Sunday, May 04, 2008

My Secret Shame

There are so many occasions for spontaneous anger when you live in a city that it is nearly impossible to recall or rank them all or to even remember the reasons for your wrath. But one group of citizens consistently outrages me, all the more so for their moral grandstanding. At times I have to acknowledge that my dislike of them is visceral and perhaps irrational. But it is no less real for that. I'm talking, of course, about bicyclists.

Bicyclists drive me nuts. In Philadelphia, as in cities across this great country, bicyclists routinely flout the law, riding on the sidewalk when it's convenient and holding up traffic in the street whenever possible. I can count on one hand the number of times I have seen a bicyclist at a stop sign or even a red light, or wait behind a car that is correctly stopped at such an intersection. Instead, the man or woman on the bicycle will weave between parked, stopped, and moving cars to gain a fractional advantage. Yet if an automobile so much as grazes a bicycle lane, all hell breaks loose.

Yes, I know that an automobile bears greater mass, velocity, and force than a bicycle and that the consequences of a motorist's mistake almost always outweigh those of a bicyclist's. But come on. Half of these people on bikes are just jerks. I'm especially bothered as a pedestrian, since half the time my sidewalk winds of becoming an impromptu bicycle lane. If my wife, baby, and I are walking two abreast, or worse, walking with a stroller, we wind up getting clipped or shoved aside by some jerk in a bike helmet who won't or can't ride on the street.

And please, spare me the spasms of virtue. I know it feels good to move around the city under your own power, and to tend and care for a shiny object. And you have your own catalogs with gear and shirts and knee pads or whatever. But there isn't anything virtuous about what you're doing. You want virtue? Ride the subway, or the number 13 trolley. D.on't get all holier-than-thou with people who drive or ride in cars just because they've chosen the most technologically advanced form of transportation available to the average citizen. Yes, cars have problems. Yes, parking stinks. Yes, we need to think more about global warming. But you are exactly 2/10 of a nose hair away from the occasional driver in terms of your carbon footprint, so cool your jets, bike boy.

In case you're wondering why I'm suddenly dumping on people who ride bikes around the city, the occasion or pretext is this article in the New York Times. Here are some of the outrages:

James Frederick was in Manhattan cycling west in the Prince Street bike lane on a recent morning when a green Ford parked in the lane forced him to swerve into the narrow roadway where cars and vans were rushing past.

“It’s kind of scary because the cars next to you just keep going,” said Mr. Frederick, 49, a messenger who lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn. “The city just put this lane in a few months ago, but it’s not respected by drivers.”

Feel free, Mr. Frederick, to be angry at the jerk with a green Ford parked in the bike lane. But, if you swerve at full speed into a lane of traffic, don't be surprised when the automobiles next to you don't immediately stop to let you through. Did you stop and wait and look for a safe way around when you saw, probably from some distance, that your lane was blocked? No, you didn't. That's what the rest of us have to do when somebody double-parks. Which, by the way, happens a lot.
In response, some cyclists have handed out fake but realistic-looking summonses to drivers in bike lanes, leading at times to arguments. Others said they have slapped stickers on cars that look like those pasted on vehicles that fail to make way for the Sanitation Department street sweepers.
Well, we all love vandalism, and impersonating officers. Only a bicyclist would be so impressed with his or her moral superiority that they wouldn't see a problem with this, or would be so naïve as to be astonished that these practices lead "at times to arguments." I'm surprised they haven't resorted to slashing tires, or kicking cars, which has happened to me on three different occasions when I was trying to park in a metered space.
Ten years later, Mayor Edward I. Koch became frustrated when bike lanes that he had built on main thoroughfares like Fifth Avenue and Broadway, which were separated from motor vehicles by asphalt islands, were criticized by drivers and pedestrians and, even worse, ignored by many cyclists. As a result, he ordered that the islands be removed.
There may be responsible safe cautious cyclists out there who take as much care with themselves and their machines on the roadways as I do when I'm a pedestrian, a motorist, or a passenger on public transit. But, when push comes to shove, cyclists are just as ready to flout the law and put themselves in danger as anyone else in this crazy-ass city.

Get over yourselves, cyclists. As Stephen Colbert would say, you're on notice.

P.S.: Welcome, many referred readers. Had I known that so many people would read this post, I would have argued it differently, plugging holes and making needed concessions, but that ship has sailed. I do want to add, though, since there's been confusion on this point, that I don't own or regularly drive a car. My frustration with bikes is mostly borne out in my pedestrian experience, but in the war between drivers and cyclists, have about the same mixture of sympathy and frustration with both. (Maybe I'm just jealous.) So, instead of referring to me as "idiot motorist" or "dumbass driver," if you would call me "that douchebag who walks and rides SEPTA everywhere" I would be much obliged.

Thanks for coming, and if you're at all interested in anything else I write about, please stick around. Otherwise, in one week, I will write about why I hate puppies.

67 comments:

Points said...

Critical Mass, a bike group in NYC, has as their slogan "We don't block traffic, we are traffic". But then they launch columns of bikes that shut down intersections because the cyclists all run the red light for 30 minutes at a stretch.

BTW, I am buying a bike next week...

Scott said...

Tim,

I'm sort of with you. As someone who uses a bicycle for 90% of his come and go, even I find myself cringing when I see something like this.

But I also think you underestimate the challenge of cycling in a city like New York- A city that is working hard to decongest traffic, yet doing little to make the city bike friendly. If you've ever been in Berlin, it's a cyclist dream! Clearly marked and observed lanes abound. Of course, they also have had the benefit of reconstruction in recent years.

I think many cyclists end up being so righteous just because a bike ride in NYC turns into a trial. You feel discriminated against.

A couple of years ago my wife and I lived out in Illinois in a city made for cars. To get to the grocery store we had to bike 2 miles- Not so bad, except that a mile of it was along a highway. No crosswalks existed. Of course it made me righteous, it was a legitimate danger as it is in NYC.

I guess what I'm getting at is that you need to be careful not to hate the cycling for the cyclists and to recognize the legitimate problems NYC faces.

Noelle said...

I used to live near 181st St., and I used to love to walk or run along the West Side Highway. In the 5 years that I was there, I never once saw a cyclist walk his or her bike on the overpass that led to the walkway. The sanctimonious attitude of those cyclists who take up the space of three people on the subway, don't follow the basic rules of the road, and yell at cars got me madder than anything else when I was a New Yorker.

Matthew said...

did you stop and waitand look for a safe way around when you saw, probably from some distance, that your lane was blocked? No, you didn't. That's what the rest of us have to do when somebody double parks. Which, by the way, happens a lot.

lol. I love the way you try to draw a equivalence between motorists and cyclists by pointing out that they both face the same problem ... caused by motorists.

Adam Durand said...

Scott, that's a good comment, my thoughts exactly.

cisellis said...

Critical Mass in San Francisco has the same issues. Some of them are downright mean. I saw a bicyclist try to drag a guy out of his car and beat him because the guy's car had gotten stuck in the intersection for 30 mins. when Critical Mass came through (running red lights of course). Failing that, he started kicking and beating the guys car...

combray said...

The vast majority of my transport is on the subway, but when I do ride my bike it is amazingly infuriating how many people park and stop in the bike lanes. I don't see any riding on the sidewalk in new york, so maybe that's different in philly. The sidewalks are full of people here, so it's certainly not convenient or anything like that, or perhaps people would do it more. Personally, I hate it when bikers go down the wrong way on one way streets and then are shocked when kay walkers "step out in front of them" only looking for traffic the other way.

But, you know, I'm not sure I understand your attitude at all. You find it frustrating when someone is on the sidewalk when you are walking. Cars in the bike lane are obnoxious in exactly the same way. The fact that most car drivers are so infuriatingly smug about this -- "just go around like we do dirty hippy" - doesn't help.

I think that car drivers have this idea that they rule the road. I think that pedestrians think that they rule the road. And bikers think that they should have equal rights on the road as cars do. I personally have all these feelings, depending upon if I'm driving, walking, or biking. (I'll get mad at cars for cutting me off as I'm walking to my car!)

But it would certainly be nicer if cars obeyed the rules of the road more. And if bikers did too.

the Rising Jurist said...

Sadly, you've hit the nail on the head when it comes to the double standard. As a cycling commuter and attorney, I may be the most law-abiding cyclist in the city. And it drives me nuts to see fellow cyclists blowing through red lights and rocketing down the sidewalk.

The whole idea of SHARE THE ROAD is that bikes are to be afforded the same rights as cars. Generally, this requires that bikes also follow the same rules as cars.

For my part, all I can do is follow the rules, and chastise my cycling friends who do not. For your part, try not to hate us all.

Andrew said...

I live in the philly burbs, and routinely see cyclists blow through red lights and stop signs, and ride past a line of cars stopped at red lights.

It makes me cringe every time I see it, because I think it encourages resentment of cyclists by motorists.

As a cyclist, that's the last thing I want.

Spirit of the Season said...

Actually, Tim, my carbon footprint is a tiny fraction of yours since I have chosen not to add to the world's overpopulation.

mobil'homme said...

There is the sampling problem, in that you may not take note of cyclists who don't cause problems--they are unobtrusive so you don't notice them.

Also, while there is no excuse for making oneself a nuisance or putting others at risk, many cities actually have a different set of traffic laws for bikes. E.g., running lights and stop signs, riding on the sidewalks, etc., may actually be totally legal under certain circumstances. But if cyclists in your city are routinely breaking the law, that's also partly an enforcement problem and you should complain to your alderman--a little enforcement goes a long way.

But no question, any population has its share of assholes--for instance, I have a similar rant with respect to the many halfwit, breeders with their SUV strollers. Apparently unaware that a whole world of other people exist, they block sidewalks, aisles in stores, run into pedestrians, roll over peoples' feet, all the while junior sits drooling in his La-Z-Boy on wheels preparing for a life of lethargy.

Ben said...

Eh... Boo hoo for you. You're just not aware of all the upstanding, law abiding cyclists that are out there. We are many. Look harder.

Lord knows that even total angels turn into collosal assholes the moment they get behind the wheel of an automobile.

Cyclists are not the problem. Regardless, in 20 years we'll all be on bikes or walking anyway.

Paul Wren said...

The "Caution" notice in the Blog header was right-- reading did make me learn something: Tim is guilty of stereotyping.

I'm a cyclist who obeys traffic laws, and despises riders who flaunt them.

I also have contempt for drivers who believe it is their right to run cyclists off the road, but I know better than to lump all drivers together.

Rants are fine-- we all engage in them. But I think Tim really has a problem with people who are jerks ( and there are plenty in every walk of life and on every mode of transportation available), and should back off from the whole bicyclists=assholes thing.

Tim said...

Okay. Thanks, Jason.

1) This post was a test of my new speech-recognition software, which explains, I think, both its vituperative tone and its abundance of typos. I'm working on correcting the second, but the first I will leave for posterity.

2) The ranting style, with the nod to Colbert at the end, is partly tongue-in-cheek. I don't usually write like this. Or anyways, I haven't since college.

3) A friend (and reader of this blog) and I routinely try to top each other in our bombast against groups otherwise portrayed as virtuous, including bicyclists, and this is part of that genre.

4) The "breeders" and "overpopulation" people? Awesome. Thanks for showing up.

5) In sum, my attitude is this: everyone should obey traffic laws, but not be surprised or incensed when they are momentarily inconvenienced by those who do not. My complaint about bicyclists is that they usually handle traffic like the worst drivers. But they don't really fill me with rage. Or, at any rate, with rage that lasts longer than the rage I feel towards most of my fellow citizens from time to time.

Thanks for coming! If you like to hear about any of the crap I usually write about (see tags at left) please stick around.

Ben said...

What Paul Wren said!

That was what I was getting at.

Bottom line for me: I hate assholes of all flavors, but in the Grand Scheme of Things, I'll go after other brands of assholes looooong before cyclists.

Tim said...

Also, my birthday present to my wife this year: a bicycle.

Which she will probably rarely ride for fear of molestation by motorists and other cyclists.

So I'm not a total bike-hating monster. Or am I?

Dan Blaker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Alex said...

Oh, you were just testing your text-to-speech? A 'practice rant'? Not everyone reads the comments. If you've 'enabled' just one person to go 'hell yeah, f)(k those cyclists!' enough to try running one down, like a guy did to me the other week, then phooey on you. Twice.

All you've pointed out is that people in cars go like this: "Honk! Honk!" and people on bikes go like this: "F)(k you buddy!" Well done.

Tim said...

Yes, Alex, my cautioning of cyclists to respect the rules of the road will certainly incite drivers to hit bicyclists. But the real reasons I mentioned speech-to-text are the typos.

dataphage said...

I cannot stick cyclists. Hypocritical whining lycra fetishists AAAAARGGH!

jhvu said...

I don't like it when people ride bikes on the sidewalk either. Bikes belong on the streets. However, this rant reinforces the same old attitudes that force cyclists to ride on the sidewalk in the first place.

You're right, there's definitely a smugness among some cyclists. But who can blame them? They're in great shape, look younger than their age, and eat whatever they want. Maybe they're on to something?

Barry Kelly said...

I'm not an American - I just visit on business. I have, however, tried to cycle on northern California's roads as a law-abiding member of the public. It's rather difficult, however, when traffic lights only change colour when a *car* is waiting at the stop, and not when a *bike* is waiting!

The reason is pretty simple: the traffic light actuators are driven by metal detectors underneath the road. Unless your bike is in precisely the correct spot, and has enough metal substance, you could be stuck at a junction for hours. The only way to get to your final destination is to wander over to the pedestrian crossing and use that.

Highly annoying. The US road system is anti-cyclists. As such, it's hardly surprising that cyclists need to bend the system to fit in.

Bloggo said...

I gather that you are young man in need of counsel.

1. Avoid overrating your own intelligence. See current President of USA for pitfalls of such.

2. Educate yourself first, then rant. Get the order right. That's the whole trick. On this subject, you may start here:

[ LINK ]


3. Do I understand that you teach? Refrain from shaping young minds until your own mind in a sensible shape.

4. As it relates to #1, avoid echo chambers. They compound the problem. In other words, #1 plus a whole bunch of "yessirees" makes for a potent cocktail of utter insanity.

5. Nobody's buying the Colbert crapola, so don't even try selling it. If you're gonna hate, do it on the up-and-up and you will be recognized for your honesty, at least. Adding passive-aggressive hypocrisy to the mix does NOT make the crap smell any sweeter.

Skool is out for now.

Sincerely,
Professor Perry

AH said...

Hiding behind the "I was just trying out a new experimental writing style" or "it's just this genre me and my buddies like to write in, so that's why it's closed-minded and hateful" is far more objectionable than, say, riding through a red light when there's no traffic or passing by cars on the right.

The fact is that the traffic system was designed for cars, and all that stop-and-start is most unsuited to cycling, where Desire Number One is Preserve Momentum. We're fish out of water in traffic, and sometimes our awkward gasping and flapping aggravates the land-lovers.

Oh, and the other point I wanted to make: this is your blog, and you're responsible for what you write on it, and explaining it away through genre (or, worse, dictation software; "hey, I was saying NICE things about cyclists, but then my software turned it all around!) is cowardice of the lowest order.

robb said...

Motorists break the law constantly by speeding. Cars speed all the time. Did you know that each 10mph faster you go increases your chances of killing someone in an accident by about 100%? And somehow you can find the time to bitch about me running red lights? lol. American thinking at its best. Mind your business, that being the management of the likelihood that you will someday take a life because of your need to get where you are going faster.

I will gladly listen to any motorist complain about my cycling who has not broken the law themselves today.

hypocrite.

Jeremy Lane said...

I think one of the biggest problems I have with drivers complaining about rule-flouting, hypocritical city [of Philadelphia] cyclists like myself is that, in the end, we are not the same: I ride a delicate scaffolding of steel that weighs 30 pounds soaking wet, while you drive a 3000-pound hulking death machine that can wipe me out in an instant.

I agree that many cyclists can be rude and ignore traffic laws, but it doesn't make up for the fact that cars own the space we are forced to ride in, and act that way, often with callous disregard for the cyclists trying to share it. I'll start stopping at stop signs when I can trust that cars are going to look in their rearview before turning through one of the few bike lanes in town, or when they stop honking and tailgating me when I'm taking up "too much" of a lane that I'm lawfully allowed in. I'll start obeying traffic laws when I stop hearing about cyclists getting hit-and-run from, then dying from the injuries sustained.

Think of it this way: if you and a cyclist get into an accident, you might have some scratches on your paint, or even a dent; the cyclist might die. So let's have a little perspective, shall we? If the accident was the result of the cyclist's bad behavior, you have my official permission not to feel guilty, how's that?

rigtenzin said...

The self-righteousness of auto drivers is funny. They speed, roll through stop signs, don't signal turns, block cross walks, and countless other law-breaking behaviors, but that's not what they complain about.

SteveF said...

I ride both recreationaly and for transportation and I have a couple of thoughts.

First, thank you for not letting your road rage cause you to injure someone. I expect drivers who also ride to give me room and be patient--after all I'm one of them. But when someone who is put out by cyclists remains civilized enough to look out for us, it's oddly encouraging and much appreciated.

There's been a lot of outrage about cyclists rule breaking around lately. I'd just like to point out, that it's people that break rules not bikes. I'm a careful courteous driver and the same as a cyclist, and I see folks do stupid, illegal things all the time, no matter how they happen to be propelling themselves along. If you back your focus a bit from bike level, I suspect you'll see drivers doing all sorts of stupid illegal things and with a much greater chance of injuring themselves or others to boot.

Thank you for getting your frustrations out on the blog instead of on the street, for not ranting about running people down or something. Cycling, even recklessly, shouldn't be a capital crime. Thanks, too, for watching out for folks on bikes even those who might bug you. We're all just people trying to live our lives and get from point a to point b with a minimum of fuss. We should all look out for each other!

Tim said...

@ bloggo and ah: Oh my God. I've run afoul of the internet police. All I can ask for is your mercy.

@ Steve F: I absolutely agree. We are all in this together.

KPedraja said...

Tim, I posted a similar rant about annoying Seattle bikers here (http://jetcityjournal.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/04/annoying-seattl.html). I even decided to take action by "outing" annoying cyclists - who I've dubbed Biketards -- and posting photos of their transgressions in a recurring feature I call "Biketard of the Week." It probably won't affect the behavior of any of them, but it sure makes me feel better.

Points said...

what most of the commenters in this thread have missed is that Tim DOESN'T OWN A FUCKING CAR!

That's right, he moves around Philadelphia ON FOOT and on MASS TRANSIT. His perspective is that of a PEDESTRIAN.

Some of these comments are so outlandish I almost think we're being trolled. Particularly ripe was Robb saying he'd listen if the author wasn't a motorist- are you listening now?

Bloggo- does this blog post strike you as an echo chamber? You are insufferably arrogant.

Bloggo said...

Tim,

I don't know who these Internet police are, but I am certainly not one of them. You can jest to cover your foul up or you can learn from it and become a better person. Either way, it's your choice.

As for agreeing with Steve F, I'm sorry but you don't in principle because you have not retracted anything here. I put as much stock in your "we're all in this together" as a multi-millionaire's "we're all getting squeezed at the supermarket checkout." None, that is.

Points said...

Oh, and I should note that being a motorist doesn't mean your opinions and arguments are thus invalid. The "cyclists are angels, motorists are demon-spawn" holier-than-thou-pride is an infectious disease.

The rabid dirty hippies should go join a autarkic cult in the desert; leave civilization to sane cyclists with enough respect for others to obey the laws.

Bloggo said...

@ points:

1. I never said anything about Tim's car (which he does not own or drive).

2. The car issue does not really matter anyway. It's like saying a rant against short people is OK so long as it comes from a not-too-tall person.

3. And if you must ask, yes, in fact the post and many of the friendly comments do sound like an echo chamber.

4. As for trolling, you put your rabid rants up on the Internets and ask for comments, you takes your chances.

5. You write: The rabid dirty hippies should go join a autarkic cult in the desert; leave civilization to sane cyclists with enough respect for others to obey the laws.

Clearly, you have issues to deal with. Not being nasty here, either. Just saying: that's a lot of rage you have there. Good luck with it.

robb said...

Ugh! Well I stand corrected.

Peds are even worse than motorists. I have to take action to evade peds a dozen times a day.

You jaywalk, crowd intersections, step out from between parked cars, push your strollers out into the street without looking, walk across a street in a single file line and stare right into my eyes and step in front of me when I have the green. Get your act together and we'll talk, but you're just as much of a scoff as me.

And if you find youself so bothered by cyclists that you write a blog post, head on over to Oxfam, find something that you should really be upset about and about which you can actually make a difference.

robb said...

I'm confused. If the author doesn't own a car why does he care about anything that he's writing about? Bike lanes and double parking? Not his problem, right?

While I guess it is ok to advocate for the motorist, Tim, you might consider the following: Each year in NYC about 225 people are killed in car vs. ped accidents, about 25 in car vs. bike accidents and about .1 in a bike vs. ped accident.

I'm sorry that bikes freak you out. I've ridden about 15k miles on NYC streets. I run reds all the time and I take what I can get with regards to lanes, etc. But I can count on one hand the number of times that I've ever been in anyone's way. There are reasons why most cyclists do what they do. A bit of aggressive driving gets you on the radar. Just yesterday I helped a man up from the street. He had been biking (totally lawfully) down the bike lane on Broadway @ 22nd or so when a city bus pinched him while passing, pushing him into parked cars and to the ground. He could have easily fallen under the bus's tires. This would never have happened to me because I would have kept ahead of the bus (running lights is a great way to keep out of traffic, and everyone's way) and taken more of the lane. It's just the way it is. Riding offensively/defensively is less fun than cruising, but cruising is what gets you killed.

But, like I said above, Pedestrians' illegal behavior on the roads is my pet peeve, mainly because it puts me in the situation of deciding whether to put myself at risk by pulling into traffic blind OR hitting a pedestrian. I hate the situation, but I accept it. What some joe does with his life is his business, whether he is driving, walking or cycling. I just need to get where I'm going.

J. Beaman said...

What you're not getting is the power differential. You are in a 2 ton mass of metal; a death machine. If a cyclist moves into your lane or flouts the law it may inconvenience you, if you double park in the bike lane you are putting a cyclists life at risk. It stands to reason that the response would be different. I'm no critical mass asshole activist but when a man get brushed, clipped, doored once or twice (I'm in San Francisco) it changes your attitude.

When I first started riding motorcycles the advice my uncle, a veteran motorcyclist, gave me was, "Every motherfucker on four wheels wants you dead. If you ride like that you may actually survive."

Alex said...

My friend is the bicycle and pedestrian planner for a major American city. According to him, one of the steps for making a city more bike friendly is to step up enforcement of traffic laws for bikes, both to reduce the chaos and also the backlash against cyclists. Cops don't like writing up tickets against cyclists for blowing red lights, because it seems like overkill. One solution is to introduce a milder penalty for bikes running reds than cars, and then actually enforce. You can debate the legal/ethical rigor of this approach, but in pragmatic terms it seems better than no enforcement.

I don't think saying you find cyclists annoying and/or non-reciprocal in their behavior vis a vis cars is especially enlightening or useful overall. (Yes, I'm an ardent cyclist.) If you must, vent, but any cyclist who's spent a lot of time on American roads can tell stories that make yours sound a little.. underwhelming. Ever had firecrackers lobbed at you? I have. Ever had people pass you going 70 with inches to spare? I have countless times. Ever had someone pull out into the oncoming lane on a two lane road to pass when you're in the oncoming lane, run you into the ditch? I have. Ever had someone turn left in front of you when you had the right of way, sending you over the hood of their car and giving you a permanent injury in one of your knees, and have them yell at you as you peel yourself up off the pavement something to the effect that it was your job to stop and avoid the accident? I have.

But, if our topic is wreckless and self-righteous cyclists... Any insights as to why this happens? Is this a self-selected group of jerks we're dealing with here, or is there something else at stake? OK, that was rhetorical question. I suggest any of these could be more interesting ways to focus this conversation:

1)a traffic/road system that doesn't meet many people's needs

2)the tensions that accompany a cultural shift as cycling becomes more popular

3)conflicts that arise when behavioral norms are contested

4)attitudes of people who understand themselves to be a minority that are not treated fairly

5) Abysmal training of drivers / non-existent training of cyclists.

6)huge difference in situated perspectives of cycling vs driving

On the last point: Any idea what this might look like from a cyclist's perspective? Does the fact that cyclists rarely/never injure automobilists and automobilists regularly injure and kill cylcists introduce any special assumptions and burdens into this uneasy relationship we have here between the person behind the wheel an the person on the bike?

REALLY, I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.

Tim said...

A number of people have referred to this notion as something I've missed, so I'll cut-and-paste it from my third paragraph above:

Yes, I know that an automobile bears greater mass, velocity, and force than a bicycle and that the consequences of a motorist's mistake almost always outweigh those of a bicyclist's. But come on. Half of these people on bikes are just jerks.

(Note: the over-under on "half" may be high or low.)

Just to restate, I object to the following behavior of cyclists:

1) Disobeying traffic laws, particularly when it endangers pedestrians or themselves;

2) Vandalism against motorists who break the law and hostility even towards those who don't.

3) The tone-deafness/hypocrisy that the combination of 1 and 2 often entails.

As Points points out above, I don't own a car. I drive a few times each month, using a carshare service. Mostly, I walk, or ride the subway or trolley everywhere.

I don't have any beef with getting angry with cars who break the law. I get angry with cars who break the law. I get angry with pedestrians too, and motorcyclists, and kids who play in the street, and guys who ride around on little pocket rockets, and buses, and cabs, and passengers.

Living in a city, we are all frequently inconvenienced by the people around us, whether they are breaking, bending, or obeying the law. In what I now see was my abject cowardice above, I tried to walk back on the claim that I had any particular antipathy towards cyclists. If I single them out, it's because I feel that 1) knowing the risks they've undertaken, they should know better, 2) the bizarre self-righteousness that often gets taken on in addition to the traditional griping, and 3) because that Times article stunk.

@ alex #2 (I'm guessing you're not the same as alex #1), points 1-6 are all very smart, and definitely the makings of a good discussion to be had going forward. If I had ever thought this post would be read by more than twenty people, I would certainly have taken the time to consider at least half of them.

I certainly think that the problem is systematic -- trying to create the best way for all traffic to safely get across the city -- much more than it is ethical. Right now, we have a very loose, disfunctional system in which nobody really obeys the rules but everyone coordinates around some broadly held folkways which aren't always shared by everyone involved. I'm absolutely pro-bike lane -- not only does it keep cars out of bikes' ways, but vice versa, and gives pedestrians more room to breathe as well.

My dream is that we all get over ourselves and each other and get back to hating the city itself -- the way it should be.

Thom said...

Because in our cars, we're NEVER righteous about that dumbass who cut us off or parked in traffic or won't let us in when we're merging on the freeway.

Riders are just like drivers, only we have much smaller cars.

Here in Portland, you're not supposed to ride on the sidewalks. But no one seems to know that because they see cops riding on the sidewalks and figure it's OK.

Colin R said...

Bicyclists drive me nuts. In Philadelphia, as in cities across this great country, bicyclists routinely flout the law, riding on the sidewalk when it's convenient and holding up traffic in the street whenever possible.

Oh Tim, if you only had the sense to selectively replace the word "Bicyclists" with the phrase "asshole bicyclists," you never would have gotten 40+ comments.

Allow me to demonstrate:

Man, I sure hate it when asshole pedestrians walk into traffic when they don't have the walk signal. On the other hand, I don't really mind when pedestrians cross without a signal when there's no traffic coming.

Similarly I don't get real worked up when cyclists run red lights when there's ample time to make it across, but I want to T-bone those asshole bicyclists who aggressively dart into intersections on a red light and force cars to avoid them.

In summary, your ire is raised by asshole cyclists, not cyclists. Cyclists who are not assholes are surprisingly unobtrusive, which is probably why you don't think that they exist.
And yes, any cyclist who is on the sidewalk going more than walking pace near pedestrians is an asshole.

Mike B said...

The traffic code exists to standardize automotive and bicycle flow predictability. Deviation from those standards decreases safety and the risk of accidents rises.

Those breaking the traffic code (knowingly or unknowingly) are putting themselves in great danger, as well as others. Some would say it's just stupid. Being ignorant of the traffic laws may very well be death.

Perhaps licenses should be issued for those who have a basic understanding of the applicable bicycle traffic laws.

Ashley said...

As someone who lives in a rural/suburban area of hilly southwest Ohio, I too am often exasperated by cyclists. Near me, most people cycle for exercise rather than transportation, but still put themselves and others at risk.

Although the taxpayers of my city voted to build a very expensive and well-kept bike trail, cyclists refuse to use it. Instead they cycle on hilly, rural roads. I often drive over the crest of a hill, only to have to break and swerve to avoid hitting them because they are going at least 30mph slower than the cars, and riding where motorists can't see them until it is too late.

If you are one of these people, please for the love of god, get on the bike trail. I don't want you to get hurt!

(As for all of the snide comments about your post, Tim, it still amazes me that readers feel that they can dictate what you write on your personal blog. If you don't like the content or writing style, they should simply read something else. The internet is pretty big, I've heard...)

Parker said...

Sharing your feelings as a bicyclist and a driver. The comments don't surprise me..in fact it supports your argument that so many cyclists tend to be hypocritical: "I'll stop running red signs when blah blah blah.'

1. You wouldn't disobey the rules of the road if you were legally held accountable for it. Guess what, fining drivers produces billions of dollars for governments, they don't get away with it. But what percentage of bicyclists have been held accountable for their activity? You don't run lights and signs because cars aren't respecting your space, you do it because it's more convenient. Hit and runs are more likely to happen when you run a light..good luck.

2. Speaking of which, most bike accidents aren't hit and runs. Those that are are most likely the driver's fault. In which case, it's criminal and it happens to other drivers too..and fatally as well.

3. Despite the fact that you are riding a vehicle at speeds that can to great damage to people and property you're still not forced to carry insurance..or even register your bike. Scratch a car? Just ride away. Bicyclists are still given the benefit of doubt..it's assumed they cannot be at fault for injury or damage..which is simply not true. And there are so many cyclists that there are rules that need to start being enforced for both cars and bikes.

You can yell at the general driving public for not making room for you when they have to but it doesn't excuse your breaking the law either. Put pressure on law enforcement to hand out more tickets, report license numbers, etc. But as long as I see every other non-helmeted cyclist break laws so often they'd go to jail for it if done with a car I refuse to take seriously any complaint from a biker about someone blocking a bike lane. Blocking lanes has been done for decades..it's annoying but it's not really an issue for cyclists to rally around and use to excuse their illegal behavior. When the whines are seen and read it just hurts the cause. If we ticketed every car for their bike lane crimes and every bike for their road crimes we'd make a hell of a lot more off bikers or just see a massive reduction in bike commuting.

Bloggo said...

@Ashley: Check the motor vehicle code in your state. Cyclists have a right to the road, so SLOW DOWN when you crest that hill.

As for:

please for the love of god, get on the bike trail. I don't want you to get hurt!

Truck drivers might say the same thing about you in your car. So get off the highway! It's dangerous for you out there and we don't want you to be hurt.

As for the fancy bike path, I suggest you take it up with the numbskull politicians who authorized it. I bet you a dollar to a doughnut they don't ride bikes and didn't think the thing through.

@parker: Your claims are unsubstantiated. Try coming with some facts when you want to convince people of your argument.

Also, you introduce red herrings:

as long as I see every other non-helmeted cyclist break laws

Is wearing a helmet the law in your state? If not, why introduce it into your argument in the same breath as "law breaking?" Obviously to equate non-helmeted riders with criminals.

But you show your true colors at last:

we'd make a hell of a lot more off bikers or just see a massive reduction in bike commuting

There you have it: America's #1 problem is bike commuters. The echo chamber continues.

Alex said...

@ashley

As a cyclist living in rural upstate New York, I resent the sort of risks unskilled and reckless drivers put themselves and others under. There are occasionally slow moving vehicles on rural roads - cyclists and, frequently around here, farm tractors. Do you understand what it means to "drive by sight lines"? It seems that you don't. In brief: If you charge blind corners and blind crests in your car without enough time to react, what you are doing is reckless and dangerous. The cyclist/farm tractor/horse drawn buggy is legally entitled to be there, sometimes is there in fact, and you need to account for this.

Of course, since many drivers lack these skills, one wonders what cyclists expect when they ride rural roads. Ashley's solution: cyclists should accommodate poorly skilled drivers and not ride on rural roads.

Ashley, your "exasperation" leaves me speechless. Why don't you 1) look up what the law says about all of this and 2) give this a little more thought.

George Buckenham said...

Here's something I saw, coming out of Tesco's in Edinburgh: A cyclist, knocked to the ground by a car, getting up and filled with rage. He tells the driver to pull to the side of the road and get out. The driver indicates he won't. He's yelling, saying about how angry he is: this is the third time this month he's been knocked over here. He reaches down and snaps off the drivers front license plate, lays it on the ground on the pavement and take a picture (So he has a record of the dude that ran him over). The dude pulled over and got out. The cyclist explained his rage, and they were discussing the issue as I left.

That's the only time I've seen a cyclist be a vandal. On the other hand, it's the only time I can recall seeing a cyclist get knocked over by a car. Though I have seen a bicycle which was apparently hit by a lorry, just outside that same Tesco's. It was a fatal accident. My flatmate, who saw the immediate aftermath, is still fucked up enough by it she hasn't been past there since.

bgt said...

I cycle and drive regularly, so I see things from both sides. Yes, there are plenty of bicyclists disregarding the rules of the road. Is it also not true that many motor vehicle operators are not obeying the posted speed limits as well? I don't excuse the behavior of either group, but lets keep in mind that the bicyclist is far more vulnerable to being injured without the seat belts, metal, and air bags to protect them. Though it riles me too sometimes, try to cut the cyclists some slack, and I'll try not to mumble profanities under my breath at the motorists going thirty miles per hour over the posted speed limits.

Parker said...

@ bloggo.

If my claims are unsubstantiated then every claim here is. You did not explain how mine were specifically..but as I continued reading I understood that you just didn't understand how words work.

I stated 'non-helmeted' because I was pointing out the fact that many bikers will whine about feeling unsafe with cars on the road but not make the effort to equip themselves with basic safety materials. Meaning, if they are so aware of the perils of the road as well as the perils of their illegal behavior it's quite daft of them to ignore proven safety precautions like helmets and lights.

What exactly does my last statement say about my 'true colors'? Do you even know what you're talking about or did you just pull random phrases out of the air to appear intelligent? My last statement just points out the failed logic in the argument many bikers have against cars making illegal moves. It obviously didn't imply bikes were America's #1 problem.

Tim said...

..but as I continued reading I understood that you just didn't understand how words work.

Ha! Outstanding.

Bloggo said...

@parker: Here are three examples of unsubstantiated claims:

Bicyclists are still given the benefit of doubt..it's assumed they cannot be at fault for injury or damage

In fact, I think it's quite the opposite. Many drivers run over and kill cyclists and walk because "they never saw them." There is nothing preventing law enforcement from prosecuting a cyclist for damage to property or bodily injury to another. If you think law enforcement is not doing so, please share you sources with us.

most bike accidents aren't hit and runs. Those that are are most likely the driver's fault. In which case, it's criminal and it happens to other drivers too..and fatally as well.

Are you saying that you are equally likely to be killed in a hit run whether you are in a car or a bike? Again, source please.

I stated 'non-helmeted' because I was pointing out the fact that many bikers will whine about feeling unsafe with cars on the road but not make the effort to equip themselves with basic safety materials.

Please do some research. The bicycle helmet will not likely help a cyclist who is hit by a car. A styrofoam hat is no match for thousands of lbs of steel at speed. In most fatal collisions with autos, the cyclist dies from massive internal injuries.

Furthermore, hardly anyone uses a helmet in Copenhagen or Amsterdam and yet they have perhaps the lowest fatality rates for cyclists anywhere. The fact that they ride without "this basic safety equipment" does not seem to bear out your assumption that they are bad cyclists or somehow irresponsible.

You (and many others) are choosing to put cyclists in a untenable position and get them off the roads. Ashley does not want to be bothered to look out for slow moving cyclists. You would like tell us what to wear for safety equipment (even though you have not done the minimal research on the subject). The biketards guy takes pictures of cyclists obeying the laws and offers it as proof of them acting badly. Etc, etc.

And so it goes...

Parker said...

@bloggo: For someone seeking substantiation on claims you make a lot of random ones. Many drivers run over and kill bikers? Many? Really? How many is that? There must be somewhere that's keeping track of the massive amounts of deaths.

And yes, drivers do not see cyclists and this is why drivers hit them sometimes. Should they go to jail for not seeing them? They didn't choose not to see them..they simply didn't. Sue their eyes and the laws of physics. And I would love to see the stats that show how many bikers get prosecuted so often for destruction of property. Unfortunately there don't exist stats for how many bikers aren't prosecuted for damages but I can see why you'd want me to provide that since it's pretty much an impossibility and allows you to not provide simple evidence to the contrary.

'Are you saying that you are equally likely to be killed in a hit run whether you are in a car or a bike? Again, source please.'

No. I'm saying criminal behavior by a driver hurts drivers and bikers and pedestrians alike, it's not criminal behavior that is a 'bike problem' and there's nothing that can be prevented to make bikers safer from criminal drivers who aren't specifically out to kill bikers besides keeping up with road awareness and encouraging safe bike techniques.

So according to you if I had done my research I would have found that helmets are useless? I know people who wear helmets and were definitely prevented from serious injury because they had them. They won't protect you if you're hit at top speed by a Mack truck but helmets protect, period..if you're ok with a concussion or cracked skull because it wouldn't have protected you from death anyway so what's the point? Good luck. During your non-research did you see how many bikers were in non-fatal accidents? Do those cases matter to you?

Now if we could restructure our cities to resemble those of Denmark maybe you would have a good point. Until our population, vehicle usage, size, habits, etc match those of Copenhagen I wouldn't start using it as an example of how we don't need to wear helmets in American cities. They have an extensive bike system developed and supported by the government we simply don't have here. It'd be nice if we did but it simply doesn't exist.

I don't want to get cyclists off the roads..I just want them to stop throwing tantrums and realize cars are here to stay. Some will drive recklessly and you should report them and then use your energy to take the best measures to protect yourself from them including helmets and obeying the law yourself. Cities are not going to coddle bicyclists by giving them their own convenient carfree roads no matter how much people love their single speeds.

Ashley does not want to be bothered by accidentally killing a bicyclist because she couldn't see her/him in time. That's the problem with your point of view. It's not that drivers don't want to bother not killing you..it's that it's hard to see and react to you even when you are following the law and even harder when you aren't.

And so it goes...echo chamber..etc...

Bloggo said...

@ parker: This is classic bait and switch argument.

1. You provide "facts" to posit your theory.

2. I say "prove it."

3. You say, "no, you prove it's not true."

You made the original assertions and you need to come up with some links or references to be taken seriously. My comments were in counter-argument and I don't plan to google all the stats for you but I do know that they are there because unlike you, I have actually read A LOT about this stuff.

You say:

So according to you if I had done my research I would have found that helmets are useless?

I never said that. There is no proof either way. My point is that a helmet is highly unlikely to help you in a car collision and does come with negatives. Please read a bit here:

[ LINK ]


BTW, I wear a helmet, so once again, you have made a bad assumption.

I know people who wear helmets and were definitely prevented from serious injury because they had them.

Anecdote is not proof. Please learn the difference. BTW, once again,I wear a helmet and have no bone to pick about helmets. You have lost sight of the original argument which is: Not wearing a helmet does not make a cyclist irresponsible and in most states, he is not breaking the law. I object to your attempt to brand him an irresponsible criminal--not helmets, per se.


And yes, drivers do not see cyclists and this is why drivers hit them sometimes. Should they go to jail for not seeing them? They didn't choose not to see them..they simply didn't. Sue their eyes and the laws of physics.

A driver is responsible for controlling his/her car and looking ahead. If they are blind, or not paying attention and kill a cyclist or pedestrian in plain view who is following the law, they should not be held responsible? This happens quite often. I don't save the links but I read about a story a month about this sort of thing.

In one recent case, a young mom was reaching into the back seat to tend to baby and ran over a cyclist who was riding on the shoulder (that's a whole other lane). The cyclist was a mature experienced rider. He was following all the laws and wearing a helmet. He was killed. The mom said "I didn't seem him. She even admitted to not looking ahead at the time. She got no jail time or meaningful punishment of any kind. I would call that a license to kill. Like I said, I read stories like this about one a month.

And I would love to see the stats that show how many bikers get prosecuted so often for destruction of property. Unfortunately there don't exist stats for how many bikers aren't prosecuted for damages but I can see why you'd want me to provide that since it's pretty much an impossibility

That is very convenient. I assert that short people vandalize mailboxes but they are not prosecuted, so I cannot provide any statistics. Why don't you get some statistics to prove me wrong?

Cities are not going to coddle bicyclists by giving them their own convenient carfree roads no matter how much people love their single speeds.

Once again you introduce red herrings. I don't know where this request for car-free roads comes from? And why bring up single speeds? These have nothing to do with argument but are blatant attempts to brand cyclists as undesirables.

But let's see, no "car-free roads according to you, Ashley does not want us to ride on regular roads because it's "too dangerous for us," and in most places it's illegal (not to mention stupid) to ride on the sidewalk. OTOH, you say, "I don't want to get cyclists off the roads." Now remind me again where we should be riding? So confusing!

Ashley does not want to be bothered by accidentally killing a bicyclist because she couldn't see her/him in time.

According to the law, Ashley must drive a safe speed as it relates to road conditions and sight lines. A cyclist has the right to the road in her state (I actually looked it up). If she cannot operate her vehicle legally and safely, she should not drive.

Ron said...

Most of my cyclist friends follow the laws, and I am sure a majority of cyclists do as well. But people tend to notice the bad things that happen and forget the good things. That works in this situation as well. You see cyclists on the side walk or blowing through red lights and you get indignant. However, a cyclist follows all the laws, and you just do not notice. It does not register.

It may be elitist on my part, but I do no consider a 'cyclist' just because they ride a bike. Many people ride bikes out of necessity. These are often the people I see riding on the wrong side, and on the sidewalks, and breaking other laws as well. These are not the people that are arguing to equal rights to the road, and for enforcement of traffic laws against cars.

As a cyclist I get upset at bikers that flout traffic laws, partly because it looks bad on cyclists, but mainly because they sometimes put my life at risk. The biker coming the wrong way may force me into traffic. I am in danger of a collision with the biker that runs the red light or stop sign.

Tim said...

Bicycle deaths by helmet use, 1994-2005

No helmet Helmet Total*
Year Num % Num % Num
1994 776 97 19 2 796
1995 783 95 34 4 828
1996 731 96 27 4 761
1997 785 97 23 3 811
1998 741 98 16 2 757
1999 698 93 42 6 750
2000 622 90 50 7 689
2001 616 84 60 8 729
2002 589 89 54 8 663
2003 527 85 57 9 619
2004 602 83 87 12 722
2005 673 86 76 10 782

*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Bloggo said...

@Tim: I don't know if these stats are to controvert anything I said or not but data has to be analyzed to have any meaning and this issue is rather complicated. Let's avoid a helmet debate. Whether pro or against, let's leave it to each to decide his own preference. For every pro argument I have seen, I have also seen at least one good con argument. For anyone interested, here are some links:

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

In any case, I re-iterate: I wear a helmet and have nothing against them. My objection is in implying (not you, but a responder) that not wearing a helmet makes one irresponsible or a law breaker.

Tim said...

I think Parker made it clear that she was distinguishing between not wearing a helmet -- which is illegal in many counties and municipalities (much of Washington State, Dallas, and elsewhere) but not very safe anywhere, and illegal behavior (running lights, etc.). But you keep moving the goalposts, claiming people are making claims that they're not making.

I would say that running lights and stop signs and causing damage to cars is illegal and that not wearing a helmet, particularly when riding in close or fast traffic is irresponsible -- akin to not wearing a seat belt prior to seat belt laws became widespread.

The third category of behavior to add to this group would be obnoxious, which plenty of people engage in, whether they're driving, riding, walking, or blogging. And bloggo, I'd say you're being a mite obnoxious.

Parker said...

@ bloggo
That's funny, I just accused you of bait and switching and to avoid that you accused me of it. Anyway, Tim is correct in that you are making claims about others' claims that simply don't exist. I don't need to prove anything when you clearly just don't get it. You move the argument and ask me to prove that argument when I didn't make the points you ask me to prove.

My original point about helmets is that when I see bikers weaving in and out of lanes and running lights and not wearing a helmet (which I see a lot in Chicago but you may be angry to hear that I don't look for the stats or even video I can pull from some online source) it does indeed make them
1. criminal and
2. irresponsible.
But I don't think I could get any clearer than what Tim has said.

And I never accused you of anything. I don't know your bike habits and it's useless to my argument and yours. And that article you posted about helmets is laughable. The walking helmets part first of all, is very funny. But the part about the bikers wearing helmets is just ridiculous. Here's their interpretation:

-Helmets are bad because they discourage people from thinking biking is a safe activity and therefore don't bike and therefore general health goes down and inevitably death occurs. Also, people who wore helmets used to be the safer bikers but nowadays when people wear helmets they feel as if they're invincible and that leads to dangerous behavior on the roads.
-Also, helmets do provide some protection.

If you have another argument with someone over helmets, I'd leave that article out.

As for the driver looking out for bikers. I guess I didn't make it clear but drivers who look out for bikers sometimes don't see them because they're not there. A split second later they are. Bikes are small and easy to miss against a backdrop of other colors in the city. They have the ability to whip around corners with ease. It'd be great if eyes could evolve and pick out hard to see moving bits better but bikes remain difficult to see even when the are a split second away. Your story about the hit and kill was simply because a driver didn't bother to look..which is awful and should be punished. But ignoring the physics is irresponsible as a biker and will be punished via natural selection.

Again, I CANNOT GET STATISTICS on things like how many mailboxes or rearview mirrors were damaged by 'probably a bike' and not prosecuted. Are you serious? You want me to get all the reported unsolved mailbox vandalism reports? To prove your point all you'd have to do is find how many bikers were prosecuted for damaging property. I'm not going to do it for you because frankly I don't believe they are of a high number and again, you just clearly love avoiding supporting your argument. You have yet to actually intelligently approach that. I have my witness testimony, which is not 'proof' but it's also not something that's so impossible others would refute. Bikes can and do damage property when not properly ridden, just like cars.

For some reason you equate single speed with 'undesirable' that I didn't create. I like single speeds. But this is just another example of you claiming I made a claim that I didn't.

For the love of clean air, Ashley doesn't want you to ride in spot that is clearly a hazard to everyone because of the incredibly dangerous blindspot it creates. Go ahead and ignore her point because you clearly want the freedom to bitch and moan AND ride in a dangerous part of the road and hold her responsible for not 'bothering' to see someone by ripping a hole in the space and time continuum and seeing you through the asphalt before you get there so she doesn't hurt anyone..particularly the biker because she gets that her chances of being hurt are far less than someone on a bike. That's wonderful that you looked up that her state requires her to follow the law. Who woulda thunk that her state had road laws? In 2008? And in case you didn't notice, you jumped to the conclusion that Ashley might be an irresponsible driver who breaks the law by going over the speed limit just to blast her point about a particularly unsafe spot in the road for bikers. Bravo. And yes, obnoxious.

Bloggo said...

@Parker: The "laughable" article is from the BMJ (British Medical Journal)--the flagship journal of the BMJ Group, launched in 1840. It is backed up by statistics and multiple citations.

Your credentials are?

For the love of clean air, Ashley doesn't want you to ride in spot that is clearly a hazard to everyone because of the incredibly dangerous blindspot it creates

Blind spot? Every curve and every crest of a hill is a bind spot. You are supposed to drive according to the conditions of the road--not just expect that no one will be in your way. THAT IS THE LAW, NOT MY OPINION. We must now all clear the roads whenever a motorist gets a hankering for speed--even though HER STATE LAW CLEARLY STATES THAT WE HAVE A RIGHT TO THAT ROAD???

Are you serious? You want me to get all the reported unsolved mailbox vandalism reports?

LOL. That is too funny. That whooshing noise is yet another point flying clear over your head.


@Tim:

I'd say you're being a mite obnoxious.

Pot, meet kettle.

I will now depart this echo chamber and leave you to congratulate each other on fending off yet another intrusion of logic and good sense.The chamber survives. HOORAY! Good bye and good luck.

Tim said...

And with that, the stranger was gone. Would the people ever know how much his straw men, ad hominem attacks, and belligerence could teach them?

Parker said...

My credentials are logic. I wasn't criticizing the credentials of the institution, which is based in a country that isn't America but no matter, I was extracting what they said about helmet research that Bloggo apparently didn't grasp despite the fact that he/she was the one who referenced the study.

And again, I don't know where Ashley the criminally dangerous driver came from. Apparently if you can't see a biker through asphalt, take note of a dangerous spot for future safety and your state has road laws you are at fault in some way or another of something.

I hope Bloggo thinks twice about not wearing a walking helmet, I doubt his/her head can take any more hard knocks. And to any future readers, don't assume all bikers as are dense as Bloggo. I'm going to hop on my Bianchi now.

Again, great post Tim!

Ashley said...

As "Ashley they criminally dangerous driver", I would just like to add that I commute 75 miles a day (which already puts me on many bicyclists' black lists already, I'm sure.) Also, I have yet to be pulled over or cause an accident. My post was just a thought on something I have witnessed several times in the general course of things.

I wrote what I did because it confuses me as to why, when given the option of safer places to ride, some cyclists choose not to use them. Apparently large cities are designating special lanes and creating traffic laws, but many still choose not to participate.

I'm not laying blame on motorists, cyclists, pedestrians, or the govt. But, govt seems to be trying to help. Maybe if bikers were more involved in the planning phase, they could come up with some kind of system they would actually follow.

Darren Meyer said...

There's a lot of rage going on here, but there are several points that seem to be getting lost in the noise. For the record, I drive, cycle, and walk regularly.

1. Motorists have a primary responsibility for safety

A couple people have pointed out the disparity of power between a motor vehicle and a cycle or pedestrian. No one, so far, has hit on why it's important.

If I am firing a rifle at a range, there are all kinds of signs and warnings and good sense that should tell people to stay off the range -- I can reasonably expect that no one will be there. However, because I'm the one with the deadly weapon, I have the primary responsibility to make sure no one gets shot.

When we choose to drive 1200-pound+ pieces of machinery at high speed, the same applies. We have the right to expect that pedestrians and cyclists will respect the law and be aware enough not to suddenly enter our lanes -- but we still have the primary responsibility to drive in such a way that we minimize the danger when it does happen.

Far too many drivers pay attention only to other cars, and not to the pedestrians and cyclists that could enter their space unexpectedly.

2. Pedestrians and Cyclists don't operate in a vacuum

Pedestrians and cyclists, though, still share some responsibility. Motorists are driving 1200-pound+ pieces of machinery at high speed all around us. They have to track dozens of other vehicles, pay attention to signage, traffic lights, hazards in the road, etc. as well as us. When they see a cyclist, for example, they may have mere moments to react.

Therefore, we as cyclists and pedestrians have the responsibility to be expected whenever possible. Be visible -- wear proper safety equipment (reflective/high-visibility garb, e.g.), have cycles that have headlights, taillights, and working reflectors. Be predictable -- signal turns, follow traffic laws, avoid making sudden movements.

If local laws and civil planning make it more difficult for cycles and pedestrians to be visible and predictable, campaign for changes.

3. The biggest problem is that no one wants to believe they share responsibility

No one owns the road, and we all have to share in making the roadways safe for all users. Cyclists and motorists both have a right to be on the road; pedestrians have a right to cross it. It is our duty, in whatever capacity we happen to be using the road, to do what we can to make it safe for ourselves and for everyone else.

Blaming one group -- any group -- for the problems is entirely counter-productive.

teamspider said...

quoting "POINTS"
Critical Mass, a bike group in NYC, has as their slogan "We don't block traffic, we are traffic". But then they launch columns of bikes that shut down intersections because the cyclists all run the red light for 30 minutes at a stretch."

TEAM SPIDER replies:
ha, "30 minutes a stretch", critical mass in NYC has been averaging 50 - 100 people/riders, who ride in a pack,( in columns ?)
even if this hooting / hollering group run a red light, (which in the anarchy-like zoo of nyc's traffic / pedestrian / delivery truck situation, is usually akin to, and as offensive as jay walking, you would be at most sitting /waiting in your vehicle (probably alone, sad, getting 8 miles to the gallon, anxious to get home to your virtual worlds of naked teens and self righteous typing american cowards), for 3 or 4 minutes.

Dont worry, the girls of porn and bloggers (myself included ;-) will be waiting for you, insuring we all share our lonely sad kept-poodle existances.

----DIE Critical Mass, DIE humans

love,
H.A.L.

Atticus Van Zandt said...

Really, bro? As a proud bicycle commuter in the fine city of Denver, I find you and your lackeys a group of foolish and naive nit-wits. If you've ever tried to ride a bike through city streets you might notice that motorists are often as or more belligerent when it comes to the ebb and flow of traffic as the cyclists you despise. Granted we do cut the stop-sign or stoplight a bit short, I have tried to minimize that small sin, but often times a motorist will ignore my signal to change lanes or simply to slow down because they have the superior mass. You wonder why we run red lights or swerve in to traffic?
We're the products of our environment, I started off trying to signal every turn, but sooner or later after spending ten blocks trying to change lanes I got fed up. Red light running is a way to make up for all that time I sit behind the driver who doesn't pay attention to lights or took the time to cut me off or tailgate me. We operate on revenge and are fueled by the apathy of the motoring public. Plus, in this state if you hit me, I get a new bike, cha-ching!

Tim said...

I'll say this for the last time, because after nine months, I'm really sick of this argument.

I. Do. Not. Drive. A. Car.

Bro.

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