Saturday, March 20, 2010

Talk radio may be bad for your health.

What would happen if a syndicated radio talk show host advocated intentionally running into bicyclists with your car? Of course, that wouldn't happen. No one would say that, especially on the radio. It would be silly, actually, to think that it could happen.

Oh, but it did happen. It has happened in the past. Clear Channel stations have had controversy over their radio show hosts doing just that. Just this last week, it happened again. If you want to read about it, google "bike hate" and you'll get some stories about it. Lance Armstrong's fans made him aware of this and there was pressure from them for him to confront the talk show host. You can find the broadcast and listen to it yourself. I'm not saying the name of the radio guy because I don't want to be part of his publicity team. Personally, I am very angry at this poor excuse of a man and cannot fathom that he is allowed to spew his hate on the airwaves.

Now, how did Lance do? Did he give this guy a piece of his mind? I guess not. I listened to his exchange as it was played on the radio and it was mamby pamby and nicey nice. Evidently, they had had a previous conversation where the radio guy had apologized. So........Lance and radio guy had a nice conversation that didn't have any meat to it at all with regard to cyclist/motorist relations. I'm sure Lance did his best. He defended the wearing of cycling specific clothing. He is more well spoken than I would have expected. Radio guy asked him questions about why he came out of retirement. I'd like to speak up for keeping perspective. Lance is talking to this guy because he badmouthed cyclists and egged on his listeners to hit cyclists! There is no way this guy and Lance should have had a chummy conversation. I wish Lance had kept radio guy on topic.

The best question was one asked by radio guy. He asked Lance why motorists don't like cyclists. He mentioned that Lance, in the previous conversation, (evidently not aired) had said something about other slow vehicles, horses, animals in the street, etc. and the fact that motorists don't seem to get as upset by those other obstructions to their hasty travel. Lance did good. It is good that he pointed that out.

Evidently, he hasn't thought about the real reasons behind the animosity some motorists show toward cyclists. Here it is in a nutshell, and you can quote me on this, but give me credit because I have it figured out. Gasoline makes people stupid. Well, it's deeper than that. When people get behind the wheel of a car, they are empowered. They are in control. King of the world. It is as if their progress, to their gasoline addled minds, is mandated by the heavens. To let a "lesser" vehicle get in the way of said forward motion is an action that they cannot abide. Humility is not a quality that is revered in our society. On the roadway, it could make things so much better. It is all but unheard of there.

On the roadway, there is a hierarchy of size. Car drivers don't complain about being stuck behind a cement truck because a cement truck is bigger than they are. I have heard motorists exclaim how ludicrous it is for a smaller car to claim its right of way due to the size "advantage" their car has over the small car. I'd be surprised if you can't think back and remember hearing the same thing from the driver of a large vehicle. Where does that leave the cyclist? We are using the same space as cars are. But we are the easiest member of the wheeled road users for any car driver to imagine him or herself having the power to push around. If we ride with respect for the law, yet confidently, we are often accused of "riding as if we think we own the road". We are expected by some motorists, those who say that, to mind our place and preferably, they'd like it if we were on the sidewalk. Ironically, most motorists don't know the rules of the road, especially, the bicycle's place in the scheme of things.

I like driving cars. I would say that in my more than forty years of driving cars, I've been delayed no more than 10 minutes by cyclists. I really think it has been less than 5 minutes but I say 10 so I know I'm not exaggerating. I have waited hours and hours in traffic jams because of things other motorists have done or not done. Tailgaters and people who do not use their turn signals are responsible for a majority of accidents on freeways. Why isn't the radio guy complaining about tailgaters? Non signalers? Think he's ever had a show with a theme of running into them? I don't. Why wouldn't he? Why don't motorists tell you about that? They surely tell you about the time cyclists held them up in traffic; don't they?

Go easy on the car drivers. Remember what gasoline does to them.



  1. I think its actually because bikes are associated with poverty in many people's minds. A bike is something you ride when you cannot afford a car, or are too young to drive a car. And here in America we there is generally a lot of hate towards the poor.
    That's why people don't get angry being stuck behind a horse or carriage, these are symbols of some degree of wealth. I think its more of a hierarchy of money, than one of size.

  2. Zach,
    A very good point. And, conversely, is it any wonder, then, that the richest most powerful country is afflicted with some of the highest rates of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes? All are afflictions of comfort and wealth. Oh, woe is we. I was much thinner and fitter when I was a poor starving student. My weight/blood pressure rose in direct proportion to my income and miles driven. I'm a lot less fat than I was several years ago, but I have some poundage to go yet. And, I also drive a lot less now that I have committed myself to cycling as a primary transportation choice whenever possible. Cycling is much more fun than the gym.

  3. Zach,
    You make a valid point. I'd say that a perception of wealth or lack thereof plays a part.

    The horse and carriage is slow but it is the same size as a car. Let's imagine a really beat up car or truck. It wouldn't engender the "acting out" on the part of car drivers that a bicycle would. I'm not thinking I've said that artfully but my point is that a car, even the most dilapidated one, smacking of poverty will get more respect that a bicycle from many car drivers.

    Car drivers have a heirarchy of size among themselves. Thus, the proliferation of huge vehicles. A larger vehicle is seen by many as license to push around the smaller cars. Yes, even the smaller cars that cost more.

    Either way, OK, both ways, it's a jungle out there. It doesn't do any harm to know what your aggressors are thinking.

    I like the dialogue. Thanks.


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  5. Great observations. As a driver I do get annoyed by getting stuck behind the garbage truck on Wednesday mornings. Of course the reason I'm behind it is because I'm running late and I know I'm going to be later. I don't have this problem when I'm on my bike.

    Maybe as drivers we aren't paying attention and get distracted too easliy but don't want to take responsibility for our actions. Or just maybe we on our bikes are just caught in the crossfire.

    Be alert and ride safe.

  6. As an avid rider, I feel that most drivers don't know how defenseless a biker is when it comes to riding within inches of a car speeding by. I have often thought it would be a good idea for all drivers to ride a bike next to traffic before they are issued a driver's license. That being said, I also get irritated by the overly aggressive bicycle rider that makes the car driver mad and causes that aggression towards the rest of us riders.