Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cars versus Cyclists (social media can help fix it!)

Image: Terry McAfee
I was prompted to revisit my thoughts on the relationship between automobile drivers and bicyclists as I joined my first group ride of 2011 last weekend.  As a bicyclist and an automobile driver explanations like "cyclists are scofflaws that do not belong on the road" and "car-drivers are selfish jerks" are far too simplistic; first of all, cyclists are allowed to be on the roads, and not all car drivers are selfish jerks.

So, what's going on?  It's a systemic problem, we all have roles to play, no one wants to share, and no one wants to wait anywhere for anything at anytime.

As the predominant form of transportation for many, the automobile has an important place in our society.  Roads are an integral piece of cultural and economic development dating back to humanity's development of settlements about 12,000 years ago or so.  They may not be so critical to cultural development now-a-days and still serve as the often-clogged arteries of our economy.  We've focused on building roads for motorized vehicles for the past 100 years; with that in mind it's easy to see why automobile drivers feel they have the right to proceed unimpeded by anything, let alone a cyclist.  I'll admit, when I strap myself into a car, fire up the radio, and enter the fray, I'm not so thrilled to see a police officer directing traffic or a group of cyclists impeding my progress.

It comes down to a lack of shared responsibility for each other on the roads; each person feels they're more entitled than anyone else to get where they want to go, whether it's car-to-car, car-to-bus, dump truck-to-car, bus-to-taxi, bike-to-bike, pedestrian-to-car, etc.  The big difference with the [insert motorized transport here]-to-bike/pedestrian is the balance of power.  Until traffic rules are enforced for things like tail-gating, failure to signal turns, poor headlight adjustment, stopping for pedestrians, etc., not much will change.

Let's turn to the rainbows and unicorns of social media to see how we might solve this problem! With it's ability to bridge divides and bring about revolutions I'm sure we can leverage it to help solve this problem, right?  Considering that there is evidence that we seek out information that confirms our beliefs and facts that refute our beliefs are summarily discounted perhaps the key lies in joining groups that support the other side of the issues we're passionate about. Gasp! What would we learn about each other if a pro-bike advocate were to participate in an anti-bike Facebook community?  Anything?  Would it be fruitless? Useful? Infuriating?  All of the above?

I did some searching and planned to join the roads are for cars not bicycles. get off the road!! group but there's been no activity for nearly a year (did their passion run out?).   Hmm...I checked out Get off the road D__KHEAD! as it seemed like the next logical choice but there's been nothing since last August, and it's based in Australia, no dialogue to seek there.  The Petition to keep cyclist off the road and on the sidewalk! group is based in Vancouver, BC.

I checked a bunch more...not much going on.  Maybe Facebook isn't the place for this mending of fences after all.  Where should I turn?