Saturday, July 14, 2007

Response to Richard Reeves

The Tulsa World printed an interesting syndicated column by Richard Reeves earlier this week. This is my response:

Bicycles may be too dangerous to use in many American cities, but are they any more dangerous to life and limb than vans and trucks bigger than the homes most of us grew up in...” Richard Reeves, “Free Travel in Paris? Well, Almost.

Here in Tulsa, we have a pilot program not unlike that bicycle program in Paris. If I recall the census date correctly, the average commute distance here is comparable, about 5 miles or 25 to 30 minutes at bicycle speeds. I don't believe anyone would ever refer to Tulsa as 'Paris on the Arkansas' but we can hope!

But my focus in writing to you is that quotation up above. You believe that bicycling in major American cities is a highly risky endeavor, a belief that is both common and greatly exaggerated. Roughly 800 American cyclists die each year on our roads, and about a third of those deaths are children. I won't bore you with a long statistical argument. Suffice it to say that cyclists are only slightly more at risk than motorists, and that's mainly because motorists do not topple over.

Why do I say this? I'm a League of American Bicyclists instructor with over 30 years of road experience. We know that young riders and new riders are the most likely to crash. Experienced club cyclists crash very infrequently and commuting cyclists are the least likely to have an accident. So those of us riding back and forth to work every day are comparatively safe on the road. This may seem counter-intuitive, that a vulnerable road user can safely mix in with motor vehicle traffic, yet statistics confirm it.

I don't expect you to take my word for it. No, I'd prefer that you discover the reality of bicycle commuting for yourself. The first step is to sign up for a League Road1 class your area. This is the bicyclist's equivalent of driver's education. We teach people to ride safely and comfortably in all types of traffic situations. And like most educational efforts, we overcome misinformation and fear with facts and practical instruction. Learning to ride confidently in city traffic isn't an exercise in mind-numbing terror. It's doesn't require the strength and speed of a racing cyclist. Bicycle commuting is something that ordinary people can do everyday as part of a healthier, happier life. Trust me on this one – despite all the verbiage about green issues, congestion mitigation, and the like, most of us commute by bicycle because it's fun and we adults should seize every opportunity for a bit of fun!

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4 Comments:

Blogger Hurricane Hattie said...

Speaking of road1 classes, do you know when the next one is? I have a couple of friends that would like to go.

10:10 PM  
Blogger Ed W said...

We were originally scheduled for a Road1 class today, but it was canceled when we didn't get enough students. Several had to withdraw due to conflicts, so we were short.

Also, and this deserves a post of its own - Sandra is pulling out of the advocacy effort for personal reasons. She's been the organizer and a welcome energizer for the rest of us. For the time being, we'll put the Bike1 classes on hold until we can reorganize.

We really need an organizer and I'm very definitely not that person. I'm very willing to work in support, getting grease under my nail when necessary, and scribbling long columns about it. I told Sandra I couldn't arrange a panic attack, let alone a series of courses as she's done. She's a lifelong friend and a wonderful bicycling advocate. We owe her a great deal of thanks for the effort she's made over the years.

10:32 PM  
Blogger A Midnight Rider said...

Over the past twenty years or so, quality reporting has suffered. The days of researching the topic, verifying sources and hiring of quality and educated reporters have been replace by, "You say it, we print it". Reeves is a prime example.

There really are not many reasons to pick up a newspaper for anything other than the sale inserts.

9:37 AM  
Blogger Paul Tay said...

Santa can be found on the BA or Memerial during any given rush. Where's da beef?

12:14 PM  

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