Cars vs. Bikes vs Pedestrian ~ Oh My!

From a coworker, Logan, this fine response was part of a discussion about “yet another bike rider hit by a car”. Having experienced many friends nearly having been killed and heard of even more actually being killed on the very same highways and by-ways I frequented, I no longer ride my bicycle on highways and major thoroughfares. Be careful out there people.

imageI really, really enjoy all the cars vs. bikes vs. pedestrian threads because it reminds me how trivially easy it is to completely fail to “check your privilege” and engage in victim blaming. If you didn’t grow up in a world where driving a car was a normal occurrence, you would perceive our current state of affairs as absolutely insane. Consider, 

  • Automobiles kill over 30,000 people per year and injure 10s of thousands more; bicycles & pedestrian accidents kill is thousands of people per year
  • Over 90+% of all public right-of-ways are completely dedicated to autos and very dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians 
  • Automobiles spew toxic pollution that for decades caused mental retardation and neurological damage in (disproportionately poor) children. They continue to cause widespread respiratory and other ailments
  • Ordinary citizens and children are allowed to operate heavy machinery around civilians & children with little to no protections whatsoever, often under the significant influence of mild-altering drugs (prescription or otherwise)

This situation is totally crazy; on the net, automobile drivers are granted massive government subsidies and allowed to routinely and recklessly jeopardize the lives of people around them. Perhaps the problem isn’t that cyclists dart in and out of their 36 inch wide lane, but rather that cars shouldn’t have a monopoly on the other 120 feet. Cyclists may be super-annoying, but they kill or injure about zero people. It’s crazy to think there’s any moral high ground for automobile drivers as a whole. 

Every time one of these threads starts up around the death or injury of a cyclist, there’s always many rants about how dangerous cyclists behave. As an entire class. Of course, the behavior of all “cyclists” has nothing to do with a single individual’s behavior; it only serves to class all Cyclists together as “those people” to be categorically judged. There would be no point to bring it up in the context of an individual except to justify why their injury or death is somehow their fault. As in, “oh, ‘those people’ die because ‘those people’ are reckless.” 

<And later> Planes, busses, subways, light rail, street cars all fit this bill quite well and are orders of magnitude safer than driving (and kill far fewer bystanders). Additionally, if you balance your use of land, rights of way, and public investment to support all modes of travel, you simply no longer need to travel such distances to achieve your objectives. Plenty of cities have walkable, bikable, and (slower) trainsitable regions that are constrained from growing by a combination of aggressive land-use regulation and public disinvestment. 

For example, King County Metro is starving for tax dollars and on the verge of drastic service cuts despite the clear majority support for funding Metro. The reason is because tax authority flows from the state legislature, and state reps from rural areas will not grant King County the ability to raise taxes (either by council vote or referendum) unless our state reps sign on to large auto-oriented projects elsewhere. King County is the wealthiest county in the state, so this is a way to force us to subsidize auto transport in other regions. 

Or, take a look at this report on national vehicle miles travelled: You can see that VMT growth has been in secular decline for decades and younger people in particular drive less than their predecessor did at their age (

imageYet, zoning in most cities require at least 1 parking spot per housing unit and in some areas, 2. Parking spaces tend to cost about $30k/each, raising the cost of housing, especially in land-constrained, urban areas. Again, this is huge, forced subsidy that compels people to drive when sensible alternatives would be more enjoyable and more cost effective. 

Without these incredibly distorting policies, you’re more likely to see many more people living within walking/transit distance of work, using mass transit for a large portion  trips that require high speeds, and still using cars for the remaining balance where neither is a reasonable alternative. 

About Gandalfe

Just an itinerant saxophonist trying to find life between the changes. I have retired from the Corps of Engineers and Microsoft. I am an admin on the Woodwind Forum, run the Seattle Solid GOLD Big Band (formerly the Microsoft Jumpin' Jive Orchestra) a GOLD sax quartet, and enjoy time with family and friends.
This entry was posted in Bicycles, Community, Commuting, Culture, Education, Government, Statistics and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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