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Times Op/Ed on Bike-Car Relationship Reveals the Good and Bad of Thompson Fallout

11_5_09_daum.jpgShe looks like she could handle life on a bike. Join us, Meghan!

Since the Christopher Thompson verdict was announced on Monday, many cyclists have reacted with dismay to the media coverage of the assault, the trial, and the reactions of other Angelenos on message boards and call-in shows.  Cyclists were surprised at the venom shown by callers and mis-information from the host on progressive KPCC's morning show and other radio shows were just as bad.  Surprisingly, some of the best coverage, was from the conservative John and Ken Show, the top rated radio call-in show in Los Angeles.

Today, the Los Angeles Times stepped into the fray with an op/ed by columnist Meghan Daum.  The piece is typical of the good and the bad of the coverage.  Daum seems to think that all cyclists are spandex wearing weekend warriors or communist hippies; but she also charectarizes many drivers as socially acceptable sociopaths.  Consider:

Obscene gestures, vanity plates -- it's all part of the romance ofSouthern California driving. Road rage? That's just the inflamedpassion part of that romance. But anyone who's been paying attention tothe road lately has probably noticed a marked, even dizzying --increase in the number of bikes on U.S. streets.

Ugh.  Stererotypes on parade.  However, our car driving friends fare even worse:

Because there's a larger bone of contention here, which is thatcyclists make a lot of us feel like lazy slobs. Whereas drivers sit inan air-conditioned bubble, expending only the energy required to pressthe gas pedal, tap the brake and change from a '70s classic rock radiostation to an '80s classic rock station, cyclists are out in the actualelements doing actual exercise. Whereas drivers are consuming caloriesby eating an entire bucket of KFC over 10 blocks, cyclists are burningcalories and consuming nothing but seaweed at home. Whereas drivers'carbon footprints grow more beast-like by the hour, cyclists create noexhaust other than the sweet fatigue they feel as they drift off tosaintly sleep at night.

Of course, moral superiority isinsufferable, but you still shouldn't try to run it off the road orteach it a lesson with the family car. You might win on the street, butin court, it's a different story.

While I applaud the general sentiment of her story, that drivers and cyclists need to co-exist and it's incumbent on drivers as the bigger road users to be the bigger people; I have to wonder whether painting with such broad brush strokes, "drivers are slobs" and "cyclists are insufferably smug," is the way to get the message across.

If you haven't checked out Daum's column yet, I would recommend you do so.  If nothing else, the comments section gives you a chance to interact with some of L.A.'s less sympathetic drivers in a forum where their two tons of body armor aren't a factor.  I would leave my own comment, but I have to finish my seaweed before grabbing my cloth bags and heading to a farmer's market.

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