This week a person published a rant on the Vancouver Craigslist “Rants and Raves” entitled “Hoping Cycalists get crushed under the wheels of Cars and Trucks.” It’s been removed, but essentially it was hate speech so vile that it sounded deranged.
The anonymous poster exhorts motorists to take back “their” streets by driving aggressively, killing cyclists and then sueing their estates. He urges car drivers to deliberately hurt cyclists so that they become quadriplegics who can only dream of their cycling days, and then sue them for causing the accidents. He advises that when motorists have knocked down cyclists and they are lying in the streets with broken limbs, the motorists should get out and yell at the cyclists. In perhaps his finest moment, he encourages motorists who see parents with children in bike trailers to aim for the parents in order to cripple them, so as to show the parents the error of their ways. All this in scarcely literate English, interspersed with often vile swear words.
This poster bases his argument on his incorrect assumption that motorists “own” the roads. As he elegantly puts it:
Roads were made and paid for by mortorists. Not f***ing bicycles! So I believe this gives them the right to speak out against the morons who are using the roads and streets. Get the f*** off the roads!
The belief that motorists “own” the streets is based on the notion that motorists pay for the roads via taxes on gas. Not so, according to researcher Todd Litman of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in his research study “Whose roads?”. Litman points out that while highways are primarily funded by gas taxes, funding for local roads and traffic services comes from general taxes.
This means that you or I on our bikes most likely have contributed equally to the roads we share with people in Hummers and Ford F350’s – and with the hate-filled poster. And who is causing the most damage to the roads, and therefore the highest upkeep costs? Obviously, the motorists. It follows that we as cyclists and taxpayers are actually subsidizing the roads for motorists – so that if anyone “owns” the roads, it is cyclists, not motorists!
The incorrectness of the poster’s argument aside, the question still remains whether to take him seriously, or write him off as a raving whack job.
A few months ago I was cycling home from work on Gilmore Road, on the designated bike route, in pouring rain. A motorist followed me all the way, sitting right on my tail, even though he could easily have gone around me. It appeared he was trying to unnerve me enough to make me fall off, so that he could run me over. He didn’t succeed, because I am a pretty skilled and confident cyclist. But I lie awake some nights thinking about what might have happened had that been my wife, or one of my children, given that they are not as experienced at cycling as I am.
That could have been our anonymous poster, or someone influenced by his hate speech. So I say yes, we should take him seriously – very seriously indeed. Seriously enough to try and ensure he is reined in.
A person on one of the cyclist mailing lists to which I subscribe has asked the Hate Crime Unit of the Vancouver Police Department to investigate this matter as a hate crime, and has asked Craigslist to forward information about the post to the VPD. Let’s see if the VPD takes this seriously. I suspect this poster cannot have his driver’s licence taken away for uttering threats and hate speech. But at least if he is given a police warning he will know that he is on the police radar, and that if he hits a cyclist, the assumption will be that it was deliberate. Hopefully, that will deter him from carrying out his vile threats. And if we are very lucky, perhaps he will be charged.
Let’s all keep an eye on this situation, and encourage the VPD to take it seriously by forwarding our concerns to them in emails.
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