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#1 2011-05-02 13:11:52

savanni
Member
From: Austin
Registered: 2011-04-30
Posts: 82
Website

Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

So, I'll preface this with... I'm terrible at advocacy.  I really don't know what to say when people start trying to tear down my ideas of a better world.  I'm needing advice on how to handle one particular class of people.

I cycle frequently.  Not quite every day, and I use a car on some days.  But doing my work commute four times out of five in a week is not uncommon.  Everyone around me knows just how much I bike.  So, I got really frustrated Friday night when I mentioned the Andrew Runciman Memorial Ride to some people who are, theoretically, really close to me, and they *immediately* jumped to stories of the stupid things they've seen cyclists do.

Now, I could immediately jump into the dangerous things drivers have done to me, but I keep thinking that is a path to madness.  It is nothing more than a one-upmanship contest trying to show which side is stupider.  I want something a bit more... idealistic for lack of a better word.

So far, my best idea has been "When cyclists screw up, cyclists die.  When drivers screw up, everyone around them dies."  It just doesn't pack any real rhetorical punch, though.  In fact, it somehow puts even more responsibility on cyclists.  I could use exactly the same kind of argument about firearms, and there everyone puts responsibility on the wielder, not the target.

What ideals can I use to sway the reasonable (and discredit the unreasonable in the eyes of the reasonable)?

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#2 2011-05-02 13:30:14

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,210
Website

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

I don't think it's "stupid" to put things into proper perspective.  Futile maybe, but not stupid.  The sad truth is that people generally believe what they want to believe, facts and logic be damned.  How often do you see people changing their minds when presented with new information?  How often do you change your mind yourself?

Here's a letter I wrote to the Chronicle a few years ago on this topic.  The responses included "Move to China, shithead."  That's how well facts and logic work.

Letter to the Chronicle, May 19, 2008

Jason Bratcher writes, "[Cyclists] do not adhere to the same traffic laws that motorists adhere to" ["Postmarks," May 16]. Wow, Mr. Bratcher thinks that all motorists obey the law? Not. Law-breaking motorists are responsible for more than 30,000 collisions per year in the Austin area, and in nearly half of those a vehicle has to be towed away or someone has to be hospitalized. Nationwide, drivers who run red lights injure about a quarter million people and kill nearly a thousand people every year. I've personally been hit on my bicycle five times when motorists broke the law by running stop signs or failing to yield right-of-way. Guess who hit me by pulling into the bike lane without looking? One of the personal injury attorneys on the back of the phone book. In three other cases the motorists compounded their crime by fleeing the scene after they hit me. (Mr. Bratcher, were you unaware that hit-and-run is a form of breaking the law?) In fact, for several years when I tracked the stats I found that half the serious bike-car collisions in Austin were hit-and-runs. So you'll pardon me if I don't get all teary-eyed about motorists seeing cyclists walking stop signs when I know that half those motorists, if they hit me, are quite willing to leave me for dead.
       What is it that compels drivers to fire off so many letters about law-breaking bicyclists when the real carnage is caused by motorists? And what blinds them to the reality that (news flash) motorists break the law too? The reality is that both bicyclists and motorists break the law. The difference is that when motorists do it, someone other than the law-breaker frequently gets hurt or killed.

Michael Bluejay
BicycleSafe.com

http://www.austinchronicle.com/postmark … 19/625912/

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#3 2011-05-02 14:22:08

savanni
Member
From: Austin
Registered: 2011-04-30
Posts: 82
Website

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

Yeah, but I'm not going to target the general public.  I'm not even going to target the online forums where I'm well known and even vaguely respected.  I already know that I'd get similar responses.

But, I've been known to change my mind.  Sometimes more than once.  Which is why I'm trying to figure out how to persuade people around me.  I'm only trying to target the people I deal with face-to-face.  Your article to the Chronicle actually gives me a little better idea of how to do it: quoting the numbers of drivers who break the law and injure or kill others in the process.  That might help some.

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#4 2011-05-02 23:57:08

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 554

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

savanni wrote:

But, I've been known to change my mind.

Which puts you ahead of at least 90% of the people out there ...

Which is why I'm trying to figure out how to persuade people around me

If you ever find a way, by all means, let us know.

I've personally never really found myself able to change people's minds -- once in a while, it works, but it's rare.

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#5 2011-05-03 09:45:37

Adriel
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

You can have the most carefully crafted bullet proof explanation in the world, and some people just won't listen.  Also, these people don't just get mad at cyclists for being in the way.  I get people honking at me and zooming around me all the time when I drive a car, because I keep a 1 car per 10mph following distance.   (That is 7 car lengths on the highway)  It matters not that I am going the exact same speed as the car in front of me.  Or they get mad at me because I refuse to accelerate into a red light, etc etc.  Some people drive like morons, and the only real solution is to enact legislation to separate them from their driving privileges.  Do that enough times and they will be the cycling advocates, because it will be their only source of transportation.

I strongly believe that 20% of the drivers cause 80% of the accidents, and if we could just prevent that 20% from driving AT ALL, the road would be safer for children, cyclists, other vehicles and animals.

As for what to say.  When someone says it is not safe to cycle on the road, I would say: "If you drive in such a way that you cannot stop if something slower is in front of you, you are driving badly, and should not be allowed to continue."

On the road, cars are as dangerous or more dangerous than an ak-47.  Bicycles are about as dangerous as a paintball gun.  With increased power comes increased responsibility and liability.

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#6 2011-05-03 14:35:19

timdiller
Member
Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 14

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

For what it's worth, I do my best to bike on roads that don't have cars whizzing past and try to avoid cars altogether. There is usually an alternative to streets where car-bike confrontations are common. For instance, Woodview is a nice alternative to Burnet or Shoal Creek (which tends to be OK, car wise), and Woodrow or Guadalupe (north of 45th) offer nice alternatives to Lamar. I'm always surprised when I see bikers on Burnet or Lamar. They're playing a dangerous game and not winning any goodwill from drivers who are nervous about their presence.
Heck, when I'm driving, I get nervous around bikes. It's not hard to see how this turns into anger in some people. IMO, the best advocacy toward the people to only remember "stupid" cyclists is to set a good example and not exercise my "rights" when it could cause frustration or make a driver nervous.

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#7 2011-05-03 15:06:28

savanni
Member
From: Austin
Registered: 2011-04-30
Posts: 82
Website

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

I avoid such streets, but you may well have seen me on them.  There are some places I just cannot get to without Lamar or Brodie.  Even Burnet on (rare) occasion.

I do try to set a good example all the time when I'm cycling, even stopping at stop signs (frustrating though it may be), but people remember bad examples more clearly than good examples.

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#8 2011-05-03 15:20:05

bizikletari
Member
Registered: 2009-03-18
Posts: 223

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

Last Saturday, I was sharing lunch at the community garden tour with a small group of "green people". When the topic came to transportation, other than my own family, everybody else had good and well thought reasons not ride a bike. Or walk.
Most of them were raised under the scorching Texas weather, but found it unbearable to bike during Summer due to the heat and during Winter for the cold.

I was born in Seattle which has a lot colder weather than Austin's, went to elementary and high school in Chile (which is also a LOT colder than here); I lived in Caracas, Venezuela for many years (indeed, not even that tropical city does reach Austin's temperatures) and before moving to Austin I was living at Buffalo, NY—also colder than here, as you sure know. And yet, I bike in Austin

Why is it, then, that I am able to bike year round in Austin? How is it that my wife and I have been able to raise a 10 year old boy, without even owning a car? My only possible explanation is because we want to. That simple. We believe is the right thing to do; therefore that is what we do.

And, honestly, I don't think you could convince anyone to do what you think is right, if they themselves don't see it. People will continue eating what they eat, using AC, driving, watching TV, voting the way they do.

They will say it is expensive, unsafe, or not convenient for their lifestyle, or they have to look presentable at work. (I work at an office, also) Every person will have a good reason to choose as they do. I wouldn't worry to argue with them.

You bike and that is plenty. 

Although these days I tend to bike less often; mostly for distances of more than three miles or when I have to go to multiple places. The rest of the time, I walk.

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#9 2011-05-03 15:21:49

jmayson
Member
Registered: 2008-06-28
Posts: 46

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

As a driver I find most cyclists are reasonable and cautious on the road.  As a cyclist I find most motorists are reasonable and cautious on the road.  Sadly both drivers and cyclists only remember the bad examples and they either don't see or forget about the good examples.

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#10 2011-05-03 16:39:19

Adriel
Member
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 91

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

I agree with John, most people in general are courteous and considerate, but that 20% of bad ones can really ruin your day.

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#11 2011-05-03 20:25:31

ggw
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-27
Posts: 30
Website

Re: Advocacy towards people who only remember "stupid" cyclists

You might benefit from reading a book about persausive talking.

There are a few simple, but lengthy, steps to follow. Those steps require you to engage the person (or your target audience) in conversation to find out what they will accept for an answer. It is often quite narrow and requires addressing other seemingly unrelated issues before you can get back to the one you are interested in.

I am an uncharismatic, aged, engineer and find that if I really desire someone to change, every individual is different. I have to REALLY want that change. The recidivism rate is depressing and I have to give subtle booster shots, lest a single exception to the different way is taken as "I knew I was right with the old way!". There is just so much data of varying quality out there clamoring for attention.

I know that is vague. Just my experience.

The situation is very different when someone has a question.. they have motivation which I don't have to know. I answer as honestly and sincerely as I am able, otherwise my words carry no more weight that others around me with whom I often do not agree.

-----------
I can see it, why can't everybody else?

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