I’m guilty of being a bit distracted lately. If you have been following my Metroblog posts, you are aware that a nationally syndicated radio program said some not very nice things about cyclists last week:
“When I hear on TV that a cyclist has been hit and killed by a car I laugh, I think it’s funny”
“If you are a cyclist you should know I exist, that I don’t care about you. That I don’t care about your life.”
I’m pretty sure worse things were said, including quite possibly an incitement to injure and harass cyclists on the road. But we may never know, as the program refuses to release their podcast of that show.
This program created a real sense of outrage in the cycling community. But in addition to the fine folks that wrote emails and blogged about it, there were apparently quite a few that crossed the line and threatened the radio folks as well. That’s just counterproductive, folks. You aren’t going to convince anybody by making death threats.
Why all the emotion? Well, first of all I can’t imagine why anyone would think it was okay to laugh about a cyclist getting hit. Bike accidents are horrible things, all too often resulting in the death of the cyclist. But this is a particularly sore spot for cyclists because we are the target of harrassment. We’re out there on the road, and there’s no way to know when it’s coming. And nearly every day some car comes over the white line as they pass you, or gives you a horn blast that shatters your eardrums just as they pass. You can get a bit paranoid.
Then someone comes along and laughs about it. And urges others to do the same. Trust me, you get angry.
A lot of the most vocal anti-cyclists are complaining about cyclists that run red lights, weave in and out of traffic, and otherwise drive like assholes. Well, I have a news flash for you. They ARE assholes. I bet when they sit behind the wheel, they DRIVE like assholes. I bet when they’re on foot, they cross against the light and walk in front of traffic. People don’t behave badly because they’re cyclists, they behave badly because they are jerks.
But even jerks don’t deserve to get hit, or targeted for abuse. Saying a cyclist deserves injury because of the way he rides is like saying that a girl who wears a mini-skirt into a dive bar deserves to get raped. “They were asking for it” just doesn’t fly.
Jane Tomlinson of Great Britain has terminal cancer. But instead of laying down and dying, she’s riding her bike across the United States for charity. Unfortunately as Ms. Tomlinson was riding through Lewis, Colorado “the occupant of a pickup truck threw a full coke bottle at the cyclists, deliberately aiming it at them so as to try and injure them.”
And if that wasn’t bad enough, later the same day “the driver of another wagon deliberately made a ‘reckless attempt’ to injure the cyclists by trying to spray them with loose chippings as he passed.”
And cyclists shake their heads sadly at hearing this familiar refrain. And the folks that hate cyclists give each other high-fives.
And that’s why even though the city of Portland has stepped in on this radio fiasco, I don’t think it will make a damn bit of difference on the road. The roots of this conflict run too deep. But at least one radio program knows that we cyclists are angry, and we’re outspoken, and you disregard our rights at your own risk.