On Bike-bashing in the Formerly Respectable Media

Call it satire if you dare, but a recent glut of formerly-respectable news outlets slamming bicyclists is a real problem.  Perhaps you have read the supposedly tongue-in-cheek anti-bike articles published in the Wall Street Journal and Boston Globe recently (by authors I will avoid naming and linking to) or seen Michael Smith and company laughing about pro cyclists Juan Antonio Flecha and Johnny Hoogerland getting hit by a car on ESPN’s “Around the Horn.” (Link is to BikesnobNYC’s well-written response.)

Commentators on ESPN found it hilarious when two cyclists were severly injured by a car in Stage 9 of the Tour de France.

It is clear that the 21st century, Internet-driven media model is in effect.  This is a model in which page views attracted by controversial statements trump dedicated readers attracted by responsible reporting.

So who cares about a few controversial statements by columnists working hard to prove themselves irrelevant?  I mean, right? Right?

While it would be nice to dismiss the anti-bike drivel with the wave of a hand, but unfortunately cyclists’ detractors have a large megaphone and their inflammatory prose can do a lot of damage.

Take, for instance, when Michael Smith remarks about the accident that severely injured Flecha and Hoogerland, “I hope nothing happened to the car, I hope it didn’t sustain any real damage.”  Joking about car/bike collisions is only funny to those who aren’t the more vulnerable road users and emboldens people who drive SUVs and pickups for “safety.”

From now on, every time I read an online comment that says something like, “4000 lbs vs. 200 lbs.  I’ll mow down the next cyclist who swerves into my path” I’ll burn a picture of Michael Smith in effigy.

Furthermore, these page view-generating attention whores do a great job to perpetuate myths about cycling.  For example, common themes include:

  1. Cyclists are a bunch of Lance Armstrong wannabes.
  2. Cyclists don’t pay for use of the roads.
  3. More bikes = more problems.

I think I’ll dedicate a separate blog post to debunking these myths, and I think MassBike did a great job of responding to those in he Boston Globe article with their response.

At the end of the day, I don’t know what these “columnists” are going for besides a pat on the back from the empty suit in the corner office.  If you care not to ride a bike, I’m sorry for you, but I understand your right to choose.  However, it makes no sense that drivers wouldn’t want everyone else to ride a bike.  The result would be less traffic, less pollution, less demand for gasoline, easier parking, more attractive neighbors, and less risk of getting hurt in an accident.

For those of us that do ride, we fight an uphill battle against an car-dominated culture that is slowly becoming more accepting of bicycles.  Whenever, Michael Smith or the like belittle cyclists (especially those who get hit by cars), it’s a step in the wrong direction for everyone.

Note:  I criticized Boston Cyclists Union, among others, on Twitter for linking to the recent Boston Globe article calling for a ban of bikes in Boston.  Patrick from BCU e-mailed me back very quickly explaining that the article was already the most e-mailed on Boston.com and posed the following question:

“Do you think it would make more sense to comment without linking, or were you suggesting it would be best to ignore completely this sort of writing?”

As you can see above, I commented on the articles without linking them.  My original goal was to ignore McGrory’s piece about banning bikes in Boston because it was so unoriginal and lame.  However, his article combined with the Wall Street Journal piece and the a-holes over at ESPN pissed me off enough to write this blog post.  Would it have been better if I had linked the articles?  Maybe, but for the anti-bike attention whores, page views means success and that is a hand I will not lend.

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2 Responses to On Bike-bashing in the Formerly Respectable Media

  1. That crash during the Tour was awful, barb wire leaves a mark. When are they going to finally put bike lanes on all roads of the race – its been decades and they’ve still not done it! Anti-cyclist French. Ban all the camera, support, and judges cars too! Seriously, crashes of weary riders is no more funny than skiing crashes or car racing crashes. Motorcycle racing crashes with wobbling bikes and multiple downed riders aren’t funny either. People are sadly interested in train wrecks and stupid videos.

    Bicyclists do not currently pay user fees. Motorist road users pay tolls & gas taxes and public transit users pay fares as user fees for use of facilities. None cover all costs, but it makes a significant contribution. Private bus, taxi, plane, ferry fares, ski lift tickets, and amusement park ride tickets do cover the entire cost.

    More bikes = more problems because you are reaching into the non-enthusiast, uneducated, masses that don’t follow rules like all your readers. They help dilute the quantity of Spandex, though.

    Pedestrians fear cyclists (and motorists) with good reason, physics. E= 0.5 x M x V x V. Kinetic energy equals one half of the mass times velocity squared. Velocity squared is the significant factor, not mass. Even a cyclist is very likely to send a pedestrian flying to impact their unprotected head with unforgiving pavement, sidewalk, curb, pole, or even a moving vehicle. The danger is about the same for a scooter rider going just a little slower. Pedestrian accidents are vastly under-reported. The general public doesn’t all twit, blog, belong to MassBike and other lobbies telling them to report every incident to police.

    • HmmK says:

      You go on with stats about how people don’t pay for fees or whatever but you do realize that the taxes are lumped together when paid on April 15, along with the fact that most cyclists actually have cars. We pay DMV fees, wait atrociously in long lines for them but it doesn’t mean we can haul family and goodies in them. Cycling is recreational, not “I think I’ll go down to the market and grab food and haul it back..” This excuse is so poorly thought out and over-used. Mind you, I live in CA, gas is one of the highest here.

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