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!
Photo: Creepyla.com

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 of
Southern California driving. Road rage? That’s just the inflamed
passion part of that romance. But anyone who’s been paying attention to
the 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 that
cyclists make a lot of us feel like lazy slobs. Whereas drivers sit in
an air-conditioned bubble, expending only the energy required to press
the gas pedal, tap the brake and change from a ’70s classic rock radio
station to an ’80s classic rock station, cyclists are out in the actual
elements doing actual exercise. Whereas drivers are consuming calories
by eating an entire bucket of KFC over 10 blocks, cyclists are burning
calories and consuming nothing but seaweed at home. Whereas drivers’
carbon footprints grow more beast-like by the hour, cyclists create no
exhaust other than the sweet fatigue they feel as they drift off to
saintly sleep at night.

Of course, moral superiority is
insufferable, but you still shouldn’t try to run it off the road or
teach it a lesson with the family car. You might win on the street, but
in 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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