ABC 7 Poses Backwards Poll Question While KPCC Takes a Second Try at Bike-Car Conflicts

11_9_09_abc.jpgWeird wording…what do they have to be afraid of?  Losing a mirror when sideswiping a cyclist?

As we mentioned last week, there is reason for concern about the way the traditional media is covering the "bike v car" controversy in the wake of the verdict in the trial of Dr. Christopher Thompson.  Sometimes there is a soft bias, such as in the wording of the question in  today’s "Question of the Day" by KABC and sometimes it is more pronounced on radio shows or other two-way communications.

The wording of ABC’s question, "As a driver, do you feel safe when sharing the road with cyclists" implies both that cyclists are guests on the car’s road and that cyclists pose a danger to people surrounded by several hundred pounds of metal.  In the wake of a jury trial where a driver was convicted of intentionally causing a crash that hospitalized two cyclists, this implication is especially insulting.  Considering that two of ABC 7’s top six stories for today are of a driver killing a pedestrian in a crosswalk in Long Beach and of a driver crashing into a store front in Woodland Hills maiming a five year old girl; the question must come from someone who doesn’t even watch ABC 7 to witness the devastation that out-of-control drivers, not cyclists, wreck on our streets.  Or maybe those crashes were just "accidents" unlike the intentionally unsafe conditions that cyclists bring every time they pedal onto car’s streets?

Meanwhile, KPCC is giving cyclists a second chance to air our views on Larry Mantle’s AirTalk show this Wednesday at 10:20.  Last week, Mantle tackled the Mandeville Canyon Crash, Trial and Verdict with a distinct pro-car bias.  You can read KPCC’s announcement to their cyclists list after the jump.

Due to the intense interest in this topic
and response to this week’s bicycle show, AirTalk with Larry Mantle will
revisit the issue, this time with some expert guests. It’s set for 10:20
to 11 a.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11. You can listen live on the air at 89.3 FM or
online at We’ll have an
archive of the broadcast available online after the show, and places on the
show website for simultaneous comments, and to continue the discussion

Please feel free to pass the word.
I’ll be e-mailing cyclists who are in the Insight Network an alert to the
follow-up show. Also, anybody who wants to add their bicycle story and photo to
our Insight Network of news sources is welcome to do so at this link:

Thanks very much for making your voice
heard on this issue.

  • DJB

    Point taken about the question’s wording. However, I have to admit that I have felt the fear of striking a cyclist as a driver as well. This is highly dependent on the type of road we’re talking about. If there is a bike lane, the fear is less. If the difference in speed between car and cyclist is small, the fear is less.

    The psychology of driving is important to consider. There’s peer pressure on the roadway to drive quickly. When you slow down for a cyclist you approach in the same lane, the people behind you probably don’t see the cyclist in front of your car and start tailgating you or even honking at you.

    Many drivers just aren’t that used to encountering cyclists, and when drivers don’t practice something, they’re unlikely to be good at it.

  • David Galvan

    The wording for the question should be something like “do you feel comfortable” instead of “do you feel safe”, because obviously the cyclists safety is more at risk than the driver’s. But I generally agree with DJB on this issue. As a cyclist, I am appreciative when drivers give me extra space when passing me on the road and feel unsafe when they don’t. As a driver, I do not like driving behind cyclists at all, because I am always paranoid that they are going to fall over right in front of me unexpectedly, so I try to safely get around them.

    Another encounter I have had with cyclists at least twice was when I am about to make a right-hand turn at an intersection when I have a green light. In that situation, pedestrians have a green go sign to cross the street onto which I am turning, so I watch to make sure no pedestrians will be in my vicinity when turning. However, I’ve had cyclists riding fast on the sidewalk continue into the crosswalk at the last minute as well. I wasn’t looking far enough away along the sidewalk to account for fast-moving cyclists, just slow-moving pedestrians, so I’ve had some quick-stops in the middle of a turn to make sure I don’t hit the cyclists. Certainly made me feel uncomfortable, and yes, unsafe.

    It does no good to paint this as a one-sided issue ie: “cyclists are always right because they are more vulnerable”, or “the road is for cars so cyclists should watch out for themselves”. Both forms of transportation have an impact on each other.

  • A TV network only cares about catering to who they think watch their programs. The vast majority of people who watch ABC7 drive, so all questions and content dealing with transportation will be worded to appeal to drivers. Nothing sinister here, just business. The best advice I can give is to patronize KPCC instead of ABC and vote with your browser clicks.

    Also, there’s no evidence that the driver in the Long Beach story was negligent or out of control. Sometimes an accident is just an accident.

    The Woodland Hills story is definitely negligence and the driver should be punished for it.

  • Phat_Phrank

    In a recent conversation with my mother bicycling came up in conversation. Although she said she supports alternative modes, particularly cycling, she seemed to think that bicyclists need better education on how to ride with traffic and that they should be held accountable.

    As a bicyclist, I disagreed entirely at first. It’s drivers who need the education. If I am involved in an accident with a car, I will also assuredly always lose, so dangerous drivers are the ones who should be held most accountable. However, after further consideration, it isn’t quite so black and white. I see drivers do all sorts of dangerous and illegal things–speeding, illegal U-turns, watching for that open parking space and not the person in the bike lane, etc–but I also regularly see cyclists behaving dangerously, so although I think it’s ludicrous to ask a driver if they feel safe, some bicyclists do create the impression of us all being wreckless, anti-car lawbreakers (such was my mother’s generalization particularly of 20-something cyclists). Just as unpredictable drivers can be terrifying from your bike saddle, unpredictable bicyclists worry drivers.

    Now I certainly don’t mean to say that wreckless bicyclists constitute a majority or are at all representative of bicyclists on the road. I also think that wreckless drivers need to be reined in and drivers who harass, intimidate, or intentionally endanger cyclists (and pedestrians) should be held accountable, even when it does not end in injury as the Mandeville Canyon incident, or worse, fatality as is also too often the case. But, while it will take strong enforcement to get some drivers to treat cyclists respectfully, as bicyclists we can show the more benign drivers that we can all safely share the same road. I’m not saying it’s right that the onus is on bicyclists to show this, because I maintain that we are the ones at risk, but it may be the quickest way to usher in changes in attitudes.

  • As a speed boat operator, do you feel safe that people are swimming in the rivers you ply?

  • LOL at Josef!!!!

    Bias aside… I do find it a little reassuring that 74% of drivers responding express that they’re concerned about crashing into bicyclists… They should be kind of “afraid” and should slow down and be cautious.

  • Sam

    Badly worded question (can be considered a “leading” question in court).
    The question is so absurd, if you replace cyclist with pedestrian the “threat level” to the driver remains the same but sounds even less realistic.


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