Oh Washington Post, what happened to you? Last year for bike month you had an editorial extolling the virtues of cycling, but this year you've started the month with an editorial admonishing cyclists.
It all starts with the title, which online is "Bicyclists are welcome in DC, but they too should obey the law." Which is confusing as hell, because it seems there is some group who obeys the law that bicyclists can join. But I can't for the life of me figure out who that group is. A better title would be "Bicyclists are welcome in DC, but they alone should obey the law." In the paper version the title is "Sharing the Streets: Bicyclists welcome. But please obey the law." Which is better, but I could hardly see the same message aimed at any other group. It seems to be proposing the old quid pro quo - if you obey the law, you'll be welcome; which is a standard no one else is held to. If I break the law, then ticket me, but I have a right to the road and I don't need the paper to tell me I'm welcome to use it anymore than I need them to tell me I'm welcome to vote.
After the title things seem fine for a couple of paragraphs and then we get into this nonsense.
The city’s annual snapshot of bicycle ridership showed an 80 percent increase in daily bicycle ridership from 2007 to 2010.Disturbingly, though, the increase has been accompanied by a rise in accidents. Figures from the city’s transportation department show a 28 percent increase in cyclist injuries and fatalities from 2009 to 2010. Some of that may be attributed to better record keeping by authorities, but those familiar with cycling say there’s no denying that more cyclists on the roads have meant more accidents.
Sure, better reporting may be one reason for the increase. But is it really so hard to understand that part of the reason for an increase in crashes is that more people are riding. Looking at their first line, cycling is up 80% between 2007 and 2010. Bicycling crashes, on the other hand, are only up 57%. Gosh, it seems like cyclists have been getting safer over the years, not less safe. Which is the opposite of what the Post is implying. I also have different number for injuries and crashes (which I got directly from DDOT) than they reported showing a 24% increase in crashes last year and a 21% increase in injuries. But now I'm just quibbling.
Let's move to the worst part
A 2004 city report on crashes showed cyclists were slightly more likely than motorists to be at fault in a crash, spotlighting factors such as failure to yield right of way or cyclist inattention
I'm not sure which 2004 city report they're talking about. I'd love to know, but [Update: I have the report. It shows that in crashes involving cyclists, cyclists are to blame in 15% of those and drivers are to blame in 13%. But that isn't the whole story. 1% of those crashes are bike-bike and bike-pedestrian, so those can't be counted when considering who is more at fault drivers or cyclists. And 7% of bike crashes involve a hit and run driver - no blame is assigned in those cases. The rest are either unknown, other or no violation. The reports are so badly written that in 4 cases the cyclist is cited as being asleep [which is a neat trick]. DDOT studies in 2001 and 2010 show that the police in general don't do a very good job of reporting crashes. In the 2001 study the number one contributing factor is listed as "other." For the 2010 study, 47% are listed as no violation, 16% are "other" and 7% are "unknown". Those are the top three categories. In the 2001 study, the author writes "Pedestrian in these charts most likely refers to the bicyclist" but they can't be sure. The police have no box for cyclists and only later make note that the type of "pedestrian" is a cyclist. So there is no way to determine who is "more often at fault" from such bad data. And to pile on, we know that sometimes cyclists are hit, taken to the hospital and ticketed without ever being interviewed. A study out of NYC showed that when a cyclist was hit and stayed at the scene they were less likely to be found at fault than when they were hit and taken to the hospital. The likelihood that they'd be found at fault went up even more if they were killed. Lesson: cyclists are more often found at fault when only the driver's story is told.
Before cyclists get off their bikes to e-mail us their complaints about motorists, we’ll stipulate there is plenty of blame to go around.
We just won't bother to blame anyone but cyclists. Has the Post ever written an editorial asking drivers to obey the law. And considering drivers kill 200 times as many people as cyclists do in DC, they're going to need to write articles like this about drivers once a week for four years just to balance it out.
There are drivers who are churlishly unwilling to share the road or are unaware of the rights of cyclists (yes, there are circumstances in which they can claim a traffic lane). That said, there are too many instances of cyclists who think that the sidewalks belong to them or that adhering to laws by stopping at red lights or stop signs is optional.
So drivers are merely churlish and unwilling to share, but cyclists are scofflaws. They sound like grumpy neighbors. Never do they mention that drivers are speeding, running red light and stop signs etc...Drivers think speed limits are optional, unfortunately it's behavior that is deadly.
As for sidewalks, if you're walking on the sidewalk, you're still more likely to be killed by a driver than a cyclist. I don't even know of a case in DC where a pedestrian on the sidewalk was killed by a cyclist. And, the vast majority of sidewalks in DC do belong to cyclists (though they must defer to pedestrians).
Keep in mind that it’s the cyclist who is more apt to come out the loser in a collision with a car; last year there were two cyclist fatalities and 336 cyclist injuries.
Believe me, there is not a cyclist out there who doesn't know that, which is why cyclists mostly obey the law and operate their vehicles safer than drivers. Those two fatalities involve a cyclist who was hit from behind by a hit and run driver and a woman standing with a bike who was run over by a military vehicle that should have never been a risk to her. She wasn't even reportedly moving, so how was she hit? Probably breaking the law right?
We would urge city officials who seek to make the District more bike-centric not to shirk on getting people — no matter if they are driving or riding — to follow the laws.
I agree. But since drivers do almost all of the killing, maiming and injuring, perhaps it makes sense to focus a little more on them.
[I apologize for the lack of links, I'm short on time. Perhaps I'll update it later]