When Cycling Becomes a Threat (to the Auto Industry)

I came across this article on Boing Boing over the weekend:

An NRA-lobbied bill in Florida will prohibit doctors, especially pediatricians, from asking patients about their gun-safety. The bill is expected to be signed by Governor Rick Scott. Pediatricians routinely advise parents about seatbelts, bike helmets, etc, but this law will make it illegal for a doctor to offer advice on gun safety unless “it’s directly relevant to the patient’s care or the safety of others.”

That’s the gun lobby’s response to what they call a “growing anti-gun political agenda being carried out in examination rooms by doctors and staffs.”

Doctor Gag OrderIt got me thinking. When you look at the relative political strength of the auto industry and the cycling industry, it’s no contest, is it?

Imagine what the auto industry might do if they get the slightest imaginary hint of a growing anti-car political agenda being carried out in examination rooms by doctors and staffs.

Asking whether a patient has a bike, or talking about childhood obesity? They’ll take that as a stealth attack on their livelihood.

And they might complain, “We take our children to pediatricians for medical care — not moral judgment, not privacy intrusions.” (That’s what an NRA lobbyist said about the Florida bill that would gag doctors from asking about guns.)

And I’m sure the auto industry will be fine with doctors talking about bike safety, helmets, gloves, and anything that conveys the message that bikes are dangerous.

When cycling begins to be perceived as a reasonable alternative to many of the things that the vast majority of us still do in cars, that’s when we’ll know we’ve gotten under their skin. We will know them by their lobbyists.

Are there already signs of this?

Anyone care to join me in my preemptive paranoia? Or set me straight? Go for it.

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17 thoughts on “When Cycling Becomes a Threat (to the Auto Industry)”

  1. Alexander says:

    Misplaced paranoia Ted, the vast majority of Americans are obese and lazy. God forbid they have to walk a few extra feet or dare I say pedal a bicycle. Just look at the parking wars in front of your local stores, people want the closest spot to the store and will park like jerks leaving an inch between vehicles to get it.

    Cycling is something this country will never get into as a culture. They’ve become too accustomed to the luxury of vehicle ownership. When cars play such an important role in our culture and our history as a country, it makes cycling seem so third world. Kids can’t wait to get their drivers license, the first great businessman learned about in grammar schools is Henry Ford, the car culture and nostalgia of classic cars dominates. Bicycles don’t stand a chance.

    The few that do ride try to spread the message of health and Eco-friendliness, but it mostly falls on deaf ears. I salute your preemptive paranoia Ted but I think you’ll find in time that those of us intelligent enough to leave the car at home and ride to work, will never be more infringed upon then during our commutes by unfriendly drivers.

  2. Peter Smith says:

    BRT is an auto-industry attack on bikes and all mass transit. Wasn’t initially conceived that way, but once GM and crew heard about, they jumped in to support it in a big way.

  3. BluesCat says:

    I don’t think you’ll see the auto industry able to play the same gambit as the NRA. The Second Amendment allows the NRA to wrap itself in the Stars and Stripes so well that Old Glory looks TAILORED on them. There is nothing similar in the Constitution that would allow GM or Chrysler or Ford to head to THEIR haberdasher for a suit made with that same red, white and blue cloth.

    No, Big Auto — and their partners in crime: Big Oil — will continue to use more insidious, guerrilla methods which exploit various PERSONAL weaknesses of people …

    Self Image – “Bicyclists just LOOK geeky, don’t they?”
    Self Worth – “Bicyclists are on bikes because they can’t AFFORD cars!”
    Nationalism – “Only Third World citizens ride bikes to work!”
    Fairness – “Bicyclists don’t pay their fair share of the cost of roads!”

  4. Josh King says:

    This bill is from Flori-duh, so take it with a grain of salt. They pass all sorts of dumb laws down there.

    And this one – just like your thou-shalt-not-speak-of-bikes rule – runs afoul of the first amendment. It will get tossed quickly after being signed into law.

  5. Ted Snyder says:

    This was not a bill to muzzle doctors, it was a bill to keep Obama Care out of hunters’ lives. The Obamains want to regulate guns more and they think using doctors is a good tactic. If the power of the GOV decided to have doctors question people about their cycling habits because too many cyclist on the streets is dangerous and doctors should quote the statistical data to their patients about injuries and death caused by cyclists and cycling too much, then you would all be concerned that the next step is telling people that they have to pay more for their insurance because they cycle more that 100 mi/week and the step after that is charging a fee for disobeying a doctors orders to be more careful. And if you follow my drift the Obamaians want to decide what’s best for everyone and everyone needs to tow the line, I mean everyone. Don’t you try to be different that’s not good for the majortiy if someone tries to be different.

    Please stop bowing to that picture of O.

  6. Dano says:

    In the 1920’s GM went after public transportation (the electric railcar specifically) so that people would buy more cars. Based on where the country is now I would say that they did a fair job. (Not to say that America wasn’t headed to the “everyone who is anyone owns a vehicle” place anyway)

    Here is a really one sided website with a few facts that talk about a young but crafty GM.

    I agree with others, I think that Big-Auto has big enough problems that any interference from our micro bike commuter population is unfelt.

  7. Adam says:

    I live in Florida, and my children’s pediatrician asks questions on every visit like “do you have a pool?” and “do you own a firearm?” and “where do you keep your cleaning supplies?” and “do you use a car seat?”. He’s seen alot of kids get hurt or killed in his time (he was MY pediatrician, to give you an idea). They are questions for safety. Kids drown in pools, play with guns, drink drano and get ejected from vehicles in collisions often enough that it grants asking. There’s no agenda here, this is what happens.

    That said, all the doc wants is to recognize dangers and take action. Put a barrier around the pool (required by law anyway). Use a gun lock/safe. Lock up the cleaning cabinet. Use a car seat. It isn’t rocket science.

    I hear about kids getting diabetes. I hear about kids playing video games for hours on end. I hear about kids fighting obesity. I haven’t heard of too many kids getting seriously hurt bicycling. The ONLY question I could reasonably think of the pediatrician asking is “does your child wear a bike helmet?”

  8. Candide says:

    @BluesCat, don’t underestimate the ability for the auto industry to wrap itself in the garb of patriotism to sell more automobiles.

    Remember this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JMRMW1FXSHw

    @Ted Snyder


  9. clever-title says:

    I’m guessing that the NRA bill was sparked by reports that the AMA was instructing doctors to recommend that people not own firearms, on the dubious idea that a gun is likely to injure a family member.
    I’m not an AMA member, so I don’t know what guidance was actually sent to doctors. I’d expect it’s more like what Adam reports, but the story certainly has people concerned (like the supposed VMT tax).
    I understand the frustration, since I often get the “you’re gonna get killed on that bike” line from co-workers.

  10. Bob P. says:

    I see tax subsidies as a way to identify bicycle riders. If you collect the $20 a month, you are now identified as a bike rider, and able to be more easily legislated/taxed. Government money isn’t theirs, and never comes free.

  11. BluesCat says:

    Candide – Oh yes, you’re quite right, there has been no shortage of commercials where Cars and America have been wrapped in that same patriotic cloth. (That Dodge commercial you linked to is especially fun.) My point is that there is no written, Constitutional tool that Big Auto can use to tailor the Flag to their cause way that the NRA uses the Second Amendment.

    (snicker) You probably had the absolute best, most succinct answer to Ted S.

  12. Candide says:


    I’ve got it!

    Given the rate at which the leglislative and judicial branches have been removing barriers to firearms ownership (you and I are both Arizonans and should be familiar with this), I have no doubt that within my lifetime the auto industry will lobby to their products classified as deadly weapons and have them constitutionally protected. =P

  13. spiderleggreen says:

    @Ted~ Better to let Republicans be “the decider”. Soon we’ll all have a gun in each hand.

    I think the Republicans are onto something. Talking about the dangers of something does discourage it’s use with a good segment of the population. Guns or bikes. We should keep that in mind when talking about biking. Don’t lead with the dangers. Fun and Normal. That’s what the gun lobby is selling and sellin well.

  14. Mike says:

    Asking people whether they own guns is none of the doctor’s business. The number of “accidental shootings” of children is MINIMAL. More kids die in car crashes. More die in swimming pools. Heck, I’d wager than more die from consuming poisonous household chemicals.

    It’s an issue of privacy. Nobody has the RIGHT to know what property you own, be it a Rolex, a widescreen TV, a microwave oven, or a gun.

    I grew up in south Louisiana, where there are guns in every household. My father was a policeman with an extensive gun collection, including a loaded, unlocked handgun in his nightstand. Not a problem.

    1. Ted Johnson says:

      I’m not going to take the bait and allow this post to devolve into a debate about gun rights.

      However it seems to me that if we’re talking about rights, a doctor ought to have a right to ask any question he or she feels is pertinent to the health of a patient. And the patient ought to have the right to say, “I’d rather not answer that question.”

  15. Scott says:

    You are hardly displaying preemptive paranoia but rather historical concerns. Anyone can lookup “The Great American Streetcar Scandal” in the 20’s if they want a historical account of what the ultra powerful automobile industry will do to any idea or plan that would alter a society or individuals away from owning cars. Hell, for the matter, the Big 3 will even eat their own if something new comes along and threatens their profits as they did with Tucker.

    Let it be known that I grew up in Detroit on the front lines of these powers, and it is sickening.

  16. Thomas says:

    I had a conversation with my grandfather, he worked for a national bicycle company in the 1930’s. They made a great product the Shelby an indestructible paperboy bike. They made $25/week and the bike sold for $100. I asked them how much a good used car cost and they said $200, this is what started the American Love affair with the Automobile. This bicycle was capable of going from NY to SF under human power and was a lifetime investment in both health and austerity. We have lost our way in this country with our wants turning into needs, and our insistence to always want more.

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