Rebuffing Idiots Who Are Justifying the Recklessness of a Person Driving a Car

This is just too much.

Just recently, I saw this harrowing video of a car speeding through a row of people on bikes at 35 mph. Yes, "through" a row of people on bikes.



This happened in late February in Porto Alegre. It happened during a Critical Mass event. Thankfully, no one was killed, though 12 were injured. That's one of the worst nightmares of someone riding a bike can experience.

Like most people I was stunned seeing that. Driving through a crowd of people is just not something people in the sane mindset do.

However, you wouldn't know that reading comments from the Huffington Post or heh heh, Youtube. You'd think that this was all justified. You'd think that the people on bikes were to be blamed.

The "suspect"/guy who mowed them down is Ricardo Jose Neis, a central banker. He is currently awaiting trial. He is a central banker with a history of violence: one for attacking his ex-partner, driving on the sidewalk, and driving the wrong way down a street and speeding. (In Portugues).

But no, let's not let any of these facts confuse any initial gut reactions from the viewing (largely American, car-centric) internet public.

Some comments from the most viewed video from the Associated Press.

(Youtubers had so many negative comments directed toward people in bikes in general that I had to divide them into categories.)

There were plenty of commenters who gave us some free lessons about driving psychology.
  • I can see this happening; not saying it was right. My family and I were stuck in Los Angeles downtown traffic for hours because of these bicycle numbnuts. They press their agenda by stopping traffic and clogging up transportation. Sorry, but this is an automobile culture and not all of us want to get hemmorhoids riding bikes. Cars were overheating, tempers were flaring, we and all motorists were stuck, businesses lost commerce. So, I give a big applause to the guy that mowed down these shits. - bordersushi
  • that will teach them to get a FUCKING car - pArR0otT
  • Hey when you block and clog the road, you are gonna piss people off. Brilliant protest people. Was it worth all those lives? - neonguy528
Some people even gave us comment-readers ill-researched lessons about traffic laws.
  • streets are made for cars. - sebaleon
  • I hate it when they don't stay in the bike lane - mshay1020
  • Roadways are not just for cars but all vehicles using the road are required to follow the rules of the road. In this case, if you are traveling well below the posted speed limit, keep to the far right. Critical mass riders intentionally block the road. - ABQ-Mike
For some commenters, the cyclists that were run over, represented cartoon-like, inanimate objects to be laughed at, "video game targets," as opposed to individuals to be concerned about.
  • Jesus, he must have gotten over 150 hit points just on that one street! new Record! - ScSSwav
  • Car: 1, Horde of protesting cyclists: -12 - kraigrust
  • Shit driver. He missed far more than he hit. - SozzledTerror
  • thats what helmets are for. - wrathchild356
Feeling like a video game target while on a bike was a meme I first heard on this blog. Generally, that's not a good feeling, because as a target, sooner or later you're going to get hit.

Finally, some people even said that what they saw on video was the enaction of a personal fantasy. It represented a cathartic release of emotion against what they perceive to be as symbols of obstruction.
  • I don't know about anyone else but i applaud the driver. If you're not gonna do the speed limit the either get out of the way or meet the grill of my car...-thedeityofthemind93
  • I love how they try running after the car.. stupid cyclists. Also, as no one was killed, I laugh openly, with the knowledge i'm not going to hell. - jettyt
  • I have fantasized about this many a night. - NycBlackout
  • You wouldn't believe how tempted I have been to do that lol. Fair play to the guy, he has a fair size pair of balls for doing that! -
    imperial109
The pervasiveness of these comments that remind me of how disengaged the general American populace is from bicycling.

I know that not all those comments are serious and that maybe put at the ground level, they might change some of their views, but it doesn't help that this public viewing it is carrying, expressing, and daring even more to express this sense of entitlement on the road.

I got a sense of humor, but given that car accidents account for 2% of deaths in America and the 6th leading cause of preventable death in America, that this self-entitled road rage is real and isn't likely to cease, that I or any other bicyclists in a pack could be subject to such whims is really frightening.

It's nice that we passed the Anti-Bicyclist Harrassment Ordinance for the city of Los Angeles, but people who drive cars in LA barely know the motherfucking traffic laws that have been in place since 1971. A chunk of them will probably still honk, yell, and generally make my experience horrible, especially in areas around LA County not under the jurisdiction of LA city.

Here are the good old, now in it's mid-life crisis, traffic laws, as spelled out by a lawyer, per California, via this blog:

The California Vehicle Code tackles the topic in Section 21202—Position in Traffic. It reads as follows:

(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

  1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
  2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
  3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or substandard width lanes) that make it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge, subject to the provisions of Section 21656. For purposes of this section, a “substandard width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.
  4. When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
The key part is #3. Stay to the right, unless you come across a street that is really narrow and unsafe. It's very subjective what counts as "narrow" and "unsafe", but in that case I would take the entire lane.

On my bicycle, I don't want to take one lane, but sometimes it's the safest way to ride the street. I'm in my 3rd year of bicycling, and I'm still always looking over my shoulder. If you're a new bicyclist reading this, yes it's tiresome and quite the hassle, but it's the best way to ensure that I get home in one piece.

For those familiar with San Fernando valley geography, I occupy one lane all the time on Nordhoff St. on the way to CSUN. Nordhoff Street is a 3-lane practice raceway moonlighting as a city street designed to promote access to racing and road rage to ordinary car-driving Americans.

Solutions?

Before I delve into that, here are some insightful and funny rebuffs against common memes.

Against the idea that "bikes cause and hold up traffic"
Cars cause 100,000 times more road obstructions than bicycles do. Traffic jams. Think about it. Is it ok for me to bike through a traffic jam with a baseball bat smashing peoples' windows and skulls because their car is moving more slowly along the road than I would like it to? - libertarian83

Against the idea that people on bikes "don't follow the rules" and "therefore deserve to be hit"

You don't ever see cyclists following the rules because you DON'T WANT to see it. - Jolimont

Using the logic of some of the people posting here [on Huffington Post article]. If there are a number of cars blocking the street, maybe for a reason such as they are trying to get home, a bulldozer should be able to plow its way through the crowd of cars blocking the way. Go bulldozers. Those damn cars block streets all the frigging time. - tomasmundo
Up until I saw this video, I always thought riding in a pack of bicyclists was safe.

But clearly, this video mixed with all these comments shows that a lot of people driving have itchy feet, especially when you make them really mad. Even without knowing who he is, most people used their experience as drivers to make snarky comments. This guy, Neis, was a symbol, a "vehicle" for them to re-enact their violent impulse wishes. The kind of impulse that is driven by a deeply embedded cultural expectation to speed, combined with the fact that there's little time to formulate any reasonable, rational mode of thought while in transit.

I think the same two solutions that I'll post over and over:

1) To foster a culture of biking in Los Angeles. Get the perspectives of those populations with the least mobility on the road and find creative ways to adapt conditions to those perspectives. "Those with the least mobility" being kids, women, families, and seniors. "Least mobility" being that for cultural, social, or physical reasons, they are restricted from moving as freely as a young dude like me.

I mention this only because on a road bike I'm likely to bike anywhere including the city of Vernon, Maywood, and whatever car-centric industrial areas exist. Conversely, I can't see many moms on cruiser bikes with little toddler Timmi in one of those protective carts doing the same as I do. It's possible, but I doubt there will be group rides of commuting moms getting over railroad tracks and narrow streets in attempt to get to and fro home. It'd be nice if that were the reality some day, it'd be nice if biking was made available to that demographic.

What this translates to is continued advocacy for bike lanes, bike rides, bike signs, but with more outreach focused on getting these highlighted networks of demographics integrated into biking, that the activity branches out and does become not just a popular, but a desirable form of regular transportation.

2) To settle the conflict between bikes and cars: Get people in cars to expect people on bikes on the road. If you get people to expect people on bikes, then you buffer against this entitlement to speed that some people who drive cars seem to have of the roads.

I mean when there's a street shut down for a street fair, it's not like these [sane] people will drive through ferris wheels, cotton candy booths, and crowds of people. They "expect" to drive somewhere else.

In the case, Neis likely "expected" to pass through these bicyclists. And when his expectation hadn't been sufficiently met, he decided to that it was logical to go ahead and murder people.

We, as in people on bikes or anyone else who cares, need to make this expectation of bikes unmistakably clear with lots of signs.

I really like that some buses have a variation of this message on their cabooses:



The sign is very clear: [People/fish riding] Bicycles have the right to use a full lane. State [motherfuckin']Law!

I need to make a sign with this on my back.

Having just buses with this sign is good, but not good enough.

I'd rather we see this or some kind of sign at every stoplight or intersection. At the very least, those dangerous intersections where cars have tended to dominate.

I was just wondering if there was a way to get more of these signs as a part of the actual stationary infrastructure.

To any bicycle advocates reading this, I know that you're all trying to play a game of politics, you're doing your best to get bike lanes, things take time, and the city of LA is "broke."

As someone who's driven a car for 9 years in LA, I barely noticed any of the incumbent "Bike Route" signs. Those things sucked. If I was still a driver only, unless the street was painted a different color, I don't know that I would've noticed "sharrows" all that much if they weren't specifically pointed out to me.

"Bike Route" signs were just a curiosity to me, I really had no idea what they meant. Now that I know what they mean (basically that it's an ideal route for bikes to take), I see and ride those Bike Route signs on Woodman Ave. in the valley and Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach. There are partial, piecemeal bike lanes. My experience on those streets: people in cars still drive those streets with a sense of indignation, if you dare take any part of the lane.

At any rate, be it by guerilla DIY means and/or by some private fund, I think in the short and long-term, the most important things are visibility and awareness of bikes and the people on them. The clearness of the message creates this expectation that there will be people on bikes, and that it is a legit if not equal way of using the street.

2 comments:

Ezra said...

The one part you didn't review in this story is that cyclists where also antagonizing the motorist. Now, I don't think that is an excuse to mow down riders, but I have been on LA rides where people openly yell at cars and hit windows with fists, which is totally inappropriate and is akin to inciting road rage. Civil behavior by all parties is needed.

It's tragic that this happened, and hopefully we will never see a repeat--but I'm sure we will.

poeticnomad said...

Ezra,

I'm not sure if you followed the story closely, but Ricardo Neis's account of the said aggression projected by the cyclists did NOT match up with witness reports the police collected. In fact witnesses reported that he was harassing the cyclists and 'nudging' them with his car. In my own driving experience I've witnessed more drivers harassing cyclists by honking their horns and screaming obscenities than cyclists in LA. I am fortunate to live in Sacramento and for the most part folks in Midtown are very bike friendly. Thanks for the post!

Cheers,

S