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Kirby: No winner in bike vs. bumper debate
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

A cyclist almost clipped me Thursday. If that was you going south on a green mountain bike near The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City around 10 a.m., I'm the guy who yelled that stuff about your actual birth mother.

I meant it, too. You didn't even look when you cut that corner and nearly got me. And it's not like I'm invisible. Hell, I'm larger than you and your bike together.

On the other hand, the score between me and bicyclists isn't anywhere close to being even. In 44 years of driving, I've nearly hit more of you than you ever have of me.

While I've never hit a bicyclist with my vehicle, one of them hit me. Years ago a rider came off the sidewalk and — SMACK! — straight into the side of my car.

I was only traveling about 15 mph at the time, but it was terrifying. I thought I'd killed him. So did the rider's parents, who screamed and watched their 6-year-old son T-bone a police car with his birthday present.

It wouldn't have been my fault if the kid had died, but that wouldn't have mattered much. There are moments when the law isn't much comfort.

Around that same time period I arrested a cyclist for driving under the influence. It seems a petty thing to jack somebody up for "drunken riding," but bike riders have to obey the law just like motorists. And friends don't let friends spin drunk.

It was for the best. When I stopped the guy, he was riding the wrong way down a freeway off-ramp with a .29 BAC. I figure I not only saved his life by arresting him, I also saved a lot of emotional turmoil for the driver who would have killed him.

This may sound like I'm on the side of motorists as opposed to cyclists. I'm not. I'm actually on the side of pragmatists. Being in the right loses nearly all of its satisfaction value when you're dead.

The bike-bumper interface has changed a lot in the past 20 years. There are a lot more gear heads than there used to be. The number is only going to increase.

And thanks to technology distractions, there are a lot more people driving with their heads in their hams. Bicyclists can be very hard to see, even when drivers are paying attention.

Unfortunately, paying attention is becoming harder for me to do. I no longer like the odds. It's one of the reasons why I take public transportation to work. If someone is going to get hurt on my way to the office, it isn't going to be me driving the car that did it.

It isn't going to be me pedaling either. Biking is touted as a healthy way of commuting, but it's really only that if you don't have an SUV parked on top of you.

I've watched cyclists trying to negotiate rush hour. I figure any form of transportation wherein the well-being of the commuter depends entirely on the imagined benevolence of the motoring public is fundamentally unhealthy.

I understand why cyclists feel persecuted. With the exception of nimbleness, they're really no match for a vehicle. If push comes to shove (or even brush), they'll lose every time.

Conversely, drivers get off easy in bumper-bike collisions. Assuming the cyclist is neither large nor alert enough to insist on immediate payback, the worst that will happen to the driver is a few dents in the car.

But in the commuting food chain, there's still the lowest and slowest life form out there: pedestrians.

These days, I'm a lot more afraid of bicyclists than bumpers for the simple reason that I'm not dodging many SUVs on the sidewalk.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.

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