Christopher Caldwell's cover story in this week's Weekly Standard is about the general dreadfulness of America's bicycling class. Here's a taste:
Late last August, along the coast of New Hampshire, Kevin Walsh, police chief in the town of Rye, got a lecture on law enforcement from a bunch of grown-up bicyclists. Local law requires bikers to ride single-file when there is traffic. But this day, a pack of a dozen or so bikers were racing down Ocean Boulevard, at high speed, up to five abreast, according to an interview the chief later gave. Walsh decided to flag them down and tell them what they were doing was unsafe, “out of control,” and “an accident waiting to happen.” He stood in the middle of Ocean Boulevard and signaled them to stop. The bikers blew past him in a whoosh! of Lycra, sweat, and profanity. Walsh got in his cruiser and cut off the bikers four miles up the road. When he stopped them, they began to chew him out. “You almost killed somebody back there, standing in the middle of the road,” one of them screamed at the cop. “Do you understand we can’t stop? Do you understand we can’t stop like a car?” [Emphasis mine.]
Like many episodes in the world of adult recreational cycling, this one breaks new ground in the annals of chutzpah. Few noncyclists would think to scold a law enforcement official for having nearly been run over by them. Fewer still would release to the news media a video of the incident—which came from a camera mounted on the handlebars of one of the bikers—in the almost demented belief that it constituted a vindication rather than an incrimination.
You should really read the whole thing. I just like that anecdote because it so perfectly captures the self-righteousness of the bicycling class and their utter refusal to deal with the simple physics of the situation they find themselves in. When it comes to roads, bicycles can neither accelerate properly nor decelerate properly nor defend themselves properly from the 3,000 lb. behemoths on the roads.
Science rarely placates the self-righteous. So instead, they whinge about how unfair it is that their inherently dangerous bicycles—which are obviously unfit for roads designed to be driven by cars—leave them prone to being killed by not-necessarily-negligent drivers. For instance, this very weekend Daniel Duane groused in the New York Times "Is It OK to Kill Cyclists?" Following the rule of headlines, the answer is obviously (if unfortunately) no. It is not "OK" to kill cyclists. It is, however, inevitable. When you throw a 20 lb. Schwinn against a 3,000 lb. Volvo, the Volvo's going to win.
It doesn't help that bicyclists have decided that the aforementioned physical limitations of their conveyance mean that they have no need to follow the law while riding. "Of course I blew through that stoplight," the bicyclist will rationalize to you. "Don't you understand how much energy I have to use to fully stop and then start again? There were no cars coming. Who cares?" Imagine, as a driver, explaining to a cop that you rolled through a stop light because you didn't think any fellow drivers were coming to T-Bone you; I'm sure he'll just let you off.
But hey, the bicyclists should be allowed to treat the rules of the road as optional. After all, they're doing all of us a favor by biking—by slowing drivers down and endangering pedestrians. No, really, that's what they think! As Caldwell writes,
The self-righteousness, the aplomb, of bicyclists is their stereotypical vice and quirk, like the madness of hatters, the drunkenness of poets, and the communism of furriers.
The attitude was nicely captured in a pro-biking letter to the editor in the Brookline TAB, the community paper for Boston’s richest neighborhoods: “Whenever someone bikes or walks to the store or to work,” the writer began, “he or she is taking one automobile off the road and making a significant contribution both to Brookline’s safety and to reducing the carbons so dangerous to life on earth.” You see? It only looks like I’m having a midlife crisis—I’m actually on a rescue mission! The question of what courtesy the cyclist owes the community is immediately taken off the table, replaced by the question of what the community can possibly do to repay its debt to the cyclist.
If you want to ride a bike, go to a bike trail. If you're in an American city, however, kindly stop. You're too fast for sidewalks and too slow for roads. You're a menace. And no amount of self-important prattling about the awesome ways you're helping the world will change that fact.
Bicyclists are terrible.