Monday, March 22, 2010

Cyclists vs. Motorists: Lance Weighs In

It's a debate that's raged on for quite some time. Motorists feel impeded by cyclists. Cyclists feel harassed by motorists and denied their rightful place on the road. Last year a California physician was found guilty of assault when he suddenly stopped his car, causing two cyclists he had been arguing with to crash into him. Each day memorial pages to fallen cyclists and graphic accounts of crashes pop up on message boards. Once in a while, these clashes find their way into the mainstream media.

Quite a few people know who Tony Kornheiser is. He's a daily face of ESPN on Pardon the Interruption, he was a popular columnist for the Washington Post for many years, and he has his own show on ESPN Radio 980 in Washington D.C. Earlier last week, you may have heard his anti-cyclist rantings that have been making their way across the internet (if you haven't click here). Basically, his comments boiled down to the idea that cyclists don't belong on the road and suggest that people run over cyclists who are riding on the street.

Almost instantly, the story began spreading throughout the internet. The story began spreading on discussion boards, people were tweeting and starting Facebook groups protesting it. Eventually the story even reached Lance Armstrong, who appropriately took Kornheiser to task via Twitter and urged his followers to complain to ESPN 980 about Kornheiser's comments. After being berated for a few days Kornheiser made a standard apology and attempted to get in touch with Armstrong via a mutual friend, Sally Jenkins who helped Lance write his autobiography. As expected when confronted with one of the greatest athletes of all time, Kornheiser was fervently apologetic. But the most important outcome was Armstrong's discussion on the cyclists versus motorist debate which is one of the most eloquent I've ever heard. The folks at Vigilant Velo, a cycling safety advocacy website have published the entire interview.

Thanks to for posting the full interview.

Why do motorists pick on cyclists so much? Is it because cyclists are easy targets? I know that most of the time when I've experienced harassment from drivers has come when I was riding alone. On group rides and when other riders are around, drivers seem to mind their manners. Perhaps it's the anonymity of the situation that allows a driver to take his or her frustration out on a cyclist? After a harsh expletive or beep of the horn, a simple push of the accelerator is all that's required to make that cyclist a distant memory. Whatever, the reason, it's important to remember that we're all equal and deserve respect from one another. Is getting to the next stop sign ten seconds earlier worth endangering the life of another person?

But the responsibility doesn't rest solely with motorists. Whenever a cyclist puts his tires on the road, he becomes a vehicle with the same responsibilities and duties as any car or 18-wheeler. As such, the onus lies on us to use the roads responsibly. It's important for us to obey all stop signs and traffic lights. Yet on any weekend, it's common to see cyclists running stop signs. It's important to remember that as much as we hate being harassed by cars, uncourteous cyclists can be an equal inconvenience. Extending courtesies such as riding single file and utilizing low traffic routes and times when possible help ease tensions. A friendly wave when a driver allows you the right of way can go a long way toward giving all cyclists a better name. The more respect cyclists and motorists show one another, the safer the roadways will be for us all.

No comments:

Post a Comment