April 9, 2015 § 42 Comments
A few days ago I took Patrick Brady to task for his blog’s terrible stance arguing that cyclists should just accept a mandatory helmet law for California bicyclists. Patrick responded here, and walked a fine line between repudiating the article, “If the goal is really to save lives, mandating helmet use isn’t going to help,” and agreeing with it — “Honestly, in my life, if that law passed, it wouldn’t mean a thing.”
It was a calculated attempt not to take a position and not to get anyone angry so I figured I’d let it go.
Who am I kidding?
A couple of days ago I got a copy of a letter published by the California Association of Bicycling Organizations, CABO. It calmly states its opposition to the proposed law. Here’s the letter. It’s a beaut.
Dear Senator Liu:
I regret that I must write on behalf of the California Association of Bicycling Organizations (CABObike.org) in opposition to your bill, SB 192, that “Anyone riding without a helmet could be cited for an infraction and fined up to $25, the same as current law for youth cyclists.”
Bicycle helmets certainly may contribute to safety in a crash or fall, but represent only the final area of protection when all other safety measures fail. We refer to the four levels of safety, focusing on the area’s most likely to prevent injury:
- Prevention through following the rules of the road, as defined in the California Vehicle Code and other safety literature. This establishes predictability of actions by motorists and bicyclists.
- Deterrence through bicycling best practices for attention, communication, anticipation, road positioning, visibility (e.g., lights and reflectors), and maintenance (primarily effective braking).
- Escape through development of skills in bicycling defensively – emergency stops, counter-steering (taught in motorcycle training and required for license).
- Survival – Use of safety equipment such as helmets, gloves, etc.
We do applaud and appreciate your concern and do support effective efforts to reduce bicycling collision injuries and fatalities that also promote Active Transportation – healthier, enjoyable, cleaner, and more sustainable travel choices for Californians.
You, as Chair of the Senate Education Committee, may find some of the ideas below worthy of consideration. We offer our support toward implementing ways that would productively provide for better bicycling and traffic safety in general.
- Provide Active Transportation instruction and experience curriculum choices – bicycling and walking – as part of K-12 physical education programs.
People bicycling can avoid crashing and collisions with motor vehicles and resulting injuries by learning about and applying appropriate bicycling behaviors. Too many bicycling crashes are the direct result of poor choices by the person bicycling; wrong-way riding against traffic, failure to yield when entering traffic, non-compliance with traffic control signals and signs, etc. A program to provide information about traffic laws and bicycling safe and best practices would be very likely to significantly reduce bicycling collisions, injuries, and fatalities. And, smarter bicycling not only avoids crashes, it provides for personal and community health through reducing trips by motor vehicle.
- Provide for the development of a California Highway Patrol approved Bicycling Handbook distributed by and through the same outlets as the DMV Driver, Motorcycle, Senior and other DMV handbook traffic guides.
We have assisted the Department of Motor Vehicles to improve and increase the amount of information about bicycling provided in their publications, including their Driver Handbook. We have recommended that the DMV develop and provide a Bicycling Handbook similar in format to the Motorcycle handbook. They have not yet followed through.
- Remove impediments to bicycling related traffic citation diversion programs.
This would allow for cities and counties to implement bicycle citation diversion programs that emphasize an educational curriculum complementing the goals established in #1, above.
- Support the California Strategic Highway Safety Plan programs to reduce roadway fatalities; education, enforcement, engineering Complete Streets, emergency response, equity in travel mode choice, and encouraging appropriate behavior in traffic.
Traffic related bicycling collisions involving motor vehicles also result from mistakes and unlawful behavior by motorists. Recently passed legislation encouraging 3’ minimum passing has brought new attention to the responsibilities people have for sharing roadway space. The relatively new roadway markings – Shared Lane Markings, Bikes May Use Full Lane signs, Green-highlighted and “buffered” Bike Lanes; and traffic control devices – bicycle-specific traffic signals, bicycle actuated traffic signals, etc. – are helping us all adapt to the value of increasing the travel mode share for Active Transportation, bicycling and walking.
- Modify the Calif. Vehicle Code to define and explain the meaning of the new white pavement markings – Shared Lane Markings, commonly called Sharrows, the new white painted buffers spaces next to Bike Lanes, and the bright green paint meant to highlight Bike Lanes, and the intent of the new and approved regulatory signs that show a bike and the words “May Use Full Lane.”
Sharrows mean that that lane is a substandard width lane and cyclists can legally ride anywhere in it. Buffers are to provide space between motorists and bicyclists, and between bicyclists and parked vehicles. Buffers may (and should) be carefully driven into and cross to turn right, to park, or to enter or leave the roadway or Bike Lane.
Bikes may use full lane signs are to inform motorists that people bicycling may be in the travel lane, and to inform people bicycling that they may ride far enough out into a lane to avoid roadside hazards and discourage close passing by others.
We of the California Association of Bicycling Organizations look forward to hearing about how we might help you to improve safety and ability for everyone. We want everyone to be able to choose to use bicycles for travel and recreation in California.
The beauty of this letter is that it correctly prioritizes the steps that the state should take to improve cyclist safety, without denying that helmet use can be a part of such a program. Moreover, it slaps down the idea that, of all the things that need to change to keep cyclists from getting run over, the first one should be a mandatory helmet law.
Moreover, the claim that the law wouldn’t affect him at all is exactly the point. Patrick is not evaluating the law from the perspective of whether other people might be harmed, only whether or not he thinks it would affect him. That’s a cynical way to evaluate legislation if you’re a voice in the cycling community. The proposed law, of course, could profoundly affect Brady, as he ignores the terrible legal ramifications for unhelmeted cyclists who are hit by careless motorists. Who’s to say that one of his family members won’t hop on their bike to run down to the store, unhelmeted, and get clocked by a texting South Bay mother? As I discussed in my earlier post, it’s this shift from 100% liability to comparative fault that can be devastating to a biker, not to mention the fact that it turns the inquiry onto the cyclist who was legally and safely riding down to Von’s for a jug of milk rather than on the careless motorist who mowed the rider down.
Likewise, Brady’s comment that he will be unaffected by the law ignores the point made by criminal defense lawyers that one more law regulating cyclists gives the cops one more reason to pull us over and harass us. If you believe there are problems of unfair targeting by law enforcement now, wait until this law passes.
For the great majority of cyclists, who aren’t “cyclists” at all but rather humans using bicycles to get from place A to place B, and for whom a $250 helmet may exceed the cost of their bike, it’s not as simple as it is for a guy who is in the industry and who never leaves home without his helmet. And even if this law won’t affect high-end users, what about the people who it will? Which means pretty much everyone else.
Without leaning too much harder, responsible voices in the cycling community should oppose this bill and oppose it unequivocally. There’s nothing wrong with changing your position when it involves discarding something bad for something good.
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March 28, 2015 § 59 Comments
[An earlier version of this post incorrectly attributed the quote below to Patrick Brady, when in fact it was written by someone else and posted as a guest editorial on Red Kite Prayer, Patrick’s blog. I’ve corrected the mistaken attribution and edited the post accordingly.]
Some people never cease to amaze me. Even so, I was amazed to read this editorial posted on Patrick Brady’s blog, Red Kite Bore. The author thinks that a helmet law in California isn’t worth opposing. Whaaaaaat?
According to the author:
Bike advocate groups might consider what others see when they see us. They see people who run stop signs, weave in and out of traffic, ride in packs, take up a lane, and so on. It’s not a pretty picture. Sure, most of us are wearing helmets as we bend rules and traffic laws, but that’s not what the pissed off drivers see. So when they hear cyclists are opposed to a helmet law, it only furthers their belief that we are selfish, unpredictable and dangerous. Maybe we let this one go. Let the lawmakers and drivers have this one without resistance. We got our 3-foot law in California, we can put up with a helmet law on the books. Pick your battles as they say. This is one fight we can easily walk away from.
Presumably, the editorial is endorsed by Patrick and RKP, as it fits hand-in-glove with the kind of writing for which RKP is infamous. And this one is a real howler, especially the last two sentences, as if Patrick or RKP has ever picked a fight with anyone, anywhere, for the benefit of cyclists. In all of the advocacy I’ve been involved in, I’ve never seen Patrick show up for anything, even when there was free beer and pizza. Never seen him at a council meeting, never seen him on a “Take the Lane” protest ride down PCH, nothing, zip, nada.
So to hear the guy who gave rave reviews to the latest Bell helmet put up a guest post supporting the helmet law speaks volumes. Unfortunately, the author, Mike Hotten, is a friend and an accomplished cyclist. But he’s completely wrong when he thinks that the solution is to “let this one pass.”
But what’s most reprehensible is the description of cyclists and by implication himself as someone who is a complete asshole on the bike. While I wholeheartedly agree that his description fits Patrick, it hardly describes most riders who in terms of numbers are simply people using a bike to get from point A to point B. Even worse is the rationale: People hate us, so let them force us to wear helmets because if we oppose the helmet law they’ll hate us even more. Glad that RKP wasn’t selected to fight for a seat at a lunch counter in Alabama back in the 60’s.
Patrick and the RKP forum are as far from zealous cycling advocacy as it gets. He has zero racing cred, belongs to no club or racing team that I’m aware of, and has never shown his face at any local bike race I’ve ever attended even though he kits out in the fanciest stuff and yet pretends to be a commentator on bike racing. He’s the same guy who gave a descending clinic to new riders at the defunct PV Bicycle Center, and a year later crashed very badly descending Las Flores when he hit a rock or slid out or just fredded his way off into a ditch. Yeah, that Patrick Brady.
My personal experiences with Patrick have been that he is condescending to riders who are wearing the wrong stuff, riding the wrong stuff, or don’t know the secret handshake. Of course he’s also the first guy to get shelled when we start climbing, or to get shelled in a hard paceline, is as tough as an under-baked cupcake, and is referred to as “Nancy” behind his back. When people talk about the cliquish, condescending, snooty attitude of road cyclists, the epitome of that stereotype is Patrick Brady.
For this clown’s publication to tell us we should roll over and accept a bad law because they’re too lazy to do anything about it is pathetic. The real problem is properly analyzed by Bike Snob, and it’s analyzed well. Try not to giggle too much at the photos he posted of Patrick as he models his aero goon helmet with the go-faux-pro Assos jersey.
As for the 3-foot law, the article says “we.” I’d love to hear about Patrick’s and RKP’s particular role in that legislation. And while they’re at it, show us some statistics to demonstrate it’s had any effect on accidents or deaths, any at all.
In short, the helmet law sucks. You should oppose it. And don’t listen to Red Kite Bore when it comes to helmet laws when their sole means of subsistence is the sale of advertising space to people who make bike junk, not limited to helmets.
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June 8, 2012 § 16 Comments
This blog represents my life’s work. Of all the things that make it stand out, none shines more brightly than my fierce journalistic independence. I hope it goes without saying that from the very beginning, when these essays began to make their mark on the cycling world, I have been bombarded with requests to advertise.
I’m not talking about ads for Donnie’s Spoke Nipple Fabricators, or for punk-ass dilettante basement beer brewers. I’m talking about the corporate names that made America famous. The big deals. The big wheels. After a lot of soul searching, I’ve finally decided to take the plunge and accept corporate money.
Before you go condemning me and accusing me of becoming a sellout, consider this: Without the substantial revenue provided by a major advertiser, there’s no way I can keep this shit up. It takes a fair amount of time and a huge amount of energy to keep blogging about you wankers. I’m all for charity and good works, but there’s a limit, especially when it comes to cycling riffraff.
There’s a long tradition of cycling bloggers who start off working in their bathroom and graduate to the scullery by virtue of advertising sales. My buddy Patrick Brady’s Red Kite Prayer comes to mind, a publication that is regularly voted by insane people as the best cycling blog on the internets.
Wankmeister is no different, except that he is better.
Rather than accepting advertising from any old cycling douchebag company that can cough up the fees on his admittedly steep rate card, Wankmeister has carefully reviewed the countless companies clamoring for his Good Housekeeping seal of approval and selected one company, and one alone, that represents the ideals, principles, maxims, high moral ground, proper behavior, and social responsibility epitomized by this blog.
Despite accepting money from this honorable and esteemed company, Wankmeister promises to his loyal reader that these opinions, viewpoints, research, investigation, and writing will never, ever, ever be colored by filthy lucre, not one tiny bit. Parts of the cycling news that is fit to print, and much of it that isn’t, will always be available here.
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My road to a new tomorrow
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I hope you’ll appreciate that even though I’m now accepting advertising, you can still expect the high quality, unbiased product reviews and incisive analysis you’ve come to expect from Wankmeister. And the next time your Ms. or Mr. Special politely suggests that you’d be able to hammer longer and stronger with some extra rake in your fork, call up the good penis enhancement people at RuggedMAXXX, and tell ’em Wankmeister sent you. You’ll be glad you did.