Bikes Vs. Cars Update: Unwanted Nuance

Edward Niedermeyer
by Edward Niedermeyer

As pro-bike protesters take to the streets of Toronto to protest the death of cycle courier Darcy Sheppard, a report from the CBC [sorry, no embed] reveals that Sheppard may have been intoxicated when he became involved in his fateful encounter. Cyclists’ anger towards former Ontario AG Michael Bryant could seem a bit misplaced if it turns out Sheppard was drunk and attempted to grab the wheel of Bryant’s car or put Bryant into a headlock. Ontario police say they are investigating both of these possible scenarios. On the other hand, Bryant has a well-established record of media manipulation dating back to his attempt to place harsh rules on street racers. Both sides are itching to be outraged at this story, but it might be best to get a few of the facts straight first.

[Thanks to James Frederico for the links.]

Edward Niedermeyer
Edward Niedermeyer

More by Edward Niedermeyer

Join the conversation
4 of 45 comments
  • Stuki Stuki on Sep 06, 2009

    "... one of them took a piece out of my hood with the bike frame and my windshield with his body. (Next time, I’ll know better than to sit at stop signs, patiently awaiting my turn to go, just so said idjit can ride the wrong way right into a stopped car.)" Damn, no wonder You have little faith in bicyclists' safety judgments! I kind of feel the same way about pickup trucks after a friend was mowed down by one while sitting in the left turn lane waiting for a green arrow on a motorbike. Driver had no insurance (he was one of those "undocumented" ones). My friend is OK now, but spent 3 weeks in a hospital, and a year to regain strength in his crushed right leg. I really don't think this is typical of bicyclists, though. Guys who can't even avoid hitting stationary objects probably figure out they should find another mode of transportation relatively quickly. Like a wheelchair, for example. Hopefully not a multi thousand pound car. And, again, I don't defend "blowing through" reds. Crossing on a red after making sure no cars are coming, is not the same as "blowing through" it. Think of it like jaywalking. It's perfectly possible to cross the road on a red without much danger. Of course, it's also possible to run right into the road in front of a speeding Hummer, or even, to nosedive into the windshield of a parked car. Condoning the first is not the same as condoning the other two.

  • Gimmeamanual Gimmeamanual on Sep 07, 2009

    skor, That's not a fixie, it's a single-speed mountain bike. Look at his left wrist and you can see the brake line, or the red part of the caliper (in this case) below the rear hub.

  • Pch101 Pch101 on Sep 07, 2009
    I really don’t think this is typical of bicyclists, though. Ignoring stop signs and red lights certainly are typical. Look at the lengths that some go to defend it... Crossing on a red after making sure no cars are coming, is not the same as “blowing through” it. See what I mean? It's comments such as these that are moving toward a desire for outright bans on many roads. There is simply no way to get cyclists to moderate their behavior; they not only break laws brazenly, but tirelessly defend their disobedience. This is not a trainable group of people. No requests for law abiding behavior will be respected. Since we can't jail them all, an outright ban would be easier to enforce.
  • Stuki Stuki on Sep 07, 2009

    Pch, As a cyclist or pedestrian, "Ignoring" stop signs and red lights, in any city with even moderately heavily traffic loads, will quickly take you out of traffic permanently. Treating them slightly different than a car would treat them, is not the same as ignoring them. And along with some "desire for an outright ban", will inevitably come demands for additional taxes to fund bike lanes, separate bike traffic lights where these lanes cross cars lanes etc. All for no other reason than to keep utterly incompetent drivers from crashing into equally incompetent cyclists. And vice versa, as in your case. Competents choosing either form of transportation are perfectly capable of getting along as it is. By your logic, should we move to an outright ban on cars because it seems many, if not most, drivers "ignore" speed signs, and are "not trainable"? Or motorcycles, because riders "ignore" bans on lane splitting. Or even pedestrians, as many will, on occasion at least, jaywalk? Facts are, on the street, as opposed to in traffic planners' and lawyers offices, heavy, fast moving vehicles kill others, while slow lightweight ones at best manage to kill themselves. Meaning it makes sense to give the slower and lighter more leeway when it comes to interpreting signage and regulations, than faster, heavier ones. And I'm not even a cyclist. Wish I had the legs for riding up and down San Francisco hills on a fixed gear without brakes, but I simply don't. But I do speed, I jaywalk, I used to lane split with abandon back when I rode motorbikes, and if I ever were to ride a bicycle in traffic up here, there's not a snowballs chance in hell I'd worry more about rigidly following some rule cooked up by a clueless bureaucrat, than about my own judgment of what is safe and proper. Besides, in practice, I have plenty of driving experience in many of the most bike infested cities in the US and Europe, and the bikers that slows down progress the most, are specifically the ones least flexible with the rules. And I'd be willing to bet those are the ones screaming the loudest to have me taxed to pay for bike lanes as well. And I seriously doubt I am an exception. Whenever I come up behind a biker, it rarely, if ever, takes more than 5-10 seconds before I have an opportunity to pass. And then it takes another 10 seconds to catch up to my old spot in traffic. No time lost at all, and I'd be willing to bet entirely typical. At least for those of us competent enough to realize crossing double yellows to pass bikers is perfectly OK as long as visibility is there; whatever the usual suspects in the traffic planning bureaucracy might think about such "hoologanism." So, the way I see it, this whole cars vs. bikes "war", is little more than yet another manifestation of post Rush Limbaugh America's obsession with viewing everything as "Us" vs. "Them". Or "they ain't like us, lit's go gittim!", as the rednecks put it.