KABC Discovers What’s “Bugging You…”

I have to admit. I expected worse.

When I read on Midnight Ridazz that ABC 7 was running advertisements about a segment on the 11:00 P.M. news called “Road Wars: Cars v Cyclists,” I was expecting a total hit piece on bicycling.  My friends in San Francisco and New York warned me that there is always a blowback in the media when cycling and transit start making headways against a Car Culture mentality.  We’ve already seen the assault on the Westside Subway because it won’t magically unclog Westside surface streets.  Now, it’s cyclists turn.

And the promo worked.  I watched ABC 7 all day waiting for it to run again, and then stayed up late to watch the piece.  I was ready to write an immediate reaction piece here, in the same way I watch the Super Bowl just waiting to be outraged by car commercials.  For those of you that don’t know me, that last part was a joke.

But the piece wasn’t that bad.  The promo for it, promoting a “road war” and featuring angry clips from motorists and a crazy-looking Aurisha Smolarski from the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition promised something cutting edge and news worthy.  This piece was neither.

Sure, it was biased against cyclists, casting them as incompetent menaces instead of equal users on the road.  Instead of rousing my protective nature toward cycling,  it left me wondering, “that’s it?”  After all that promotion the best they could come up with was footage of a couple of cyclists running stop signs?  I mean, we all know drivers would never do that.

But that wasn’t my only complaint with the piece, following the story chronoligically:

I have to wonder about starting the piece with a cyclist making a legal left-turn in a turn only lane.  Most drivers, and some police officers, seem to think that such a move is illegal for cyclists.  It’s an odd way to start the story, especially by going right from that clip to a driver complaining about cyclist behavior at stop sign.

  • The only driver interview is with Chris Castillo who begins with a smirking, “there just happen to be certain cyclists, for the most part, that don’t obey safety rules.”  The way he says it, with a lopsided grin, makes me think he’s not referring to all cyclists everywhere, but of some people he knows personally.  My guess, he’s referring only to LADOT meter enforcement.
  • You Tube?  Really?  “And on YouTube there are videos of hundreds of cyclists breaking the law.”  On YouTube there are also hundreds of videos of cars driving recklessly.  Also: hundreds of videos of “Shakira shaking her butt.”  And, O…M..G…there are literally thousands of videos of “cats doing funny things.”  Perhaps YouTube popularity is not the best way to judge how prevalent something is.
  • “Viewers tell us cyclists have cursed at them and threatened them sometime on the road.” is somehow equated equally with, “cyclists complain cars don’t give them enough room.”  First: cyclists watch your news show (i.e. they’re viewers.)  Stop acting like cyclists are some sort of rare species that can’t figure out how to work our black and white picture boxes ever since our rabbit ears stopped working.  Second, when I say something bad to someone, even if it’s threatening; it is not equal to driving so close to a cyclist as to potentially cause a crash.  That’s what “not giving cyclists enough room” really is.
  • What’s up with the interview of Aurisha?  Where’s the crazy Aurisha from the promo?  Why this well-dressed, rational woman calmly explaining the difference between how bad driving is a menace to everyone and bad cycling is a menace to, well, bad cyclists?  It’s almost as though the clip they showed in the promo was wildly mis-representative of Smolarski’s speaking style.
  • What the LAPD officer says is true for every user of the road.
  • The end of the story is so innocuous as to be almost useless.  Really?  You could find some cyclists that obey the law?  Good for you.

In the end, I was left rolling my eyes instead of feeling angry.  The best reaction to the article was actually scribed by our friend Roadblock over at Midnight Ridazz.

The traffic grid in Los Angeles is designed primarily for cars and until it accomodates bicycles, cyclists will fudge the system. In the Netherlands the traffic grid is designed for ALL modes. Lights signal green first for peds, then for bikes then for cars. There are rarely any stop signs and the laws place strict liability on the heaviest vehicles first meaning that if you are driving a heavy vehicle an accident is automatically your fault unless proven otherwise. This forces drivers to slow down when peds and cyclists are present. It makes for a much more people friendly environment.

A little more of that would definitely make things more pleasant for everyone.

  • Wow, Aurisha, you could have done much better.

    Focusing on bike riders blowing stop signs is “ignoring the bull in the china shop”.

    She needs to have traffic casualty numbers on a small card in her pocket. Bike run stop signs, but cars kill and maim on a regular basis. Who should bear the responsibility, and should carry the brunt of your reporting, when it comes to roadway behavior Mr. Reporter?

    Further, driver run red lights and stop signs constantly – a real safety hazard, and one that never comes up in these discussions about bikes.

  • Cut her some slack, I’m sure they cut up her interview pretty well.

  • Wow – they’ll have to tell us where they discovered “designated bike lanes” in Downtown L.A.! That’s a real news story!

  • Ross Hirsch

    ABC/Disney should be ashamed of running such superficial drivel. This piece does little more than pander to and re-hash irrelevant “human interest” issues based on one-sided impressions. The piece’s facts and nuances were, as the article points out, very biased against this crazy whack-job thing to do called “cycling.” This is no such thing as “cyclists”–they’re just people riding bikes. It’s me, it’s you, it’s them, it’s any and all of us at any time we wish. Where’s the piece on bikes as transportation? Where’s the piece on parents that have started bringing their kids to school by bike? Where’s the piece on all the local bike communities that have sprouted throughout the city and provide a way for people to socialize, explore their city, exercise, ditch their car, etc.? Where’s the piece on today’s Walk to School Day? Where’s the piece on local bike shop owners working to revive a sense of community? Where’s the piece on Carlos Morales who started up the Eastside Bike Club to improve his own health and that of his community–or Josef, or Joe Linton, or Roadblock, or Sgt. Krumer? You know I could go on.

    ABC/Disney can, at any time, choose from any of the above subjects to “report” on, but they choose to run a bologna piece and call it “What’s Bugging You” as an attempt to be an on-the-street news reporting agency to gain some type of credibility that they are reporting on what *you* care about. Turn that crap off–you won’t find any substance there.

  • Joe

    Look about 40 seconds in. As a cyclist (slows and) runs a stop sign, a Prius breezes right past him. The announcer gives this as an example of a video of “cyclists breaking the law”.

    I don’t want to hear another motorist complaining about “cyclists breaking the law” unless that person follows all the laws to a T. That includes coming to a full stop at stop signs and before making a right on red, not speeding, and using their turn signals. Complaining about cyclists breaking laws while breaking much more important ones themselves makes them nothing but hypocrites.

  • joe

    You know all over the nation rolling through a stop sign is called a California stop. California didn’t get this reputation because of all of the cyclists rolling through stop signs.

    Once people start calling it the cyclist stop, I’ll start to worry.

  • Dan

    I missed the interview, but I when I was growing up, it was how can I stay out of the way of cars. To this day, I still ride my bike the same way.
    For those cyclist who think they are equal with a car, may they be run over soon.
    The law says when the road is too tight, they should be considered as an equal.

    It’s some new breed of moronic self-centered cyclist that are the problem. They should be driven over until they realize that they too need to share the road.

    I feel sorry for the Doctor from Mandeville Canyon who was sentenced to years for an altercation with Cyclists.
    About 300 selfish road-hogging morons invaded the only roadway for an entire neighborhood. It’s not a park or recreation area, it was a road and it’s where people live. Anyways, I don’t necessarily support stopping quickly in front of loser Cyclists, but I’m glad someone gave them something to thing about. I’d like the roads back, pedestrians can’t obstruct traffic.

    Where do these monstrously selfishly stupid cyclist come from? Sand them back!!
    The organizers of that event should have been persecuted for illegal assembly.

    In-city Bike Paths NEED to be planned away from major traffic, for their safety and for less traffic.
    Why should one cyclist obstruct and delay large amounts of smoking cars?

  • Doug

    Where to begin, Dan? Have you ever gone for a “drive”? You know, no destination but just moving cause it’s really fun? Of course you have – you and thousands of other people who make unnecessary trips and detours, just because you feel like it. Just because in this case hundreds of people get together and ride the same route obviously for pleasure doesn’t take away the rights to the road that you enjoy but are perhaps more discreet about. (Or rather, nobody can tell when you’re just driving around versus going somewhere.)

    Try getting on a bike sometime and you’re sense of entitlement in a car will go away, and maybe you’ll become one of those self-centered bikers you deride. And if it doesn’t, well come back and tell us about it.

  • Erik G.

    You guys watch local TV news?

  • Erik G.

    Ubrayj02:

    Get let’s those stats on to a business card and fire up the laminator.

    And let’s get rid of so many #$%! stop signs!

  • PIO

    @Dan

    Cyclists are rehabilating the streets and the city. Its time for drivers to STOP raping our streets and killing people. Let your entitlement and attitude find your way to prison to expereince the same.

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