Sharing the Road
As cyclists, we’re often surprised at how many of the non-cyclists we meet consider themselves experts on cycling safety. Generally, this takes the form of a declaration that some heavily traveled bike route or other (Hwy. 1, Hwy. 68, River Rd., Carmel Valley Rd., etc.) is “unsafe for bikes.” This kind of thing is harmless enough as idle chatter, but more of a problem when it raises its ugly head (as it invariably does) as an argument against making bike safety improvements to roads (as in, “bike lanes shouldn’t be added to road X because road X is unsafe for bikes and adding bike lanes would just encourage cyclists to ride in a place where they don’t belong”).
We also find it interesting how, any time a cyclist is hurt in a traffic accident or attacked in a road rage incident, regardless of the actual facts of the case, hundreds of comments get posted on the news sites carrying the story saying, essentially, that cyclists are asking for it by failing to follow the rules of the road (the chief offense being failing to stop at stop signs), by riding in places where they don’t belong, and/or by riding too far out in the lane of traffic.
All this makes us think that perhaps it’s time to take a look at what bicycle safety and the rules of the road look like from the saddle of a bike …
First of all, just about any road is safer to travel on by bike than by car. If we were to start banning various classes of vehicles from dangerous roads based on safety data, it’s cars, not bikes, which would be losing out. This isn’t because cycling isn’t dangerous. It’s because riding in cars is even more dangerous. It’s simply a fact that you’re much, much more likely to be gravely injured or killed in an hour of riding in your car than you are in an hour of riding on your bike – even if you spend that hour riding your bike through Big Sur.
That being said, some roads are certainly safer to ride a bike on than others. But why are most non-cyclists so clueless about which roads these are? Probably because they consider only one factor – the size of the shoulder. To most drivers a wide shoulder means a road is safe for bikes and a narrow or non-existent shoulder means the road is unsafe for bikes. We’re here to tell you that, as drivers routinely use not only the lane but the shoulder as well, and as standard size lanes are roomy enough for a car to pass a bike, there’s a lot more to bicycle safety than shoulder size.
Safety, for a cyclist, is all about the amount of time drivers have between the moment they first notice you and the moment they pass you. The more time they have, the better the job they’re likely to do of passing you safely. Speed is also important. The more slowly they’re going as they pass you (assuming they don’t – like some idiots – just come up and drive along next to you), the more likely they are to do it safely.
This is why the single most important factor in determining how safe a road is for cyclists is generally the difference in speed between the cars and bikes.
Most non-cyclists we know, for example, think Cachagua Rd. is highly unsafe for cyclists because it isn’t even a full two lanes wide and has no shoulders. Most cyclists, on the other hand, feel completely comfortable riding Cachagua Rd. This is because the average difference in speed between cars and bikes there is probably less than 10 miles per hour. A driver traveling at a relatively slow speed and catching up to cyclists at 10mph or less has plenty of time to prepare to pass them safely.
This is also why thousands of cyclists persist in riding the Big Sur coast each year in spite of all the hoopla from non-cyclists about how unsafe it is. Yes it has narrow to non-existent shoulders, but this is more than made up for by the fact that the traffic travels so much more slowly than on the average two-lane highway. Like most cyclists, we’d rather ride a road with no shoulder where traffic is catching up to us at 20 to 30mph (like Hwy. 1 on the Big Sur Coast) than ride a more typical narrow shouldered highway where traffic is coming up on us at 40 to 50mph or more.
The Rules of the Road
From reading the anti-bike ranting on the Internet, you’d think that hostility between cyclists and drivers is much more widespread than is actually the case. The reality is that the vast majority of drivers are extremely courteous and friendly to cyclists and, judging from the many smiles and waves we get, many actually appear to be happy to be sharing the road.
Those who aren’t so happy focus most of their complaining on cyclists not obeying traffic laws. From a cyclist’s perspective this seems, frankly, a bit odd. How many drivers obey all traffic laws? The average speed on most roads is 5 to 10mph over the speed limit, use of turn signals has almost disappeared and people roll through stop signs more often than they make full stops. Yet anger and even assaults on cyclists are justified on the basis that “they don’t obey traffic laws.” Are we missing something here?
We’ll just take a stab at it and guess that all this deep concern for traffic regulations is more or less a cover for the real reasons these people don’t like cyclists. Things like not being able to stand being delayed for a few seconds by a guy on a bike or being jealous of all the fun the cyclists look like they’re having. In other words, to cover up real reasons too petty and stupid to admit.
Meanwhile, the average cyclist continues to do a better job than the average motorist of obeying traffic laws, mainly because their safety depends on it. This is not to suggest that there aren’t reckless cyclists. There most certainly are. Unlike reckless motorists, though, the risk they pose is mainly to themselves.
Yet even careful cyclists are known to do things like running stop signs and even red lights. Is it all just arrogance and a belief that the rules of the road apply only to cars? Not at all.
Just like the average driver, the average cyclist will generally fail to make a complete stop when there is no traffic coming. But there’s more to it than that. An extremely common reason why cyclists run stop signs is because drivers wave them through. When a bicycle approaches a 4-way stop where a car is already waiting, more often than not the driver motions for the cyclist to pass through the intersection ahead of them. When this occurs, the cyclist normally takes a look to make sure there isn’t traffic approaching from some other direction, acknowledges the driver’s gesture with a wave, and crosses the intersection without stopping.
Stopping under these circumstances would keep the cyclist in compliance with traffic laws, but at the cost of violating social norms, as it would constitute a fairly rude rejection of the favor offered by the driver. Whether on bikes or behind the wheel, when people are forced to choose between meaningless (from a safety standpoint) compliance with traffic laws and common courtesy, common courtesy is going to win pretty much any time there isn’t a cop standing by.
Another reason cyclists run stop signs is that it is sometimes safer for them to do so than it is for them to stop. A cyclist turning from a secondary road controlled by a stop sign onto a highway where traffic does not stop would be foolish to come to a complete stop if the highway is clear when they reach the stop sign and there is limited sight distance to the nearest corner (a situation that arises more often than you might think). Letting your momentum carry you quickly across is clearly safer, in this case, than spending longer in the danger zone by starting out to cross a high-speed road from a complete stop.
There are even some good reasons why cyclists run red lights. The most common being that many lights don’t change for cyclists. In such a case, if no cars happen to be going your way, you have little choice but to run the light when a safe opportunity arises. Another reason is safety. When waiting for a light at the edge of a left turn lane on a highway where cars are flying by inches away at 60mph or more, even the most law-abiding cyclist may well decide (in the absence of oncoming traffic) to just go ahead and make the turn against the light.
Taking the Lane
The final complaint we hear is that cyclists don’t ride close enough to the edge of the road, or that groups of cyclists obstruct the road by riding two or three abreast. First of all, we agree that it is both rude and unsafe for groups of cyclists to obstruct busy roads by unnecessarily filling the lane. People who do that are an embarrassment to cycling.
BUT … drivers should be aware that there are a variety of circumstances where it is fully justified, as well as a very good idea, for cyclists or groups of cyclists to “take the lane.” These mainly involve situations where passing the cyclists would not be safe even if they were all in single file on the outermost millimeter of the road (a circumstance that is usually much more obvious to the cyclists than it is to the motorists). The cyclists in such a situation may be sending you the message that this is not an appropriate time to pass them – please respect that message. And remember that the total time you’re going to add to your journey by waiting for cyclists to clear the road is likely to be less than a minute.
There are also situations where drivers just plain need to lighten up. If a group of cyclists is riding on a lonely country road where they maybe see a car once every 15 or 20 minutes, drivers shouldn’t expect them to ride single file just so as to avoid causing the occasional driver a second or two of delay. Similarly, if a road has a shoulder wide enough for cyclists to ride two abreast without obstructing the lane, drivers should just keep to their lane and try not to blow a gasket over it.
Finally, drivers should be aware that cyclists are often forced away from the edge of the road by gaping potholes (especially with the ever growing “deferred maintenance” of our roads), truck tires and other road hazards and that, in town, cyclists must stay far enough out in the lane to avoid being hit by opening car doors.
Sharing the Road
For the most part, cyclists and motorists get along quite well. Considering the thousands of motorists we see on an average ride, displays of rudeness are actually quite rare. But they do happen.
We recently waited through four complete cycles at a stoplight that wasn’t designed to change for bikes without any cars showing up that were going our way. When we finally ran the light (completely safely – there were no cars within half a mile in the direction that was green) a woman who was waiting to go in a different direction and had not been inconvenienced by us in any way, just about fell out of her SUV screaming at us about how traffic laws apply to bikes too. Any cyclist can tell a hundred similar stories.
So all we ask is this. The next time you find yourself getting angry because a cyclist just did something like running a stop sign right in front of a car whose turn it was to go, or riding in the middle of the lane, ask yourself some questions. Do I really know that the driver I thought was being cut off didn’t wave the bike ahead? Is it possible it was necessary for the cyclist to “take the lane?” And, most of all, why is it that traffic infractions or carelessness on the part of cyclists make me so much more angry than the hundreds of similar infractions and rudenesses I see committed by my fellow motorists every time I go for a drive?
Cyclists on the South Coast, October 2008
An excellent video on bicycle safety and traffic enforcement has been produced by the Chicago Police Department and the Chicago Department of Transportation as a training tool for the Chicago police.
That lady in the SUV had no reason to be upset with you “running” the red light. Traffic lights which fail to properly detect traffic are considered “inoperative” and are to be treated as stop signs per the CVC-21800(d)(1).
I’ve discussed this scenario a number of times with various Law Enforcement Officers and all agreed with this interpretation.
Great analysis, great post! Here in Costa Rica, drivers vent by blowing their horns, sometimes long blasts of a minute or more. The narrow streets are easily jammed, so we get a lot of honking. I still want to try cycling here, though the rain makes it less appealing. Lots of nice, safe, twisty mountain roads however, similar to Cachagua, Big Sur, or the Sierra foothills.
Excellent article, XT. For more insight into the issue, the link below follows to a recent NYT article that’s well worth the reading for cyclists.
By JAN HOFFMAN
Published: August 8, 2008
Unlike Seth, I find the analysis in this article poorly supported.
Having shared Highway One with bicyclists for a quarter of a century now, and generally (but not always) amicably, I have some comments.
The author says: “Like most cyclists, we’d rather ride a road with no shoulder where traffic is catching up to us at 20 to 30mph (like Hwy. 1 on the Big Sur Coast) than ride a more typical narrow shouldered highway where traffic is coming up on us at 40 to 50mph or more.” However, the speed limit on Highway One is 55 mph, not 20-30 mph, and frankly, there are only a few curves which require reduction to the speed quoted. So the support for this argument is specious, at best.
I drove Highway One, south, yesterday during the AMAGEN ride for some cause. There were large numbers of bicyclists, which always creates problems between drivers and cyclists. “Taking the lane” was prevalent, by some bicyclists, and I completely understood. But one problem on Highway One between the bicyclists and the motoring public on this particular highway, which makes it unsafe, imho, is the rented motorhomes being driven by people that don’t have a CLUE as to how wide they are, nor how much space they need.
The author also states: “Stopping under these circumstances would keep the cyclist in compliance with traffic laws, but at the cost of violating social norms, as it would constitute a fairly rude rejection of the favor offered by the driver.” Social norms are NEVER an excuse to violate the law, whether by a cyclist, automobile, or gang member. The “social norm” in many, many neighborhoods is to “tag.” Your argument supports tagging in gang neighborhoods. I would hate to see you caught in a neighborhood where the “social norm” does not comply with the law. It is one reason we have laws, so that no one has to “guess” what the social norms are, when one travels within a state, or within the United States. I think it is an unfortunate statement that violating the law is acceptable if “social norms” so dictate.
As to asking the questions posed at the end of the article, it is a simple matter of compassion, empathy, and understanding. Ask similar questions of the slow cashier, who is having a bad day that has NOTHING to do with the customer; or the overworked DMV clerk, who is worried about the sick child at home; or the boss who is on your case, when he or she is really worried about how he or she can pay all employees in today’s economy.
IF drivers get more upset with bicyclist than with other drivers (and I am more likely to get upset with other drivers, so I question the basic thesis of this article), perhaps it is because the cyclist has narrowed his focus to his own state. Watch the rudeness of people in grocery lines to anyone who gets in the “express” lane with more than 15 items. Or watch the rudeness of drivers toward other drivers who pull in the “wrong” one at a gas station. Rudeness knows no limits.
While I think education in the bicycle/vehicle debate is a laudable goal, this article does not meet that goal for the reasons explained.
1) Traffic catches up to us when we ride our bikes on Hwy. 1 at 20 to 30mph because we are riding at an average speed of around 20mph ourselves, not because the cars are only going 20 to 30mph.
2) Explaining why people do something is not necessarily the same thing as excusing or encouraging it.
3) While we have worked in neighborhoods with severe gang problems for years and know of none where tagging is a “social norm,” we think this is beside the point. The point we were making was that when people are faced with a choice of conforming to the law or conforming to social norms they will usually pick conforming to social norms when it is clear that no harm will result from violating the law (i.e. rolling through a stop sign when waved to go ahead and when it is clearly safe to do so). Since tagging, whenever it is done, results in property damage, we’re not sure we see the connection.
4) We did not mean to imply (if we did) that people are not also rude in situations that don’t involve driving.
5) We are glad that you, Kate, like the vast majority of drivers (as we think we mentioned), have no problem sharing the road and are more likely to get upset with other drivers than with cyclists.
6) We are sorry if our post failed to meet the goals you set for it. We do the best we can.
— Xasauan Today
XT, not a problem. I see your point re “relative” speed, and concede that point. The motorhomes are a separate problem we all face on highway one, bicycles, and vehicles alike.
Perhaps my “tagging” example did not make my point adequately, but “social norms” are still not an acceptable basis for violating the laws. Better to work to change laws which no longer serve the purpose for which they were designed, than to justify a failure to comply with “social norms” as the excuse. I think many, many of our laws were developed due to population pressures. Cars might be waived through stop signs, too, but by law, they must stop. That is my point. We all break the laws, it is impossible not to, as they are so complex, and cover situations (mostly highly populated areas) that simply do not exist, or do not exist to the same extent in rural areas. But when we do make the conscious decision (sometimes, unconscious decision, as we are not familiar with the current law), we simply take responsibility for that decision, not label it as compliance with social norms.
I think we must agree to disagree on this aspect, but I do appreciate your thoughtful response, XT.
Thanks, Kate. There is no question that incompetent drivers piloting motorhomes and other large vehicles is a significant problem for everyone who uses Hwy. 1 in Big Sur. We’re hoping high gas prices will reduce the number of behemoths on the road, but we haven’t seen much sign of that yet. We also agree that obeying social norms in not a good excuse for disobeying the law. We just wanted to point out that, right or wrong, social norms and social pressures frequently do encourage people to violate the law. And, with or without encouragement, even the most law abiding citizens are apt to violate the law in situations where the violation, while perhaps not “justified” or “excusable,” is still not particularly serious. Spitting in public, for example, is against the law (one of those laws you mentioned that was created to deal with issues arising in crowded population centers), but no one would think twice about spitting on the ground at, say, a turnout on the NF Rd. – even if a cop were watching. The law may be the law, but context and circumstances do still matter. – XT
One of the major concerns that I have had for Big Sur and for Cachauga is that we both live on a two lane road. The bike riders or slow cars often do not have a concern for the speed limit or how long the line is behind them. If you need to get to a hopital and live off of a two lane road, there is NO way to get past these ignorant folk to save your life. In short….if there is a few cars piling up behind you, have a heart..move it on OVER.
In our many years of daily driving on the Cachagua Rd. we found that locals, with very few exceptions (and you know who you are!), were very quick to pull over and let faster traffic pass. Tourists were another story. We were frequently stuck behind them for many (slow) miles. Not sure what can be done about that. Maybe it comes with the territory. Waiting for a safe opportunity to pass cyclists, on the other hand, never caused us more than a few seconds of delay. But we agree that slower traffic of any kind should let faster traffic pass as soon as it can be accomplished safely. – Xasauan Today
In Neal Stephenson’s “The Diamond Age” vehicles are taxed by how much lane space they occupy. Stephenson’s analysis of the administration of Confucian law in late 21st century Victorian Shanghai, is pretty interesting. Unfortunately, our traffic laws are not made by science fiction authors.
Social norms, on the other hand, can be instituted by anyone, and can be interpreted in creative ways, according to the scope of one’s definition of ‘society.’ For example, I rarely go through a stop sign when someone is waving me through, out of respect for the law (I’ve been caught by rude policemen while running stopsigns on my bike) and also out of fear that something could go wrong and I could get run over. I only run stop signs when no one is around, since I’ve become familiar with the social norms “road rage” and “not paying attention.”
(If you watch a figure-8 race, you might come to the conclusion that stop signs are completely unnecessary for people who pay attention.)
Here in Costa Rica, the social norm is to break the law. People in cars, on motorcycles, and in buses and taxis, run red lights all the time, and stop signs are mere suggestions that not stopping might be unsafe. Here, the social norms of the road are based mostly on calculation of risk, including the risk of being honked at.
Seth, in Taiwan vehicle registration fees are based on engine displacement. The intent is to encourage use of fuel efficient vehicles, but as you would expect, larger vehicles end up paying higher fees.
Regarding stop signs, in Europe yield signs are used in many instances where you will find a stop sign in the U.S.
As you said, you just have to pay attention!
I’m somewhere in the middle on this…I love riding a bike, but my wardrobe contains absolutely no spandex 8^)
While I understand the idea that maybe cyclists ride 2-3 abreast in situations where they don’t think passing is safe, you’re expecting the 1) driver to somehow sense that the cyclists are being responsible and using good judgment instead of being just arrogant and selfish and 2) rest of us to believe that cyclists are wiser than we are, and so will remain subject to their decision of when we may and may not pass them. Very idealistic, and judging from some of the two-abreast lane hogs I’ve been behind when there’s no reason for it, unbelievable.
I took a bike when we stayed in Big Sur last summer, and I really don’t think the highway through parts of that area is safe for bikes. Just riding in either direction from the Pfeiffer state park was a nerve-wracking experience. But I spent a lot of that time listening for approaching cars, so I could pull over until they went by. Yes, I could have demanded my rights as a cyclist, but 1) they’re a lot bigger than I am 2) an inattentive driver may not even see me until it’s too late, and 3) I just don’t feel right holding up a line of cars while I exercise my “rights” to ride a bike on the road…I’d rather pull off and let them by, annoying as that may be.
And I fully agree that running a red light or stop sign because someone waved you through is wrong (and foolish). I’m not talking about the guy who slows down, sees that there’s no other traffic, and proceess through the sign carefully, I’m talking about the one who whizzes through at 20mph as if there were no sign at all. And if you’re going to run a red light because it doesn’t change for bikes, at least stop, wiat until it’s safe, and cross carefully; blasting through and expecting people to believe that you’ve evaluated the situation and determined that it’s safe is unreasonable and unbelievable.
And not all drivers ignore the rules. I signal nearly always, try to stay reasonably within the speed limit, and always stop for signs or lights. Just because the other guy doesn’t do that is no excuse for me to stoop to his level. I don’t respect the speeding SUV that tailgates, doesn’t signal and considers a yellow light a challenge, and I don’t respect cyclists that are demanding of their “rights” to be as bad as the worst drivers.
As far as losing time by being behind a cyclist, the same goes for the other side. Instead of demanding that you have every right to block the road, pull over, you’ll only lose a few seconds, or some minutes overall. Annoying? Sure, but that’s the choice you make when you choose narrow heavily-traveled roads, so allow for the time and be considerate; the cars are not your enemies, so help them out and most of them will do the same for you.
Good thoughts Robert – and keep up the cycling. We’d just point out that while pulling off the road every time a car comes along may work on a slower, shorter trip through the developed parts of the Big Sur valley (where the shoulders are relatively well maintained), it won’t work for the thousands of cyclists who ride the length of the Big Sur coast each year. It would add days, not seconds or minutes, to the journey and in most cases the car would already have passed by the time the cyclist had slowed down enough to safely pull off the road and found a safe place to do so. Staying on the road (and hopefully as far to the right as reasonably possible) isn’t a matter of demanding “rights,” it’s really the only feasible course of action. BTW, we had a great ride down the coast from Carmel to Morro Bay last month (even got a chance to stop by the Jade Festival and say hi to Big Sur Kate). There were a few times where a driver may have been delayed a few seconds by us and there were times (on the descents) when we were delayed a few seconds by slow moving cars. None of the drivers who took the time to pass us safely appeared to resent it (judging by the many smiles and waves) and we certainly weren’t angry at the drivers who slowed us down (we always welcome cautious driving!!). As we’ve mentioned before, it’s a small minority (of both cyclists and drivers) who suffer from the delusion that the roads were created for their personal and exclusive use. – XT
As a pedestrian, I’ve been hit by a bicycler going at speed in a no bicycling zone (a sidewalk/street fair) and almost hit several times on a sidewalk and while crossing at a crosswalk with a walk sign and a red light for traffic. In one of the latter instances, the cyclist never slowed down, I had to leap back (with a bad knee after an operation) and she claimed she was coming out from behind a bus so she couldn’t see me. I have also as a driver almost hit a bicycler who with speed was going against a traffic light (I never saw him).
Are bicyclers safer per vehicle miles travelled?
When bicyclers run red lights/stop signs it might be “safe” for them to do so but there may be a surprise factor for those affected – overreaction (slamming on breaks etc.). And then there is the slippery slope of once one person starts to run the red, even the careless bicyclers start to run the red, etc. and yes pedestrians do get hit. I’ve seen it, it isn’t pretty.
It’s not just a question about cars
My cyclist husband was nearly killed by one of your “social norms”.
Scenario: two lanes of vehicular traffic in same direction, plus one bike lane. Hubby in bike lane of course.
Driver of car traveling in LEFT lane suddenly decides to make a RIGHT turn into a strip mall — despite the facts that (1) this is patently illegal, and (2) there is a traffic light less than a block away at which said driver could easily turn around. Idiot driver therefore stops dead in left lane.
Probably well-meaning, but equally brainless, driver in RIGHT lane decides to stop and let the other driver make the illegal right turn — I have no evidence that they waved the driver on, but I think it likely — never once thinking about the cyclist in the bike lane that said right-lane driver must have JUST PASSED moments ago.
Driver of right-turning car then turns into entrance of strip mall — perhaps gratefully waving at kind driver of car in right lane? — just as my husband is cycling across it.
God forbid the turning driver might have looked for a cyclist and refused to make the turn, thereby being OMG rude! to the other driver and ignoring their friendly gesture!! We must keep up the social norms now, mustn’t we? And who cares if my husband makes it home at all, as long as no one was (actually or just appearing) RUDE?
Rules of the road exist for a reason: to decrease unpredictable behavior, which in turn decreases accidents. Every time someone does something “nice” but unpredictable like this, it increases the chance of an accident.
We hope your husband is OK and, even more to the point, we hope a time will come when near misses like that aren’t part of the day to day reality of being a cyclist. We’re not sure why you’re upset with us, though. We only wrote about the “social norms.” We didn’t invent them and they don’t belong to us. We couldn’t agree more that drivers and cyclists shouldn’t make dangerous moves (whether legal or not) just to be polite to someone who waves them on – and we certainly haven’t said that they should. Many accidents (generally between cars) happen every year due to people waving each other into harm’s way. It’s a good example of how powerful “social norms” and the desire to be polite can be. Many drivers are, unfortunately, blind to the presence of cyclists and pedestrians in exactly the way you describe. It’s something we deal with every time we get on our bikes.
We also agree that in most circumstances the roads would be safer if everyone followed the law to the letter. The reality, however, is that nearly ALL drivers violate the law in minor ways every time they get behind the wheel (speeding, failing to signal, rolling through stops, etc.). This is why we find it strange that some people go so ballistic over similar infractions committed by cyclists. What we’d like to know is why the sight of a bike rolling through a stop is so much more enraging than the, much more common, sight of a car doing exactly the same thing. — XT
Stop signs. Nice try. Yes sometimes it’s ok. No one around. Early morning, no traffic, the light won’t change. OK. The problem is that 99.99% of cyclists rationalize that it is ALWAYS ok to run stop signs. Not just slow, look and go, but blow through at 20mph without much of a thought. I see it every single day: a 4-way stop, a guy all kitted out on a very expensive bike rides right though at full speed, no cares about the cars that are already there; A stop sign at the bottom of a steep hill, a t-intersection with uphill on left, downhill on right. Totally blind to the left until you get right to the line. Cars come at 50mph, riders blow through like there is no traffic. Cars slamming on brakes all the time; A 4-way stop on a rural road that is fairly busy. A tri-geek comes from the opposite direction at full speed and does not slow one iota. Problem? I am turning left (on a bike as well) just as he blows the stop sign. He nearly hits me; a red light at a T-intersection. I am coming from the leg of the T with a green. Joe tri-geek comes from the right and blows his red light at 25 mph and nearly takes me out. I am driving my truck up to a green left arrow. A group of cyclists approaches from the opposite direction. They blow their red light to make a right turn – directly into the path I am taking to make my left turn. What are they thinking? Obviously nothing at all; They are totally brain dead.
I have much more trouble with other cyclists being really stupid than I do with car drivers. In fact, at intersections I am looking for other cyclists, not car drivers. Why do car drivers wave cyclists through at stop signs? Simple: BECAUSE THEY KNOW THE CYCLIST IS GOING TO BLOW THE SIGN ANYWAY!!
I’ve been riding for 34 years and cycling has become a joke. I don’t ride with groups anymore – Riders become brain dead when they get on a bike and even worse when in a group. Too bad. It is fun, but 99% of motorists think bike riders are total idiots. I ride every day. I obey every single law. I stop at every single stop sign. I stop at every single red light. I signal, I’m hoping it will gain me karma on the road. Unfortunately I have thousands of brain dead idiots proving every day that cyclists are not to be trusted on the road.
The fact is that, by any measure, drivers of cars violate the law more frequently, and more seriously, than bicyclists. Period. See this excellent article for more details: http://bfw.org/2012/02/23/bicyclists-are-some-of-the-most-self-centered-inconsiderate-reckelss-people-on-the-roads/
This does not, obviously, excuse anyone’s lawless behavior. It’s just a fact. And the question this fact raises is why violations of the law by bicyclists enrage some people so much more than the vastly more frequent violations they see committed by drivers (most of which they don’t even notice).
I was waiting for someone near a busy four-way stop controlled intersection in Carmel the other day and took the opportunity to watch the traffic. Of the dozens of cars I watched move through the intersection NOT ONE came to a complete stop when there wasn’t someone already there who had the right of way. And, illegal though this behavior may be, it is also completely normal and unremarkable. None of the pedestrians or drivers who saw these people rolling through the stops looked upset in the slightest. There is no question, though, that if a cyclist had come along and done exactly the same thing, some of these same people would have both noticed it and been enraged by it.
The article referenced above offers some clues as to why this may be so. It’s an interesting read.
Most of these comments are soooooo bicycle biased it negates all of their value. The one thing that all cyclist should remember is that the roads would not exist at all if cars didnt exist. Bicycles do not provide any monetary purpose for sustaining the highway infrastructure; cars and other vehicles (trucks) do.
Mike Allen, roads are because bicycles were. Cars came later. And the roadways exist to move PEOPLE, not the machine of your choice and no one else’s.
Bicycles may not provide any money for roads, but the people who ride them certainly do. User fees, like gas taxes, only pay for about 50% of the cost of our roads (see this report from the Pew Charitable Trust: http://subsidyscope.org/transportation/direct-expenditures/highways/funding/analysis/). The other half of the cost we all pay for, whether we use the roads or not.
In addition, bikes don’t damage the roads the way that cars and trucks do, don’t pollute, don’t take up as much space on the road as cars (whether driving or parking), and have been on the roads since before cars were invented (yes, believe it or not, roads did exist and people did travel before there were cars).
If anyone has a right to complain, it’s the people who use bikes exclusively for transportation, yet still have to foot the bill for increased health care costs, toxic clean-up of refinery and gas station sites, air pollution remediation, etc., thanks to cars.
But yes, like reality, we are sooooo bicycle biased that you should definitely disregard the plain facts and go on feeling ill-used and taken advantage of by the cyclists who use “your” roads.