Motorist says he pays for “driving surface”; would swerve to hit soft thing rather than hit hard thing

The recent brouhaha over the ESPN sport anchor who said it was “hilarious” to watch two cyclists getting sideswiped by a car on stage 9 of the Tour de France brings into sharp focus whether some motorists view cyclists as fair game.

Cyclists don’t pay for roads, goes the belief (a mistaken one) so shouldn’t be on roads. Should there be a choice between hitting a tree or hitting a cyclist, some drivers may instinctively opt for hitting the cyclist. That’s certainly what happened in the Tour de France.

iPayRoadTax.com is specific to the UK. Our roads are paid for by income tax and council tax, not ‘road tax’, a tax that was abolished in 1937. The tax we have now is Vehicle Excise Duty, a tax on emissions, not payment for use of the road. In America, roads are mostly paid for by property tax, with a tiny and declining bit from fuel tax.

The ESPN anchor, host of ‘Around the horn,’ twittered that he found it funny to watch two cyclists nearly die. The messages were a follow-up to what was said on his TV show:

“We don’t want bikes on the road with us when we’re going to work…”

Yesterday on Bicycling.com, BikeSnobNYC said: “Whether it’s your commute, your training ride, or the Tour de France, too many people in America think if you get hit by a car on your bike then you got what’s coming to you.”

Also yesterday, the Boulder Report’s Joe Lindsey, wrote: “What really galls me, and most people, is the insinuation that hitting people on bikes with a car, in any circumstance, is funny. That’s tantamount to saying it’s OK.”

A day later and a letter to the Houston News by a reader calling himself Blake Brown shows that some motorists clearly have road ownership issues, and this leads them to view cyclists as lesser road users, road users who are “freeloading” and who should therefore not be surprised if they get slammed into should there be a choice between a large obstacle up ahead and a squishy one.

“This is to all the bicycle riders out there who think they have the right to ride on any road – you really do not, except at your own risk.

“I have had people who ride tell me that they pay tax dollars, too, for that road, therefore they should be able to use it. That is wrong. What you (and I) and everybody else pay for is a driving surface – for automobiles.”

He then goes on to articulate what many cyclists have long assumed…

“If it is a choice between hitting a car or hitting a cyclist, the cyclist is gonna be hurting – for several reasons. First, they should not have been using a road with no shoulder; second, the auto may contain a family, and it is better to harm one person than a family; and lastly, to be frank, hitting a cyclist will do way less harm to my truck, and that is a good thing. I don’t have the money for a new truck, but I can limp by with a few dings – you might not.”

In Brown’s world – a worldview shared by way too many motorists, on both sides of the Atlantic – cyclists should not be on roads, period/fullstop.

“Keep to dedicated bicycle paths – that is what they were intended for – not roads,” he wrote.

The disregard for the road rights of cyclists – or perhaps the ignorance we have any at all – can be witnessed daily, sometimes at close quarters. Some motorists think nothing of squeezing in front of cyclists at build-outs, hence the need for (rare) signs such as the one above. Others, on country lanes, will barrel towards you at full speed as though you’re not there, not flesh and blood: get out of the way, or get hit.

What are motorists thinking when they do this? Are they not thinking at all? Or do they genuinely believe cyclists are lesser beings? If so, at least part of this mindset is possibly due to the entitlement complex, the belief that motorists, and only motorists, pay for roads.

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iPayRoadTax.com is an ironically-named campaign supporting the road rights of cyclists. The message that cyclists have equal rights on the roads is carried on iPayRoadTax t-shirts and jerseys.

  • http://twitter.com/bassjunkieuk Mark Skrzypczyk

    Jesus.Christ. Which backwater trailer park did Mr Brown crawl out from? I’m actually surprised he managed to string a sentance together….nThe idea that anyone could take pleasure in viewing the horrific incident from the TDF is just twisted. u00a0As Hoogerland said in his understandably emotional K.o.M jersey ceremony he was lucky to be alive, I dread to think of the consequences of him hitting a pillar rather then the wire.nnUnfortunately until the opinion of the general public and the mass media in regards to cyclists changes these sorts of sickening comments and attitudes will just keep on coming up.u00a0

  • Middleagedmaninlycra

    This is a terrifying attitude to all of us who ride a bike. I once had a minibus brush my elbow as it overtook without any consideration to me on my bike. Fortunately I stayed on the bike, shaken but physically ok, while the minibus driver off oblivious.

  • http://www.ruth-brooker.co.uk/blog/ Ruth Brooker

    I am genuinely horrified.nI cannot believe that someone would openly (proudly almost) admit that they value preserving machinery over human life.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    He was actually quite lucid, and his diatribe was relatively well written, and that’s worrying. Education clearly isn’t everything.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Quite. And how widespread is it? I’ve always wanted to know whether some drivers would make a split second decision to hit a cyclist (possible death to the cyclist) rather than take a glancing blow from another car or an immovable object.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    I can’t find out whether Blake Brown is real or a pseudonym but either way this could very well be a standard view. The ‘windshield perspective’ is distorting in so many ways.

  • Mike42

    While it would be easy to vilify Mr Brown, just like a pedophile or arsonist he demonstrates something akin to a mental illness that blinds him to the suffering he might cause.nnIn which case, society should up the penalties for his actions. Our collective target should not be him, rather legislators and insurance firms.nnIf you recklessly injure or kill a cyclist, your insurance premium, should you ever be allowed behind the wheel again, should be crippling. Two mechanisms, applied successfully in enlightened nations to protect more fragile road users, to control/influence driver behaviour.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    Yes, this blindness would be soon cured if chequebooks were involved.

  • Amanda Lipsey

    WOW, make sure we put Mr. Brown’s comment on file to use against him when he injures or kills a cyclist.u00a0

  • http://equinejointsupplements.blogspot.com Ricardo

    WOW! Thanks for sharing this. I was nice ideas from you.

  • Madmole

    Seems its perfectly legal and acceptable to hit cyclists in the UK as well. A couple of weekends ago I was taken out by a youngster who overtook me and turned left across my nose taking out my handlebars. He slowed down, looked back, saw me stand up and then drove off. Fortunately 3 people witnessed and took his registration. The Police (Well actually the Criminal Protection Service) have decided not to persue any legal charges, so thats OK then, its perfectly alright to drive like a twat, knock cyclists off and not stop, cos you wont get prosecutednnWell sorry mate, but the CTC’s lawyers are going for your wallet!

  • Bernard1morrison

    I am sure that every driver who overtakes a cyclist on a blind corner (it happens all the time on country lanes) is making the (possibly unconscious) decision that if a car approaches, at least they will be able to steer into the cyclist. It terrifies me.

  • http://www.quickrelease.tv carltonreid

    An awful thought.