Skip to Content
Streetsblog Los Angeles home
Log In

The Great Bicyclist Responsibility Debate Continues

8:06 AM PDT on May 11, 2010

308024633_8595a910aa.jpgSearching for clarity when road users conflict. (Photo: squacco via Flickr)

Today on the Streetsblog Network, Boston Biker takes issue with a recent column in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine
about how people on bicycles need to "earn" respect on the road. In the
view of the Globe’s Doug Most, it’s essentially the responsibility of
bicyclists to stay out of the way of motor vehicles and to ride with
the assumption that they’re invisible.

Here’s what Boston Biker writes about the Globe’s piece:

The subheading of the article is, "After a fatal crash, they wantmore respect on the road. They need to earn it." ("They" meaningcyclists.) If everyone is breaking the law why do cyclists need to"earn" respect? Why don’t car drivers and pedestrians have to "earn"respect?…

[T]hat is not how our legal system works. Everyone has the fullprotection of the law at all times. You don’t lose that protectionbecause you didn’t wear your helmet, you also don’t lose thatprotection if other people making the same transportation choice youare break the law. Car drivers don’t lose protection and respectbecause some of them don’t wear seat belts and run red lights, neitherdo cyclists.

Too often in the mainstream media, cyclists are assumed to be at
fault in any conflict between modes. Even when a person on a bike is
following all the rules and is hit and killed by a car, frequently the
implication in news coverage is that the bicycle rider was somehow
"asking for it," simply because he or she was daring to ride a bike.
And riding a bike shouldn’t be something you need to dare to do.

There’s nothing wrong with defensive riding. And there’s no question
that many people on bicycles break the law in dangerous ways. But as
bicycle use increases around the country, there is a real need for
balanced discussion of the ways that pedestrians, bicyclists and
drivers interact in traffic. That means recognizing that all road users
should respect each other. It’s all well and good for bicyclists to see
themselves as ambassadors
(that’s how I personally choose to ride). But they should be allowed to
be just people, as well, like the members of any minority.

Related: Ditching the Car for 40 Days has a rundown of all the scary ways drivers pass bicyclists on the road.

More from around the network: Reinventing Urban Transport writes about "car-sharing on steroids." Newton Streets and Sidewalks wonders about the viability of village-to-village bike paths. And Urban Out reports on an important advance for the Cincinnati streetcar project.

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog Los Angeles

Guest Opinion: Ten Years In, CA Active Transportation Program Lays Bare a Tale of Two Agencies

L.A. County needs to embrace physically-protected bikeways, robust traffic calming around schools, and similarly transformative, safety-focused projects

September 29, 2023

Eyes on the Station: Metro Fortified Turnstiles at MacArthur Park Station

Metro fortified turnstile entrances at MacArthur Park in order to curb fare-evading riders; sometimes this has adverse impacts on fare-paying riders

September 27, 2023
See all posts