This is gonna hurt

October 9, 2019 § 10 Comments

A reader sent a link to this editorial in the NY Times. Basically, cars are bad and drivers use them to kill people. The only way we can fix that is by regulations, smaller car sizes, slower speeds, and etc.

The big problem with this is that it identifies an obvious problem, drivers killing bicycle pedalers, and then it leaps to a bunch of solutions that are never going to happen. As a side note, the editorial blames all this on cars rather than on people. This is because if you blame motorists for killing people with their cars, it suddenly applies to most everyone, including the writers at the NY Times.

It’s a lot more convenient to blame the cars than the people who drive them.

So how do you get people to stop using their cars to kill people?

My Answer: You have to get people to stop using cars.

And that is really hard, but it’s not hard for the reasons that you think, i.e. the car lobby, the transportation lobby, Mr. Oil and Ms. Gas, governmental inertia, discrimination against cyclists, and all the fun punching bags.

The reason it is really hard is that in order to get people to stop using cars, YOU have to stop using a car. It’s that simple. Until there is a critical mass of people who ditch their cars and start using the public streets, it’s all just talk, email chatter, and angry exchanges on the Internet.

Do you have a car? Do you use it? You are the problem.

Do you want there to be fewer cars? Do you want motorists to quit hitting bicycles? You have to ditch the $400,000 orange Lamborghini and start riding and walking. Trust me, it’s going to involve a big lifestyle change, not limited to acquiring smaller clothing sizes.

The fact is that once the streets get clotted with people, the cars slow down and diminish in number. Santa Monica is Exhibit A. They ruined it for cars when they striped it and dumped scooters on every corner. Now when you drive in SaMo you are the paranoid one because there is a ped/bike/scooter every ten feet. You slow the fuck down and, if you’re in SaMo all that much, you get there using something other than a car or you accept the third-class citizenship that you, a motorist, so richly deserve.

One single person on a bike has an outsized impact on the car community simply because most motorists, when confronted with a bike, take defensive action. They slow down.

But in order to make them do that, especially in areas where bike traffic is light, or in places like Texas and Florida where bikes as transport aren’t even acknowledged, you have to suck it up and get out in the streets. The right to use the street is like any other. The minute you stop using it, it’s gone.

It doesn’t do any good to draw a distinction between “good” drivers of the NY Times and “bad” drivers of the state of Texas. The only thing that does any “good” is to step off the crazy train of the passenger car transportation network and plug into networks that don’t use cars, whether it’s your SUV or your Tesla.

Ouch, huh?


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§ 10 Responses to This is gonna hurt

  • Tim Joe Comstock says:

    With the advent of e-bikes and their increasing affordability commuting by bicycle, (if you consider an e-bike a bicycle; I don’t) will definitely increase. I can see it all around . But what I am seeing is not people who are giving up their car for an e-bike…what I’m seeing are guys (and girls) who have traded their big-box MTB or Cruiser for an equally crusty e-bike. I don’t know where they get them, but they do, somehow.

    The true answer is easy. It happened before, around 1973: the price of gas soared, or was seriously rationed. I was there. I had a shiny new Camaro that got traded in for a Sunbeam Alpine. The previously scorned Japanese economy vehicle (we called it something else) was in high demand, as were Beetles, MG’s and Bridgestone motorcycles.

    And a bicycle boom was born.

    The sad thing is we got it figured out way back then, cars shrank, a national speed limit was established, life went on. But, being Americans, we forgot. I have always been grateful to have been born American, but these days, well, it can be a little embarrassing.

    • fsethd says:

      I don’t know how many are really trading e-bikes for cars. Damned few. But in LA, many are leaving their cars at home and commuting on their e-bikes. By “many” I mean at least seventeen. The crusty cruiser and BBMTB’s never got ridden past the first week anyway.

  • LesB says:

    Samo does sponsor a car sharing program. It’s still cars, nevertheless, a step in the right direction toward making cars obsolete.

    • fsethd says:

      Car sharing helps, everything helps, but the real test is, “Are you riding or walking or public transporting?”

  • Edwin says:

    Make every car driver ALSO a bike rider while investing in infrastructure (separate car/bike where needed), reliable and frequent public transport (fewer cars) and city planning (walk/bike to your work, grocery/bike/coffee shop, bar/restaurant, etc.)

  • nealhe says:

    Hello Seth and All,

    Seth writes in part: “So how do you get people to stop using their cars to kill people?”

    Besides getting humans to stop using the ‘car weapon’ as Seth suggests (good luck with that) …..

    providing separation for cars from cars and from other objects is working …. somewhat …. The trend line for Vehicle Miles Traveled vs. Time is encouraging.

    Humans commit errors …. modern engineering design includes built in human error tolerance …. It doesn’t always work … witness the Boeing 737 MAX … but the effort is there.

    For instance …… centerline Jersey Barriers prevent head on car crashes … and have become ubiquitous ….. separated bike lanes provide car/bike separation for cyclists … overhead walkways provide separation for pedestrians.!topic/san-diego-bicyclist-forum/kB525l6Ffpc

    Please note the decrease in motorcar ownership in Paris from about 60% to 35%. Nice pictures too …..

    Climate change concerns and choked highways are lessening the utility of a large motorized vehicle.

    While it is happening slowly …. motor vehicle reproducution is becoming self regulating …. with evoloution ….. just like human reproduction …..

    Spaceship Earth is finite.



    • fsethd says:

      Paris isn’t from separated bike lanes. People will only change motoring behavior when you cycle on the streets. You can stripe and barricade all you want, but as long as YOU are driving, you are the problem. Not the solution.

  • downwinder says:

    A huge problem for cyclists is that people don’t need to pass a skills test to drive a car. In sports there are skill level tests to make the team but to get a drivers license there are virtually none.

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