I love bicyclists. I loved them in Amsterdam, where they sometimes make up the majority of traffic and even after a few close calls added new white hairs to one clueless American pedestrian’s beard.
I love cyclists in the U.S., too. I try to give them the right of way and the benefit of the doubt. Out of love, of course. But also out of fear and worry.
I know how much my car weighs and how much damage could be done if my vehicle hits their “vehicle.” Some statistics from my neck of the woods show an acceptable number of fatalities (if such a thing is possible) but an alarming number of accidents. In a nutshell, about 5 percent of bike riders are injured in any given year.
This seems believable, because of anecdotal evidence. It doesn’t take a large group to hear a juicy bike crash story from at least one member. But at least among my cycling friends, reciting the above statistic provokes hostile denial. Fine. People love their children and dogs, even if they bark or get arrested.
I can’t help but compare their relative complacency with the same folks’ insistence that any exposure to secondhand tobacco smoke carries unacceptable risk. This in the face of very little anecdotal evidence to warrant such fear.
The way public health folks respond to the threat from secondhand smoke? It’s as if the public safety folks banned bike riding from all larger roads, since larger roads with fast-moving traffic are the most dangerous for cyclists. And, as if many wanted bicycles banned completely.