Jeff Jacoby doesn’t want you riding on his roads

According to Boston Globe Opinion Columnist Jeff Jacoby, you have no business being on the road on your bike. His latest opinion piece reuses tired old (and factually inaccurate) arguments to explain why efforts to increase bicycle access and utilization in our cities is, in his words, “irresponsible and dangerous.” But it is an opinion piece – right? I mean, he’s just stating what he thinks, not any actual facts.

Except for the things is cites as facts – that actually aren’t.

All of which might be marginally more tolerable if bikers operated under the same restrictions that drivers do. But cyclists pay no taxes, don’t have to be insured, undergo no safety inspections, and needn’t register their vehicles. They don’t have to carry an operator’s license, and aren’t required to pass a written or a road test in order to pedal in the streets. And have you ever seen a cop ticket a cyclist who ran a red light, weaved recklessly among lanes, or made an illegal turn? Me neither.

— Jeff Jacoby, “Urban roads aren’t meant for Bicycles.” Boston Globe

Now I actually wish it were true that as a cyclist I pay no taxes. That would be fantastic, and I could continue to live in this city I’m in now that is becoming increasingly financially prohibitive. As I have with so many others Mr. Jacoby, I’ll forgive your misunderstanding of the facts on where the tax dollars to fund infrastructure come from. Not to mention the gross imbalance in the amount of maintenance dollars requires to support a bike lane compared to motor vehicle lanes. It is true that I’m not required to be insured, mostly because it is pretty damned hard for me to cause enough damage to make that a requirement. It is also true that I’m not required to undergo safety inspections. Not sure about Boston, but I’ve never had a safety inspection on my car either. Both my bicycle and my car do have legally required safety equipment, and I can get a ticket in either if I chose to ride without something legally required. Bicycle registration has been demonstrated to be cost prohibitive for the gains provided to society. Bicycle operator licenses have a huge hurdle to overcome in regards to where they are required, and how children fit into that framework. You would think that a journalist would be smart enough to look to see if others have posed these objections before writing about them all as if they were new, unique insights of your own.

Oh – and the idea about cyclists not getting tickets? Well there is this, this, this, and this just to get started.

My particular favorite part however is the video he uses to “demonstrate” his belief that riding a bicycle in traffic is inherently “deadly.” Interestingly enough, to my view the most dangerous part of this guys commute involves the cars illegally parked, blocking the bike lane. To that end, even though I don’t feel particularly vulnerable on the road personally, I’ll agree. Cars breaking laws are probably the single greatest threat to my safety.

The basic premise of his argument – which many have employed before him – is that cycling on the roads is dangerous. This is a straw man argument at best. If we accept the argument that if something is too dangerous, then it shouldn’t be done (and we shouldn’t enact changes to make it safer) then we are left with pretty much nothing that we can do with our frail human bodies other than stay in a safe bubble. We required seat belts in cars because driving a car is an inherently dangerous activity. Few made the argument that we should stop driving cars because too many people were getting killed. Yet somehow this is the exact argument Mr. Jacoby is making.

No. What our dear Mr. Jacoby has done is recycle a bunch of used, disproved opinions, cloaked them in a patronizing tone of “trying to protect people” and used them as a justification of why he gets mad at someone that cost him a couple of seconds of travel time getting from one red light to another while crossing the city.

Now what if I told you that if half of the people in the jammed up roads you are driving were on bicycles instead of cars, you’d be able to get to your destination faster? Would that change your perspective?