IT’S COME TO THIS: “Hate is dangerous, including against bicyclists” says op-ed in the San Fran Chronicle.

“Let’s have the bicyclists pay for bike lanes,” another commenter proposed (ignoring the fact that bicyclists do pay taxes and car-related fees and taxes do not cover the cost of maintaining public roads even though cars and trucks cause the great majority of road damage).

“Cyclists need to be more mindful,” tut-tutted another.

“I’ve witnessed bicyclists doing insanely dangerous things,” said yet another. “S.F. has one of the densest car populations in the country.
Riding bikes and scooters has got to be very risky.”

In all these comments, the implicit or explicit suggestion is that the bicyclist was basically at fault for riding on the street in the first place.

I’ve seen this knee-jerk reaction dozens of times: The bicyclist brought this on themselves, heedlessly and recklessly persisting in riding. Or this comment: “I question how one can value their life while literally putting themselves in voluntary danger. (San Francisco is among the) top 5 most dangerous cities to ride in. I’m so confused on how cyclists are on here accusing drivers for deliberately trying to kill them, then hop right back on the bike. If I thought someone was out to kill me, I would not continue to put myself in that position.”

A “ghost bike” memorial placed at the scene of Boyes’ death was vandalized — twice. Who does that? Someone emboldened to physically enact their hatred of bicyclists.

Just as those who tolerate or encourage racist, sexist and homophobic or transphobic comments on social media contribute to emboldening the people who attack and menace particular groups, people who parrot stereotypical comments about cyclists on social media subtly encourage those who would harm them — tearing down a memorial, close-passing a mother with a child on her bike or aggressively edging their car into a bike lane to menace and squeeze a bicyclist.

It was not until several years ago, when in my 70s I took up an electric bike as my primary form of transportation, that I began to realize how pervasive the hatred of bicyclists is among car drivers. At first, I thought it must be my inexperience that explained drivers cutting me off by turning directly into my path, honking impatiently and close-swerving around me when I slowed or moved out into the lane due to an obstacle ahead of me. They couldn’t know (or didn’t care) that I was being extra cautious to avoid being “doored” by someone parked alongside the bike lane in which I was riding. As I rode more, I saw drivers regularly do these things to other bicyclists, including everyone from kids to expert riders like Boyes.