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The Oregonian responds to critique of road rage coverage

Posted by on July 14th, 2008 at 12:05 pm

“Maybe we overplayed this story, but it was compelling to readers…”
–Rick Attig, associate editor of The Oregonian

An associate editor of The Oregonian has penned an editorial in response to my critique of their coverage of the recent road rage incident.

The editorial was written by Rick Attig, a former Pulitzer Prize winner and member of The Oregonian’s editorial board.

He writes:

“Maus and most of his readers believe the newspaper blew the road rage incident out of proportion, and in the process of sensationalizing the story, only exacerbated the tensions between cyclists and motorists.”

Attig admits that’s, “a fair point”, but he goes on to write that:

“…it seems like Maus and his readers want The Oregonian and the other media to put a gloss over one of the essential facts of this highly unusual story… does anyone want to claim that the fact that Steven McAtee was on a bike and Colin Yates was in a car had nothing to do with this incident?”

Unfortunately, one of the problems with how this story came out was that there was no “other media”. The Oregonian was not only the first outlet on the story, they reported it in detail (based on police reports and the police spokesperson), therefore the impact of that one story was paramount. Also, I never suggested that anyone should “gloss over” essential facts.

A few lines later he writes:

“There’s nothing constructive to be gained by denying that there is, as the story says, an undercurrent of tension between motorists and cyclists, here in this city and in many other places.”

I am not “denying” that tension exists between “motorists and cyclists”. I have been at ground zero of that tension for years and have written and spoken about it on this site and in media interviews many times.

Attig then writes that they might have “overplayed” the story, but offers this justification:

“Maybe we overplayed this story, but it was compelling to readers for two reasons: It had a man bites dog element, with a cyclist attacking a motorist. And it strikes very close to home for tens of thousands of people who are now more focused than ever before on how to safely and affordably get around this city.”

Again, it seems Attig does not understand my chief concern is not with the incident itself, but with how it was covered.

I find it sadly ironic that Mr. Attig mentions how many of The Oregonian editorial board staffers ride to work and then writes, “Many of us have suffered some abuse from motorists over the years.” Yet even so, his newspaper decided to run these highly divisive headlines and graphics on their front page:

I’m all for more coverage of the tension on our roadways, but I feel it should not be framed as one specific user group vs. another simply because of one “compelling” incident.

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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Klixi July 14, 2008 at 12:12 pm

    I think the \”clubs man with bike\” was the only overboard thing about the story. For the most part, the O\’s story wasn\’t nearly as sensational as some \”bike culture\” folks made it out to be.

    I\’m still confused how Rinker Cement Co. vs Tracey Sparling was turned into \”us vs them\” by the \”bike culture\”, but this recent story was denied as being \”us vs them\” by the \”bike culture\”. It\’s as though anytime something or someone makes us look bad, we try to make it appear as though it were an isolated incident. But as soon as a cyclist is hit, we join together, pound our chests and proclaim \”all drivers are like this! We need justice!\”

    Moral of the story: Just obey the law. Seriously, just stop pretending any of us are above the law. Stop running stop signs, stop yelling at people. Just be a good person.

    Or as the old adage goes, treat those the way you want to be treated. If you don\’t want cars to run stop signs, don\’t run them yourself.

    Jonathan, I think your coverage on this story has been fantastic and very levelheaded. I understand your angle and the angle the O with – and both angles have their valid points.

    The % of bad drivers is identical to the % of bad cyclists. Think about it. It\’s never been an \”us vs them\” situation.

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  • Forseti July 14, 2008 at 12:20 pm

    \”Maybe we overplayed this story…\”

    Clueless to the very end. Not only is this the understatement of the century, it evidences Attig\’s total failure to understand Jonathan\’s eloquent critique.

    Probably he\’s also a little frustrated that his paper has been replaced as the best source for local news.

    Anyway, Attig missed the point – yet again. I don\’t think Jonathan was claiming that the event had nothing to do with the car-bike aspect (quite the contrary), only that the undercurrent of hostility and violence on the roads is broader than the car-bike thing and contributes to a serious safety problem. More importantly, the Oregonian has totally abdicated its public responsibility to deal with this important broader issue and focused on fanning the flames of the us-them mentality arising from this particular incident to sell papers. And there is nothing constructive about that. How long will it take the folks at the Oregonian to figure this out?

    kg got it right (at #138). Attig claims that several members of their editorial board \”have suffered some abuse from motorists\” as bike commuters. And surely Attig must know that this king of behavior is primarily what keeps more Portlanders off bikes. Such criminal acts certainly would \”strike[] very close to home for tens of thousands of people who are now more focused than ever before on how to safely and affordably get around this city.\” Yet Attig and the Oregonian continue to fail to cover this story and instead focus on perpetuating their legacy of Yellow Journalism. Shameful.

    [Please forgive the re-post. I thought it better positioned here, and of course posters cannot delete posts.]

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  • West Cougar July 14, 2008 at 12:22 pm

    Fundamental difference:

    The % of drivers having killed or injured another human is orders of magnitude greater than the % of cyclists having killed or injured another human.

    Until we come to grips with and address that asymmetry, us vs. them between cyclists and motorists will be a fact of life.

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  • PJ July 14, 2008 at 12:24 pm

    I hate this us vs. them mentality about bikes and cars. How is it a couple of hot headed jackasses get in a scrap and suddenly the one on a bike is representing for me because I also choose to ride? Whatever happened to individual accountability? Is that a foreign concept in this town now?

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  • Forseti July 14, 2008 at 12:30 pm

    \”I\’m still confused how Rinker Cement Co. vs Tracey Sparling was turned into \”us vs them\” by the \”bike culture\”, but this recent story was denied as being \”us vs them\” by the \”bike culture\”.

    I\’m not \”the bike culture.\” In fact, no one is. So it\’s really just a figment of your imagination.

    But let me give you *my* perspective. Where the cement truck driver broke the law and that violation caused the death of Ms Sparling, the PPB did not enforce the law by issuing a citation … until about 3 months later. *My* criticism was of the PPB\’s enforcement, not people who drive motor vehicles.

    As for the Yates-McAtee confrontation, nobody denied it had something to do with the dynamic between people driving cars and people riding bikes. *I* simply made the same point as Jonathan: The coverage was sensationalist and did not cover the underlying problem(s).

    Here are what *I* perceive as the major differences between the two events:

    (1) Someone died because another person failed to follow a pretty basic law of road use. That makes one far more important than a situation where two people have a minor scuffle and where no injuries were *caused by* any violation of the traffic code.

    (2) It\’s not Yates\’ job to uphold the traffic laws. That job belongs to the PPB. When they fail, the possibility exists that safety on the roads will greatly decrease. It\’s much more important that we have safety-focused enforcement than it is that we spend an inordinant amount of time worrying about whether we should yell at each other over it when it happens next to us.

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  • Klixi July 14, 2008 at 12:31 pm

    #3 West Cougar: It\’s not a fact of life for me. It just strikes me as bizarre that the ones who are so adamant about how evil the gas guzzling monsters are seem to be the same ones who always have road rage problems and close calls. I really think some cyclists (many cyclists, actually) have an superiority complex. They ride around with the mentality of \”I\’m gonna get my respect!\” and intentionally do things they KNOW would antagonize a driver so that they can reaffirm or validate these feelings. Most of us see cyclists do these kinds of things on a daily basis, we just turn a blind eye to it because we\’re on \’little bicycles, we can\’t hurt anyone but evil terrorist cars sure can! So it\’s ok if we break the law because we\’re harmless.\’ P o p p y c o c k . Seriously. That\’s like saying \”It\’s ok if I shoplift because I\’m poor and I\’m not stealing to sell stuff for drug money, I\’m just hungry.\” I just wish the Portland \”bike culture\” would stop attempting to justify breaking the law.

    It\’s that kind of hypocritical mentality that I find shameful, and many drivers do too. As I\’ve said throughout this entire discussion, I\’ve had far more problems this summer with cyclists than I have with drivers. In fact, I haven\’t had a single problem with any drivers this year. If anything, drivers seem better than ever at accommodating me while I\’m riding, waving me through stop signs even if they were there first, slowing down to allow me to pass before making right turns, etc.

    I just can\’t get over the fact that the riders I know who are cool tempered and slow/casual riders have such great experiences on the road, where as the more \’road warrior\’ types are always whining about how bad the drivers are and how many close calls they have. If you ride wrecklessly, there will be close calls. If you try to justify running stop signs and red lights, there will be consequences. This story is one of them.

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  • dgc July 14, 2008 at 12:32 pm

    RE: West Couger

    I\’d be interested to know that if in Amsterdam there is a statistic on bikes killing and/or injuring pedestrians or other bikers. Or, for that matter, here in Portland (and the US of A).

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  • Klixi July 14, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Forseti: I think I read somewhere they don\’t ticket the driver at the scene because if they ticket him for a certain infraction, it may limit what they could charge him with later on down the road? Maybe someone could clarify it better than I could.

    I\’m still amazed they let industrial trucks out on the road that aren\’t properly fitted to check all blind spots. We can develop Blu Ray burners and go to the moon, yet we can\’t develop a mirror system that allows someone to see what is around their vehicle? Amazing.

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  • BURR July 14, 2008 at 12:34 pm

    So where is PDOT on this issue? As usual, the silence is deafening. Suddenly Sam\’s got nothing to say for a change?

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  • Bob July 14, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Willamette Week has jumped on the hysteria bandwagon and has a blog post entitled \”Road Rage 2: Car v. Bike\”. Sorry, but this is exactly the type of thing that happens when media \”overplay\” a story. It becomes more than just the story (with its salacious details, etc). It becomes a full fledged controversy. Remember those shark attack stories before 9/11? Blown out of proportion. I\’m afraid we\’re already down the road with bikes vs cars too.

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  • Robert Dobbs July 14, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Klixi @ 6

    \”They ride around with the mentality of \”I\’m gonna get my respect!\” and intentionally do things they KNOW would antagonize a driver so that they can reaffirm or validate these feelings.\”

    Mmm…. Blaming the victim… So deliciously red-state! So… refreshing!

    Bonus points for throwing some TERRAHIST hyperbole in there!

    Keep Portland Weird!!!

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  • Bob July 14, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    And now there\’s a post \”Bike Vs.Car, REDUX!\” on the Portland Mercury blog.


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  • Klixi July 14, 2008 at 12:49 pm

    You find people who break the law to be victims? Weird indeed. 😉

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  • Chad July 14, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Attig, it is this simple:

    You print headlines that make it sound like it\’s a war out there on our streets between cars and bikes and some driver that\’s pissed off about $4/gallon gas and traffic decides, because you have proclaimed there is a war, to take out his frustrations on an innocent bicyclist.

    Attig, you are adding gasoline to a fire that all responsible road users in this town are trying to put out. By doing so you are endangering me and other roadway users just to sell a few more copies of your \”news\”paper.

    I hope you have the decency to write about the tragedy and hardship that will befall my family if I am run down by a motorist who has, with your help, declared war upon me because I choose to ride my bike.

    But then again, that probably wouldn\’t sell enough papers…

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  • Cmy July 14, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    Did anyone see this one yet? Seems like the rate of incidents is on the rise lately. Makes sense considering the time of year.

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  • Robert Dobbs July 14, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    Anyone want to take bets that Sunday\’s incident, WITH A FREAKING CYCLIST PINNED TO THE HOOD of a speeding DUII driver\’s SUV doesn\’t even make it above the fold in the Boregonian?

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  • Peter July 14, 2008 at 12:57 pm


    Do you have any proof that the rate of incidents is on the rise or are you just basing that on the fact there have been two high profile stories the past week?

    Don\’t fall into the trap. Plenty of incidents go unreported. Two reported incidents doesn\’t mean that it is getting crazy out there. That\’s what the media wants you to believe.

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  • Mike July 14, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    \”Mmm…. Blaming the victim… So deliciously red-state! So… refreshing!\”

    So who is the victim? The DRUNK ass on the bike blowing through stop lights and assaulting someone?

    Seriously though, I like the way you took only part of the statment, neglecting the qualifier, and manipulated it to your liking.
    \”I really think some cyclists (many cyclists, actually) have an superiority complex.\”

    Have you thought about a job at the Oregonian?

    Mmmm, medium rare states. It is the time for BBQ\’ing…

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  • Robert Dobbs July 14, 2008 at 1:03 pm

    Mike @ 16

    Seriously though, I like the way you took only part of the statment, neglecting the qualifier, and manipulated it to your liking.
    \”I really think some cyclists (many cyclists, actually) have an superiority complex.\”

    Yeah, it was the \”Many Cyclists\” qualifier that got me. Kinda seemed like she/he/it was applying that twisted logic to more than just that one drunken cyclist. Perhaps you could say she/he/it was applying it to many cyclists, \”actually\”.

    Glad that adult literacy program worked out for you, too!

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  • djasonpenney July 14, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    LOL I\’ve been saying \”man bites dog\” for days.

    Really, I think the fact that one of the vehicle operators WAS DRUNK was a lot more pertinent to the case than was the make and model of his vehicle.

    Jonathan, ask The Oregonian if they would have made front-page news claiming \”BMW driver attacks motorist\” if the vehicle had been a BMW instead of bicycle? See my point? It really wasn\’t pertinent to THE DRUNK\’s violence.

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  • Mike July 14, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Ford escort is a compact car, not an SUV.
    Sorry, but there is so much animosity against SUV drivers. (Sub)Compact vehicle drivers are just as thoughtless and cruel.

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  • Robert Dobbs July 14, 2008 at 1:07 pm

    And Mike, if you\’d like, we can sit down together and sound out some of the big words. But, to save you some time, according \”Klixi\” the victims would be:

    […] the same ones who always have road rage problems and close calls.

    Yeah, so if you get hassled by a motorist, you must be seeking that confrontation to justify your militant beliefs. Or something.

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  • djasonpenney July 14, 2008 at 1:08 pm

    Or, how about this? How often when a drunk driver causes property damage or injuries, does The Oregonian report on the make and model of their vehicle? How about their racial and ethnic background?

    See, this story really had very little to do with the fact that a bicyclist was involved, and my significant peeve with The Oregonian is that the editors really don\’t understand that.

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  • N July 14, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Go Robert… Go Robert… Go…

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  • Cøyøte July 14, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    \”Attig then writes that they might have “overplayed” the story\”

    There is no \”might\” about it. Mr. Attig and the O need some perspective. The O spent two days of front page lead story space to what amounts to two guys mouthing off and getting into a scuffle. Surprisingly, alcohol was involved.

    What a rag.

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  • Robert Dobbs July 14, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    \”(Sub)Compact vehicle drivers are just as thoughtless and cruel.\”

    You would be too if you had to drive a Ford Escort.

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  • Mike July 14, 2008 at 1:17 pm

    Touche. I would at that…

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  • Mike July 14, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    If you are one of the cyclists riding around with a superiority complex, feeling that you are above the law (even stupid ones like traffic devices), and purposely antagonizing drivers, then yeah, you probably are
    \”[…] the same ones who always have road rage problems and close calls.\”
    That was what Klixi was saying.

    How can you argue against that?

    And you didn\’t answer: Who is the victim? I am of a mindset that neither were victims, but of their own stupidity.

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  • Pete July 14, 2008 at 1:26 pm

    Cmy, on one hand I can say \”when will we learn to keep our mouths shut?\”. (About this incident, not you, that is – thanks for the link!).

    On the other hand, I was riding back from The Dalles Saturday morning and was closely passed by a car doing maybe 70+ in a 35 MPH zone. I caught the \’901\’ at the beginning of his license plate (it was a newer gold-colored Ford Focus) and imagined everything I\’d say and do to him when I caught up with him (yeah, right ;). What came to mind was walking up to this stranger and unexpectedly taking a swing at him (her?), intentionally missing him but capturing the element of surprise and fear at what seems like an assault but technically isn\’t because \’nobody was hurt\’. Then I\’d simply say \”How does it feel? You\’ve no right to be angry because I didn\’t actually hit you!\”.

    But then I saw by my heart rate monitor that I needed to calm down, thank God for still being safe after all these years of riding, and enjoy the gorgeous day (and tailwinds!) I was blessed with. This victim\’s lucky he wasn\’t killed but maybe will think twice about the futility of teaching an idiot that he\’s wrong. Idiots tend not to practice active listening skills!

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  • Bill July 14, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    Cmy: What\’s the chance that the Escort vs. Bike story is above the fold on tomorrows front page??? I\’d say low… Thanks for the link.


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  • Forseti July 14, 2008 at 1:31 pm

    @ #8:

    Yes, the Multnomah County DA\’s office has used the \”double-jeopardy\” excuse numerous times for not citing people (motorists) at the scene of accidents. They claim that issuing a traffic citation to someone could preclude their subsequent prosecution for a crime based on conduct during the same incident.

    As far as I can tell, this argument is not only wrong legally but is completely indefensible. In State of Oregon v. Warner, 342 Or. 361 (2007), the Oregon Supreme Court upheld the Defendant\’s conviction for the crimes of driving under the influence of intoxicants (DUII) (ORS 813.010) and reckless driving (ORS 811.140) (a traffic crime) after the Defendant was cited for careless driving (ORS 811.135) (a traffic violation) for the same conduct.

    Guess who issued the traffic citation to the defendant in the hospital immediately following the collision? The PPB. Guess who subsequently charged the crimes? Multnomah County DA. Again, the highest authority on Oregon law upheld the Defendant\’s convictions.

    And I really like your comment about going to the moon but \”can\’t\” develop a mirror system without blind spots. Of course, if we were concerned about America\’s leading cause of death, we could and would.

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  • Graham July 14, 2008 at 1:47 pm

    Klixi #1,

    \”The % of bad drivers is identical to the % of bad cyclists.\”

    That seems like a reasonable assumption.

    However, the big difference is that drivers are wielding a deadly power that is vastly disproportionate to that of cyclists.

    There\’s some pretty deep psychology at work here. I think it has to do with some instinctive sense of \”might makes right.\” I think cars tickle some part of our lizard brain that is thrilled to have such power available at the twitch of a foot.

    Like the violence that cars do, this power cars bestow has become so everyday as to seem unremarkable, but it is, within the span of human development, a pretty amazing thing. It\’s like these machines have given superpowers to us upright, hairless apes. The power to move faster than any other animal, to carry huge loads at these speeds, and to survive the damage of a crash at these speeds.

    In another thread, someone made a pretty astute comparison to the dynamic that occurred in the old days between horseback riders and non-riders. Those on horseback had an artificial sense of superiority from the power and height a horse bestowed. It seems comparable to the psychology of driving these days.

    I know this psychology from my own experiences driving. When I drive, the sense of being bigger, stronger, and faster makes me impatient with people who slow me down, and angry with people who cut me off. I\’m fairly level-headed though, so I\’m a safe driver. All the more so for spending most of my time on a bike, or walking – I know how it feels to be on the other side. However, if I had a more volatile temper, or less empathy for others, I could see myself actually being dangerous behind the wheel.

    More dangerous, that is, than your average safe, attentive driver, who is him- or herself already vastly more dangerous than your average safe cyclist.

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  • Cmy July 14, 2008 at 1:50 pm

    I really have to \”check myself\” when I am involved in these types of incidents. Slowly I\’m learning to monitor what I say and how I say it. Hey, it\’s only taken 35 years!

    Bill,I think this story will be deep in the Metro section, at best!

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  • Paul Souders July 14, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Imagine a drunk standing on a busy street corner waving a pointed stick at passerby.

    Now imagine a drunk on the same corner waving a loaded gun.

    These are not morally equivalent acts.

    And which one would be featured (with nearly 100% of the space) above the fold on at least two editions of the Oregonian?

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  • cyclist July 14, 2008 at 2:05 pm

    \”Imagine a drunk standing on a busy street corner waving a pointed stick at passerby.

    Now imagine a drunk on the same corner waving a loaded gun.

    These are not morally equivalent acts.\”

    You\’re right, trying to beat the snot out of someone with your bicycle isn\’t a big deal. It\’s just a pointy stick.

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  • Robert Dobbs July 14, 2008 at 2:19 pm

    Mike @ 28

    How can you argue against that?

    Pretty easily, actually.

    It\’s presumptive to the extreme say that \”many cyclists\” who have problems with cars are antagonistic scofflaws. Also it is some rather odd circular reasoning to say that cyclists have problems with cars because they cause them so they can complain about having problems with cars.

    And you didn\’t answer: Who is the victim?

    I thought I did. Anyhow, its those cyclists who are subject to road raging motorists.

    Perhaps the confusion here is that I wasn\’t addressing the specific McAtee incident, but neither was Klixi.

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  • Paul Souders July 14, 2008 at 2:20 pm

    @cyclist (#35):

    So you\’d rather be threatened with being run over by a car than someone trying to beat you up with a bicycle?


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  • Diogo July 14, 2008 at 2:23 pm

    klixi #1:
    \”Or as the old adage goes, treat those the way you want to be treated. If you don\’t want cars to run stop signs, don\’t run them yourself.\”

    Unless the person running a stop sign is actually forcing a car to stop, it doesn\’t make any sense to equate running a stop sign as a way of treating someone else. If you accept this logic, klixi, you may as well say that everyone should behave in public according to the average person\’s sensibility. Like \”John Doe gets offended when he sees a gay couple making out in public. Therefore they shouldn\’t do it, because if you don\’t want to be offended you shouldn\’t offend others.\”

    For me, this is the core issue in this controversy about bikes and minor traffic law violations: the rules in these cases are so small and irrelevant that the outrage displayed by some ammounts to the old conflict between the traditionally accepted values of the average citizen and the behavior of few who choose to go \”astray\” from the norm.

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  • Robert Dobbs July 14, 2008 at 2:29 pm

    cyclist @35

    You\’re right, trying to beat the snot out of someone with your bicycle isn\’t a big deal. It\’s just a pointy stick.

    Well, the first thing I thought when I heard this story, is how totally insane and idiotic this guy must have looked swinging a bicycle around as a weapon.

    He would have been better off with a stick.

    Anyhow, I believe that in the eyes of TEH LAW if you\’re trying to whallop anyone with anything in your hand, it\’s Assault 2, stick, bike, car, whatever.

    Anyhow I think the guy you\’re responding to meant that being reckless w/ a stick and reckless with a gun are about the same as being reckless w/ bike vs reckless w/ a car.

    Intent (and action) does factor into things, and being reckless with a stick is not the same as trying to beat someone with it.

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  • Stripes July 14, 2008 at 2:38 pm

    On practically every other day there isn\’t a picture of somebody clubbing somebody else over the head with some form of transportation et al, the Oregonian has pictures taking up their entire front page of random dudes playing basketball at the Rose Gardens. Never mind that 85% of Portlanders couldn\’t care less about the exploits on or off the court of said random dudes.

    Still, this apparently passes as \”news\”, front page at that, and should tell you all you need to know about the Oregonian\’s target audience, aka, not me.

    Never subscribed to them, never will. Their coverage of politics is mediocre to appauling. I get all my political news on all things Portland from The Portland Mercury, which is a little worrying when you stop to think about it I guess.

    I wish we had the equivolent of the New York Times or some such thing to read here in Portland.

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  • Stripes July 14, 2008 at 2:41 pm

    Actually, scrap that. I\’m going to be a bit more passionate here!

    To somebody in possession of either a degree, or just a brain, their coverage of politics is actually just downright insulting.

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  • jordan July 14, 2008 at 2:49 pm

    Its battle of the media! vs. The Oregonian Who will have the final word? Perhaps tv, maybe radio, or The Oregonian shall take one more desperate stab…

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  • jamie July 14, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Newspapers are a dead media and acknowledging their existence by purchasing or writing to them only exacerbates the problem.

    memo to intelligent beings: there is nothing worthy to be learned in a newspaper, national, local, or otherwise. Journalism in the name of truth is dead for commercial newspapers and broadcast media.

    Cancel your subscription, ignore the oregonian and join me as we celebrate the death of sensationalism in our community.

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  • erin g. July 14, 2008 at 2:53 pm

    Calling those who want to be part of the solution to dangerous, counterproductive \”us\” vs. \”them\” mentalities: please get involved with We are ALL Traffic! Meeting tonight, 5:30 p.m. on the grass just south of the Hawthorne Bridge. We don\’t care whether you drive, bike, skateboard, truck, walk, or unicycle; we are a group of passionate, positive, and concerned citizens who believe in making things safer and more pleasant for all through advocacy and action. Please join us if you match that description. We accomplished a lot in our first year, and there is much yet to be done. Come see how good it feels to apply frustrations and concerns toward affecting meaningful change! By the way, we also have a lot of fun.

    Thank you, and hope to see some of you there!

    Erin Greeson
    We are ALL Traffic

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  • Klixi July 14, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Diogo: What kind of logic is that?!

    Seeing two gay people kiss cannot kill me.

    A car running a stop sign can kill me.

    I\’m not really sure what kind of point you were going for there?

    Remember that it is far easier for cyclists to see cars at night than for cars to see cyclists. To suggest it is fine to blow through a stop sign at night if you see nobody around because it isn\’t disrespectful to anyone is a bit hypocritical. What would you think of a driver who approaches a stop sign, doesn\’t see you on your bike, and blows through the stop sign because they assumed nobody was there, only to skim (or worse, hit) you?

    Laws are there for a reason. Many of them may be dumb, but if you would like to see them changes you owe it to everyone to go about the proper procedure to change them. You do not get to pick and choose which laws apply to you. This is exactly why so many drivers see cyclists as self righteous. Aside from chastising drivers for polluting the Earth (hey, all of us on some level or another are polluters, let\’s get off our high horses), drivers also see us as picking and choosing which laws we have to obey and which ones we will break under the guise of \”Hey, I\’m just on a bike.. I can\’t hurt a fly so I can break the laws.\”

    I fail to see why so many cyclists choose to be so ignorant about what is going on out on our roads, then weep and whine when a consequence arises from their actions.

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  • wsbob July 14, 2008 at 3:04 pm

    It\’s wonderful that the O assigns a Pulitzer Prize winner to write for the paper, but his abilities seem kind of wasted on this particular task. That is, unless he has the ability to wave a magic wand and divert the O away from its tendency of late, to resort to National Enquirer and World Wide News techniques to grab the attention of readers.

    Rick Attig, Pulitzer Prize winner and writer-apologist for the O doesn\’t seem to notice that the problem with the story wasn\’t the quality of its writing, but the way it was pitched and exploited using tricky placement, sensational titling and hysterically sized font to engage and antagonize the emotions of readers….and I imagine, hopefully regain some of the people that have stopped reading the paper.

    I agree that the initial story of the incident involving the drunken, out of control Steven McAtee riding his bike, and Colin Yates, driving his family in their car, was compelling to the public for the reasons writer Attig stated. As the O decides to meet its responsibility to the public by reporting these kinds of stories, it should try to be aware of the occasional presence of basic animosities surrounding certain issues stories relate to, and make an effort to not recklessly throw salt in the wound.

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  • El Biciclero July 14, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Hey, quit pickin\’ on klixi. Sheesh y\’all are losing the forest in the trees. Unless I am mistaken, klixi has merely been proposing a little more level-headed common sense on the part of everyone. E.g., Don\’t ride around with a chip on your shoulder begging for confrontation and then get all activist when it happens. True, no one can really judge whether someone involved in a confrontation was looking for one, but those that have this attitude know who they are (if they are honest with themselves).

    Regarding victim-blaming, we must be very careful about who we classify as a victim, and what they are a victim of. I can very easily be a victim of my own stupidity–then who do I blame? If I go against the rules, climb into the tiger cage at the zoo, and lose an arm, who is the victim and who is to blame?

    As far as \”Treating others the way we would like to be treated\”, aka the Golden Rule, this has nothing to do with imposing behavior on someone else. Klixi did not say, \”Others should treat me the way I want to be treated.\” Diogo, your response to that was a false analogy. The accurate analogy, it seems to me, would be to say that if I am offended by people making out in public, then I, myself, will not make out with people in public. I\’m not forcing anyone to do what I want, I am simply not being a hypocrite. The application here is that if I am going to expect that auto drivers and other cyclists follow the rules of the road, I had better well follow them myself. I am not imposing my will on anyone, I am merely demonstrating what I think is appropriate and setting the example of how I would prefer others behave, i.e., legally.

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  • peejay July 14, 2008 at 3:16 pm

    Stripes # 40:

    I guess you haven\’t read the Times lately, because it\’s a shadow of its former glory. The and the Times are both dinosaurs, big unresponsive monoliths that are unable to adapt to the current internet age, irrespective of their web presence. Their big problem is that they\’re stuck thinking that once they declare something as fact, we just have to sit there and agree. But now, anyone who has access to the internet can show these people up, and do frequently, just like Jonathan did with last week\’s story.

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  • Matthew Denton July 14, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    \”The % of bad drivers is identical to the % of bad cyclists. Think about it.\”

    No it isn\’t. People under 16 riding bicycles, who therefore [probably] don\’t know the rules of the road since they never studied for a drivers test, and so they are probably worse at obeying those rules than people that have taken a drivers test. People that have lost their license/couldn\’t get a license in the first place, (everything from too many DUIs to language barriers to epileptics,) can ride a bicycle but obviously don\’t drive cars, (legally: I know many of them do drive cars illegally,) but if they weren\’t good drivers, they probably aren\’t going to make very good cyclist. We are just going to have more bad cyclists than drivers and that is that…

    Of course, by the same logic, walkers are probably even worse than bicyclists because bicycling requires that you have a higher level of physical ability than walking, which prevents the very drunk and the infirm from taking part in it…

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  • Diogo July 14, 2008 at 3:36 pm


    The point I was trying to make was that this seems to be an issue of morality and dogma. The very language used denounces that; things like \”you make us look bad\”, \”it may be a dumb law, but laws are laws\”.

    The fear surrounding cyclists running stop signs is fabricated, blown way out of proportion. It really isn\’t dangerous – the risk is abstract, just like anything else we do, like leaving your house in the morning. You don\’t see the danger in making out, but a lot of people have tried to make that sound like a big threat to the nation. Likewise, I see no danger in running stop signs in my bike, but people make it sound like its dangerous.

    El Biciclero,

    Your explanation is different than what seems to be people\’s behavior. Yelling at people sounds to me like trying to impose what they think its right. Following your argument – if I don\’t get offended when people brake minor rules, aren\’t I free to do the same?

    But I think the difference of opinion may also be due to this idea of cars and bikes should follow the same rules, you and others are implying. I think that is totally unfair: motorized transportation is fundamentally different than human-powered ones, therefore bikes should not be subject to the same rules.

    They shouldn\’t be subject to the same rules, but to the same principles: traffic laws should provide for a optimum balance between flow and safety. The present rules may achieve that for cars, but for bikes they disproportionally obstruct the flow giving the small danger involved.

    Unlike cars, biking is all about keeping the momentum and braking the least possible… its not just the time you waste waiting, its also the time and energy spent recovering the lost speed, which you can feel in the body…

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  • Klixi July 14, 2008 at 3:59 pm


    Kissing is not illegal, running a stop sign is. I mean, I don\’t even know how else to explain it. You\’re comparing apples to oranges.

    You just said: \”I see no danger in running stop signs in my bike\”

    If I said \”I see no problem with robbing a bank\”, does that make it ok?

    You\’re still breaking the law and making everyone who rides a bike look bad. Why are you in such a hurry that you can\’t even stop at a stop sign? Leave your house earlier if you are crunched for time during your commute.

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  • junixrose July 14, 2008 at 4:06 pm

    Diogo and like minded cyclists-

    People can and do die after being hit by a cyclist.
    A quick google search brings up a several separate incidents like this and this.

    Both of the linked articles also point out the rarity of such casualties. It is this rarity that leads to the false sense of immunity.

    Traffic laws are designed to facilitate \”a[n] optimum balance between flow and safety\” like you say. This only works however because people can assume that others are going to follow the law. Safety and flow are both compromised by any individual using any vehicle (a bicycle, lest we forget, is a vehicle) that decides to violate any traffic law.

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  • El Biciclero July 14, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    Diogo, I wasn\’t trying to explain people\’s behavior, I was attempting to clarify what klixi was talking about way back in comment #1. You are correct in saying that if I go around yelling/preaching at people, it is a form of imposing my will, although anyone is free to ignore anything anyone says. The underlying logic there is, \”If I do it (or tell you to do it) you should do it.\” I was talking about the converse (sort of) of that logic, i.e., \”If I think you should do it, then I should do it, too.\” If you are not offended by people running stop signs and such, then yes–you are \”free\” to behave the same way without being hypocritical. On the other hand, if you DO expect/want motorists to obey traffic rules and be careful around you as a bike rider, then you should obey traffic rules and be careful around cars too–else you are being hypocritical.

    On a different topic, I don\’t think the \”bikes are small so they don\’t do damage like cars do\” argument goes one inch toward justifying reckless behavior by bike riders. To me, it is the same as explaining that, since I only punched someone once with my fist instead of pummeling him repeatedly with a baseball bat, I shouldn\’t be guilty of assault. Or trying to convince people that since I only torture and kill rabbits, not people, there\’s nothing wrong with me.

    Another way to think about obeying traffic rules is like this: Think of all the things that motorists do that annoy you when you are riding a bike. I can think of many–speeding, passing too close, honking, not using turn signals, etc. Now, most motorists who do the things on your list have no idea how annoying they are to you, and don\’t understand why they are such a big deal. I only honk to get bikers\’ attention when I think they don\’t see me–I don\’t do it to be mean. Why should I use turn signals if I don\’t think there is anyone else around? Who cares if I speed? I\’m not hitting anybody! So what if I pass really close? As long as I don\’t hit you, what\’s the big deal? Even though all those things are technically illegal, and are considered risky, none of them cause any harm at all as long as no one gets hit, right? But how much more warmth and goodwill would you feel toward motorists in general if the ones who did these types of things stopped doing them? Whether or not we understand why, we know for a fact that disregard of traffic rules/devices by bicyclists annoys motorists to no end. Why do we want to continue to be annoying to such a large group of people? I\’m reminded of my little brother poking his finger in my face, repeating, \”I\’m not touching you! I\’m not touching you!\” Sure, he\’s not touching me or doing me any real harm, but he is intentionally doing something he knows will make me mad. He also knows Dad said to \”knock it off!\”, but he doesn\’t care because it\’s fun for him.

    OK. Just because I can already hear folks telling me that, \”if we go by that logic, then cyclists should never take the lane, never pass on the right, never do a host of legal moves that drivers find annoying…\”, let me state that that is NOT what I am saying. All I am saying is give peace a chance…heh 😉 just kidding. All I am really saying is that there are some annoying cyclist behaviors that could easily be discontinued just because they are unnecessary and annoying to others–not to mention illegal.

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  • Paul July 14, 2008 at 5:39 pm


    I’m a long time cyclist but a new reader to this web site. I feel compelled to write after reading this article in the context of several others from last week. You have a good cause going, but you seem conflicted or confused about your role. I also think you were unfair and dishonest to Rex B who chided you last week for being biased in your reporting. You responded by denying any bias. Why would you deny that? It’s obvious from your writing that your main intent is to forward a cause. What’s wrong with that? Be proud of it man. You only hurt your credibility by denying what you are. Please stop the sanctimonious protests that you are “objective on the issues.” Accept and embrace that you are a bike advocate and an opinion leader and you have biases. If you’re in denial about this, then try the following DIY intervention:

    Step one, consider your articles about the cyclist who allegedly attacked the driver. As you know, your articles focused on criticizing other reporters for sensationalizing the story “in a way that pits one user group against another (and) is unnecessary, unproductive and dangerous.” Nothing wrong with your opinion on this topic, and I appreciate your editorial requesting greater understanding and dialogue.

    However, I can’t help but see a double standard in your accusations against other reporters.

    On other topics, you have been the perpetrator of biased reporting, and of pitting one group against another. Don’t get me wrong – opinionated writing is fine if that’s your shtick, but don’t put yourself on a pedestal and pretend that you are a uniter not a divider. You are a uniter when that supports your cause. You are a divider when that supports your cause.

    Not convinced? Go to step two in this intervention. Re-acquaint yourself with your articles on the City Council’s vote to approve an alternative for the Columbia River Crossing project. You insisted to Rex B that your reporting has been balanced and unbiased. But your articles last week contradict your claims. In one article, you editorialize that the opponents’ testimony is “compelling” (your words not theirs). You interview two individuals for that article – both of them project opponents; you interview no project supporters in that article. You cite a press conference by opponents, noting that they presented “grave” concerns (again your words).

    In another article on the Council vote, you devote nearly a third of it to an obfuscated and misguided “legal” theory by Ron Buel (who is not a legal expert, but is a project opponent) claiming that there is some kind of conspiracy behind the project, and that because of the requirements of the National Environmental Protection Act, the City Council’s “yes” votes are probably really “no” votes in disguise.

    First of all, no such Act exists; NEPA stands for “National Environmental Policy Act”. That’s an easy mistake but it shows that you cared more about your cause than accuracy. Second, Ron B clearly doesn’t understand NEPA. NEPA does not prohibit local jurisdictions from proclaiming preferences before the DEIS comment period has ended, contrary to what you reported. You wouldn’t be expected to know this yourself, but a conscientious journalist would be expected to at least check the facts or somehow validate such accusatory and ridiculous claims before reporting them. You might justify this as just reporting what you heard. However, a journalist would be expected to be more responsible with the information he is given.

    Need more evidence that you’re speaking out of both sides of your mouth? How about the following line of yours criticizing other reporters on the cyclist attack incident: “I\’m simply sharing my feelings that they should consider being a bit more responsible with the information they are given” (Jonathan Maus)

    Yes Jonathan they should consider being more responsible. But please, so should you, unless your primary goal is to just keep preaching to the choir, inciting poorly informed rants from your supporters, and making all of us cyclists feel better about ourselves. Frankly, I don’t need the reassurance. I’d rather see you be more honest in your reporting. Or barring that, just drop the charade and stop pretending that you aren’t biased. Either way, decide who you are and be straight up about it. Leave the empty claims of “fair and balanced reporting” to Fox News.

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  • Jonathan Maus (Editor) July 14, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Thanks for your very detailed and constructive feedback. I hear too often what a great job I am doing and I find it very refreshing to hear solid criticisms.

    You make some provocative points that I hear loud and clear and I will re-read your comment several times to let it sink in.

    You are right that I am conflicted in my role as advocate or journalist. It remains a challenging issue for me.

    I rarely critique anyone as directly as I did the Oregonian. I appreciate your comparison to my CRC coverage, but the main difference between those two issues is that road rage stories have a direct impact on public safety and therefore need to be handled very carefully.

    Yes, my CRC coverage has been a bit one-sided. I have given much more space to those who oppose the project than to those who support it.

    The CRC is a complex issue and my advocacy heart has become involved with it at times (similar to my coverage and open bias for the Flanders/Sauvie Bridge saga).

    Again, I appreciate your feedback and I will try and be more careful in the future.

    I am learning this journalism thing on the fly and everyone who reads this site gets to see all my mistakes and hopefully they also read my growth and maturity (especially on complex issues) as times goes on.


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  • Mark July 14, 2008 at 7:21 pm

    Maus, you are truly and idiot. Yes, it\’s all the Oregonian\’s fault. Give me a break. While we\’re at it, let\’s add another group to the tension… pedestrians. I\’m fine with sharing the road, but the sidewalk? I can\’t drive through an intersection or walk my dog on the sidewalk with out fear of hitting or being hit by one of you. Instead of critisizing the media, why don\’t you use your \”influence\” on educating your peers?

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  • Marc July 14, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    first mark #56 you need to look in the mirror and second your comments are totally baseless if had spent any time reading this blog at all. lastly you spell your name wrong.

    my response to all the oregonian apologists out there do you really think the story in question was so newsworthy that it deserved the super headline and half-page front picture? to me this is the dead giveaway that the editors were in fact practicing sensational journalism. it\’s unmistakable and quite putrid even for the oregonian.

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  • Kt July 14, 2008 at 8:14 pm

    WSBob and Marc– the dawn editions both days did not have the huge 9-11-worthy typeface.

    The first day\’s story had a small-ish headline and a mug shot pic of McAtee. The second day\’s story had a medium-ish headline and the same picture, below the fold.

    I emailed J Maus this same information, and have pointed it out on some of the other posts regarding the coverage, but it seems to have gotten lost.

    The O decided, for some reason, on their later editions, to play up the controversy brewing– probably because they saw how much free advertising they were getting in the \”cycling community\”.

    Yes, it\’s putrid and sensational journalism— but it DIDN\’T START OUT THAT WAY.

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  • Klixi July 14, 2008 at 9:41 pm

    For the remainder of print media\’s short life, expect for controversial headlines to dominate. Did anyone see the cover of the New Yorker with the characiture of Barack and Michelle Obama? Print media is losing money, the NYT has lost 3 billion alone. The only way to slow down these losses is by appealing to America\’s lowest common denominator.

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  • Dave Sohigian July 15, 2008 at 9:27 am

    I think \”Us vs. Them\” is the right approach. But the \”Us\” is law-abiding citizens trying to get around town and the \”Them\” is drunken aggressive criminals looking for a fight. Bikes and cars are not the defining factors in these stories, human behavior is.

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  • Matthew July 19, 2008 at 3:40 pm

    Re: Paul\’s comments, I think he makes useful and insightful comments, but I would caution against taking the criticism too personally. All reporting is going to be biased. There is no such thing as objective. We all operate on assumptions. Otherwise we would have to re-invent every concept, every idea that has already been proven in the past in order to make a new statement. Culture is the accumulation of wisdom.

    But we could also describe it as the accumulation of bias.

    I agree with Paul that you would probably do better to drop claims of objectivity, but please do continue in the vein that you have been going. I think you have become more moderate in your postings as your site has taken off. This is necessary, and I\’m proud of you as a cyclist for it, but I actually see you becoming more conventional.

    Roughly 30,000 people die each year in this country because of cars. If you removed all bicycles from the roads, I doubt the number of auto fatalities would drop by more than 0.1%. However, if all automobiles were removed from the roads the number of bicycle fatalities would probably decline by something like 99%.

    Cars are deadly, this is intrinsic to their design and use. In crashes we tend to blame individuals for their mistakes, thereby absolving the system in its entirety for responsibility. The system of personal automobile use is inherently dangerous. As humans, we all make mistakes. A system in which these mistakes result in deaths is a faulty system. Blaming individual drivers takes the focus away from the danger that cars represent. The immediate danger.

    Then we can add in the danger to public health (obesity, heart disease are public health epidemics, and the automobile can shoulder a large percentage of the responsibility).

    The danger to the environment. The destruction necessary to obtain liquid fuels to power cars.

    The civic isolation bred by enclosing individuals and separating them from each other.

    And on and on.

    Personal auto use is a flawed system. Comments about personal responsibility are appropriate in applying consequences to drunks who assault other people, whether with a bicycle weapon or a car as a weapon (note the risk of death from assault is not symmetric, still, violence is not acceptable in a civil society). But in the aggregate, it is a mistake to repeatedly blame individuals. We all agree to something commonly described as \”human nature\”.

    Why set up a system where human nature consistently produces tragedies ten, one-hundred, or perhaps one-thousand fold higher than another system. I\’m referring to a bicycle instead of auto system. Yes, the self-absorbed will still break rules, and perhaps kill others, but the incidence of this is so much less, it should be obvious that a bicycle based system would be immeasurably superior.

    What does this have to do with Paul\’s comments? Well, in the subset of the community that rides frequently, there is a strong bias. That bias implicitly accepts the status quo as legitimate. It is implicit that we all have the right to take part in a system that commonly produces tragedies. Often cyclists are too timid, conceptually. We say things like “I accept the risks of cycling because I love it” but truly, the risks are the risks drivers create. They are not rightly attributable to bicycling.

    You are fighting the good fight. There is bias, and so, yes, you shouldn\’t claim to be unbiased. But, society itself is biased, and that\’s rarely if ever pointed out in any media, because it\’s the common bias. The accepted \”conventional wisdom\”. And we continue to be at risk on our bicycles, primarily from this system of car use. So, I share some of Paul\’s sentiment:

    \”It’s obvious from your writing that your main intent is to forward a cause. What’s wrong with that? Be proud of it man. You only hurt your credibility by denying what you are.\”

    …but every media source supports a cause, even if it\’s merely the status quo. You are legit man. Your bias represents legitimate journalism. I would argue it is a superior bias. This cause is the righteous one, and simply being in the minority does not make it \”biased\” in the pejorative sense. I see your writing as journalism. The Oregonian, the NYT, the local news, NPR, these are biased sources, which support the status quo.

    Keep up the great work.


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