So far, this has been the week of hating cyclists on the letters page of the Hamilton Spectator, and I'm not even talking about the correspondence regarding drug abuse among Tour de France competitors.
On July 31, Robert Coxe argued against "bicycles being able to mix with vehicle traffic on higher speed-limit roads."
He managed to notice the similarities between Main-King and the QEW (a connection we've made here on RTH) but missed the opportunity to conclude that expressways don't belong downtown.
He also dismissed bike lanes because he believes "very few people ... would try and use them." Nothing like a self-fulfilling prophecy.
On August 1, Sandra Martin weighed in with a collection of anecdotes about "cyclists breaking the laws". Setting aside the fact that anecdotes don't prove anything, every cycling horror story has its analogue among drivers: going through red lights, talking on cell phones, not signalling properly, and so on.
She called these cyclists "accidents waiting to happen," a sentiment that applies equally to reckless motorists.
The preselection of a group to watch suggests a confirmation bias on the part of the author, an attempt to cherry-pick examples that reinforce already-held assumptions.
Yes, some cyclists are reckless. As a cyclist who tries to follow the rules of the road, I resent people who ride on the sidewalk, ride on the wrong side of the road, and so on. The attitudes they foster among drivers increase my danger on the road.
However, I equally resent reckless drivers. In fact, I resent them more, to the extent that their capacity to cause harm through their recklessness is far greater with a larger, heavier, and more powerful vehicle.
The big question is: what do we do with these collections of anecdotes? Should they inform policy decisions? If so, how?
Is the answer, as Coxe argues, to restrict cyclists even further? The available evidence on cycling safety inveighs against this conclusion, since the surest way to make cycling safer is to get more cyclists on the road.
Sean Burak made this argument in his recent article Changing the Rules:
The best way to reduce the number of injuries to pedestrians and cyclists is to increase the number of pedestrians and cyclists on the road.
This is counterintuitive, since we would expect to see more injuries within a given group as the group size is increased. The reasoning behind this unexpected result is that motorists become more aware and more respectful of cyclists and pedestrians if they encounter more of them on a daily basis.
Additionally, an increase in human-powered transportation generally results in a decrease in car use - and automobile involvement is the major factor in almost every case of pedestrian or cyclist injury.
This last point is particularly instructive. If Main-King is too dangerous for cyclists, the answer is not to remove the cyclists but to remove the danger: the high-speed motor vehicles rushing through city streets that are displacing the people who rightly belong there.
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