Here in the greater Washington DC metro area, there has been a veritable deluge of media attention to the ongoing war between cars and bicycles on city streets. You know the issues, if you live in a city of any size: Cyclists view cars as a menace to their safety (and given the number of totally unconscious, distracted drivers on the road, who can blame them?), while the drivers of cars (plus quite a few pedestrians) view the bicycle fans as scofflaws and threats, as they blow through red lights, ride on sidewalks, and zip unexpectedly between cars.
In just the past few days, one colunmnist wrote about the difficulty of meshing the two modes of transport; another likened cyclists to terrorists; a third wrote an admiring article about a small group of bicycle "ambassadors" who actively seek to demonstrate that cyclists really can be law-abiding, civil folk; yet another has opined that both automobile drivers and cyclists are right (in part) and wrong (in part).
My wife and I own bikes, but truth be told, we last used them when we lived in Europe. Our assessment of risk-versus-reward, in this case, falls on the side of not taking our lives in our hands to get out on a bicycle among the area's inattentive drivers. Not even in our immediate residential neighborhood, where old 1950s streets are narrow and often also lack sidewalks for pedestrians.
So, are we on the cyclists' side? I'm not, sorry to say. First, although might doesn't make right, it does - or should, in a sane human being, make for caution. The ant should be really careful when the elephant is nearby, yet cyclists often seem to lack this common sense. I reported one close-call experience of that ilk in an earlier post. I've also noticed that although my area is laced with bike lanes on most thoroughfares, few cyclists manage to stay within them.
Second, what impresses me most about the "good" cyclists' claims is their lack of substantiation. You say "most" bicycle riders follow the rules? Sorry, I can't buy that, when in my experience, nearly every one of them I run across (tho not literally!) in my coming and going is breaking one or more rules. The fact is, we need lots more of those law-abiding cyclists out there before we're going to be able to learn to share the road safely and wisely. And unfortunately, it's the cyclists themselves who need to somehow manufacture them, since traffic cops are far too focused on cars and seldom nab a cyclist on an infraction.