Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tommy show anti-bike rants

Phillip Troutman, a bike commuter and safe routes to school advocate, sent us the message below about anti-bike statements made on a local radio call-in show. The rants appear to have been encouraged by the show's hosts. Phillip decided to respond and sent this message to the show's programming contact:
I wanted to address the invited listener rants on the Tommy Show this morning. Please convey this email to the hosts of the show & let them know they can read any of it on the air.

I didn't hear much, but I heard just enough: listeners complaining about bicyclists using the public roads, complaining that bicyclists don't pay taxes for roads, and one even threatening to open her door on any bicyclists she saw that morning.

All this took place with the hearty laughter and encouragement and grateful "thank you for calling!" of the hosts. I did hear one brief suggestion that maybe we should all get on a bike to gain that perspective, but that point was quickly lost in the other rants. Maybe other voices of reason were heard later in the show, but this is the nature of morning radio: we only hear the bits on our way to work, etc.

Tommy may have thought about this as just airing listeners' opinions. But this isn't some "debate": the law is the law, and the show did a disservice to its listeners, when instead it could have done some useful education.

Joking about all this on the air in such a way as to further enrage already enraged drivers--especially during the morning rush hour-- is irresponsible. It is akin to joking about running over pedestrians legally using crosswalks, or running other cars off the road for going the speed limit.

I don't understand why Tommy assumed he has no listeners who actually ride bicycles. I hope he aired people who could give some facts:

1. All people have a right to the public roads (except where posted otherwise): people in cars, people on bikes, people walking, people in wheelchairs. Driving a motor vehicle does not give you more rights than others. In fact, your first duty as a driver is not to harm others using the roads.

2. Bicycles are legal vehicles whose rights drivers are legally bound to respect. This includes a bicyclists' legal right to take the full lane when needed. In Virginia, this is true even when there are bike lanes. Bicyclists often need to avoid glass, potholes, etc., in the bike lanes and shoulders.

3. Opening your door on a bicyclist, even by accident, is illegal in many states and is always dangerous. When people crash on a bike, it often results in broken collarbones, concussions, and the like.

4. Bicyclists contribute to public road funding in the same way everyone else does: through our general taxes, which is how roads are paid for, not vehicle licensing fees. (And in any case, most bicyclists also own cars.)

5. Yes, cyclists do stupid and aggressive things, too. Some cyclists, esp. in the District, are especially prone to running lights, etc. These people should be ticketed, not run over or "doored." And most don't ride this way. What drivers often assume is aggression is simply cyclists taking the lane for safety, as the law allows.

6. A bicyclists may occasionally slow you down. What, 15 seconds? 20? Passing unsafely, though, risks a human life. Please do the moral calculus.

Some personal perspective:

I ride to work because it is the most effecient and reliable way to get there. I live in Falls Church but have to drive my daughter to school in Springfield; I park there and then ride my bike into DC.

I have been hit three times by drivers while riding my bike. All three times the driver was at fault: 1. by a pickup truck with trailer passing me on a narrow bridge; 2. by a driver who rolled a stop sign without looking left; 3. by a driver who saw me in the bike trail crosswalk & decided he could make it through ahead of me. I see drivers doing stupid and aggressive things every single day.

At the same time, though, I see the same drivers on my long commute along Hummer, Heritage, & Annandale Roads, and I have to say I have never had a negative encounter there. These drivers see me using the shoulder when it is available. They see me coming over into the lane to avoid glass, trashcans, etc., and they give me room. They see me ride up along their right side at red lights (as the law allows me to do), so I can go through the light first (which is the safest place for a bicycle to be at an intersection). They know I'm not in their way and I won't slow them down. I thank them for that, and every day, I wish drivers would behave like this everywhere else I ride.

And in the future, I hope your show will avoid encouraging dangerous ranting and instead do some useful public education that will benefit all your listeners, including those who ride bikes.

I ride a bike because it is the best way to get to work: it is fast, it is better for my health, it is better for the environment, and yes, it is actually better for traffic congestion. So yes, I suppose that makes me one of those "bikists" one listener complained about. If we had more bikists, though, we might have less traffic congestion and fewer angry drivers.

Thank you,

Falls Church VA

Labels: ,

To his great credit, Tommy replied to this email immediately, thanking me for the long note & saying that while they simply wanted to let listeners air opinions, that they could have done it in a more educational manner. He said they did stress watching out for bicyclists, but of course I only heard the part with the rants....

Post a Comment

Contact FABB via email:

Subscribe to the
FABB e-newsletter

Subscribe to posts:
[Atom 1.0] or [RSS 2.0]

  Bike to Work Day 2015 at Wiehle Station

  Transportation choices

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?