Win Your Holiday Arguments: Bicyclists Are a Menace

So tempted to use a picture of Critical Mass, but I’ll stick with CicLAvia Photo: CicLAvia

I have a great family. When we gather at holidays, my family (be they immediate, aunts and cousins, or in-laws) avoid baiting me into an argument about bicycles in any way shape or form. That’s one reason I love them.

But not every cyclist is so lucky. Thanks to the great strides that have been made in recent years, bicycling and bicyclists have become boogeymen to segments of the population. Spurred on by craze talk radio, grandstanding politicians, biased media or the Westwood South of Santa Monica Homeowner’s Association; many car culture warriors have made bicyclists and bicycling a priority.

Here’s what most bike haters don’t get. Bicyclists don’t want to force them from their car, mock them for their lifestyle choices, or anything else. What most want is to be left alone so they can ride safely. Even the biggest boogeyman of all, Critical Mass, has morphed more into an expression of solidarity and safety from its (successful) confrontational advocacy roots.

But that doesn’t mean there won’t be an angry uncle or concerned grandmother that has been fed misinformation. Here’s what you need to win the inevitable holiday argument.

Argument 1: City streets are being taken over by bicycle lanes.

I asked LADOT to provide figures on how much asphalt is on the street and how many miles of bike lanes are on the road. To get a conservative figure, I phrased the question in such a way to get them to over-estimate the amount of bicycle lanes, I made it seem as though we were going to criticise them for a lack of bike infrastructure. I then made this handy graph to illustrate just how much bicycle infrastructure is taking over.

Screen Shot 2013-12-18 at 9.41.21 PM

Here’s the methodology behind the numbers from LADOT:

You could use an average street width of 50 feet, since most streets are local streets which are 30-40 feet wide. 50 X 6500(centerline miles of street) X 5280(number to translate miles to feet) = 1,716,000,000 square feet of pavement. 350 miles of bike lanes with an average bike lane width of 5 feet would result in 350 (miles of bike lanes, is actually a little high) X 5280 X 5 X 2 = 18,480,000 square feet reserved for bikes within the roadway. 1%

For better or worse, there is no war on cars. Nobody is trying to drag anyone kicking and screaming from their vehicles to force them into spandex. Everyone calm down.

Editor’s note – I totally stole this idea from Streetsblog NYC.

Argument 2: Bicycles don’t pay their fare share

Did you know that the bicycle infrastructure being created in Los Angeles is paid for by .2% of Measure R, and state grants? Did you know the funding for these programs is primarily sales taxes? Did you know bicyclists buy stuff? Ok then.

Argument 3: “Bicyclists Are a Menace”

This is the hardest argument to counter, because much like “pedestrians are getting in my way”, the argument is based mostly on anecdotal information and personal experience. As I discussed on the Los Angeles Times, the sad reality is that most road users violate the law on a regular basis. If you don’t believe me, just hang out at any street corner with a traffic light and hang out for a little while.

The key to getting an a righteuous holiday guest to abandon this argument relies on arguing the above point, but closing with this line.

“But that doesn’t mean everyone in a car is a threat, no more than you should believe everyone on a bicycle is a menace. I won’t prejudge you if you don’t prejudge me.”

Besides, judging someone based on the actions of others is sort of the opposite of the holiday spirit.

  • poopface

    My favorite part of the holidays, arguing with friends and family.

  • MarkB

    Head on David Letterman last night:
    What’s the shortest day of the year? December 21st.
    What’s the longest day of the year? December 25: Christmas with family.

  • Ryanwiggins

    I’d add a couple of things to the bicyclists don’t pay their fair-share counter: 86 percent of bicyclists actually own cars meaning they pay gas taxes too. Also, to expand on the Measure R example gas taxes only cover around half of all transportation funding so property taxes, sales taxes, and othe fees and taxes also go into transpo funding. Lastly, and I don’t have the figure in fron tof me so I apologize, but bikes put such minimal wear and tear on roads that it takes literally thousands of bikes to be equivalent to one vehicle.

  • The one I deal with is that it is too dangerous to ride a bike in LA/NYC/fill-in-your-municipality, and therefore they will never ride, or they will never let their kids ride a bike. It’s a tough one because it is subjective. I have my threshold for where I’m willing to ride, and the threshold is informed by road conditions and the likelihood or past history of harassment from other motorists.

  • Cynic13

    No helmets in that photo… I’m an avid cyclist but I think it would be better for my health and life expectancy if I drove for transportation and used the gym for exercise. The odds of injury overwhelm any health benefits of cycling. The environmental benefits argument doesn’ work either – even if you are a true AGW believer, the energy cost of making and maintaining a bicycle is never recouped by a person riding it.

  • Ryanwiggins

    As opposed to the energy costs of making a car? Can you point us to some sources that validate that?

  • Pedro Jones

    dont be a douche rider-stay right