07-07-10 - Counterpoint

Dave Moulton is usually right on the money about issues bike related, but when he rants about bicycle helmet laws , I think he's off the money.

Basically he contends that the real problem with bike-car safety is that car drivers do not take the responsibility of their powerful machine seriously enough. Yes, of course, I agree absolutely, but SO WHAT ?

We could have a lot of discussions about the way the world should be, but it's irrelevant and non-productive to pine for things that will never be. Yes, it would be nice if people payed attention to the road when they drove, didn't talk on cell phones, didn't drink coffee and talk to their passenger. A car is a deadly powerful killing machine, and stupid people forget that because it's so comfy and feels safe and is easy to drive and so on. Yes, I think most people would drive better if they had to drive something like an old open-roof roadster where you are exposed to the elements and feel vulnerable. But you are not going to change American's driving habits. People want to jump in their giant beast, mash the gas, watch TV while they're driving, and fuck you if you're a pedestrian or cyclist in their way.

Look, drivers are fucking dangerous morons. It doesn't matter if you're on a bike or not - they are constantly running red lights, pulling into crosswalks, not stopping for pedestrians, going the wrong way around roundabouts. Almost every single day I see some major violation of basic traffic laws, and even beyond that there are just constant violations of basic human sense and decency. One of the ones that's really getting my goat recently is how people around here love to blow right through a stop sign and come to stop about ten feet past it, with their nose way out in the intersection (they do this intentionally because they want to get further out into the intersection to see to the sides; the reasonable thing to do would be to first stop at the stop sign and then pull forward to see). So when I'm driving or biking through the intersection, all I see is somebody who blows through a stop sign and is coming right at me (and then they stop just before hitting me).

I personally would love to see the elimination of the entire concept of the vehicular "accident". They are only rarely accidents; it's usually somebody fucking up. The person who crashed should not only have to pay the cost of the accident, but should get a punitive legal punishment such as license suspension or even prison time. For example when the old lady ran right through a red light and smashed my car should have clearly had her license taken away. In cases of hitting pedestrians you should get jail time. It's almost impossible for a pedestrian to ever be at fault, because even if they do jump out right in front of you - you should always expect them to do that when you are in an area with pedestrians, so you should be going slow and be ready to slam on the brakes. But this is never going to happen so it's a pointless rant.

As for the issue of mandatory helmets - I don't really think it's anything to get riled up about. As a cyclist of course you should choose to wear a helmet even if it's not a law. Obviously making it a law is political weakness. Oh shit cyclists are getting hit by cars - let's restrict the cyclists because god knows we're not gonna restrict the cars. Well duh, of course that's how politics works. But there are perfectly reasonable reasons to make helmets madatory - the same reason seat belts in cars are mandatory - because it reduces the medical cost which is shared by society.

We can rant all we want about how drivers should pay more attention, be more courteous, be reasonable and intelligent, but it just won't ever happen.

What I would like to see is better ways for me as a cyclist to avoid cars, and me as a driver to avoid cyclists. Part of the problem is that the people who put down the bike lanes are real fucking morons. Right in my neighborhood we have bike lanes or "sharrows" right down the busiest arterial roads, when there are perfectly good quiet back streets that run parallel and would be much better routes for bikes. Personally when I ride, I take the back routes that are very low traffic, but the majority of cyclists are just as retarded as the retarded cars, and they take the road that is "bike recommended" even though it's much worse.

(BTW as a reminder, let me emphasize that the retardation equivalence of bikes and cars in no way excuses the cars from their sins; if you have a fight between someone with a feather and someone with a knife and they are both being dangerous morons with their weapon - the feather guy can be forgiven but the knife guy is a fucking selfish ignorant dick; you often hear self-righteous car morons go on about how the bikes "do bad things too" ; so fucking what? so what? he's poking you with his feather, just ignore him and be careful with your damn knife).

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old rants