June 3rd, 2009

Bike Friendly Oak Cliff (BFOC), a local advocacy group, posted an article from the Austin American-Statesman, which was originally published on 18 February of this year. As they are prone to do, BFOC usurped the original focus of the piece – Lance Armstrong’s plans to open a “commuting bike shop” in Austin – to imply that Armstrong is bullish on bike lanes.

The article contains several quotes attributed to Armstrong. One stands out as seeming to confirm BFOC’s claims.

“There are times I ride in Austin, and I’m afraid of cars,” Armstrong said. “Imagine what the beginner cyclist must feel like?”

Sounds odd, doesn’t it. A seven time Tour de France winner being afraid of cars. I suppose it could be true. Viewing the following video, one comes away with a different take, however.

Fear? Where is the fear? Not only is Armstrong riding in the midst of normal traffic, in many of the shots he is doing so legally and confidently with good lane positioning and adhering to the two-abreast rule. It is the balance of the footage, which is most telling. One recognizes an unapologetic scofflaw who has no regard for the law or the other vehicles on the roadway.

More importantly, at no point within the article is there a quote from Armstrong indicating affection for bike lanes. Though there are several references to these on-street facilities, there is never a direct endorsement. The closest he comes is the following statement with respect to how Austin can reach a point where “biking is part of the culture”.

The (Lance Armstrong Bikeway) is a big start…

The author goes on to describe the “bikeway” in terms of being some sort of cycle track. Despite the inference in the article, a cycle track is not a bike lane. It is a facility designed to separate cyclists from motor vehicles and serves only to diminish the legitimacy of a bicycle as a vehicle.

In truth, all of the pandering language used by Armstrong and his partner is simply a vehicle for garnering the attention of prospective customers. It is branding; it’s advertising, pure and simple. “Advocates” in Austin, North Texas and elsewhere have relied upon fear, uncertainly and doom to build a following of inferior cyclists in order to drive their infrastructure plans. They have now enlisted a well-known cycling celebrity to help push their agenda. This same mentality has, unfortunately, been adopted by local advocacy groups.

North Texas has several organizations who call themselves bicycle advocates. Some are more honest than others when it comes to clearly stating intent. BFOC is the most vocal in their goal to see bike lanes become a part of the transportation infrastructure. A big problem with their tactics is the use of lies and subterfuge to achieve their desires. The example cited above is among many one can readily discover at their website. Perhaps less apparent is their fascist editorializing. The webmasters deny comments from those with dissenting views. On rare occasions when opposing information is approved, it is attacked with flawed arguments or criticized out of context.

Groups like BFOC capitalize on FUD to mobilize their base. Rather than present facts to support their position, some of these groups employ deceit and personal attacks. For those with knowledge and experience relative to the subject, these tactics are obvious. To the gullible and uneducated, actions like these appear to be legitimate arguments.

What I describe above is not limited to BFOC; they are only the most pronounced example. There are certainly voices from the vehicular cycling community who are also prone to hyperbole and bending the truth in order to spread their message. Some degree of hypocrisy creeps into all of these discussions. It is the responsibility of the audience to learn how to discriminate fact from fiction and hold the proponents of the latter to account.

The use of a bicycle for tranportation, in North Texas or anywhere else, is not inherently dangerous. Despite what some organizations would have you believe, when practiced according to the rules of the road, along with practical knowledge and technique, vehicular cycling is very safe and doable. The important point to emphasize is the need for education. Regardless of which side of the debate one finds themselves (pro-vehicular cycling or pro-facilities), become informed and do not allow succumb to the influence of disreputable individuals or groups. Learn to discern fact from fiction and arrive at an informed conclusion.

2 Responses to “Mendacity”

  1. pmsummer says:

    The Lance Armstrong Bikeway runs east-west roughly parallel to 3rd Street (IIRC) in downtown Austin, soon linking to the bike/ped bridge across Lake Lady Bird parallel to Lamar. There are perhaps 15 or more intersection crossing. Should do wonders for Austin’s accident rates.

    If was viewable on Google maps a couple of months ago, but Google seems to have gone back to previous set of aerials.

  2. space2k says:

    It’s known as “the Stopway” to local cyclists.

    Keep up the blogging!

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