Bicycling's image problem


Outside my home today,
by netik. So rude!
[Omitted headline that ends in a question mark]

John Cassidy blogged about the city's new bike lanes. He was annoyed that they made it harder for him to drive his Jaguar around Manhattan, and bemoaned the city's bicyclists as a privileged, insular aristocracy, a "faddist minority intent on foisting its bipedalist views on a disinterested or actively reluctant populace."

Welcome to the new urban order: the Jag-driving New Yorker columnist is a philistine better suited to the suburbs of Wichita. Meanwhile, the city's bicyclists are an entitled, imperial cabal cruising around on Trek Bellville three-speeds, an insidious locus of unchecked power and influence. How is this possible? [...]

The bicyclists-as-gentrifiers trope turns out to be more perception than reality, though. Over the last decade, the share of white bicyclists fell in proportion to riders of color. And ridership is remarkably equal across income groups. Part of the reason we don't see it this way is because all too often, bike infrastructure gets concentrated in tony areas. Look at a map of a city's bike lanes and bike-share stations and you'll have a perfect guide to the "good" neighborhoods. In many cities, writes Dave Feucht, editor of the bicycling blog Portlandize, "being able to get around by bicycle is seen as elitist because you have to have money in order to live in a part of the city where it's even possible to ride a bicycle." [...]

Railing against bikes, in fact, became a great way to sell papers. A hundred years ago, newspapers ginned up scare stories about the threat that hapless women on bicycles posed to pedestrians. Today, old-school tabloids like the New York Post have found that the bicyclists-versus-everyone narrative still resonates. In Op-Eds with titles like "Bike-Lane Bloodbath," bicycles are portrayed as weaponized toys, and isolated accidents are held up as proof that bicycles are an urban menace. Last week in San Francisco, a 23-year-old bicyclist was charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter for striking and killing a pedestrian -- a tragic incident, but one that occurred in a city where 800 pedestrians are hit by cars every year. Still, the story was front-page news, sparking an online uproar.

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63 Responses:

  1. This is, I think, collateral damage from a much larger project: the three years of relentless drum-pounding on the story that the scholarship kid from a single-parent family is an entitled, arrogant, dare-we-say-uppity-of-course-we-so-dare elitist, whereas multibillionaire aristocrats are just regular folks like you and me.

    • (Also the fact that NYC's nouveau riche masters of the universe are some of the most thin-skinned punks imaginable, and there is literally no impingement on their power, real or rhetorical, so small that it does not justify the use of lethal force to put down. See also: the last several months in toto.)

    • tiger0range says:

      I would like to add a caveat that the author of the article himself is probably not a rich 'aristocrat'. A new Jaguar is an expensive car. A Jaguar XJ6 on the other hand, is simply a cheap old car that appeals to car nerds who like paying for gas and mechanical problems. It's often cheaper than a Honda Accord of the same vintage.

      • wilecoyote says:

        In fact, John Cassidy has written quite sympathetically about Occupy Wall Street in the last few weeks, and quite unsympathetically about the big Wall Street banks (which only made his anti-cyclist rant even more puzzling).

  2. Paul Ward says:

    The fact remains that a lot of bicyclists in SF are incredibly rude, such as the one today who blew through a stop sign and almost hit me and my pregnant wife. I'm actually shocked whenever I see a bicyclist actually obeying the rules of the road. As for bike lanes, SF has sacrificed several car lanes for bike lanes that are basically unused, such on Alemany and 25th Ave that leads to more traffic, and for what?

    • jwz says:

      Jesus Christ, shut the fuck up.

      There was a pair of cars literally pancaked outside of my building today, one of them fully upside down. HOW RUDE OF THEM. I'm telling you, I almost dropped my monocle into my martini.

      • Are you implying that we shouldn't mind bicyclists ignoring signs and signals because they are sure to be the most vulnerable in a car vs. bicycle accident? It's completely true that people drive their cars at 50 MPH down the surface streets in SoMa, but in the Mission, the bicyclists weave randomly through stoplights and stop signs, making unpredictable turns and riding against traffic.

        No matter what, I'm going to drive slowly through the city, with a heightened sense of awareness for pedestrians and bicyclists, but I wish people wouldn't slowly jaywalk without even looking in the direction of traffic, and I wish the bicyclists would be more predictable than a swam of gnats.

        • jwz says:

          I'm not implying anything.

          I'm saying that every time I make a post about bikes, dipshits from the peanut gallery immediately show up to dismiss the whole thing by saying, "But a bicyclist was rude to me once!" which is the rhetorical equivalent of replying to someone who has just said, "I have cancer" with "So what! I stubbed my toe! What about my needs!"

          Where's the outrage at the 800 pedestrians that cars run down in SF every year? No, that's just business as usual. Where's the outrage at all of these "car lanes" that could be put to better use for me to walk on? Oh, don't be silly.

          If you want to have this same stupid banter again, go read the entirety of the bike tag first to understand why A) I'm so sick of it and B) I'm pretty sure you have nothing new to say and C) your position is morally bankrupt regardless.

          But I said this using what I thought was a pretty clear shorthand for all of that, namely, "Shut the fuck up."

          • Okay, that makes a lot of sense. I think it's very likely that I'd have a similar reaction in this situation, although maybe I wouldn't be so quick to verbalize it. Thanks for the explanation.

            • Eric Will says:

              You're thanking him for being an asshole? It's funny, he DOES have money.

              Roads are for cars. Move or die.

              • Definitely not thanking him for being so abrasive to strangers. I just figured that because most of things he says are extremely sensible, there must be a good reason for this. Having stopped reading him maybe 5 years ago, I would not have picked up on this bicyclist theme.

          • Peter Todd says:

            Besides, when a cyclist and a pedestrian collide, the person most at risk is, guess what, the cyclist. If I graze a pedestrian with my handlebar there's a pretty good chance I'm going to wind up badly injured while they'll at most have a small bruise.

            So fuck off jaywalkers.

            It'd be interesting to get some stats on this too. Already we know that it's incredibly rare for pedestrians to wind up injured by cyclists, so can we dig up some stats for how often cyclists get injured? Anecdotally I know of two friends who've been in cyclist-pedestrian collisions, one who was the cyclist and hit a jaywalker, and wound up with a broken wrist, and one who was jaywalking, and wound up with a bruised leg while the cyclist was knocked unconscious.

      • Kyzer says:

        As both a motorist and a cyclist, I would be a much happier person if

        a) Motorists obeyed the highway code. Most do, but some don't.
        b) Cyclists also obeyed the highway code. Most do, but some don't.
        c) Motorists and cyclists realised neither of them are better than the other and each stuffed their entitlement mentalities up their respective arses.

        Motorists: please assume the bike is another car. You wouldn't overtake a car without changing lanes, so don't fucking try it with bikes.

        Cyclists: DO NOT RIDE THROUGH RED LIGHTS. If it's pedestrian crossing time, get off the bike and walk like a fucking pedestrian. You may resume cycling at the other side.

        • Thouis (Ray) Jones says:

          That video brings back all of my suppressed cyclist rage. I've been living in Paris for a year, where almost to a fault, even the taxis are, if not polite, at least not overtly rude and/or agressive towards cyclists. One theory I've read is that greater exposure to cyclists leads to fewer problems.

          On another note, as a cyclist and sometimes motorist: I don't give a rat's ass what cyclists do, as long as they behave in a reasonably predictable manner (e.g., don't weave into and out of the car lane - take it or leave it), and pay attention to pedestrians. Run red lights, stop at red lights, bike in the bike lane, bike in any other lane, whatever. I'm not going to get upset if a cyclist goes through a light while I'm stuck in a car waiting for it to change. Envious, maybe, but not upset.

        • Eric Will says:

          Absolutely. Where I'm from (the Midwest) the drivers are great, and there aren't really any cyclists because it's too spread out. That said, when I moved to a cyclist-heavy area of Baltimore, where no one can drive for shit, it's as if the bikes want to die. They never ride on the sidewalk (where I'm from it's illegal to ride in the streets; streets are for cars), the pay no mind to anyone, they ride against traffic, they fly across four lanes to turn left... and if you hit them they sue you!

          • Graham says:

            So we have Kyzer saying people should walk their bikes on pedestrian crossings, i.e. people on bikes should never ride on sidewalks, followed by a reply from Eric Will saying people should *only* ride bikes on sidewalks. Nicely illustrating the problem with getting your bike-riding advice from patronizing and/or hostile internet comments.

            Kyzer, in most places the law allows the riding of bikes on sidewalks and pedestrian crossings on the condition that it be done slowly and prudently, at something like walking speed. Not saying this is what happens - or that it's even a good idea to bike on sidewalks, which it isn't unless you're a kid or otherwise need refuge from a busy street - but I'm pretty sure that's how it works in most places.

            Eric Will, I've heard of one city - Black Hawk, CO - that banned bikes from its streets, and that was in the unique case of a town whose whole economy was based on casinos; their customers arrived by cars almost exclusively, and they didn't want to inconvenience their customers. And of course most cities don't allow bicycles on freeways.

            Otherwise, it's perfectly legal to ride a bike in streets and roads, pretty much everywhere.

            Streets are for people to get around, by any mode necessary.

            • Eric Will says:

              Wow, you're from my home town too?! It's illegal to ride bikes on the street pretty much every place I've ever been that wasn't on a coast. If you didn't grow up there, you don't have a clue now do you?

              I wasn't giving anyone advice. I was merely saying how things are where I'm from. There aren't millions of people per square mile in the Midwest so sidewalks aren't overflowing with people. I've cycled quite a bit and never once had a problem with pedestrians in sidewalks. I've had lots of problems on streets through; because streets are for things with motors.

              • Tkil says:

                Wow, you're from my home town too?! It's illegal to ride bikes on the street pretty much every place I've ever been that wasn't on a coast. If you didn't grow up there, you don't have a clue now do you?

                Ok, make it easy for us: what's your home town? Ideally, link to the section of their municipal code with the provisions making bicycles illegal on streets.

                Graham's experience matches mine -- and as for "not on the coast", I've done extensive cycling in Denver, CO; Fort Collins, CO; Albuquerque, NM; Las Cruces, NM; Austin, TX.

                As for the Midwest, I've friends that regularly bike to work in Chicago.

                A quick survey of bigger towns in the Midwest:

                St. Louis, MO:

                17.36.020 Traffic laws apply to persons riding bicycles.
                Every person riding a bicycle or motorized bicycle upon a street or highway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle...

                Omaha, NE:

                Sec. 36-148. - Rollerskating, skateboarding and bicycling.

                (a) It shall be unlawful for any person to rollerskate or to ride, use, operate, race, or propel a skateboard or bicycle on the public sidewalks of the downtown business district or of the area from Jackson to Jones Street, Tenth to 11th Street, provided that such prohibition shall not include walking or pushing a bicycle except on the public sidewalks of the Old Market and Wholesale District.

                Chicago, IL:

                9-52-010- Rights and duties - Permalink

                (a) Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the laws of this state declaring rules of the road applicable to vehicles or by the traffic ordinances of this city applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except as to those provisions of laws and ordinances which by their nature can have no application.

                (b) The regulations in the traffic code applicable to bicycles shall apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any roadway or public sidewalk or upon any public path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, subject to those exceptions stated herein.

                I'd say that the assumption of "bikes are allowed on roadways" is entirely justified, and I'd really like you to post your home town's laws on the topic.

                I did find a few instances where "no bicycles on the road" was actually enforced (one in Rio Rancho, NM, where the laws have since been changed to allow it; one in Houston, TX, where the ticket stood. So it seems that there certainly are cities that have this prohibition, but it is often lifted as soon as interested parties have the opportunity to challenge it.

                • Eric Will says:

                  My home town is a small suburb of St. Louis that anyone not from there has never heard of. Being small, their village-level laws are not available online, but you'll just have to trust me. Bicycles are not allowed on roads there. That's what sidewalks are for. In fact, in the area I'm from there's only one small village that doesn't have a specific village-level law against bikes in the street. I grew up riding my bike everywhere in this town, and the only time you were allowed on the street was to cross it, in a crosswalk.

                  Small towns are funny like that. They had other strange laws like those concerning cigarettes. In most places it's simply illegal to purchase them under 18, but if you have them there's nothing the police can do. Where I'm from, possession or consumption of tobacco under the age of 18 is illegal as well. I know this because kids from my high school would walk three blocks down to cross the city limits to smoke, because the neighboring village had no such law.

                  I don't care what happens wherever you live, and whatever the war with bikes and cars is. I was simply relating what I experienced when I moved away from my home town, which is that I was very surprised bicycles were allowed on the street and not only that but not allowed on sidewalks at all. The idea that they could go into traffic seemed strange but okay, it's the city, traffic is slow; but, the idea that they couldn't go on sidewalks was, and still is really, just absurd.

                  I used to cycle everywhere a lot back home, but I'm way too concerned for my health to ride a bike in Baltimore traffic. If you've ever been to Maryland and seen the way people here drive, you'll understand why.

                  • Tkil says:

                    Oh, all fair enough. I guess I was just trying to hammer home the point that your experience (no bikes on the road) seems to be the outlier, while many more of us had the opposite experience.

                    Doing research for my previous post, I did see quite a few instances of municipal-level rules (forbidding bikes on roadway), often in contradiction to state-level rules (generally allowing them).

                    And I haven't been through Baltimore in years, so I have no recollection of how bad the traffic is/was. I have been biking off and on for 25+ years at this point, and have only ever been hit by a moving vehicle once. (It was on a separated bikepath, go figure.)

                    Anyway. Safe driving / biking / walking.

            • Thouis (Ray) Jones says:

              > ... or that it's even a good idea to bike on sidewalks, which it isn't unless
              > you're a kid or otherwise need refuge from a busy street ...

              The risk factor for riding on the sidewalk vs. the road is around 2, about the same as for riding against the direction of traffic. I'm not saying it's not sometimes the better choice, but it's easy underestimate the associated risk relative to riding with traffic on a busy road, which often feels more dangerous than it is.

          • I will happily wager $50 that riding the bicycle on the sidewalk is illegal in Baltimore. And I'd not be at all surprised if you were also 100% wrong about the cycling laws where you live, although I have certainly been surprised by dumb laws before in my life.

            • Eric Will says:

              You're right, it IS illegal to ride them on the sidewalk in Baltimore. I never said it wasn't. That's what amazed me. The first day I drove here I was like "why the fuck is this dumbass in the road?" because where I'm from if a bicycle was in the road he'd be roadkill.

              You'll just have to trust that I'm not incorrect about the laws where I'm from. It's a very small town in the middle of no where and their village-level laws/ordinances are not available online.

        • Joe says:

          "get off the bike and walk like a fucking pedestrian"

          No.

        • phuzz says:

          Or to put it another way, some people are selfish arseholes who don't pay attention to what's going on around them.
          Some of these people ride bikes, some of them drive cars, I'd guess the proportion of arseholes to normal people is about the same across the populations of cyclists and drivers.

  3. Jake Nelson says:

    It'd be nice if more bicyclists were aware that strobe lights are rage-inducingly irritating to many people. Seems like every cyclist around here covers themselves in 20 blinding strobes. What the hell's wrong with steady lights and reflectors?

    • It would also be nice if car drivers paid even a little bit of attention to steady lights on bicycles. I would also like a pony. Failing that, I'll opt for whatever reduces my chances of getting killed or maimed.

      (I honestly do sympathize: nobody likes bright strobing lights, for sure. But the near-universal explanation from car drivers for why they took a turn straight across the motorcycle/bicycle in their path is "officer, I didn't see him at all.")

      • Nick Lamb says:

        Motorists aren't looking at anything. They offer the same excuse when they hit other cars, or even a truck. Everything is invisible when you're not looking. It's disappointingly hard to convince a magistrate (should it come to that) that "I didn't see [this thing which was in fact there]" means "I wasn't looking" which in turn means "I was driving without due care and attention", which is in fact a crime.

        Cyclists don't look properly either, of course. But as the original article points out a death by cyclist is rare enough to meet the man-bites-dog criteria for newspapers. I've been hit by cars, and I've been hit by bicyclists and I'd much rather be hit by a bicyclist, even at speed. The last car left a nasty melted hole in the (nylon?) outer sleeve of my coat.

        • Thouis (Ray) Jones says:

          Another problem with flashing lights is that they makes it more difficult to accurately estimate velocity (http://www.uctc.net/research/papers/667.pdf , but I'm having trouble tracking down the original and better paper I read on this, related more specifically to cyclists).

          I do (or did) most of my biking in Boston, often after dark or less-than-optimal conditions, under a few operating assumptions: a) if they're angry at you, at least they've seen you, and b) they haven't seen you, c) this won't stop them from trying to hit you. Basically, I try to bike like an invisible asshole that everyone is trying to kill. Without the actual "being an asshole part," out of a combination of passive-aggressiveness and not wanting to give them any more incentive to hit me.

          More lighting research fun: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0001457503000083
          (basically: during the day, wear bike geek colors, at night, lights on moving parts may be more helpful than fixed to the bike).

    • nooj says:

      please. i agree with you wholeheartedly about flashing lights, but complaining about cyclists doing it is showing up a little late to the party.

      flashing lights are an official staple of every niche driver (tow trucks, garbage trucks, general contractors, buses, rental security, construction vehicles, truck drivers, corporate vehicles, cops, emergency responders, etc.) who thinks that their own perceived safety is more important than everything else on the road. cyclists are no different.

      brighter, flashier lights is inexorable.

  4. DFB says:

    Bicycle accident rates have reliably and steeply dropped in both urban and suburban U.S. municipalities over the past decade where Safe Routes to School grants have been awarded. The audits involved usually result in little more than sign and signal adjustments, lane (re)painting, side paths, repairs, and fairly rarely road widening, and they are considerably more popular than biking-focused programs. Bikers should get behind that program if they want to maximize return on effort. Nobody ever writes op-eds complaining about schoolkids on bikes, even though the actual number of students who don't take cars to school are at an all time low.

  5. Edouard says:

    Ooo - a bicycle post. I'll just go warm up the popcorn.

  6. Tkil says:

    FWIW, the linked picture doesn't work in Safari on my iPhone, but of course works fine in a "real computer" browser. I'm assuming that the Twitter website gets confused when it tries to pass me off to the mobile front-end. Or maybe it has to do with not being logged into Twitter.

    (Which you probably don't care about, let alone able to fix. But in case you wanted to know...)

    This was supposed to be the future, right?

    • jwz says:

      If you mean the thumbnail isn't showing up, that's weird, because it's coming off my site like usual. If you mean that after you click through to Twitter it does something stupid... well, I am sad to report that I don't have checkin access to that codebase...

      • Tkil says:

        Sorry for being unclear.

        If you mean the thumbnail isn't showing up, that's weird, because it's coming off my site like usual.

        No, the thumbnail is displaying fine as you expected / described.

        If you mean that after you click through to Twitter it does something stupid... well, I am sad to report that I don't have checkin access to that codebase...

        Yeah. And I figured you couldn't fix it, I just thought I'd let you know.

        (Although who knows, maybe there's a "do not redirect" param you can stuff onto the end of Twitter URLs, to avoid getting sent to the mobile site. I suspect that neither of us care that much, though.)

  7. Chad says:

    Is that a misprint, or am I out of the NYC loop? What is a "tony area"?

    • jwz says:

      No, you're just not from the 1870s.

    • Lun Esex says:

      There's lots of guys in NYC who go by "Tony," as short for "Antonio." So clearly the author is specifically referring to where they live, or in other words, Little Italy. :)

      (There's another joke here somewhere about the author being sexist and using only the masculine "tony areas" instead of a more politically correct "tony/toni areas"...)

  8. Jeremy Wilson says:

    It's a shitty situation. The big problem, of course, is that it is basically impossible for cars and bikes to use the same infrastructure at the same time. Roads are just designed for cars, and the flagrant law breaking by people on bikes proves that.

    The solution is to do it like Europe, and put the bike paths along side the sidewalk, in their own raised lanes, and off the road completely. Every major road in Hamburg, for example, has these type of bike lanes. But that simply isn't possible here due to space, lack of money, and ultimately lack of will.

    Time to hire a PR firm and get that image massaged.

    • Palmir says:

      It's a shitty situation. The big problem, of course, is that it is basically impossible for cars and bikes to use the same infrastructure at the same time. Roads are just designed for cars bikes, pedestrians, and horses; and the flagrant law breaking by people on bikes in cars proves that.

      ... seriously though, you don't think there were roads before cars? You think that the narrow ass-streets not only throughout Europe but many places in the US were designed for cars?

      • Jeremy Wilson says:

        *Modern* roads, with traffic lights, signs, and 50mph limits are designed for cars. Don't be obtuse.

        • Palmir says:

          Right, and I'm saying keep cars segregated. They can keep their 65mph freeways: they're safer than two-way streets anyway. Likewise, the safest place for bikes is to ride where they belong: on the roads, as part of traffic, coming from directions and in places where drivers of all vehicles are expecting them to be. I don't see the problem with that, especially since your plan requires, as you say, more money and space than is available, where mine requires neither.

          • Jeremy Wilson says:

            Well, given that so many people continue to die in car-on-bike accidents, there is clearly a problem with bikes in the road. Having them off the road but still on a separate path so they don't interfere with pedestrians is the best solution.

            But, the perception of bicyclists as elitist assholes is getting in the way of finding the money to provide that solution, which is why changing that perception should be a focus, rather than continuing the endless us-vs-them arguments that get us nowhere.

          • Eric Will says:

            You embody every reason people hate cyclists.

            • Thouis (Ray) Jones says:

              You're obviously a complete tool. Linux kicks Windows ass in so many ways I don't have time to list them here. You're obviously just too brain damaged to use it correctly. And don't get me started on macs.

              Oh, wait, sorry. Wrong argument. I'll be going now.

            • Palmir says:

              People hate cyclists because they want to peaceably share the road with all other road users? Actually... that sounds about right. No argument here.

    • Jon says:

      In fact, Europe moves to putting bike lanes on the road, away from the sidewalks. It turns out that bikes on the sidewalk (or bikelanes thereon) are hidden from the cars view by parking cars and thus more often run over by turning cars. Its safer for bikes to run on bike lanes adjacent to the road where they're seen by cars.

    • Ian says:

      I'll agree with the first sentence, but the second is complete rubbish, and the third is because of the flagrant law breaking by people in cars etc.

      Depends on which bit of Europe you're talking about.

      In the Netherlands, there is a fabulous network of cycle routes in and far around all the cities I have been to. Cyclists typically share the streets with motorists, go slowly because of the heavy crap most of them ride, often behave badly, and... it's OK!!! It's as if the drivers are trained from birth to be respectful of other traffic. Someone once apologised to me because the drivers in Rotterdam weren't as nice towards cyclists as the ones in Amsterdam. They were still vastly better than anywhere in the UK.

      The reason drivers so often behave badly (often = lethally) is that they think there won't be any consequences. Personally, I'd arm all cyclists and empower them to execute drivers who break the law, but fortunately that's not likely to get past any legislature. Instead, do what several countries do: if a motor vehicle crashes into a cyclist or pedestrian, make the driver utterly at fault for insurance and criminal liability purposes.

  9. Gareth Rees says:

    This is how the media treat all minorities: it's just that "being a cyclist" is one of the few ways in which white middle-class straight men can experience being a member of a visible minority. Sucks, doesn't it?

  10. @ndy says:

    Why does everything in the US seem to come down to race? I'm a native English speaker and I'm sure I missed at least half the American Euphemisms in that article.
    -- Confused of Britain.

    • Lun Esex says:

      A massive portion of the U.S. population is very racist, but in the closet about it. So there are lots of euphemisms used by these people to disguise their racism. It's also mostly taboo to flat-out call someone a racist who's not overtly saying or doing racist things, so that results in lots of OTHER euphemisms for calling people racist, without actually using the word "racist."

      Lots of political capital is gained in the U.S. by leveraging disguised or covert racism, thus it's in many politician's interests to keep racial tensions in the public consciousness. In the end, many of the things in the U.S. that AREN'T actually about race then frequently do wind up having race dragged into them.

      Also, the U.S. political system is structured in such a way that third parties are not viable, because they just draw off votes that would otherwise go to the major political party that they are closest to, so the party that they are FARTHEST from is actually more likely to win the election (see GH Bush vs. Clinton vs. Perot in 1992, and Gore vs. GW Bush vs. Nader in 2000). Coalitions only really work INSIDE a party in the U.S. system, shifting its issues and focus, rather than across parties. As a result there's no real equivalent to the BNP in the U.S., so (covert/overt) racists have to be courted and accepted into one of the two major national parties (guess which one*), resulting in lots of coded racist messages to attempt to appeal to them.

      Of course, just by saying that massive disguised racism exists in the U.S. I have branded myself as an enemy combatant by one of the two major national parties (guess which one) who will steadfastly insist that racism in the U.S. is entirely a thing of the past.

      *Semi-trick question, as it depends on your position in history. The party that most supported, and was supported by racism and racists FLIPPED in the middle of the 20th century due to the 1930's post-Depression New Deal and 1960's civil rights movement.

      • @ndy says:

        Wow! Thanks for the detailed and comprehensive reply.
        I often think that the common language barrier makes the cultural differences between the US and the UK much more tricky to navigate compared to other countries. That's not to say we don't have racism here... it's just I understand how it works here and whenever I'm speaking to an American who I feel is using a whole lot of euphemisms, it's very difficult to work out what they're *actually* saying as the words themselves seem to make sense to me but the sentences don't.

        Thanks for the tips,
        -- (Slightly Less) Baffled of Britain

        • Lun Esex says:

          U.S. culture is rife with euphemisms, going way beyond issues of race. There's a general high value in the U.S. on honesty (Bill Clinton got impeached not for any ACTION he took, but for not being HONEST about his actions), with a simultaneous high value on being liked and likable by as many people as possible (the popularity of many politicians [not to name names] is based not on their knowledge, but on their sincerity in what they believe). Plus there's a huge stigma placed on being rude ("Have a nice day!"). So most Americans have to learn how to navigate these potentially contradictory states, keep up appearances, and not just collapse in a heap of cognitive dissonance in the end. Euphemistic language is a major way of dealing with this. In many cases people can disown prior statements whose true intent have been divined by stating that they were "misinterpreted." Another common way of dealing with the contradictions in U.S. culture is by being two-faced. To the larger American public it's actually MUCH worse to be frank and rude to people to their face than it is to appear to be nice to someone and then cut them down in private (See: the majority of American media such as sit-coms, dramas, etc.).

          So I'm not sure it's even so much the "common language barrier" as it is that it can take a long time even for Americans to learn how to deal with the inherent contradictions in U.S. culture. Many still have trouble even after growing up in it (Also see: xkcd and many other forms of U.S. geek humor).

          ("...if you know what I mean.")

      • Joe says:

        "guess which one"

        Democrat.

  11. edlang says:

    the trick is to be a member of an armed service:

    Dixon v Middleby-Clements | A.C.T Magistrates Court

    In it, a magistrate examines whether a driver was 1) negligent and 2) caused GBH when she hit a cyclist. The magistrate examined some of the ACT specific case law and legislation. Worth a read if you want to learn more about this sort of thing.

    Some choice paragraphs:

    1. On 11 March 2009 the cyclist, who at the time was 37, was riding his bicycle home from his work at the Australian Defence Force Academy. He was travelling in a northerly direction in the left hand lane of Limestone Avenue in Reid. He was wearing a high visibility top and a bright yellow bike helmet. The weather was fine. Limestone Avenue in this area runs predominantly north/south. It has two lanes in each direction, separated by a raised grass median. The south bound lanes are raised above the north bound lanes. The speed limit is 60 kilometres an hour.

    [...]

    19. This is not an accident for which there is no explanation. One does not have to speculate about what occurred. The explanation given by the defendant to the cyclist at the time – “I’m so sorry I didn’t see you” – is the reason for the collision. Quite simply the defendant did not keep a proper lookout. She was at a stop sign, and the cyclist travelling towards her was wearing high visibility clothing. There is no suggestion that the defendant’s view was obstructed and the cyclist must have been considerably ahead of any other traffic coming towards the defendant as there is no suggestion from any witness that other cars travelling behind the cyclist had to brake suddenly to avoid the Barina. This failure to keep a proper lookout for oncoming traffic was compounded by the defendant driving a car with which she was not very familiar and which, therefore required her to use even more caution before she attempted to move across a break in peak hour traffic.

    [...]

    So your solution in SF might be to find a (decorated?) veteran, put him on a bicycle, and wait...

  12. Sheilagh says:

    When you click post on an entry with the bike tag, do you have a flash of vision of just how many biketards will pop up? It's like magic! Garunteeeeeeed!