A lot of very ecologically minded people like the idea of biking to work or using two wheels instead of four when they run errands. But they’re probably given pause by surveys that show the main reason folks say they don’t ride a bike is because they feel it’s too dangerous.
On the other hand, they might be heartened by an article last year in The Atlantic Cities that the chance of injury drops by about 50 percent when bicycle lanes are available—and by 90 percent if there are actual barriers separating cyclists from traffic.
Not so heartening is a report from Norwich, the largest city in England after London. A woman named Emma Way sent out this tweet on May 19: “I knocked a cyclist off his bike. I have right of way, he doesn’t even pay road tax.”
In an interview with the BBC, the victim, Toby Hockley, said: “She hit me hard, really hard. I am lucky to be alive. But I managed to get out of the hedge and stand up. The car was nowhere to be seen. She hit me and she was gone. All I know is that it was a blonde girl driving.”
Now, just so you know, Ms. “I’ve-got-the-right-of-way” Way isn’t some cranky old lady who thinks young people on bicycles should be paying more attention to what they’re doing.
On her Twitter account (soon to disappear, I’m sure) she looks like a deceivingly nice young lady in her 20s.
The police were soon notified of Way’s comments by other Twitter users, who were also more than happy to send the officers pictures from her Facebook page, where she had posted photographs of herself tailgating other motorists, and even one of her speedometer displaying a speed of 95 miles per hour.
It’s no wonder that one commenter made the fairly astute observation that Way may be a “serious idiot.”
Luckily, back here in the states, the controversy surrounding the addition of bike lanes to the streets of a lot of our major cities is dying down.
New Yorkers, who were once skeptical and a bit resentful about the proliferation of bike lanes, now support them. A 2012 poll conducted by The New York Times found that only 27 percent of city residents say bike lanes are a bad idea.
Yet...City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is running for the office currently held by Mayor Bloomberg, reportedly told those gathered at a January luncheon for tourism officials that bike lanes are clearly controversial. “Bike lanes, I put that now in the category of things you shouldn’t discuss at dinner parties, right?...It used to be money and politics and religion. Now in New York you should add bike lanes.”
So, what’s a cyclist to do?
Perhaps move to Portland, Oregon. It was number one on Bicycling’s 2012 list of “America’s Top 50 Bike-Friendly Cities.” The city is “a paragon of bike-friendliness, with 180 miles of bike lanes and 79 miles of off-street bike paths.” It also has bike boxes at intersections and elementary-school bike commuting trains.
If Portland isn’t an option, wear a helmet, stay in your lane, and don’t visit Norwich. As for dinner party conversations, give the topic a whirl and let us know what happens.
What punishment should Emma Way face? Please discuss in the comments below.