Monday, May 24, 2010

Response to Post article on cyclist/motorist interaction

Earlier this week the Post published an article on bicyclist/motorist interactions (see our blog post on the article). FABB member Fionnuala Quinn responded to the article with a letter in today's Post on the need for better bicycle education:
There were many comments about breaking rules and behaving poorly in the May 20 Metro article "Cyclists, drivers struggle to chart road rules." But there was no discussion about the lack of a system of bike education. When little instruction is provided, we should not be surprised that some road users don't conduct themselves well or know all of the rules.

Comprehensive school bicycle curricula abound in Europe. I recently visited a Belgian program where 10-year-olds receive 30 hours of bicycle training during the school year. The students spend 20 hours riding in traffic, and they have to pass a four-kilometer road test. With this level of education, students are likely to grow up to have a much better understanding of bicycles in traffic, whether they are riding or driving.

The successful bicycling that can be seen in Europe is in part a reflection of a commitment to teaching the population how to share the right of way. We instruct our 16-year-olds on how to drive cars, so why not take a little time to learn about safe bicycling on our roads also? We would all benefit.

Fionnuala Quinn, Fairfax

The writer is a board member of Fairfax Advocates for Better Bicycling, but the views expressed are her own.
Fionnuala makes a great point, if kids were taught the rules of the road at an earlier age, they would likely be better drivers once they get behind the wheel of a car. Not only would they already know basic rules of the road, they would likely be more tolerant of bicyclists out on the road. While Fairfax County has a fairly thorough bicycle education curriculum, especially in Grade 5, with 2 full sessions on bike safety, we've found that it is rarely taught. Did you or your kids receive any bike education in the Fairfax public schools?

Update 5/26/2010: Why stereotype victims in cycling accidents? is the title of another letter to the Post. The title says it all:
The article about the cyclist who was killed by an out-of-control SUV ["Cyclist, SUV driver killed in Va. crash," Metro, May 22] took a curious turn when Detective Scott Neville was quoted stating "you want to be careful about stereotyping, but..." The word "but" signals the bias to follow.

The article alleges that "the majority of the half-dozen cyclist deaths [in Fairfax] in the past five years have involved Latino immigrants riding to or from work in the dark" — soft numbers but do the math. Perhaps three or four people of Latin descent were killed in cycling accidents in the past five years. This is far from a cultural revelation.

It is fair to assume that workers who must bicycle to and from work in the dark are from a lower economic strata, but to link cycling deaths to ethnicity is absurd. Were any statistics kept describing the cultural identities of the vehicle drivers who caused these deaths? Perhaps a majority were white Anglo-Saxon Protestants. Equally absurd.

Jim Wilson, Warrenton


Another article in today's Post was about VDOT's request for volunteers to mow in median strips and along roads. So it's gotten to the pitiful point that VDOT has to go begging for citizens to perform basic services. To the point, VDOT has written a pamphlet which provides the rules of the road for bikes and cars, but the pamphlet is not going to be published because there is no money for printing. It's time for Richmond to stop strangling VDOT. In traffic-clogged northern Virginia especially, transportation funding and staff positions cannot afford to be touched, much less eliminated. It's time to start demanding restoration of VDOT services.

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