

Yes, it was an accident. Yes, it was 100% the driver's fault. Yes, accidents do happen. But the point of my entry at is not that all drivers are bad and all cyclists are virtuous. (Contrary to one nitwit's assertion, I've had a license for 20 years and have even driven trucks professionally, so I can claim empathy for drivers--I *am* one of you.) The point is drivers need to be more aware of cyclists and one way to do this would be to increase penalties for those at fault when they strike cyclists and pedestrians. You got a problem with that? If the stakes were higher for careless drivers (such as the one in my post), people might start becoming more aware of cyclists. Likewise, a cyclist who runs down a pedestrian should pay the price.

If more provisions were made for cyclists, there would be less confusion in those places where bikes have to assert their right of way under conditions which do not accommodate them due to the negligence and unresponsiveness of city planners and the traffic department. Seattle, for all it's green talk, is an embarrassment when it comes to non-motorized infrastructure.

The streets were here long before cars. We need to figure out how to share them as people. We could start by treating each other as individuals, not stereotypes.

-Robert Zverina,

p.s. I find it both amusing and horrifying that there are those who complain about cyclists' sense of entitlement. A bicycle occupies about 6 square feet of surface area as opposed to a mid-sized car's 90 square feet. Bike's are clean, quiet, do not require millions of tax dollars to subsidize their storage (what's known by the misnomer "free parking"), and travel at a rate of speed which seldom harms anybody, human or animal. Cars are loud, polluting, clog the streets in motion and parked, and kill 40,000+ people in US annually and flatten innumerable critters. So, who's sense of entitlement is more inflated, driver or cyclist?