Overhead video of NYC intersection
June 7, 2011 1:31 PM   Subscribe

3-Way Street is a video from above of a Manhattan intersection highlighting cars, bikes, and pedestrians as they narrowly avoid each other. (And one mad genius driving a SYSCO truck.)
posted by nicwolff (246 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
This is more "a few jerkass cyclists who ignore all traffic laws and make everyone else look bad" than it is "3-way street".
posted by elizardbits at 1:45 PM on June 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have no argument with any of the examples in this video. I ride a bike most of the time, but based on the things I witness, I can pretty much say that pedestrians are morons, cyclists are suicidal, and drivers are assholes. I actually want to follow the rules of the road (pro tip: if you stop at stop signs and red lights, you are in fact making yourself stronger and faster), but some days I just feel like saying "fuck it."

I now give myself green jersey points when I pass another cyclist who has run a red that I've been stopped at.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:46 PM on June 7, 2011 [15 favorites]


Biggest jerks: cyclists going the wrong way in Central Park.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:47 PM on June 7, 2011


This intersection and most others in NYC would be best served by removing the traffic lights. All these problems would go away.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 1:48 PM on June 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


This is why we can't have jetpacks.
posted by cazoo at 1:48 PM on June 7, 2011 [20 favorites]


And elizardbits, while I agree with you on many things, I think everyone looks equally bad here. I saw more than a couple of cabbies do the kinds of thing I see them do every day at street level, and I could pretty safely bet that they weren't signaling, either.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:49 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


In all my time I've only ever seen two cyclists stop for a red light. Every other cyclist I've ever seen has blown through every single red light or stop sign they're presented with, and are usually going the wrong way down the street just to add to the assholishness.

I love cycling and I want to like the cyclists around me, but NYC cyclists are dicks and they make everyone hate them and everyone else who ever dares to roll around on two wheels.
posted by ged at 1:49 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Biggest jerks: cab drivers

No contest.

This intersection and most others in NYC would be best served by removing the traffic lights. All these problems would go away.

Mostly true. And if you think NYC is ruled by car culture ... well:

Dangerous by Design
posted by mrgrimm at 1:50 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Not that it's going to happen but everyone needs to slow the hell down.
posted by tommasz at 1:50 PM on June 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


I'm a cyclist. I've been hit because I stopped at a stop sign (driver turning left expected me to roll through, clipped my rear wheel). This video made me hate NYC cyclists (and pedestrians and drivers, but I already regarded them with a lot of scorn generally).
posted by straw at 1:51 PM on June 7, 2011


TWS - having been run down about a dozen times by cyclists going the wrong way down streets, I admit I may possibly have a grudge.
posted by elizardbits at 1:51 PM on June 7, 2011


The world need more roundabouts.
posted by rh at 1:51 PM on June 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


I couldn't tell half the time who was even supposed to be doing what. I thought it would have been improved if there had been indications of what everyone was doing wrong throughout the video like when it starts pointing out "aggressive yield."

Didn't know there was such a term but have definitely been on the pedestrian side of it many times.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 1:52 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


TWS - having been run down about a dozen times by cyclists going the wrong way down streets, I admit I may possibly have a grudge.

Oh, yeah. That infuriates me. I once nearly had a head-on collision with someone going the wrong way in a bike lane, wearing black, at night ("bike ninja"). When I cursed him out, a bystander called me a "bike nazi."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 1:55 PM on June 7, 2011


Are the crazy riders in the video just "cyclists", or are they probably exclusively couriers? Do bicycle commuters in New York act like that too?
posted by CaseyB at 1:56 PM on June 7, 2011


This video made me hate NYC cyclists (and pedestrians and drivers, but I already regarded them with a lot of scorn generally).

It's amazing that just watching traffic can inspire road rage. ^_^

The world need more roundabouts.

This cyclist says "no thanks!" What we really need is cheaper and more reliable public transportation, friendlier streets for cyclists, and more and better incentives for travelers to stop using gasoline-powered, pollution machines.

But we all knew that already ...
posted by mrgrimm at 1:57 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do bicycle commuters in New York act like that too?

I don't live there, but in my experience no. The wrong-way and sidewalk-riding cyclists are generally delivery people or messengers, and the commuters are *OK*.

and pedestrians and drivers, but I already regarded them with a lot of scorn generally

pedestrians?!?!
posted by mrgrimm at 1:59 PM on June 7, 2011


The worst offenders of bicycle riders are the food delivery guys.
posted by cazoo at 1:59 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


What we really need is cheaper and more reliable public transportation, friendlier streets for cyclists, and more and better incentives for travelers to stop using gasoline-powered, pollution machines.

Cause if there's anything Manhattan is lacking, its mass transit.
posted by modernserf at 2:00 PM on June 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


As a NYC commuter cyclist I want to throw something out there that is either controversial or just stupid depending on how you look at it.

I feel safer when I run red lights (across streets, not avenues) because I am out-of-sync with car traffic. I am in danger when I am mixed up with cars/buses/taxis; I am safe when I am the only moving object on a segment of street.

If I run a red, I have a period of time when I am ahead of the cars, and when/if they catch up to me, they have to come from behind ME, and they will see me. This is safer than me coming from behind them, which is when you get clobbered by unsignaled lane changes and right turns because nobody sees you in their rear view.

Not defending unsafe cycling practices (especially salmoning!) in general, and I know that my reasoning is not rock solid. If someone can explain why I'm wrong without calling me names I am willing to listen. I will give you the freebie that I know the extra focus on car traffic needed to run a red "safely" can make it easier to not see a pedestrian. I have never hit anyone but I have had a few close scrapes.
posted by bgribble at 2:01 PM on June 7, 2011 [15 favorites]


The worst offenders of bicycle riders are the food delivery guys.

Yeah, the only thing worse than being run over by a zooming bike on the sidewalk at night is being run over by a zooming bike on the sidewalk at night and left covered in shrimp lo mein.

pleh, shrimp.
posted by elizardbits at 2:03 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Food delivery guys are a menace. No rules at all apply to them, they can be distinguished by the baskets on the front of their bikes, which are sometimes cunningly modified in such a way to cause maximum damage to clothing if they even brush past you. They also sometimes have numerous plastic bags wrapped around the grips of their handlebars as makeshift hand warming devices. They are the hardest of the hardcore, I have seen one do a full flip over a car door, get up and start demanding payment for the lost food, which was splattered on the pavement.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:06 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Cause if there's anything Manhattan is lacking, its mass transit.

It is lacking in mass transit. It is criminally underfunded. Our subway system fucking sucks and does not cover the city, and buses are so laughable that most lines will be beaten in a race by somebody walking alongside one.

bgribble has it exactly right. Riding a bike nearly anywhere in the city, especially midtown, by the book will get you killed. There is absolutely no excuse for salmoning though.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:06 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


See also this classic YouTube clip of an intersection in India. Looking on YouTube, you get the idea that traffic is crazy all across the world, not just NYC.
posted by not_on_display at 2:06 PM on June 7, 2011


Vehicularists vs. facilitators
posted by jcruelty at 2:07 PM on June 7, 2011


This intersection and most others in NYC would be best served by removing the traffic lights. All these problems would go away.

I suppose pedestrian and bicycle traffic would be easier if the cars were all stopped in the middle of a gridlocked intersection, yeah.

I used to think the solution for parts of Manhattan would be to just eliminate all but commercial traffic. But the cabs and commercial vehicles are driven so terribly that I don't think that would be a solution.
posted by The World Famous at 2:10 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I feel safer when I run red lights...because I am out-of-sync with car traffic.

There's logic to that. I've studied traffic engineering—not enough to speak expertly or cite more than two textbooks, but enough to understand a few basic principles. One is that traffic flows better, meaning safer and less congested, when it moves at varying speeds.
posted by cribcage at 2:13 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you actually watch the video I don't think one pedestrian is hit or even noticeably startled or inconvenienced by a cyclist – not even by the asshole riding on the sidewalk at 1:20. The only accident is the truck backing into a car before making his U-turn, and the close calls are all car-vs-car or car-vs-pedestrian – except for the pedestrian crossing against the red who cuts off a cyclist (mislabeled "jaywalk" at 1:48).

Do bicycle commuters in New York act like that too?

Well I do – but I was a NYC bike messenger 30 years ago...
posted by nicwolff at 2:15 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I almost always stop at most red lights, mostly because I witnessed a cyclist get flattened a few blocks from my place some years ago. Those "countdown" lights in San Francisco tend to make both cyclists and motorists accelerate into the intersection, especially on hills with limited visibility. Luckily there's not too many traffic lights on intersections that don't need it...
posted by sharkitect at 2:17 PM on June 7, 2011


much ado about nothing.. I saw about two incidents that looked dangerous... other than that, without the flashing circles/squares/etc, it would look like, well, traffic (other than the idiot bike riders)..
posted by tomswift at 2:17 PM on June 7, 2011


The world need more roundabouts .

In the area of my small town (12,000 people, half an hour from the twin cities), we recently got roundabouts. it made people explode. Rants about spending, 'stupid european' ideas, "now we have to learn this??", etc, etc. Me, i loved them, but i'm not an idiot, they are easy as pie and much quicker since it's actually rare to meet a car on them here. Yet, i've lost count of times people have stopped, dead stop, on different parts of the roundabout. No clue, none at all.

I'm curious who had right of way in this video, there is a shot of a car wanting to force it's way through several people at the crosswalk. Seemed like they had a walk, that makes the car the d-bag. The Uturning semi, holy crap! Is it that hard to go around the block??

I've come to the decision that people are idiots, and seem to only care about themselves. No one signals, people tailgate, speed, etc. People talk all the time about darwinism, but it's the ones who feel they are the important ones that do this crap.
posted by usagizero at 2:17 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Running a red on a bike is fine until you get distracted for one second and get T-boned by someone racing to beat a yellow.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:18 PM on June 7, 2011


Chris what a bunch of assholes
posted by AceRock at 2:18 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


pedestrians?!?!
Yeah. I know this would get me stoned in New York, but things would work a lot better if people waited at intersections for the walk sign rather than jaywalking. There. I said it.
posted by craichead at 2:18 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Or what sharkitect said.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:19 PM on June 7, 2011


So for my part I saw a lot of idiotic behavior by jaywalking pedestrians, homicidal behavior from taxis, a few drivers and that crazy fucking truck, a few crazy motherfuckers salmoning (for which there is no excuse) and a lot of freaking out about benign bike/pedestrian interactions that didn't appear to even faze the pedestrians.

Really I'm mostly just disappointed at how its impossible to have conversations about things like this without making blanket judgements about poorly defined groups. If you find yourself saying things like all X people do Y thing, which I disapprove of because they think Z; might I humbly suggest that you're doing it wrong?
posted by Blasdelb at 2:19 PM on June 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


mrgrimm asked: "pedestrians?!?!"

I concede that there are courteous space-aware pedestrians out there. However, my years skating and bicycle riding have convinced me of a couple of things:
  1. Bicyclists should never voluntarily share space with pedestrian. Multi-Use Paths (MUPs) are effectively pedestrians only. There are a few actual bike paths, on which pedestrians are supposed to be prohibited (usually with a directly parallel and adjacent pedestrian path), but unless they're actively patrolled by people armed and authorized to shoot on sight, they're in practice pedestrian paths.
  2. Never warn a pedestrian. Apparently "on your left" means "jump left and spread your arms". Interestingly, I've never had this problem when telling cyclists I'm passing. Yes, if you blow by a pedestrian on a bike path they will probably send a letter to the editor about how inconsiderate bikers who don't warn them are, but it's better than crashing into them.
  3. Apparently many pedestrians feel that a crosswalk in a signaled intersection still means that traffic should stop for them no matter what the state of the light. I experience this most often on summer weekends in touristy towns in Northern California; based on the gestures and things they say to drivers and bicyclists who try to correct them, I assume it's just New Yorkers out of their element.
  4. So, yeah: "pedestrians."
posted by straw at 2:20 PM on June 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


"I feel safer when I run red lights (across streets, not avenues) because I am out-of-sync with car traffic. I am in danger when I am mixed up with cars/buses/taxis; I am safe when I am the only moving object on a segment of street. "

You might feel safer but you're acting like a dick and you're going to end up under a bus one day. Traffic signals are for traffic, and since you're riding on the road you're part of that. When you run red lights you're popping up where everyone doesn't expect you to be and as a result you're creating more risk.

Follow the rules of traffic or start walking, bucko.
posted by ged at 2:24 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Yes, if you blow by a pedestrian on a bike path they will probably send a letter to the editor about how inconsiderate bikers who don't warn them are, but it's better than crashing into them.

No, they won't. No pedestrian has ever requested that a bicyclist scream barely-coherent warnings when coming up behind them, despite the apparently near-universal belief among cyclists that this is what pedestrians want. This is entirely a cyclist delusion. If you're on the sidewalk shouting this, you're already an asshole and warning someone isn't going to redeem you. If you're on a bike path, we know that there are bikes going by, you don't need to make an enormous production out of it every time.
posted by enn at 2:25 PM on June 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Also, when you're on a bike and you act like a dick you're making it that much less likely that anyone is going to want to advocate for bicyclists, including former bicyclists. At this point I'd be much much happier if all bike lanes were removed and scofflaw bicyclists thrown in the clink.
posted by ged at 2:27 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]




You know...The "Idaho Stop" is one thing (and I support it). However, the people in this video are outright assholes.

There's no excuse for cyclists salmoning, pedestrians jaywalking against bicycle traffic, cyclists bolting into a busy intersection without looking, or drivers aggressively turning into crosswalks. Coincidentally, the latter can be largely prevented by a signal timing strategy known as the Leading Pedestrian Interval.

modernserf: "Cause if there's anything Manhattan is lacking, its mass transit."

I can get on board with this one. There are neighborhoods (especially the lower east side) that have very little to no subway access. The 2nd Avenue Subway will partially fix this for our great grandchildren, if it actually gets built down that far by then. NYC has very good public transportation, but that doesn't mean that it couldn't be a whole lot better. (To pick an easy target, why is there no subway to LaGuardia???)
posted by schmod at 2:28 PM on June 7, 2011


If someone can explain why I'm wrong without calling me names I am willing to listen.

Unfortunately, the "rules of the road" are designed to keep things moving very slow and made of meat from getting killed by things moving very quickly and made of metal. The fast-moving cyclist just isn't a part of that system, and following the rules just means being treated like you're the strongest of both of those archetypes (Fast! Agile!), when in fact, you're the weakest (Soft! Squeezed into a tiny space!)

The only survivable way to bike in a city is to be aggro enough that people are afraid to come into your space and nimble enough that you're not afraid of jumping into somebody else's.

You'll note that nearly none of the so-called "at-risk" pedestrians in that video so much as broke stride.
posted by mhoye at 2:28 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


This site is like a bad relationship. We keep having the same arguments over and over.
posted by desjardins at 2:31 PM on June 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


This is more "a few jerkass cyclists who ignore all traffic laws and make everyone else look bad"

Yeah, the jerks certainly do make the other 5% look bad.
#NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement
posted by rocket88 at 2:40 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Fast! Agile!

Bikes can be fast but are most certainly not agile. A bike can stop relatively quickly, but changing directions and speeding up are not things they are able to do.
posted by Threeway Handshake at 2:40 PM on June 7, 2011


If you're on the sidewalk shouting this, you're already an asshole and warning someone isn't going to redeem you. If you're on a bike path, we know that there are bikes going by, you don't need to make an enormous production out of it every time.
I commute on a multi-use path. If pedestrians realize that there are bike riders on the path, then they would really make my life easier if they'd acknowledge that by staying to the right. I have to shout out something, because I can't pass the people who are sauntering in the middle of the path. Extra bonus points if they'd keep their iPods at a volume where they could hear me when I asked them to move.

(I honestly think some of the pedestrians may not realize it's an MUP, despite the fairly abundant signage for bicyclists and the fact that it's marked on the bike maps that the city distributes. I think they may believe that there are just a lot of asshole cyclists riding on the sidewalk.)
posted by craichead at 2:41 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


If those pesky cyclists would just drive cars, a lot of NYC's congestion problems would be relieved.
posted by Mister_A at 2:42 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


A bike can stop relatively quickly, but changing directions and speeding up are not things they are able to do.

wut
posted by Mister_A at 2:43 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well I walk to work in Manhattan as long as it isn't raining or too hot - it is a long walk about 45 minutes each way. I do it for the exercise.

I have been the victim of "aggressive yields" a lot but have to tell you. I have to CONSTANTLY watch out for bikers running red lights, and now a new epidemic of bikers on the sidewalks - mostly students at Columbia who probably don't realize that it is illegal in NY. NY obviously has its fair share of aggressive drivers, but I think cyclists because of the perception of "neither fish nor fowl" act like big fat SUVs when encountering pedestrians but are acted UPON like pedestrians in the street by drivers.

I also note that many NY cyclists are from other parts of the country where people don't walk, but moved to NY and got involved in cycling - I venture to guess that almost all cyclists who self-identified as NY cyclists in this thread probably aren't native Noo Yawkuhs. Nothing wrong with that, welcome to my city! But, I really don't think you are used to dealing with a passel of pedestrians the way native New Yorkers are - how could you be, you never experienced it growing up, but that is the way it is. People actually walk, and intersections and sidewalks are jam packed with people, unlike your suburb.

Peds before bikes, bikes before cars in my fair city.
Oh and don't EVER call a hero a sub, fuggedaboudit.

Solution - most avenues and even streets in Manhattan are wide enough not just for a bike lane, but for a full lane or two to be devoted to cyclists. That and actually using congestion pricing for the whole island will go along way. Oh and death penalty for sidewalk cyclists, mustn't get wobbly here.
posted by xetere at 2:47 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not sure it is actually possible to turn on some streets without doing an "aggressive yield". You are trying to cross a crosswalk that has a green walk sign, so if there are enough walkers, you just can't cross if you wait for it to be empty.
posted by smackfu at 2:51 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


This site is like a bad relationship. We keep having the same arguments over and over.

yeah, but the make-up sex is awesome amirite
posted by elizardbits at 2:52 PM on June 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


A bike can stop relatively quickly, but changing directions and speeding up are not things they are able to do.

I regularly out-maneuver and out-accelerate motor vehicles in congested cities like Seattle and San Francisco. Give me a point to point anywhere in Seattle or SF (as long as it's not up a goddamn hill) and even as a fairly casual rider I will beat you to the door.

And this is without running red lights. If I rode like a courier and ran red lights, used alleys as expressways or salmoned the difference would be even greater. I'm not arguing in favor of these things, but a bike is vastly more maneuverable than a car. A car can't turn a 180 in it's own footprint. A car can't stop in ten feet.

Most of the time when I'm riding in traffic in Seattle I'm moving faster than the motor vehicle traffic. I pass cabs and regular drivers all the time. I don't think your statements are true to reality in an urban environment like NYC/Manhattan.
posted by loquacious at 2:53 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Interesting to me how many of the cyclist-related incidents here derive from two Incredibly Bad practices:
  • Riding against traffic
  • Riding on the sidewalk
Both of these are insanely bad things to do because they cause fast moving and fragile objects to appear from unexpected directions. Drivers and pedestrians aren't looking out for cyclists coming toward them or bursting off a curb so being surprised by one unexpectedly tends to cause accidents. These accidents don't always even involve the cyclist; a driver can be so busy focusing on the wrong-way cyclist that they hit something else.

We know these are really dangerous practices and they are typically illegal, but there's little public education and these laws are rarely enforced. Driving a car the wrong way down a one-way street or on the wrong side of the road is considered a pretty serious offense, but cycling on the sidewalk is treated as a civic annoyance rather than a serious safety problem. Yes, I know Manhattan has a ton of one-way streets and it's darn annoying if the street doesn't go the way you want it to, but that's the price we have to pay for coexisting in a dense urban space. You are always free to dismount and walk your bike if you can't be bothered to go the right way.

For a street to function, drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians all have to be following a coherent set of rules. If cyclists are hopping on and off sidewalks or going the wrong way on streets, they aren't even playing the same game anymore, which is no fun for the rest of us who didn't sign up to play chicken, but are just trying to play "Let's Go to the Bank or Other Boring Adult Activity" on the public streets.
posted by zachlipton at 2:56 PM on June 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Craichead, as the founding (and only) member of Critical Pedestrian Mass, I can understand your frustration, but I daresay from a pedestrian standpoint, many of those paths are so narrow that a bike blowing by can be frightening; either the paths must be separated or each lane must be wider, and also frankly, I've seen just as many cyclists treat the shared paths (at least in NY) as a nice wide cycle path to ride two or three or four across, damn those pesky peds. This is particularly egregious on the shared path in Riverside park.

Also (at least the last time I walked across it) the 59th st. Bridge shared path was undergoing construction near the Queens tower, so the pedestrian part was occupied by scaffolding. Despite signs telling bikes to walk their bikes, that peds *would have to use the bike path* because the ped path was blocked, bikes zoomed down the path, which of course was a blind spot since bikes couldn't see the peds who were *forced to be in the bike path*. I know this from first hand experience after a bike careened into me. I gently pointed out that I didn't think my wrist was broken but didn't he see the sign?

Perhaps it is the culture of narcissism that pervades people nowadays no matter *how* they get around. I see the bike lanes in the Times Square area getting used as extra space for tourists and I can understand your frustration, but walk(!) a mile in my shoes, and you'll see how pedestrians have to deal with selfish cyclists (and drivers).
posted by xetere at 2:58 PM on June 7, 2011


Wow, before I watched the video, I was gonna get all "cars need to share the road." But goddamn, those cyclists were riding so poorly, against traffic! I feel ashamed to be a cyclist.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:01 PM on June 7, 2011


The only survivable way to bike in a city is to be aggro enough that people are afraid to come into your space and nimble enough that you're not afraid of jumping into somebody else's.


This is how people get killed. Stay safe. Go slow if you must, but stay safe and wear a helmet.
posted by Ironmouth at 3:03 PM on June 7, 2011


In Vancouver they do the opposite of the leading pedestrian by having a right turn signal that lets cars go before pedestrians at intersections where there are a lot of both. It helps to eliminate aggressive yielding by separating the peds crossing and the drivers turning. It works pretty well most of the time.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 3:03 PM on June 7, 2011


I'm slightly deaf, and when I'm walking on our local bike/pedestrian route the words "On your left" (which is sometimes "On your right") merely sounds like "Whatever!" or "Rumpinfrunk" and could equally be coming from a passing car or somebody yelling into a cell phone. I try to stay to my right, but that depends on how many jogging strollers, parked cars, packs of teenagers, and random clots of bicyclists are occupying the same space.

When I'm riding my bike, sometimes I stop for lights and sometimes I don't. It depends on the situation. I do signal, and I stay off the sidewalks, but sometimes it's safer to cross against the light. Riding with traffic is seriously dangerous because people change lanes, stop, and swerve unpredictably. They also open doors without looking.

When I'm driving, I try not to turn in front of cyclists or pedestrians but someone wearing black on a bicycle in the middle of the night is INVISIBLE. Don't think I can see you. I can't. If it's raining, I can't stop very fast. I may think I can, but I can't.

In other words, it's not necessarily the fault of the other guy. It's actually remarkable that more people aren't killed in city traffic. No one can see anyone else or predict what they're going to do, and everyone assumes that everyone else is extraordinarily rational and is surprised when it's not true.
posted by Peach at 3:04 PM on June 7, 2011


I'm a New York City cyclist who is currently at a weird place with my cycling, and I'm not sure what my relationship with it will be going forward.

On May 9th, I was riding East on Spring street between Varick and 6th Avenue and I was doored by a parked livery cab. I was knocked into the street, but basically unharmed, at least until a yellow cab ran over my right leg. I had several fractures to my tibia and fibula, including a compound fracture (for you lay people, that means the bone was sticking out of my leg.)

I was taken to the hospital and had surgery the following day (after they knocked me out to set my leg.) I was pretty doped up, and didn't really have any idea what they were planning on doing to me, but I woke up with an "external fixator" on my leg. Since the wound opened by my compound fracture resulted in a ton of tissue loss (tissue loss that might require plastic surgery - it remains to be seen) they couldn't put the required plates and screws in my leg for fear of upsetting the wound that was created by the compound fracture. So rather than stabilizing the breaks internally, they stabilized them externally with this thing that kind of looked like a huge erector set, like scaffolding for my leg. It kept my ankle and foot immobile, and it was drilled into bones at my shin and my heel.

I wore the external fixator for three weeks. It was so cumbersome that I couldn't climb stairs, which meant I couldn't go home. Some friends of mine with an elevator in their building very very benevolently agreed to let me and my wife stay with them for those couple weeks, or I would have just had to stay at the hospital.

A week ago today, I went back for a second surgery. They removed the external fixator, and put the necessary screws and plates into my leg, and now I'm wearing a splint. I go back tomorrow to see if I can start putting weight on my leg yet.

I like to think that I'm a fairly conscientious cyclist. I am careful, I don't come screaming like a bat out of hell, I keep my distance from pedestrians, I don't ride on the sidewalk, I always ride with traffic. All the same, I can reflect and admit that I have engaged in some fairly risky behavior. I have run red lights. I have woven through traffic. I've done plenty to endanger myself, a lot which I justified by saying "stopping would be more dangerous," but that was really a convenient excuse.

In this case, however, there was simply nothing I could do. I was following the law and all the rules. I was wearing my helmet. I was riding with traffic. I was going 5-7 miles an hour on a not particularly high traffic street. I have hand breaks. The livery cab simply opened his door too close to me to react in time. And in a second I lost 2 months of my life, suffered immensely (both physically and emotionally), became entangled in an exhausting and interminable legal battle about the whose responsible for my medical bills, and I've had to fight tooth and nail (unsucessfully, I might add) just to keep getting paid by my job.

Looking back at my 5 years as a New York cyclist, I am simultaneously counting my blessings that I'm not dead and coming to the realization that there needs to be a serious sea change in terms of consideration for other people on the road by both drivers and cyclists in the city before things get any better. Cyclists need to stop feeling like they need to exact some retribution on the cars in this city for the fact that, as the video states, its been a car centric for 60 years. Drivers need to recognize that there are many more cyclists on the road than there used to be and they need to be taken into consideration.

And everyone just needs to tone down the self righteous indignation a bit. As it stands, my days of biking in Manhattan might be behind me.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:06 PM on June 7, 2011 [30 favorites]


Effective Cycling, people! Effective Cycling!
posted by Ironmouth at 3:06 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I actually want to follow the rules of the road ... but some days I just feel like saying "fuck it."

posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:46 PM on June 7


Yeah, I'm just the same when I'm driving. Oh, wait, no I'm not, because I'm not an inconsiderate, irresponsible, dangerous idiot.

I was not at all surprised to see that for the most part that video was filled with cyclists acting like utter jerkwads who richly deserved to get their stupid, empty heads smeared over the tarmac. Because I see cyclists acting like that every damned day, all the damned time, and seriously: fuck 'em. I would love to see the police go on an absolute tear on these bastards.
posted by Decani at 3:10 PM on June 7, 2011


Never warn a pedestrian. Apparently "on your left" means "jump left and spread your arms". Interestingly, I've never had this problem when telling cyclists I'm passing.

I just have to speak up here. I recall one day walking down a MUP and the first time I'd ever been shouted at by a cyclist approaching from behind. Hearing "On your left!" shouted at me from behind, it was actually somewhat like "...nnn yr LEFT!!!", where the direction "LEFT" was the most prominent thing I heard. So that's what my brain heard and my brain reacted accordingly. I did what most normal human beings would do in a semi-panic of being in danger from an unknown, unseen assailant and given a shouted direction: I stepped left. Resulting, of course, in the d-bag cyclist crashing into my back and cursing me for getting in his way, even though he saw me in front of him all the time and could have easily slowed down.

Pro-tip for cyclists: when a human being has not been indoctrinated into the jargon and expectations of your subculture, don't expect them to be able to process a shouted command within the 1.4 seconds it takes you to close the gap as you hurtle toward their blind side at 20mph. They're not the stupid ones, just because they happen to be walking down the lane.

I know better, now, of course. But only because a careless cyclist taught me, the hard way, what it means to share a path with bikes. I have to say I've never ridden my bike on a path in such a way that I treat pedestrians so rudely as to not at least slow down cautiously as I pass.
posted by darkstar at 3:11 PM on June 7, 2011 [11 favorites]


I have to shout out something, because I can't pass the people who are sauntering in the middle of the path.

That's a shame, but that doesn't mean shouting things that may or may not be addressed to me, and which are almost certainly completely unintelligible, is a good idea. It has always been the responsibility of the overtaker to go around the overtakee, in every set of "rules of the road" I've ever heard of. It works this way in a car, it works this way in an oceangoing ship, and there is no reason it should work differently because you're on a bike. It's on you to find a way around the person you want to overtake; they do not have a responsibility to get out of your way.
posted by enn at 3:12 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, yeah: "pedestrians."

Heh. I agree with all your points, but I still can't blame pedestrians too much. It is their street first, imo.

Apparently many pedestrians feel that a crosswalk in a signaled intersection still means that traffic should stop for them no matter what the state of the light.

There is a nice little upstairs patio at 6th/Market in SF (right next to the Arrow ... or whatever it's called now ... the Showdown?) where you sit and watch people cross 6th street between Market and Mission. (Oh ha, I just looked at Google Street View and it's boarded up. Such a bizarre place for a outside patio ...)

Anyway, if you could, you should sit there and watch people cross 6th St. They're not even using crosswalks, just not even looking and walking diagonally across the middle of the 4-lane, busy, freeway-connecting street. Fascinating.

How do we get bikers to obey traffic laws?

(In Copenhagen, for example, you'll see long lines of bikes stopped at traffic lights.)

I see long lines (8-10 people) of bikes at red lights in San Francisco all the time during commute hours on Folsom St. Bikers will generally follow the laws that make sense. Stop signs and (some) one-way streets don't make sense for most bikers.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:14 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dang millipedes. I'm glad you're ok and things are starting to get better, but dang. It's scary how quickly things can happy. I don't know what we do about the door zone problem, which is awfully common and darn hard to do anything about. Public education helps (I certainly do my best to look out if I have to exit street-side from a car), but it's not going to reach tourists and doesn't seem effective enough to make a big enough difference. Are there design changes we could be looking at that don't involve removing the driver-side doors from all cars?
posted by zachlipton at 3:15 PM on June 7, 2011


I used to be all, "grrr cyclists," but then I realized, we're all trying to get ourselves down the same shitty roads that cities never do anything about. It's like the never-ending argument between airplane passengers over the right to recline your seat vs. the right to not have a seatback in your lap, while the airlines actually responsible for this shitty situation laugh and light another cigar wrapped in $1000 bills. Instead of fighting each other, we should be fighting the party actually responsible for our misery. You know...THE MAN.
posted by Pants McCracky at 3:15 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The world need more roundabouts.

My small town got its first roundabout a few years back and has installed more since. They work well and have been popular (maybe they're best on low-traffic intersections).

The first one did cause an accident when it was first installed though, a single car collision (no injuries as far as I know). The brake marks ran in a straight line into it, through the center and out the other side.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 3:19 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Here in London it's been argued that cyclists are safer if they run red lights. Women cyclists are more law-abiding and therefore more likely to get killed:

In 2007, an internal report for Transport for London concluded women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by lorries because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver's blind spot.

The report said that male cyclists are generally quicker getting away from a red light - or, indeed, jump red lights - and so get out of the danger area.


You could probably make a similar argument about jaywalking: that more assertive behaviour by pedestrians is a Good Thing because it forces motorists to drive more slowly and therefore improves road safety.
posted by verstegan at 3:20 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Pro-tip for cyclists: when a human being has not been indoctrinated into the jargon and expectations of your subculture, don't expect them to be able to process a shouted command within the 1.4 seconds it takes you to close the gap as you hurtle toward their blind side at 20mph.

This is exactly why I and several cyclists who commented above consider it more dangerous to warn a pedestrian than to just breeze by, giving as much room as possible. To a large chunk of the MUP pedestrian population, "on your LEFT!" is apparently some kind of incomprehensible subculture jargon.

I've been yelled at for warning -- yesterday, I was yelled at for saying "excuse me" in a pleasant tone of voice. I've been yelled at for not warning. Legally, I'm supposed to warn, but I'm going to do what I think is least dangerous, for myself and for the pedestrian I'm passing.

I'll ring my bell if the ped is zombieing in the middle of the path, though. People understand what bells mean. I don't understand cyclists who ride on MUPs without a bell.

I love these threads. Everybody's so pleasant, myself included.
posted by gurple at 3:25 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I was not at all surprised to see that for the most part that video was filled with cyclists acting like utter jerkwads who richly deserved to get their stupid, empty heads smeared over the tarmac.

I feel your pain; I really do. But no one, and I mean no one, deserves that fate, even if they are acting without consideration for others. It might be entirely their fault, but no one deserves to be seriously maimed or killed because they are acting like a jerk. Certainly, if nothing else. the cyclist's family doesn't deserve to grieve for their relative and the law-abiding reasonable careful motorist who hit him doesn't deserve to have to carry that memory around for the rest of his life. A head splatted on the roadway is still an awful thing, no matter how much of a jerk the owner of that head was being at the time.

There is a nice little upstairs patio at 6th/Market in SF (right next to the Arrow ... or whatever it's called now ... the Showdown?) where you sit and watch people cross 6th street between Market and Mission. (Oh ha, I just looked at Google Street View and it's boarded up. Such a bizarre place for a outside patio ...) Anyway, if you could, you should sit there and watch people cross 6th St. They're not even using crosswalks, just not even looking and walking diagonally across the middle of the 4-lane, busy, freeway-connecting street. Fascinating.

Ah yes. 6th and Market. Such fun as a driver. Pedestrians routinely saunter out into the middle of the street against the light without looking. Some are obviously high and/or mentally ill, but others have seemingly just decided not to care about traffic today. Of course, whenever I've had to slam on the brakes to avoid hitting people here (and I take it slow because I'm expecting nonsense), these pedestrians are always incredulous at me that I would even dare to approach them. I've been flipped off at 6th and Market when I didn't so much as honk.
posted by zachlipton at 3:26 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


rh: The world need more roundabouts.

mrgrimm: This cyclist says "no thanks!" What we really need is cheaper and more reliable public transportation, friendlier streets for cyclists, and more and better incentives for travelers to stop using gasoline-powered, pollution machines.

This motorist says "Annnnd more roundabouts. thanks."
posted by herbplarfegan at 3:26 PM on June 7, 2011


Use bells on multi-use paths! In my limited experience in Canadian cities, ringing your bell means traffic ahead (bikes or pedestrians) know you are about to pass them on the left.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 3:28 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since I own a car I guess I'm a motorist, right? You're only a cyclist if you don't own a car? And a pedestrian if you own neither a car nor a bicycle?

I'm just trying to remember who I'm supposed to be othering here.
posted by lantius at 3:29 PM on June 7, 2011


Park (the one running north/south in the video with the division in the middle) is probably the single most intense street to ride on in NYC*. Most of the people hauling ass up and down that street in this vid are couriers, you can tell just from the style they ride.

The move at :48 is SUCH a courier move.

The people riding the wrong way are probably food delivery guys. I don't know why that is, but those guys love riding the wrong way.

I don't have time to sit here and break it down rider by rider but I bet I could guess with about 80% accuracy what kind of rider each of these people are. A lot of people who ride in NYC could. Just little stuff... the person almost getting doored by the stopped cab? No way that's a courier.




*Canal can be fun, as can 6th around Times Square. I don't fuck with Park.
posted by nathancaswell at 3:29 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I was merely trying to un-other myself. I guess I ended up pigpiling another othering.
posted by herbplarfegan at 3:30 PM on June 7, 2011


Cyclists need to stop feeling like they need to exact some retribution on the cars in this city for the fact that, as the video states, its been a car centric for 60 years. Drivers need to recognize that there are many more cyclists on the road than there used to be and they need to be taken into consideration.

I've got an alternative. In a city designed around the use of cars, with streets laid out to be used by cars, and without designated bike paths specifically to accommodate the use of bikes? Understand that as the person bringing a bike into this scenario, the onus is and should be on you to not fuck everything up.

It's not some ephemeral "car culture", it's a different kind of vehicle being brought into an environment unprepared and unsuited for it. The vast majority of city streets are built for cars and pedestrians, not for bikes, and taking a bike into that in the first place is a privilege.
posted by kafziel at 3:31 PM on June 7, 2011


Are there design changes we could be looking at that don't involve removing the driver-side doors from all cars?

Actually, Zach, in an attempt to minimize issues like this, NYC has changed the layout of bike lanes on some streets in the city (most notably 2nd ave in the east village.) The way it works is that the bike lane is right next to the sidewalk, and then there's some white paint between the lane and parking spots, and then there's traffic. So the parking spots are about 10 feet off the curb.

This separates bike traffic from the street traffic entirely, and there's a buffer between the bike lane and opening car doors. Unfortunately, pedestrians have decided that this simply means that the sidewalk has been expanded and they walk in the bike lanes all the time. And then cyclists hit pedestrians, pedestrians and cyclists fight, and the vicious cycle begins anew.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:31 PM on June 7, 2011


I have to shout out something, because I can't pass the people who are sauntering in the middle of the path.

Or you can slow down, approach at a safe speed, and ask them to move over or pass slowly when traffic permits. That's what shared space means: when someone else is using the part of the space that you want to use, you yield and use politeness in negotiating future use of the space. This applies even when the obstacle is rude, inconsiderate, or not aware of his surroundings. If you're moving at such a speed that you cannot reasonably avoid obstacles or stop when necessary, then you're riding too fast to safely use the shared space.

Passing isn't some kind of inalienable right that you're granted whenever you're moving faster than the person ahead of you; it is a privilege that you get to take when it is safe and practical.
posted by zachlipton at 3:35 PM on June 7, 2011 [15 favorites]


Use bells on multi-use paths! In my limited experience in Canadian cities, ringing your bell means traffic ahead (bikes or pedestrians) know you are about to pass them on the left.

Totally agree with this.

When all that registers in your brain is "LEFT!!!" and you've never encountered it before as a directive from an approaching cyclist, then it shouldn't really be that inscrutable that a pedestrian actually moves in the direction indicated. It's not as if the ped has several seconds to process the info and reason, "Oh, the unseen shouter must be passing on my left, therefore he shouted the descriptor for the side upon which he is passing, rather than the direction he wants me to move. Hence, his shouted directive is actually a plea for me to remain where I am rather than take any special action."

That's not perfectly intuitive if you haven't encountered it, before. So yes, interpreting "LEFT!" in one way and not the other is a matter of understanding the cyclist's intent, which only comes after you've been introduced to the way that subculture uses the term (i.e., jargon).

In any event, I'm an occasional cyclist myself, and it doesn't seem very difficult at all, to me, to simply slow way down when I pass a pedestrian, just in case.
posted by darkstar at 3:39 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


In a city designed around the use of cars, with streets laid out to be used by cars, and without designated bike paths specifically to accommodate the use of bikes? Understand that as the person bringing a bike into this scenario, the onus is and should be on you to not fuck everything up.

Because without the cyclists traffic in Manhattan is just hunky-dory, right?

If you're claiming pedigree, you're way off. The city wasn't designed for cars. The streets were laid out before cars. Cyclists had a lot to do with getting them paved, before cars.
posted by hydrophonic at 3:39 PM on June 7, 2011 [10 favorites]


I've got an alternative. In a city designed around the use of cars, with streets laid out to be used by cars, and without designated bike paths specifically to accommodate the use of bikes? Understand that as the person bringing a bike into this scenario, the onus is and should be on you to not fuck everything up.

The city wasn't designed for cars. The streets were laid out before cars. Cyclists had a lot to do with getting them paved, before cars.

Not only that, but in the past 3 or so years, the Bloomberg administration has added thousands of miles of bike lanes to the city. So now that the environment is, in fact, prepared and suited to accommodate cyclists, what are we supposed to do? How do we deal with the drivers who weave arbitrarily in and out of the bike lanes that have been added to the city explicitly to create a bike-safe space?
posted by to sir with millipedes at 3:44 PM on June 7, 2011


I've got an alternative. In a city designed around the use of cars, with streets laid out to be used by cars, and without designated bike paths specifically to accommodate the use of bikes? Understand that as the person bringing a bike into this scenario, the onus is and should be on you to not fuck everything up.
I don't think that New York is a "city designed around the use of cars, with streets laid out to be used by cars." The street plan of Manhattan was adopted by the New York state legislature in 1811. Is your argument that they psychically anticipated the invention of the car?

(I don't live in New York, but the basic street plan of my town was laid out by the 1860s. I've seen pictures of bicyclists riding on the streets here in the 1890s. If anyone is an interloper, it's not the bikes.)
Or you can slow down, approach at a safe speed, and ask them to move over or pass slowly when traffic permits.
That's what I do. But asking them to move means yelling, because people can't hear me over the din of their iPods. And therefore, I have little sympathy when people complain that cyclists don't need to call out to pedestrians. It's not a silly affectation.

I really don't understand why it's so controversial to suggest that pedestrians also have obligations to behave in a civil and safe way. And it's sort of funny to suggest that cyclists should put ourselves in pedestrians' shoes, because I doubt there are very many cyclists who are not also pedestrians.
posted by craichead at 3:46 PM on June 7, 2011




Yeah, I'm just the same when I'm driving. Oh, wait, no I'm not, because I'm not an inconsiderate, irresponsible, dangerous idiot.


posted by Decani at 5:10 PM on June 7

The point is, I don't just say "fuck it" though. I keep riding responsibly. Even with two different mini-vans trying to close me down when I passed them on the right this evening (and I wasn't even on my "fast" bike). Even though the only two times I've been hit by cars, I was following traffic rules (although not following them probably wouldn't have helped me). I'm starting to feel like Ned Stark here. I'm not a religious man, but Farther Along is starting to become my favorite hymn. The thing I liked about this FPP was that it shows us we could all be using the streets better. *crouches down, writes something in the dirt*




If those pesky cyclists would just drive cars, a lot of NYC's congestion problems would be relieved.

Sadly, this is now official policy in Toronto.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:57 PM on June 7, 2011


Park Avenue before and after cars.

everyone click on this
posted by nathancaswell at 3:57 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't see how these cyclists move so fast when they are made entirely of straw.
posted by 0xFCAF at 4:01 PM on June 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


And here's an artist's representation of Coney Island from 1899. The text, from a Smithsonian on the history of transportation in the US, helpfully notes:
By 1899, only a few score automobiles had been built, horses and carriages were expensive to maintain in crowded cities, and urban public transportation was, with few exceptions, slow and frequently inadequate. The bicycle met the need for inexpensive individual transportation—much as the automobile has in recent times—for going to and from business, for business deliveries, for recreational riding, and for sport.....

Directly and indirectly, the bicycle had a decided influence on the introduction of the automobile. In addition to introducing thousands of persons to individual and independent mechanical transportation, the bicycle proved the value of many materials and parts that were subsequently taken over by the automobile designers.
posted by craichead at 4:05 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


The street plan of Manhattan was adopted by the New York state legislature in 1811. Is your argument that they psychically anticipated the invention of the car?

The word 'car' does come from the word 'carriage', which also shares it's roots from 'chariot', which came from the latin word carrus, usually being a four wheeled vehicle. It's use dates back a couple thousand years. The fact that the power source has changed is irrelevant, and if anything, the sizes got smaller from the lack of the horses up front. So your argument that bike use had a strong hand in New York City planning has it's problems.

One can make the argument that a cyclist is modern equivalent to a single horse and rider of the time, although I will have to check and see if there were any specific ordinances about single horse traffic in the 1800s law books.
posted by chambers at 4:06 PM on June 7, 2011


Park Avenue before and after cars.

Oh my ... that just hurts. It's like an image of two possible futures: one a utopia and another of a dysfunctional, overmechanized mess. It's painful to imagine that a beautiful space like that has been befouled so much.

It's like a cautionary example for every other environmental argument, too: "preserve the common spaces and protect them from the encroachment of the industrialized and mechanized, lest you lose the beauty you now have."
posted by darkstar at 4:22 PM on June 7, 2011


The word 'car' does come from the word 'carriage', which also shares it's roots from 'chariot', which came from the latin word carrus, usually being a four wheeled vehicle. It's use dates back a couple thousand years. The fact that the power source has changed is irrelevant
That's a silly argument. New York streets were not designed for the exclusive use of carriages, and horse-drawn carriages are not the same as motorized vehicles. You're grasping at straws. New York streets weren't laid out for modern vehicles, and bicycles were a major mode of transit in New York decades before private cars were.

(Incidentally, bicyclists and bike advocacy organizations also played a big role in getting paved roads in the US in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. And that, too, paved the way (in this case literally) for cars.)
posted by craichead at 4:22 PM on June 7, 2011


According to this, US cities were "traversed almost exclusively on foot" until the introduction of the horse drawn omnibus. The omnibus ran from 1827-1907 in new york.

Check out this picture of 42nd and Broadway in 1880. Also check out thisrecent pic of 5th ave at 5am.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:27 PM on June 7, 2011


Oh my ... that just hurts.

I actually always wondered why it was called Park Avenue.
posted by Ad hominem at 4:29 PM on June 7, 2011


You might feel safer but you're acting like a dick and you're going to end up under a bus one day. Traffic signals are for traffic, and since you're riding on the road you're part of that. When you run red lights you're popping up where everyone doesn't expect you to be and as a result you're creating more risk.

1. A large amount of car drivers do in fact expect cyclists to not follow traffic laws at this point. I mostly obey them, and doing so has gotten me into a few fixes where the driving party expected me to behave otherwise.

2. I am conditional runner of red lights and stop signs. This isn't about "feeling" safer, it's about actual, measurable safety gains. The most dangerous situation I can be in as a bicyclist is stopped at a red light with a huge line of cars behind me. This scenario has resulted in things (often hard, potentially injurious things) being thrown at me, it has resulted in attempts to run me off the road, and it has resulted in my being strongarmed into pothole- and debris-filled shoulders. My conditions? I won't, under any circumstance, run lights or stop signs on streets that I am not totally familiar with, with knowledge of traffic patterns, light timing, and pedestrian activity all being required elements. If that's not a factor, I won't ignore stop signals if the likelihood of the situation I described previously is remote. This policy has resulted in a total of zero intersection-related close calls since I implemented it a few months ago, as compared to a previous rate of maybe three a week.

As a person who presumably does not go out of your way to endanger cyclists, you might scoff and say that I am exaggerating in my description of the danger and frequency of attempted driver-on-cyclist violence. I have to say that drivers who think that the roads will be made safer by cyclists unconditionally following traffic laws don't have enough experience to understand that angry and malicious drivers are a real and constant threat to cyclists. This isn't to say that drivers are angrier people in general, but while their mean anger may not be different from any other class of commuter, their mean potential to cause harm is many times higher.
posted by invitapriore at 4:40 PM on June 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


I guess it is a neat idea to put the highlights in a video, but I think he identifies a lot of perfectly safe interactions. In particular, a cyclist passing behind a pedestrian is almost never at any risk of hitting the pedestrian. Even if a cyclist passes in front, if the pedestrian doesn't have to slow down at all, that is a nearly zero risk interaction too.

Honestly, the only really dangerous stuff in that video is the after effects of car-car near misses.
posted by Chuckles at 4:44 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


that's it -- I'm going to follow up on that t-shirt idea I had: t-shirts with the following message printed on the back:

"I Am A Bicyclist Who Stops At Red Lights."

Even if it's only just for me. Because -- I do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:49 PM on June 7, 2011


To a large chunk of the MUP pedestrian population, "on your LEFT!" is apparently some kind of incomprehensible subculture jargon.

The problem is twofold. One, saying "murmurmurLEFT!" either means "go left" or "don't go left" to most people, which is not helpful especially when these warnings are usually given with only a second or two's warning. It's a shitty warning that doesn't convey useful information. Two, as pointed out above, the overtaker always has to yield to the overtakee. Bikes don't have a special right to get in the way of pedestrians.

I don't encounter this problem very often, although today in Prospect Park I did see an adult cyclist in full racing regalia bitching at a 10-year-old cyclist who was just enjoying a bike ride. Filled me with an irrational and immature urge to go swat the adult for treating the park like his own personal race track. If you're not a good enough cyclist to navigate around a normal-speed 10-year-old, then take up a new hobby.

HARUMPH, I SAY
posted by Sticherbeast at 4:49 PM on June 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


Here in London it's been argued that cyclists are safer if they run red lights. Women cyclists are more law-abiding and therefore more likely to get killed:

It is certainly safer for cyclists to "proceed before green", but that isn't at all the same as "running a red light".
posted by Chuckles at 4:55 PM on June 7, 2011


The problem is twofold. One, saying "murmurmurLEFT!" either means "go left" or "don't go left" to most people, which is not helpful especially when these warnings are usually given with only a second or two's warning.

Ironically, I think this is similar to some situations where undercover cops shoot people. Before you flame me (with a smile, pardner), I am not criticizing bikers in this post. I am saying that in a lot of news articles and whatnot about undercover police shootings, the cops will say that their badge was out and they gave clear warnings and civilian shouldn't have resisted or grabbed that gun or knife or whatever. W/o going into the truthfulness of some cops, I think that is likely true many times. It is just that civilians see a gun on someone not obviously in uniform and all of a sudden that is all they see. Their are processing HOLY F^%($T CRAP DUDE'S GOT A GUN!!!! and probably never even noticed the badge or heard the undercover cop yelling. Example the Sean Bell case.

. So what does this have to do with shared lanes? A bike overtaking a pedestrian says murmurmurLEFT, and the ped is likely if he hears anything at all over the general din, is likely to ONLY hear left, or even if hearing on your left thinks what's on my left or even "is some dude about to snatch my purse on my left?, or whatever," the cyclist thinks WTF? I know a much less intense than the undercover cop version, but still in both instances the communicator is making certain assumptions that the communicatee;

1. is in agreement about what the communication conveys
2. can process it fast enough
3. can hear (or see it) and isolate it fast enough w/o hearing or seeing only part of it which unfortunately might lead the communicatee to the exact opposite conclusion.

Yet these assumptions are probably not accurate. So the communicator thinks that the communication was obvious, forceful, and the communicatee is an idiot for doing what communicatee did. But well if you've ever designed a user interface and then had actual users scratch heads, you know not to make assumptions.
posted by xetere at 5:06 PM on June 7, 2011


As a person who presumably does not go out of your way to endanger cyclists, you might scoff and say that I am exaggerating in my description of the danger and frequency of attempted driver-on-cyclist violence. I have to say that drivers who think that the roads will be made safer by cyclists unconditionally following traffic laws don't have enough experience to understand that angry and malicious drivers are a real and constant threat to cyclists.

I do get this, and obviously I think that any kind of violence or rage directed toward cyclists is unacceptable. At the same time, if the best attitude we can take as cyclists is "I'm going to try to get out of the way before the evil mean motorists can throw stuff at me," we've all already lost and the traffic rules don't really matter.

I will say, as someone who switches modes of transportation a lot, that I've never really felt intentionally personally attacked as a cyclist (in fairness, this is in part due to where I generally bike), while as a driver in San Francisco I've had incidents where a cyclist and a pedestrian, respectively, have spit at my face and began pounding and kicking at my car while ranting about how "we own the streets here." Both incidents occurred in situations where I was being careful, doing my best to obey the traffic laws, and had to take evasive action to avoid others doing crazy things. In the case with the pedestrian, it involved a jogger who suddenly ran into the street from behind a parked truck in the middle of the block against a light, but he was adamant that the street was his to use as he pleased.

My point is that a whole lot of the "share the road" goodwill message gets lost whenever one asshole cyclist decides to spit at me in my car to express his dissatisfaction with the cycling facilities on Bush St. Angry and malicious people, be they drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians, are an increasing problem, and their emergence is very much linked with everything else we're talking about here.
posted by zachlipton at 5:08 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am a totally dedicated stopper at red lights, but ALWAYS to the far left of the right hand lane if I know there will be cars turning right. It's a corollary to my fail-safe (so far) city biking rule: when in doubt, take the lane. My other rule is to assume every car on the road does not see you, and if they do they are out to get you. I counter that by being as predictable as possible (i.e. following all the rules of the road and staying off the sidewalk), and as visible as possible. Which is best done when you take the whole lane. Having a bike trailer and small child attached probably makes this easier to accomplish without drivers honking and getting all shirty I suppose.
posted by Go Banana at 5:09 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


In that last "Car enters the crosswalk" clip, you can just hear the pedestrian yelling, "Hey, buddy, I'm walkin' here!" as he beats on the hood.
posted by madajb at 5:10 PM on June 7, 2011 [4 favorites]


As a driver, I'm really tired of almost killing bikers because they're on the wrong side of the street, riding on the sidewalk or in pedestrian crosswalks etc. As a walker, I'm really tired of bikers going past me on the sidewalk at 30 miph, coming straight at me and swerving at the last minute and all that stupid stuff they do.

Here's a really radical idea: give them f-ing traffic tickets, for crying out loud. I can't drive my vehicle on the wrong side of the street or on the sidewalk, why should they. But I have never, ever, seen a cop giving a bike rider a ticket.
posted by charlesminus at 5:21 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


In Brisbane, the way to make a bicycle lane is to take any given stretch of road, and paint a line down the side of it, and put a "Bike Lane" sign up. Tada, instant bicycle lane! The road doesn't get any wider, the cars don't get any narrower, and these bike lane things spring up literally overnight.

YOU DON'T MAKE A ROAD APPROPRIATE FOR BICYCLING JUST BY PAINTING A LINE ON IT.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:23 PM on June 7, 2011


Once again, a thread about traffic becomes a thread about bikes.

To be fair, I'm partly guilty here, but it is amazing how easily we fall into certain set patterns.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:29 PM on June 7, 2011


So why are there no people in that pre 1922 Park Ave?

And wouldn't the next avenue over have been filled with horses and streetcars and all that craziness?
posted by smackfu at 5:34 PM on June 7, 2011


The problem is twofold. One, saying "murmurmurLEFT!" either means "go left" or "don't go left" to most people, which is not helpful especially when these warnings are usually given with only a second or two's warning. It's a shitty warning that doesn't convey useful information.

I usually slow down to close to the pedestrian's speed, then gruffly-yet-politely bellow "PARDON ME" like a bobby in Victorian England. Then they turn, and see me, and then move to the side, and then I bellow "THANK YE"
posted by Greg Nog at 5:46 PM on June 7, 2011 [6 favorites]


Cyclists just need to follow the simple rules that everyone has laid out for them:
  1. Don't ride on the road, it's for cars.
  2. Don't ride on the sidewalk, it's for people.
  3. Don't ride on the mixed-use path if you don't like people walking five abreast on it.
  4. Don't ride around a pedestrian without signalling, you're scaring them.
  5. Don't ride around a pedestrian after signalling them, you're scaring them.
  6. Don't ride through red lights, that's illegal.
  7. Don't ride in the road and then not run the red light if you have the chance, you're in my way now and you accelerate too slow.
  8. Don't ride on the right side of the street where my car door might hit you when I open it, I can't be bothered to check and will knock you into traffic and kill you.
  9. Don't ride in the middle of the street, you're not going fast enough.
  10. Don't ride on the left side of the street, are you crazy?
  11. Don't ride at night; it's too hard to see you when you don't have blinkie lights.
  12. Don't ride at night; those blinkie lights are a distraction to legitimate traffic.
  13. Don't ride.
posted by 0xFCAF at 5:51 PM on June 7, 2011 [21 favorites]


Cyclists just need to follow the simple rules that everyone has laid out for them:

You missed "lose the persecution complex".
posted by pompomtom at 5:59 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is "persecution" the thing where people throw stuff at you from moving vehicles? Or is it where they wait until they're right next to you and then lay on the horn? I always get the two mixed up.
posted by 0xFCAF at 6:03 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


My point is that a whole lot of the "share the road" goodwill message gets lost whenever one asshole cyclist decides to spit at me in my car to express his dissatisfaction with the cycling facilities on Bush St. Angry and malicious people, be they drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians, are an increasing problem, and their emergence is very much linked with everything else we're talking about here.

I think you're right that this is really the crux of the issue, but its being such a systemic problem makes it that much harder that solve. Until then, I think it's a good idea to support policies that make it harder for people to be dicks to each other while still allowing them the ability to get where they're going without too much fuss.
posted by invitapriore at 6:04 PM on June 7, 2011


Is "persecution" the thing where people throw stuff at you from moving vehicles?

People who are not persecuted love to pretend that those who are persecuted simply have a complex about it.
posted by The World Famous at 6:08 PM on June 7, 2011


The stuff the couriers were doing looked bad, but the cars barging through pedestrians looked far more likely to actually kill or injure someone. I haven't had a chance to read through everyone's comments yet, I assume this is mostly about how dangerously those people were driving?
posted by markr at 6:08 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


markr, no of course this thread isn't about actual dangers evidenced by statistics.... it's about "other people" being rude, and "us" just trying to get by as best we can.
posted by anthill at 6:13 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Also re threats from drivers, it bears mentioning that female cyclists have it ten thousand times worse than male cyclists. What's really troubling about it is that, while I'm sure female drivers might suffer from a similar predicament, the magnitude of the difference between an average woman's experience and an average man's experience on a bike is much higher than it is for the same two people in cars. I was surprised the first time I found out that routes I considered totally passable were basically considered totally infeasible by my female friends because of verbal and (attempted, luckily) physical sexual harassment. Even on safe roads, they can often expect drivers pulling alongside of them and making blowjob gestures and other shit like that. This isn't even a bicyclists vs. drivers debate because most of the stories I've heard have actually involved harassment by pedestrians, but it's something that I think a lot of drivers aren't aware of.
posted by invitapriore at 6:13 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Most of the real hostility to bicyclists comes from the kind of men who perceive them as vulnerable, and who need to build themselves up by attacking the vulnerable whenever they think they can get away with it.
posted by jamjam at 6:22 PM on June 7, 2011


And I wrote that without even seeing invitapriore's comment.
posted by jamjam at 6:24 PM on June 7, 2011


So why are there no people in that pre 1922 Park Ave?

And wouldn't the next avenue over have been filled with horses and streetcars and all that craziness?


I wish I knew the actual year of that photo, it could be 1890 or 1921.

According to wikipedia Park Avenue (then 4th avenue) was actually an open cut for railroad tracks and only the section between 34th an 40th was covered over to form a park.

Here is a picture of Fifth avenue and 51st, from 1900. Which is also pretty serene.

This was pretty far uptown, and would have had more in common with the quiet streets in Brooklyn than what it is today. What is now lower 5th Avenue was the setting for The Age Of Innocence and the Astor's had a huge mansion on 5th and 34th.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:37 PM on June 7, 2011


Don't mean to spam the thread but compare that to this picture of Mullberry street from 1900.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:48 PM on June 7, 2011


Biggest jerks: cab drivers

No contest.


Sorry, no

1) Drivers of white delivery vans
2) Cyclists
3) Cabs
4) Others
posted by the noob at 6:51 PM on June 7, 2011


You can't really compare those images without knowing what time of day and day of the week they were taken. It's hard to imagine for example Sunday morning being a bit of a quiet time. If it was the buildings I was interested in that's the kind of thing I'd take into account. And vice versa if I was trying to capture people I might choose market day.
posted by Mitheral at 7:04 PM on June 7, 2011


Fair point. The building at 51st and 5th was the now demolished Vanderbilt mansion, so that was most certainly the focus.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:09 PM on June 7, 2011


And here's an image of the ever-controversial Prospect Park bike path. The one from 1896.

(Sorry. Searching for historical bike pictures is fun.)
posted by craichead at 7:16 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fucking fixies.

That is all.
posted by intermod at 7:28 PM on June 7, 2011


Here's a really radical idea: give them f-ing traffic tickets, for crying out loud.

I'm a cyclist and I endorse this idea.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:33 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


ever-controversial Prospect Park bike path. The one from 1896

Odd Ocean Parkway has a bike path even today. I rode to Coney Island many times in my youth.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:48 PM on June 7, 2011


I'm loving the anger (fuck 'aggressive turns' - we need more aggressive pedestrians!)


Hey, cyclist ... go around me on the grass; you're riding a MOUNTAIN BIKE, Buddy!

grrrrrrrrr
posted by Surfurrus at 8:06 PM on June 7, 2011


Conscientious mountain bikers who practice low-impact cycling and will stay on the path.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:27 PM on June 7, 2011


I'll ring my bell if the ped is zombieing in the middle of the path, though. People understand what bells mean.

Then you should always use your bell.
posted by pracowity at 8:40 PM on June 7, 2011


Squeaky brakes seem to work, too. For me, at least.
posted by The World Famous at 9:10 PM on June 7, 2011


Here's a really radical idea: give them f-ing traffic tickets, for crying out loud.

I'm a cyclist and I endorse this idea.


Jaywalkers are on the hook too. For some reason, many pedestrians will look, see a bicycle (with the right of way) coming, and walk out into its path anyway, simply because it isn't a car!

Although this is obviously more dangerous for the pedestrian, most cyclists aren't cold-blooded killers, and will opt to either slam on the brakes (dangerous; could flip, and probably won't work unless you've got disc brakes), or swerve out into traffic, which is also very dangerous for a very obvious set of reasons.

Similarly, most motorists also generally like to avoid killing people*, and will also swerve if they see a bicycle swerving into their path.

Jaywalking is bad. Pedestrians have a responsibility too.

*Throughout this debate, I firmly believe that the vast majority of people are perfectly good and reasonable individuals. Unfortunately, we've let the 5% of the population who are complete jerks define the debate.
posted by schmod at 9:21 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, we've let the 5% of the population who are complete jerks define the debate.

Oh come on now. New York's a big city, but it's hardly 5% of the population! (Kidding ;-))
posted by The World Famous at 9:38 PM on June 7, 2011


As a native New Yorker who walks, bikes, and takes public transportation in Brooklyn, I find this debate confusing. There are a lot of legitimate points on all sides. A lot of people walk, drive, or cycle in a completely fucked up dangerous and inconsiderate fashion. I wish there was less automobile traffic because it causes the greatest danger to human life out of the three modes of transport we're discussing.

That said though, I feel like the elephant in the room is that perfect and universal enforcement of any law is impossible and the state of the streets is always barely restrained anarchy. Every time one leaves home they place their lives in the hands of countless maniacs and possibly place their own hands on a few lives as well.
posted by TheKM at 10:07 PM on June 7, 2011


@invitapriore - As a person who presumably does not go out of your way to endanger cyclists, you might scoff and say that I am exaggerating in my description of the danger and frequency of attempted driver-on-cyclist violence. I have to say that drivers who think that the roads will be made safer by cyclists unconditionally following traffic laws don't have enough experience to understand that angry and malicious drivers are a real and constant threat to cyclists. This isn't to say that drivers are angrier people in general, but while their mean anger may not be different from any other class of commuter, their mean potential to cause harm is many times higher.

I don't even own a car and I spend my time walking in NYC, not driving.

I know you're attempting to put together a cogent argument about why the rules don't apply to you, and that's 99% of the problem. I know you think you're a special snowflake who can handle situations better by not following the rules, but the rules are there to protect you.

If you can't manage to follow them then don't ride a bike.
posted by ged at 10:08 PM on June 7, 2011


I bet the cyclists and motorists in this video would act with similar entitlement and disregard if their vehicles were reversed. Means of transport isn't what makes anybody a conscientious road user.

If it's shown to be a proven deterrent, I'm all for enforcing road rules as they apply to cyclists -- especially if it's also paired with an initiative to see drivers who hit cyclists out of distraction or negligence charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and motorists who threaten cyclists with their vehicles charged with brandishing.

Cyclists obviously shouldn't be held to a different standard than any other road user, but the argument around road use has so far ignored how the current best way to commit unprosecuted murder (at least in Canada) is to wait until your victim happens to get on a bike.
posted by metaman livingblog at 10:42 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I know you're attempting to put together a cogent argument about why the rules don't apply to you, and that's 99% of the problem. I know you think you're a special snowflake who can handle situations better by not following the rules, but the rules are there to protect you.

I would love to see you attempt to put together a cogent argument about why you think following the rules unconditionally would result in a lower risk of accidents despite significant evidence to the contrary, but instead I got this. It sounds like you've assumed that my desire to disregard the rules is prior to my rationalization of the behavior, when in fact I spent years doing things the "right" way to my detriment, as have many other cyclists. The fact is that the rules lead to very emotional reactions from drivers when they are presented with abiding cyclists, and those emotional reactions often have tangible consequences. It's not really surprising that the rules are unsatisfactory in light of their being designed for one class of road traffic only; is there a reason that you think they would work well if every class of commuter followed them rigorously? The consistency of expectation argument assumes goodwill on the part of all parties, and also ignores the different advantages and disadvantages that each form of transport has in terms of visibility, handling, and so on.
posted by invitapriore at 10:43 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The city should either enforce the rules (bicyclists get fined enough to pay for widespread enforcement of the rules governing them, repeat offenders lose their bikes, etc.) or announce that there are no rules for bicyclists (everyone else beware). The city should not just pretend that there are rules for bicyclists.

If you want safer bike riding, wear a helmet, slow down -- it's not a race -- and follow the traffic rules. If you are fast and unpredictable, it's a lot harder for drivers to avoid driving over you and harder for pedestrians to avoid stepping in front of you. If you are breaking the law, it's a lot harder for anyone to take you and your complaints seriously.

Drivers need to slow down, too, of course. They need to get the fuck out of their cars when there are alternatives (buses, trains, subways, bicycles, feet). But what drivers do is no excuse for being a dick when you ride your bicycle.

And pedestrians are in your way? They ought to follow the rules and they ought to be fined when they don't. But a bicyclist is a big strong person racing through the city, eating up a stretch of street in ten seconds that will take granny all morning to cover. It is up to the bicyclist to slow down, use hand signals, ring a warning bell, and avoid running into young people, old people, deaf people, infirm people, and lost people.
posted by pracowity at 11:51 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


The city should either enforce the rules (bicyclists get fined enough to pay for widespread enforcement of the rules governing them, repeat offenders lose their bikes, etc.) or announce that there are no rules for bicyclists (everyone else beware). The city should not just pretend that there are rules for bicyclists.

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the NYPD's particular dislike of cyclists* and continued efforts to fine cyclists for things that are not illegal.

* I know that this isn't representative of all NYPD officers, but it's become iconic. I'm not a huge fan of Critical Mass or their techniques, but the incident in this video was very clearly uncalled for.
posted by kdar at 3:38 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


From Atlantic to Pacific, gee the traffic is terrifying.
posted by ShutterBun at 4:59 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Jaywalking is bad. Pedestrians have a responsibility too.

Oh, absolutely. Ticket them too.

Throughout this debate, I firmly believe that the vast majority of people are perfectly good and reasonable individuals. Unfortunately, we've let the 5% of the population who are complete jerks define the debate.

Yeah, that's human nature, alas.

Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the NYPD's particular dislike of cyclists* and continued efforts to fine cyclists for things that are not illegal.

* I know that this isn't representative of all NYPD officers, but it's become iconic.


See "letting the 5% of the population who are complete jerks define the conversation" above.

If it's shown to be a proven deterrent, I'm all for enforcing road rules as they apply to cyclists -- especially if it's also paired with an initiative to see drivers who hit cyclists out of distraction or negligence charged with assault with a deadly weapon, and motorists who threaten cyclists with their vehicles charged with brandishing.

I agree with this too.

Actually -- some people have called for licensing cyclists, or adding it to your driver's license, and putting a plate on your bike. I also agree with this. (Mainly because I really do obey all traffic laws, so what have I got to worry about?) Also, this would do a better job of educating bikers about the traffic laws that are unique to bicycles -- i.e., that you have to stay in the bike lane when there IS a bike lane, but that you can ride anywhere on the road when there is no lane. It also may clear up some misconceptions (I somehow heard from someone that "you can ride in either direction in a bike lane", and was innocently breaking that law for a few months before someone set me straight).

....I'm kind of an anomaly anyway, though, because I've always tended to be a bit timid on a bike (I didn't learn how to ride until I was about nine, and then I took a REALLY nasty spill that first month with a first bike, so I've always been slow and cautious), so I would be slowing down for pedestrians and stopping at red lights and waving cars to go ahead of me because "eep big cars around me let them get past me so they won't hit me okay road's clear phew now I can go".
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:09 AM on June 8, 2011


Oh come on now. New York's a big city, but it's hardly 5% of the population!

Huh. Actually, the NY Metro area (pop. ~18.5 mil) is a little more than 5% of the total US population (~310 mil).

posted by elizardbits at 5:24 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually -- some people have called for licensing cyclists, or adding it to your driver's license, and putting a plate on your bike. I also agree with this. (Mainly because I really do obey all traffic laws, so what have I got to worry about?)
Well, for one thing, a large and usually totally-unacknowledged portion of American cyclists are poor people, and for them this could be a total disaster. They can't necessarily afford the cost of a license. They don't necessarily have transportation to get to licensing facilities. Some of them ride bikes because they aren't eligible for licenses, often because they're not in the country legally.
....I'm kind of an anomaly anyway, though, because I've always tended to be a bit timid on a bike (I didn't learn how to ride until I was about nine, and then I took a REALLY nasty spill that first month with a first bike, so I've always been slow and cautious), so I would be slowing down for pedestrians and stopping at red lights and waving cars to go ahead of me because "eep big cars around me let them get past me so they won't hit me okay road's clear phew now I can go".
You really, really should read the stuff about women cyclists in London, who die in cycling accidents in massively higher rates than men. This behavior is very likely to get you killed.
posted by craichead at 5:33 AM on June 8, 2011


From the Guardian: there were three times as many male cyclists as female in London in 2009, yet 10 out of the 13 cyclists killed in accidents that year were women. The article points to a leaked government study from 2007, which suggested an explanation:
The study was blunt in its conclusions: "Women may be over-represented in (collisions with goods vehicles) because they are less likely than men to disobey red lights."
posted by craichead at 5:40 AM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


Or another conclusion is that if you are going to obey red lights, you should pay special attention to trucks.
posted by smackfu at 6:15 AM on June 8, 2011


You really, really should read the stuff about women cyclists in London, who die in cycling accidents in massively higher rates than men. This behavior is very likely to get you killed.

I neglected to mention that 99.9% of the time I also ride exclusively on dedicated bike lanes (by which I mean, "they are on bike paths off the main road, or there is a big horkin' concrete barrier between the bike lane and the rest of traffic"), or I walk my bike on the sidewalk if the traffic is too hairy for my comfort.

I hear what you're saying, but I'm an even bigger chicken than you're thinking right now.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:27 AM on June 8, 2011


As always, I'm late to the party.

In my experience, if you treat transportation as some sort of ladder progression (foot, bike, car, van, bus/lorry) then everyone is a selfish twat at their highest level. Cyclists who don't drive are crappy cyclists. Car drivers make good cyclists and average pedestrians, but are shitty around bigger stuff. Pedestrians who never use wheels are just a bloody menace.

If you want to be good at your chosen mode of transport - spend a month in the next step up, dealing with the bastards in the lower levels. You soon become better at your chosen level. I'm sure most of those wrong-way cyclists would pack it in after a month in a car dealing with wrong-way cyclists.

/ I drive oil tankers, so obvious, I'm a driving god.
// no, I don't...

posted by sodium lights the horizon at 6:38 AM on June 8, 2011


i.e., that you have to stay in the bike lane when there IS a bike lane

Every state is different, but that is certainly not true in California:

Permitted Movements from Bicycle Lanes

21208.
(a) Whenever a bicycle lane has been established on a roadway pursuant to Section 21207, any person operating a bicycle upon the roadway at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic moving in the same direction at that time shall ride within the bicycle lane, except that the person may move out of the lane under any of the following situations:

(1) When overtaking and passing another bicycle, vehicle, or pedestrian within the lane or about to enter the lane if the overtaking and passing cannot be done safely within the lane.
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
(3) When reasonably necessary to leave the bicycle lane to avoid debris or other hazardous conditions.
(4) When approaching a place where a right turn is authorized.
(b) No person operating a bicycle shall leave a bicycle lane until the movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after giving an appropriate signal in the manner provided in Chapter 6 (commencing with Section 22100) in the event that any vehicle may be affected by the movement. Amended Sec. 5, Ch. 674, Stats. 1996. Effective January 1, 1997.


Fuck, "hazardous conditions" describes 80% of Market St. or Folsom St. in San Francisco.

Take the lane.

The vast majority of city streets are built for cars and pedestrians, not for bikes, and taking a bike into that in the first place is a privilege.

"Thats why theres sidewalks!" ... Be a "Roll Model!"

WHOOSH!
posted by mrgrimm at 7:54 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Or you can slow down, approach at a safe speed, and ask them to move over or pass slowly when traffic permits. That's what shared space means: when someone else is using the part of the space that you want to use, you yield and use politeness in negotiating future use of the space. This applies even when the obstacle is rude, inconsiderate, or not aware of his surroundings. If you're moving at such a speed that you cannot reasonably avoid obstacles or stop when necessary, then you're riding too fast to safely use the shared space.

Exactly! That's why I boggled "pedestrians?!" above. That's my opinion on driving a car as well. It's a shared space, even the middle of the road, and if a drunk pedestrian stumbles across a 6-lane freeway and you are not driving defensively enough to detect and avoid her or stop, it is at least partially your fault for hitting her.

The onus is on both automobile and bicycle drivers to drive defensively, but the onus on motorists should be much greater, as they are commanding lethal weapons.

Full disclaimer: I've been on both ends of the bicycle accident spectrum--I've been hit twice and injured badly once by cars and I have hit one pedestrian on my bike. He jumped out into the bike lane right in front of me with full traffic to my left, then he did a little left-right dance as if he couldn't decide which way to go. I braked as hard as possible but lowered my shoulder and hit him squarely in the chest at ~5 mph. It just knocked him over onto his ass and he jumped up right away. I could have potentially lost control of the bike and sent both of us into traffic, but it's likely he has nothing but a small bruise if that.

Still, even though he jumped out from behind a van where there was no chance of me seeing him, I still think some of the fault is mine for not being able to avoid the collision with a pedestrian, even though it was almost as if he were literally trying to get hit.

The amount of responsibility and accountability for accidents on the streets should correspond with the nature of the behavior. Pedestrians > Bicyclists > Motorists. Always.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:07 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm sure most of those wrong-way cyclists would pack it in after a month in a car dealing with wrong-way cyclists.

Huh? I ride the wrong-way down one-way streets all the time. Not serious city thoroughfares with bike lanes (e.g. Folsom, Howard), but small alleys that are certainly wide enough to let a car and a bike easily pass.

That's very different than salmoning in my opinion.

Because I'm doing something potentially dangerous for pedestrians (i.e. someone might not look the wrong way side of the street when crossing) I exercise caution and bike slower, but I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with biking the wrong way down a one-way street.

I also own a car and drive it occasionally. I love driving in SF. Hills become fun instead of ugh. The problem with driving is not that it's not fun. Cyclists don't really bother me when I'm driving, but I do become more of an asshole in general.

a driver can be so busy focusing on the wrong-way cyclist that they hit something else.

My experience is that while it may make 0.1% of drivers apoplectic and potentially dangerous, it makes the majority more attentive and safer drivers. As someone said above, take out all the stop signs and stop lights and you'll get safer drivers. Driving a car can be a mind-numbing task--anything that gets drivers to pay attention to what they are doing is generally good.

But yeah, it does depend on context. I'm mostly talking about one-lane, mid-block streets that get little traffic. If I'm going to the middle of that street, I'm not biking all the way around the block. If it's safe, I'll bike the wrong way. If not, I'll walk or cruise (under 5mph, one foot in pedals) my bike on the sidewalk.

Drivers (excepting police cars ^_^) don't really get mad at wrong-way cyclists if they're not in their way. They get mad when you pass them. That's why you see the spit and cigarettes. Ah, drivers.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:23 AM on June 8, 2011


Empress Callipygos wrote: "i.e., that you have to stay in the bike lane when there IS a bike lane"

See earlier comments about MUPs vs bike paths, and about getting doored and then run over by a taxi because of riding in a bike lane rather than taking space in the lane.

Separate infrastructure is only a solution if it's truly separate. The reason we share infrastructure is that separate infrastructure is way too expensive to build.
posted by straw at 8:28 AM on June 8, 2011


I have never, ever, seen a cop giving a bike rider a ticket.

That's because you're not on the streets living it every day. ;) I've seen plenty of bicyclists get ticketed. In San Francisco, crossing that 13th St./Duboce corridor seems to be a trap, particularly down by Bryant.

I've also seen tickets issued in the Mission for riding bicycles on the sidewalk. It seems more like intimidation than enforcement.

It's probably a critical mass thing. Where there are enough bikers, there will be tickets. I've never seen any in the East Bay, but then again, I don't ride my bike as much in the East Bay because it's not as safe.

I've been ticketed once--for running two red lights--but the cops didn't show up when I contested it. The first "red light" (7th/Howard) was actually a yellow, and only a yellow because the cop car (who ended up giving me the ticket) didn't see me in the bike lane, didn't use a signal, veered into the bike lane to make a right turn (I think) and almost hit me, which made me slow down and then say fuck it and pass the cop car on the right (the only dumb bicycling decision I made b/c it resulted in the ticket) and take the yellow.

The cop car then followed me for two blocks. I stopped at a red light at 8th, waited patiently, then crossed on green. At 9th/Howard, there's a 2-3 second pedestrian walk-light head start, to let walkers start crossing the street before aggressive right-turn drivers cut them off. I started crossing the street when the pedestrian light came on and was barely in the intersection when the real light turned green.

Cop pulled me over and proceeded to yell at me for a full 15 minutes. I actually stopped responding to questions after a minute or two because I had some actual fear of him going apeshit.

It took 5-6 months and 3 trips to court to avoid a $200 ticket, but it was well worth it. I had written down a lot of what the cop had said to me and wanted to share it, if possible, in the public record. But he didn't show. I considered an official complaint but figured that would be even stupider than passing the cop car on the right ...

/longboatthreadjack
posted by mrgrimm at 8:38 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


There's a particular cop here who aggressively tickets cyclists who ride at night without lights. People grumble about it, but I totally approve. I feel like a lot of the bike behavior that folks complain about is not really that dangerous, and they should be paying way more attention to people who cycle after dark without lights. That's way stupider than not wearing a helmet, for instance.
posted by craichead at 9:13 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cyclists should act as cars while on the streets. Bike lanes are a recipe for disaster. This is well-proven. Please read John Forester's Effective Cycling. He is the number one expert on this matter and has written the bible on cycling, Effective Cycling, now in its sixth edition. Until he withdrew his permission for them to use the name, it was the official cycling policy of the League of American Wheelmen.

Forester is a traffic engineer and a hard-core cyclist. His ideas are the starting point for any realistic discussion of the matter.

For example, you are multiples of times more likely to be hit by a car, statistically, when you ride on the sidewalk. People who ride on the sidewalk are doing the opposite of playing it safe.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:34 AM on June 8, 2011


Cops ticketing bikes... isn't this a lot like cops ticketing motorcycles? If the biker wants to run, and the traffic is bad, they probably will get away.
posted by smackfu at 10:02 AM on June 8, 2011


Ironmouth, don't dig up vehicular cycling, please. It's old and it stinks.

His principles work only for "hard-core cyclists" and lead to completely counterproductive policy decisions. They have had 30+ years to show results and have failed.
posted by anthill at 10:25 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cyclists should act as cars while on the streets.

This has nothing to do with riding in NYC then.
posted by nicwolff at 10:27 AM on June 8, 2011


@invitapriore - "I would love to see you attempt to put together a cogent argument about why you think following the rules unconditionally would result in a lower risk of accidents despite significant evidence to the contrary, but instead I got this. It sounds like you've assumed that my desire to disregard the rules is prior to my rationalization of the behavior, when in fact I spent years doing things the "right" way to my detriment, as have many other cyclists. The fact is that the rules lead to very emotional reactions from drivers when they are presented with abiding cyclists, and those emotional reactions often have tangible consequences. It's not really surprising that the rules are unsatisfactory in light of their being designed for one class of road traffic only; is there a reason that you think they would work well if every class of commuter followed them rigorously? The consistency of expectation argument assumes goodwill on the part of all parties, and also ignores the different advantages and disadvantages that each form of transport has in terms of visibility, handling, and so on."

It's obvious that no one is ever going to change your mind, but you're still wrong. You're assuming that your perception of safe vs. unsafe is valid in the big picture, and then you're assuming that therefore the rules are wrong.

The traffic laws are there and everyone is supposed to follow them. If you break them there should be strong consequences. If you feel that they're wrong then work to change the law. If you feel drivers are endangering you when you're following the rules then either choose not to ride or try to change how bicyclists are perceived. What you're doing, though, is going to affect you and other bicyclists in the long run, and in a negative way.
posted by ged at 10:49 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have never, ever, seen a cop giving a bike rider a ticket.

Cops in New York have been cracking down hard on cyclists this year.

In other news, I went to the doctor today. My leg is still pretty fucked up. (Gross operated upon leg pic) I'm told I have 6-8 more weeks before I can walk.
posted by to sir with millipedes at 11:25 AM on June 8, 2011


The traffic laws are there and everyone is supposed to follow them. If you break them there should be strong consequences. If you feel that they're wrong then work to change the law. If you feel drivers are endangering you when you're following the rules then either choose not to ride or try to change how bicyclists are perceived. What you're doing, though, is going to affect you and other bicyclists in the long run, and in a negative way.

Be concrete, please. I'm open to changing my mind when I am presented with an argument rather than bald assertions.
posted by invitapriore at 11:43 AM on June 8, 2011


Ironmouth, don't dig up vehicular cycling, please. It's old and it stinks.

Let's ignore vehicular cycling as a movement and just consider the basic concept that cyclists should generally act like cars do on the streets: ride in the road, go the right way, take the lane, signal movements in advance, obey traffic signals, yield at conflict points and negotiate use of the space with others, etc... It's quite rare for a cyclist to be hit from behind when both the cyclist and a driver are proceeding straight. Most accidents happen in situations like right hook collisions, where a driver turns right as a cyclist to his right is going straight. The reason is simple: in these situations, drivers and cyclists aren't playing by the same rules.

In the right hook case, turning drivers are looking ahead for pedestrians and other obstructions, not watching for small fast moving cyclists overtaking from the right. Sure, I know to look back to check for bikes before I turn and I think I'm pretty good about doing it when I'm a driver, but it's a pretty unnatural action, and I don't think it will realistically happen reliably enough to prevent accidents. You have a flow of traffic for cars and a separate flow of traffic for cyclists to the right of that, and when one flow meets the other, accidents happen. Instead, if cyclists stay in the traffic flow, with cars passing as space and circumstances permit, these things don't happen; there's only one stream of traffic instead of two conflicting streams.

Some degree of basic traffic safety education is a necessity though. At some point by high school graduation, schools could devote a little bit of time to providing instruction on the basic rules of the road as they apply to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists.
posted by zachlipton at 11:45 AM on June 8, 2011


Cyclists obviously shouldn't be held to a different standard than any other road user, but the argument around road use has so far ignored how the current best way to commit unprosecuted murder (at least in Canada) is to wait until your victim happens to get on a bike.

Unfortunately true in the U.S. too, I would think. Enforcement of vehicular assaults against bikers are usually settled with civil lawsuits not prosecutions.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:49 AM on June 8, 2011


I think it's a tossup between bikes and motorcycles. I've heard a lot worse stories for motorcycle accidents in the same kind of accident that people are talking about here.
posted by smackfu at 12:17 PM on June 8, 2011


craichead writes "You really, really should read the stuff about women cyclists in London, who die in cycling accidents in massively higher rates than men. This behavior is very likely to get you killed."

Has someone linked this as one actually causing the other rather than a correlation? Even the bit you quoted only says red light behaviour may be the difference. Even if you tie the deaths to red lights it could simply be that men being stronger on average are able to accelerate away from cars faster than women.

smackfu writes "Cops ticketing bikes... isn't this a lot like cops ticketing motorcycles? If the biker wants to run, and the traffic is bad, they probably will get away."

We've got bicycle cops here. With radios. I'm pretty sure I've seen pictures of NYC bicycle cops.
posted by Mitheral at 12:22 PM on June 8, 2011


I think it's a tossup between bikes and motorcycles.

Motorcycles are ridiculously more dangerous than bicycles. I'm not even going to look up stats.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:43 PM on June 8, 2011


Instead, if cyclists stay in the traffic flow, with cars passing as space and circumstances permit,

Meanwhile, here in NYC in the real world, no-one knows what the hell you're talking about. Did you watch the video? There is no traffic flow. There are just cars and pedestrians, careering lawlessly around in vaguely predictable Brownian motion, and lawless cyclists swooping gracefully – and so far as we can see, harmlessly – around them. The proposition that each of those bikes should be in the center of a lane of traffic, signaling a turn, waiting at a red light, is utterly ridiculous.
posted by nicwolff at 12:44 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Did you watch the video ? There is no traffic flow. There are just cars and pedestrians, careering lawlessly around in vaguely predictable Brownian motion, and lawless cyclists swooping gracefully – and so far as we can see, harmlessly – around them.

I don't know whether zachlipton watched the video. But I watched the video. It looks to me like the cars and pedestrians are, for the most part, proceeding in at least some relation to what their respective traffic lights are telling them. Some of them are failing to abide by those signals, sure. But to say that there's no traffic flow is, I think, ignoring what's actually going on. There is traffic flow in the traffic of all three (the walkers, cars, and bikes). But, perhaps significantly, although there are separate lights specifically for those on foot and those in motor vehicles, the cyclists are supposedly required to abide by the same lights as the motor vehicles. And, since that's a terrible system given the way bikes and cars actually interact in real life, the bikes are the ones completely ignoring the signals, whereas the motor vehicles and people on foot are only ignoring the signals maybe 10% of the time.
posted by The World Famous at 1:31 PM on June 8, 2011


I would love to see a vehicular cycling die-hard, sticking to their principles, sitting in the middle of a gridlocked lane during rush hour and staying put because it's the way things ought to be.

I have no problem riding like a car - I'm young, fit, male, and can maintain sprints of 40-50km/h. But I would never be so arrogant as to say that everyone is wrong for not riding like me, nor to argue against infrastructure that has been proven to encourage more people to cycle,
posted by anthill at 1:55 PM on June 8, 2011


Meanwhile, here in NYC in the real world, no-one knows what the hell you're talking about. Did you watch the video vimeo ? There is no traffic flow. There are just cars and pedestrians, careering lawlessly around in vaguely predictable Brownian motion, and lawless cyclists swooping gracefully – and so far as we can see, harmlessly – around them. The proposition that each of those bikes should be in the center of a lane of traffic, signaling a turn, waiting at a red light, is utterly ridiculous.

I did watch the video and I've been to places where there is no traffic flow. This or perhaps this or this is what "no traffic flow" looks like. The NYC video features a relatively orderly flow of traffic, in which traffic proceeds in designated directions in a linear fashion where people stay in marked areas and there are signals to manage conflicting flows of traffic. The Saigon videos, in contrast, feature a dangerous mix of cars, buses, motorbikes (helmets were only made mandatory a couple years ago, ouch!), bicycles, and pedestrians engaged in "vaguely predictable Brownian motion."

I don't think every single bike should be in the center of a lane and behaving exactly like a car, but I think the bikes need to be operating within the same basic game that we're all trying to play when we're trying to get around town. In the NYC video, look at the people who are going the direction opposite everyone else, weaving between others, moving when the people ahead of them are stopped, and not making any pretense of considering the traffic signals. Those are the people who aren't in the traffic flow.
posted by zachlipton at 2:15 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


invitapriore - "Be concrete, please. I'm open to changing my mind when I am presented with an argument rather than bald assertions."

I'm honestly not sure what you're asking for here, but here are some laws you could follow:
Don't run red lights.
Don't run stop signs.
Don't go the wrong way on the street.
Don't ride on the sidewalk (unless it's legal).
If you're passing a pedestrian they have the right of way.
Yield to pedestrians.
If you're going too fast to stop then you're going too fast.
When you break these laws people notice and it makes you look like a dick who thinks the rules don't apply to them. When initiatives come up to promote bicycling, I am never in favor of them, and it's because NYC bicyclers are dicks. If a candidate wants to promote bicycling in this city then I'm going to think long an hard about actually supporting or voting for them since I think NYC bicyclers are dicks.

Is that concrete enough for you?
posted by ged at 2:43 PM on June 8, 2011


When you break these laws people notice and it makes you look like a dick who thinks the rules don't apply to them.

Don't really care one whit if I "like a dick" to clueless strangers. I follow most of your rules, but not always stop signs and red lights. Sorry.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:54 PM on June 8, 2011


No, it wasn't, because I keep giving real-world examples of how following the rules has endangered me and you keep on saying the same thing -- basically, that following the rules is always for the best -- without saying why. Why is my looking like a dick on the few occasions where I do run a red light or stop sign take priority over my safety? What are these mysterious hidden variables that make me unequivocally wrong about what the safer mode of conduct is? Why is a rigid dichotomy between following all rules always and not riding my bicycle the only option available, when such a dichotomy ignores the fact that I follow the rules ~95% of the time and the other 5% results in less driver anger overall, and that to be so idealistic on my part would result in a non-trivial decrease in my personal productivity and therefore to society's as a whole? You haven't made any of your answers to those questions clear at any point in this discussion. Instead you seem to be arguing from a weird categorical imperative-type stance, and an intuitive sense that cyclists are either 100% law-abiding or are self-absorbed jerks who are unable to avoid putting themselves, drivers, and pedestrians in danger. It's not clear to me that that's the case, and to convince anyone who has actually spent time dealing with cars on the road, you're going to have to explain why you believe it to be true.
posted by invitapriore at 3:18 PM on June 8, 2011


look at the people who are going the direction opposite everyone else, weaving between others, moving when the people ahead of them are stopped, and not making any pretense of considering the traffic signals. Those are the people who aren't in the traffic flow.

Except for the traffic signals, that describes the peds and drivers just as well as the cyclists. The "traffic flow" you described was one cyclists could stay in "with cars passing as space and circumstances permit" such that "there's only one stream of traffic instead of two conflicting streams". Do you really think that's what the NYC video shows?
posted by nicwolff at 3:42 PM on June 8, 2011


Except for the traffic signals, that describes the peds and drivers just as well as the cyclists.

I didn't see any cars weaving in and out of oncoming traffic.
posted by The World Famous at 3:58 PM on June 8, 2011


When initiatives come up to promote bicycling, I am never in favor of them, and it's because NYC bicyclers are dicks. If a candidate wants to promote bicycling in this city then I'm going to think long an hard about actually supporting or voting for them since I think NYC bicyclers are dicks.

Um....Ged, I'm a NYC bicycler and I obey every single one of the traffic rules you've set forth, and then some. Am I still a dick? Are you connecting dick-ness to behavior or locale?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:26 PM on June 8, 2011


WOW!
posted by WOLF101 at 5:06 PM on June 8, 2011




Okay. So granted I'm in SF where bikes v. cars v. peds whrgrbrl is high and I am someone who is all 3, but primarily a car or ped, every class has its highly visible contingents of utter asses. There are SUV drivers on phones, bikes running red lights/stops, peds crossing literally for 5 minutes. Everyone can be a jerk.

Running red lights/stops like it's an f'ng right pisses me off so hard. When the cyclist is fully aware and obviously is actively judging the situation (slows down, looks around), I'm more likely to sympathy. That shows respect for *everyone* on the road & crosswalk. But I see precious little of this in practice.

I *SO* wanted to kiss the hemeted cyclist I encountered driving home the other night: not only was he wearing reflective clothing at dark, he stopped at the 4-way. I was more than happy to give him full lane without tailgating.

... I have a friend who used to do Critical Manners 30 min. before Critical Mass. Such a great idea. We all need to travel aware and with respect for all three types of travelers.
posted by smirkette at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Manjusri: "little movie about a ticket i got for riding my bike not in the bike lane"

That was hilarious. Kudos to the guy for performing in the video wearing shorts.
posted by Mitheral at 9:29 PM on June 8, 2011


"The NYPD is, for whatever reason (revenue gathering? culture war?) aggressively ticketing bicyclists for infractions both real and imaginary. In a sane world, everyone at the NYPD involved in setting this policy would be fired immediately, but in the world we live in big-city police forces are, effectively, rogue organizations outside the control of elected officials."

What? The NYPD tickets people for all kinds of sketchy bullshit. Why should bicyclists be immune? Because they're such charming, law-abiding people?
posted by ged at 4:13 AM on June 9, 2011


EmpressCallipygos - "Um....Ged, I'm a NYC bicycler and I obey every single one of the traffic rules you've set forth, and then some. Am I still a dick? Are you connecting dick-ness to behavior or locale?"

I mentioned this upthread, but a better way to put it is: I've lived in NYC for some time, and in all my years here I have seen two (TWO) bicyclists ever stop at stop signs or lights. I'm sure there are well meaning bicyclists out there, including yourself, who follow the rules and are riding the right way, but you should know that you're in the vast minority. For most pedestrians, most of the time, they're encountering bicyclists who act like dicks, and that then makes most of us assume that most bicyclists in NYC are dicks.

I'm sure you're very nice, but your fellow cyclists are not helping your cause.
posted by ged at 7:50 AM on June 9, 2011


invitapriore - " Why is my looking like a dick on the few occasions where I do run a red light or stop sign take priority over my safety? What are these mysterious hidden variables that make me unequivocally wrong about what the safer mode of conduct is?"

The point here is that there are laws that prohibit running of red lights, etc. Laws.

These aren't some sort of mysterious code that I'm expecting bicyclists to live by. There are laws and I expect bicyclists to follow them, in the same way that I expect drivers and pedestrians to follow laws that apply to them.

Maybe the laws should be changed, and you should absolutely advocate to change laws that you think are wrong, but in the meantime I expect you to follow those laws. Claiming that you're safer when you don't follow the law isn't an excuse and doesn't make it ok to break the law.

It just makes you an asshole.
posted by ged at 7:55 AM on June 9, 2011


ged: " There are laws and I expect bicyclists to follow them, in the same way that I expect drivers and pedestrians to follow laws that apply to them."

It doesn't help that traffic laws are essentially not enforced in NYC. Worse still, most cops are completely unaware of the cycling laws (which, in turn, are rarely indicated with signage and raod markings like the ones for drivers and pedestrians).
posted by schmod at 8:28 AM on June 9, 2011


Oh, and that above video about being ticketed for biking outside of a bike lane demonstrates my point perfectly. The cops do not know the laws, and the ones that they do know are not enforced to a reasonable standard (what? am I supposed to wait for the illegally-parked UPS truck to move?).

I got harassed by one of DC's two dozen police agencies a few weeks ago for riding my bike in a crosswalk, which is completely legal throughout the entire city as long as you yield to pedestrians, which I did. (In fact, biking on the sidewalk (at a reasonable speed, while yielding to peds) is even legal in that part of town, even though most non-cyclists swear it isn't because their gut tells them so, or something like that...)
posted by schmod at 8:37 AM on June 9, 2011


Cops ticketing bikes... isn't this a lot like cops ticketing motorcycles? If the biker wants to run, and the traffic is bad, they probably will get away.

I don't know about you, but I stopped running from the cops when I turned 18. It's not a good idea to run from cops over a (hopefully) challengeable $50 ticket. (I am white, however, so YMMV.)

I've lived in NYC for some time, and in all my years here I have seen two (TWO) bicyclists ever stop at stop signs or lights. I'm sure there are well meaning bicyclists out there, including yourself, who follow the rules and are riding the right way, but you should know that you're in the vast minority.

Confirmation bias. Look it up. I see bicyclists stopping at stop signs. MULTIPLE TIMES. EVERY DAY. Does that prove anything? You should know "living in NYC for some time" does not make you an expert on biker behavior, in fact, very far from it.

Oh, and that above video about being ticketed for biking outside of a bike lane demonstrates my point perfectly. The cops do not know the laws

There's certainly a provision in the New York bicycling laws that says bicycles must use the bike lanes (barring numerous exceptions). I liked the video too (though I must say the cab sequence triggered some bad memories of my accident), but I think the radio person was wrong about the law.

However, it also seems like any such ticket would be easy to contest. The possibilities for "conditions that would make it unsafe" are endless. My first choice would be "uneven pavement" - go out, take a pic of some broken concrete/pothole in a bike lane and bring it in to court with you.

Emphasis mine:

Section 1234. Riding on roadways, shoulders, bicycle lanes and bicycle paths.

(a) Upon all roadways, any bicycle shall be driven either on a usable bicycle lane or, if a usable bicycle lane has not been provided, near the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway or upon a usable right- hand shoulder in such a manner as to prevent undue interference with the flow of traffic except when preparing for a left turn or when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge. Conditions to be taken into consideration include, but are not limited to, fixed or moving objects, vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane.

posted by mrgrimm at 9:05 AM on June 9, 2011


The "preparing for a left turn" defense would oft be inscrutable as well.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:07 AM on June 9, 2011


I expect drivers and pedestrians to follow laws that apply to them

No you don't. Maybe you wish drivers and pedestrians in NYC followed the laws that apply to them, but if you expect that to happen, you're delusional.

The law says that pedestrians will stay on the curb until the light says WALK.

The law says that pedestrians will not walk in the street except to cross it.

The law says that pedestrians will use the right side of crosswalks.

The law says that pedestrians will not cross an intersection diagonally.

The law says that pedestrians will hail cabs from the sidewalk.

The law says that drivers will stay in marked lanes, and signal lane changes.

The law says that drivers will not double-park and will not stop in bike lanes.

The law says that drivers will not exceed 30 MPH.

The law says that drivers will not stop in crosswalks or in intersections.

But you don't expect drivers and pedestrians to follow any of those laws. You pretend that they follow laws that apply to them, so that you can claim that cyclists are "dicks" and "assholes" for not stopping at red lights. In reality, we're all dicks and assholes, taking every available advantage the city's law-enforcement priorities give us.

Or maybe none of us are dicks or assholes, except people who set up false generalizations on Metafilter.
posted by nicwolff at 9:16 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


In reality, we're all dicks and assholes...

... or just killer apes.
"Violation of biological command has been the failure of social man. Vertebrates though we may be, we have ignored the law of equal opportunity since civilization's earliest hours. Sexually reproducing beings though we are, we pretend today that the law of inequality does not exist. And enlightened though we may be, while we pursue the unattainable we make impossible the realizable."
The Social Contract: A Personal Inquiry into the Evolutionary Sources of Order and Disorder by Robert Ardrey
posted by mrgrimm at 9:51 AM on June 9, 2011


Oh, and that above video about being ticketed for biking outside of a bike lane demonstrates my point perfectly. The cops do not know the laws, and the ones that they do know are not enforced to a reasonable standard (what? am I supposed to wait for the illegally-parked UPS truck to move?).

No, you're supposed to get off your bike and walk it around the obstruction. As you well know. A shitty passive-aggressive video feigning willful ignorance is not actually an informed source.

I got harassed by one of DC's two dozen police agencies a few weeks ago for riding my bike in a crosswalk, which is completely legal throughout the entire city as long as you yield to pedestrians, which I did. (In fact, biking on the sidewalk (at a reasonable speed, while yielding to peds) is even legal in that part of town, even though most non-cyclists swear it isn't because their gut tells them so, or something like that...)

The reason most non-cyclists swear it isn't legal is probably because it's not. Circumstances can permit ducking out of the bike lane to get around an obstruction, but they never permit crosswalks or sidewalks.
posted by kafziel at 10:47 AM on June 9, 2011


No, you're supposed to get off your bike and walk it around the obstruction. As you well know.

This also seems obviously false. See Section 1234 above.

Circumstances can permit ducking out of the bike lane to get around an obstruction

In New York, circumstances can permit leaving the bike lane when:

* preparing for a left turn
* when reasonably necessary to avoid conditions that would make it unsafe to continue along near the right-hand curb or edge, including
1. fixed or moving objects
2. vehicles
3. bicycles
4. pedestrians
5. animals
6. surface hazards
7. traffic lanes too narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side-by-side within the lane
posted by mrgrimm at 11:00 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm sure there are well meaning bicyclists out there, including yourself, who follow the rules and are riding the right way, but you should know that you're in the vast minority.

so you are basing your ire on behavior.

...Then say it like that, rather than tarring all NYC cyclists with the same brush. Becuase this minority is just as pissed off at the scofflaws as you are, and we're even more sick of them making us look bad.

But lumping us in with them not only makes you an asshole, it makes ME less inclined to team up WITH you to do something ABOUT them.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:08 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


No, you're supposed to get off your bike and walk it around the obstruction. As you well know. A shitty passive-aggressive video feigning willful ignorance is not actually an informed source.

Actually, you're wrong.

§ 4-12 (p) – Bicycles
• Bicycle riders must use bike path/lane, if provided, except for access, safety, turns, etc.

If a bike path/lane is not available, bikes are considered as vehicles, although they are restricted to the rightmost lane:

§ 1234 - Riding on roadways, shoulders, bicycle lanes and bicycle paths
• Must ride bicycle on the right side of the roadway (some conditions and exceptions apply, see also N.Y.C. Traffic Rules and Regulations Section 4-12 above);
• No more than two abreast.
(emphasis mine)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:14 AM on June 9, 2011


schmod - "It doesn't help that traffic laws are essentially not enforced in NYC. Worse still, most cops are completely unaware of the cycling laws (which, in turn, are rarely indicated with signage and raod markings like the ones for drivers and pedestrians)."

What. Just because other people are not following the law, or not being punished for it, doesn't make it ok for you to break the law, too.

nicwolff - "No you don't. Maybe you wish drivers and pedestrians in NYC followed the laws that apply to them, but if you expect that to happen, you're delusional."

Once again, claiming that everyone else is doing it doesn't make it ok for you to do it, and yes, I expect people to follow the traffic laws.

nicwolff - "But you don't expect drivers and pedestrians to follow any of those laws. You pretend that they follow laws that apply to them, so that you can claim that cyclists are "dicks" and "assholes" for not stopping at red lights. In reality, we're all dicks and assholes, taking every available advantage the city's law-enforcement priorities give us."

How about this: in my experience in NYC, except for exactly two bicyclers, every person on a bicycle I've *ever* seen approach a red light or stop sign has proceeded to breeze through it without stopping. I'd be perfectly happy to agree that the dickish label should then only apply to those that I've actually seen, but considering how many bikers I see on a daily basis, I have a hard time assuming that the next bicycler I see approach a red light won't *also* run right through it.

Is that non-general enough for you?

EmpressCallipygos - "so you are basing your ire on behavior. "

Strictly speaking, I'm basing it on observation. And honestly, I don't really care if you're on my side or not.
posted by ged at 12:24 PM on June 9, 2011


"Confirmation bias. Look it up. I see bicyclists stopping at stop signs. MULTIPLE TIMES. EVERY DAY. Does that prove anything? You should know "living in NYC for some time" does not make you an expert on biker behavior, in fact, very far from it."

Ok, we have different experiences. Do you expect that that will somehow change the experiences that I've already had?

You should know that I'm not claiming I know all bikers or that I'm an expert. In my experience I've only ever seen two NYC bicyclers stop at red lights or stop signs. My perception is that they're assholes from their willful disregard of traffic laws and from their shitty behavior when someone calls them out on what they're doing.

Why should I give bicyclists the benefit-of-the-doubt when this thread right here is chock full of bicyclists claiming they do exactly what I've observed and also providing idiotic reasons why it's perfectly fine when they break the law?

Maybe I'm the victim of confirmation bias. Maybe.

Maybe I'm right.
posted by ged at 12:37 PM on June 9, 2011


Maybe I'm the victim of confirmation bias. Maybe. Maybe I'm right.

Your claim was that NYC bikers were, TO A PERSON, scofflaws.

I am an NYC biker who always obeys all traffic laws.

Ergo, you are not right. Which means that, ergo, you are the victim of confirmation bias.

QED.

And honestly, I don't really care if you're on my side or not.

Honestly, I wished you could have been on my side, but I see you're too dug into your "bikerz are eeevil" trench, and I wish you good luck with it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:01 PM on June 9, 2011


What. Just because other people are not following the law, or not being punished for it, doesn't make it ok for you to break the law, too.

You're absolutely right. However, that also doesn't make it OK for you to set up a ridiculous double-standard. The only way to solve this problem is to enforce the laws evenhandedly across all modes of transportation.

In most of these incidents involving the NYPD, the cop sits idly while drivers and pedestrians around him do ridiculously dangerous things. As soon as a cyclist swerves to avoid one of these drivers/pedestrians, the cop (incorrectly) tickets the cyclist while continuing to ignore the illegally-parked car that caused the incident to begin with. And, yes. It's usually that blatant.

It wouldn't be OK for the NYPD to begin randomly arresting African Americans for violating made-up laws. Why is it OK for the NYPD to be ticketing cyclists for violating non-existent parts of the traffic code?

(And, there are plenty of bikes in that video that deserve tickets themselves. They're by no means off the hook. However, it's also a bit ridiculous for the city to expect citizens to obey laws that the cops themselves don't know about.)
posted by schmod at 1:16 PM on June 9, 2011


ged writes "In my experience I've only ever seen two NYC bicyclers stop at red lights or stop signs."

There is at least one cyclist waiting for a light in the linked video.
posted by Mitheral at 1:28 PM on June 9, 2011


"Your claim was that NYC bikers were, TO A PERSON, scofflaws."

That's not what I said. Maybe I should generalize all bicyclers as having poor reading comprehension as well.

"You're absolutely right. However, that also doesn't make it OK for you to set up a ridiculous double-standard. The only way to solve this problem is to enforce the laws evenhandedly across all modes of transportation."

Who is setting up a double standard? Did I ever claim that drivers were somehow exempt from following traffic laws? You might want to work on your reading comprehension as well. Maybe you and EmpressCallipygos can set up some sort of support group for bicyclers who can't read.

"There is at least one cyclist waiting for a light in the linked video."

Cool, then I can now claim I've seen three NYC cyclists waiting at a red light. Maybe one day it will be four.
posted by ged at 1:37 PM on June 9, 2011


That's not what I said. Maybe I should generalize all bicyclers as having poor reading comprehension as well.

What other way is there to comprehend the following:

"When initiatives come up to promote bicycling, I am never in favor of them, and it's because NYC bicyclers are dicks."

Pray tell. (sits back; this is going to be entertaining.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:46 PM on June 9, 2011


Cool, then I can now claim I've seen three NYC cyclists waiting at a red light. Maybe one day it will be four.

(EC turns to Mitheral:) I think I know what kind of "confirmation bias" we're dealing with, here.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:47 PM on June 9, 2011


What other way is there to comprehend the following:

"When initiatives come up to promote bicycling, I am never in favor of them, and it's because NYC bicyclers are dicks."


Perhaps not all of the "dicks" are "scofflaws"? ... but ged has posted nothing to indicate what makes a biker a "dick" aside from violating traffic law, so yeah, I'm with you.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:04 PM on June 9, 2011


Is that non-general enough for you?

On the contrary, it's too non-general! You forgot to agree that the pedestrians and drivers who break the laws I listed are also dicks. Because it's the flagrant and near-universal illegality that you're mad about, right?

Or is it something else?
posted by nicwolff at 2:06 PM on June 9, 2011


"Pray tell. (sits back; this is going to be entertaining.)"

So, trivially, "dicks" != "scofflaws"

So there's that. Also, I've taken huge pains to explain my NYC bicycler experience in this thread, and if you want to take a single line out of context, fine. But I think I've made it clear just how many bicyclers I've ever seen stop for lights and signs. Three.

Maybe I'm being unfair by having the opinions I have. Maybe those opinions are based on my experiences.

"On the contrary, it's too non-general! You forgot to agree that the pedestrians and drivers who break the laws I listed are also dicks. Because it's the flagrant and near-universal illegality that you're mad about, right?"

No, I'm pissed that bicyclers including many many many bicyclers in this thread insist that stopping for red lights and stop signs is not the right thing to do.
posted by ged at 2:24 PM on June 9, 2011


No, I'm pissed that bicyclers including many many many bicyclers in this thread insist that stopping for red lights and stop signs is not the right thing to do.

Why? I can see objecting to bikes just flying through intersections, but why would it be necessary for them to come to a complete stop?
posted by The World Famous at 2:28 PM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


No, I'm pissed that bicyclers including many many many bicyclers in this thread insist that stopping for red lights and stop signs is not the right thing to do.

Stopping for red lights and stop signs is not always the right thing to do. And a lot of times it's just not necessary.

If you approach a four-way stop in a residential area with no one around, there's absolutely no harm in cruising through the stop sign at 5mph.

Let's not pretend there's no difference between stopping, looking both ways, and carefully crossing an abandoned light vs. flying through the light willy-nilly as cars screech to avoid you. The difference is huge. (Or what TWF just said ...)
posted by mrgrimm at 2:32 PM on June 9, 2011


Why? I can see objecting to bikes just flying through intersections, but why would it be necessary for them to come to a complete stop?

BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE LAW SAYS.
posted by ged at 2:33 PM on June 9, 2011


BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE LAW SAYS.

This isn't the first principle you assume it to be. Do you follow every law that you're aware of? Do you believe that there are no situations in which breaking the law is merited, if the situation proscribed by the law is suboptimal and the spirit of the law is served? Do you believe that it is impossible for human beings to correctly ascertain what the spirit of the law is or the benefits of breaking the law in those situations? If so, why? If you answer those questions, we might move forward with this conversation. Instead, people are asking you to substantiate your "the law is the law" stance, and you keep beating your head against the same damn wall.
posted by invitapriore at 2:49 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, and calling us assholes and idiots, because clearly you're right. I guess I'm beating my head against a wall too, because I'm not sure a discussion is what you're looking for.
posted by invitapriore at 2:50 PM on June 9, 2011


BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE LAW SAYS.

That is not a response to the assertion that the law's requirements for cyclists are dangerous and inappropriate, though, is it?
posted by The World Famous at 2:51 PM on June 9, 2011


BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE LAW SAYS.

The law prohibits jaywalking, too, does it not?

I can only assume, then, that if you saw some guy dragging your kid into a windowless van, you'd go to an intersection and wait for the walk signal.
posted by jamjam at 3:39 PM on June 9, 2011


...You know, I briefly considered joining ged and telling my fellow bikers that "listen, you really do have to stop at a red light, and saying that there are times when it's okay is frankly a bullshit copout."

But Ged has said that honestly they "didn't care" whether I was on their side or not.

So fuck it. You're on your own, dude.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:40 PM on June 9, 2011


why would it be necessary for them to come to a complete stop?

BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE LAW SAYS.


ged, is it your position that it is morally necessary to do everything the law says? Because that's a philosophy so inane and irrelevant that outside biblical fundamentalism I don't even think it has a name. "Legal negativism"?

In the real world, we all choose which laws we will obey, based on our evaluation of their justness, our safety and convenience, and our fear of punishment. We know from my list of commonly-violated laws above that the legal standard is not the accepted behavioral standard in NYC.

So "BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT THE LAW SAYS" doesn't settle any argument except one about what the law says. Can you offer some other reason that cyclists should stop at red lights, that we might then consider?
posted by nicwolff at 4:20 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


some other reason that cyclists should stop at red lights

Safety, in terms of predictable movement? There are a lot of effectively blind corners in this city, thanks to crowds, and parked cars, and gridlock, and what have you. It makes it easier for others in the flow of traffic to anticipate bikers' movement, and provide bikers with space. Plus, bikers don't end up crossing the right-of-way; the cars that have a green will have had even less of a chance to assess bikers' intent.

Bonus: If bikes moved like cars, they might not seem as addling to some drivers, leaving those drivers more amenable to spending tax dollars on things like building separated bike lanes.

Back before my bike was a rusted hulk with a stolen handbrake, I would sometimes roll through lights, usually at night, in the outer boroughs, and crossing tiny streets in an area where I was more or less the only thing on the road. I could see the Idaho stop thing working in some quieter, residential areas, and am sympathetic to it. We could also consider lights that allow bikers a second or two of a head start, so that they're gliding along stably and the front of the traffic pack has seen them to get up and running.

In the meantime, I'm going to continue stopping at lights, and signaling, and being scared to death of Manhattan. And maybe doing the serious soul searching that it will take before I stop jaywalking like a boss.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 5:54 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like part of the problem is that we don't have widely-accepted norms of behavior for bicycling, like we do for driving and walking. This means that drivers think bikes are going to, or should, do one thing, only to see them do another. Or that pedestrians, by following the traditional norms of jaywalking—yes, there is a right and a wrong way—end up royally fucking with bikes. I'm guessing that in the end, cars are going to have to cede more pavement, and in turn, bikes and pedestrians are going to have to give up some freedom of movement.

I've yet to see the city really deal with how trucks are supposed to deliver or cabs pull over or construction be performed on streets with painted bike lanes. Saying "you should not" means nothing without consequences, or a way for people to pull to the curb legitimately. People who park in bike lanes are still assholes. But there might fewer of them if there were genuine, obvious alternatives.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:03 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bonus: If bikes moved like cars, they might not seem as addling to some drivers, leaving those drivers more amenable to spending tax dollars on things like building separated bike lanes.
My experience, fwiw, is that exactly the opposite is true. When I stop at stoplights in the right hand lane, I often prevent drivers from turning right on red, and it annoys the hell out of them.
posted by craichead at 6:04 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


craichead- Hah. I guess the reason I haven't encountered that so much is that right turns on red are illegal here. (I used to bike in California, in the long long ago, but I can't for the life of me remember whether that was an issue or not.)
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:37 PM on June 9, 2011


evidenceofabsence writes "I've yet to see the city really deal with how trucks are supposed to deliver or cabs pull over or construction be performed on streets with painted bike lanes."

If the options are
  1. Stop in the bike lane
  2. Stop in the traffic lane
  3. don't stop where their is no parking
they should choose 3 or, if they don't care about creating an obstruction, 2. IE: that white line should be treated like a grade separation.
posted by Mitheral at 7:01 PM on June 9, 2011


I have a question for my fellow bikers -- exactly what reason can you give for why one would want to run a red light? I honestly don't see the gain.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:13 PM on June 9, 2011


I have a question for my fellow bikers -- exactly what reason can you give for why one would want to run a red light?

Cause it's the 1 thing I've got over cars... I can run reds in front of cops and 999/1000 I won't get busted for it. And in NYC that means I'm 5 times faster than a car in traffic.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:15 PM on June 9, 2011


Although running a red did cost me half my collarbone so by no means should you take my advice.
posted by nathancaswell at 7:17 PM on June 9, 2011


Cause it's the 1 thing I've got over cars... I can run reds in front of cops and 999/1000 I won't get busted for it. And in NYC that means I'm 5 times faster than a car in traffic.

So basically....bikers run red lights because "I can get away with it and beat the cars neener neener -- oh, unless I get into an accident"?

....Yeah, I'm not missing out, I guess.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:22 PM on June 9, 2011


never said it was smart, just said it was the reason i run reds
posted by nathancaswell at 7:27 PM on June 9, 2011


I have a question for my fellow bikers -- exactly what reason can you give for why one would want to run a red light? I honestly don't see the gain.

Because, when traffic starts up again, you are seen as an obstruction by the people behind you. This results in:

1. Having full cans or bottles of soda or what have you thrown at you from cars;
2. Having people reach out and try to hit you with their hands;
3. Having cars aggressively swerving right alongside and then in front of you, which is dangerous on its own and can result in you getting pushed into a pothole you didn't have time to see;
4. Having a car nudge your back wheel with its nose.

Those things aren't hypotheticals. They have happened to me or to my friends. Maybe the fact that I live in a Midwestern city is a factor, both because cycling is comparatively rare and maybe there are political undertones involved, but that sort of shit used to happen to me all the time. I feel not one iota of guilt for getting it out of my life by running the red lights (by which I mean I either slow down quite a bit or come to a full stop and size up the cross road before crossing the intersection) where that's an issue.
posted by invitapriore at 7:28 PM on June 9, 2011


I have a question for my fellow bikers -- exactly what reason can you give for why one would want to run a red light?
Being stopped at a red light is very dangerous for a cyclist. Check out collision #5, the "red light of death", on this website. As soon as the light turns green, you're in the path of turning vehicles, and it's tough to stay out of their blind spots. Depending on the intersection, it can actually be safer to run the light, assuming you can slow down and make sure there's nothing coming in the other direction.

I stop at red lights, but I also claim the lane, which annoys drivers. I live in a pretty bike-friendly town, and it's the only time when I really sense hostility from drivers. I think they just don't focus on the danger from right-turning cars.
posted by craichead at 7:29 PM on June 9, 2011


yeah, despite what i said earlier i also generally subscribe to the "if i get home 5x faster, that's 5x fewer assholes who may do some shit as they try to pass me" theory.

aaaaand sometimes i just want to treat it like a video game because i'm a dumb young male who still kind of thinks he can't die


Here's a ? for you Empress, you ever drink and ride?
posted by nathancaswell at 7:33 PM on June 9, 2011


I have a question for my fellow bikers -- exactly what reason can you give for why one would want to run a red light? I honestly don't see the gain.

1. to get where I'm going sooner, 2. to get where I'm going with less effort, 3. to avoid having to cleat out of and back in to my pedals, and 4. to retain control of my bicycle. That's right: a bicycle is under control when moving, and out of control when stopped. So, you tell me: why would one stop?
posted by nicwolff at 7:50 PM on June 9, 2011


Here's a ? for you Empress, you ever drink and ride?

Nope.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:59 AM on June 10, 2011


Mitheral- That's sort of my point, though. There need to be regular places where motor vehicles can stop safely, and in the case of cabs and Access-A-Ride, with some form of curb access; keep in mind that cabs are the only genuinely good transit option for people with mobility issues. If there is are dedicated, regular places where they can stop, cars and trucks are going to be a lot less likely to stop where they shouldn't. Right now, very few such places (e.g., cab stands, loading zones) exist.

Empress- I used to live in a neighborhood where, at night, I was literally the only thing on the road. I would start out waiting for lights, but feel really, really silly sitting alone in the middle of the road. People walking by would ask if I was okay, since in their view, I was sitting immobile on my bike in the middle of the street for no reason.

In general, I just roll forward a little right before the light is going to turn green, both to get momentum, and to make sure the rightmost driver sees me. This usually doesn't involve going so far forward as the crosswalk, just enough so that I stick out a little past the person's front bumper.

And I don't bike drunk. I tried biking stoned once, in California, when I was 18. That was plenty to put the fear of god in me.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 7:16 AM on June 10, 2011


I have a question for my fellow bikers -- exactly what reason can you give for why one would want to run a red light? I honestly don't see the gain.

...

So basically....bikers run red lights because "I can get away with it and beat the cars neener neener -- oh, unless I get into an accident"?


I wouldn't say I "run" red lights. (To me) "running" red lights occurs when a motorist or biker accelerates quickly and crosses the intersection as the light is turning red or already 1-5 seconds red. She's late through the intersection.

It's actually rare to see "running" red lights from bikers, because, yeah, it's stupidly dangerous. Catching the tail end of a yellow is usually safe, but after that, check yourself.

I would say I generally treat red lights like stop signs where the cross traffic has the right of way, with extra caution because of the speeding that traffic lights can inspire. (I thought there was some state that allowed bikers to treat red lights like stop signs ... I'll look and post if I find it ...)

First, safety wise, it depends totally on the intersection. There's a huge difference between a red light at Folsom and 6th St. and a red light at a lonely (windy and rainy) intersection up in Diamond Heights. Even if it looks like nobody's around at 6th and Folsom, I'm going to be pretty sure of it before I cross. (On the flip side, you have a good view of all traffic, so you're generally pretty safe if all cars are > 1 block away.)

There are some lights that I will almost never cross on red (late-night exceptions), and some lights that I will almost always cross on red.

... but there is a general safety advantage in getting out in front of the cars before they start turning right. It's not about "beating cars," at least not for me. I find that sort of mentality encourages road rage. (I have a guess our friend nate may have been posting under the influence(s)?)

There are all sorts of unusual intersections in the city where you would be much safer crossing against the red when there is no cross traffic and getting ahead of cars turning in various directions. Or where something like deadly train tracks require some biking outside the lane.

It's just safer to be "in front" as opposed to "next to" cars.

Second, less justifiably (perhaps just for those who LIKE TO OBEY), if you're at a dead-quiet residential intersection at midnight Sunday and *no one* is around, how long are you going to wait at a stuck red light in a car? 5 minutes? 10? I contest most of you would not last 2.

How long would pedestrians wait after pushing a walk button with no cars around? 1 minute? Joggers? 15 seconds?

I stop, look, and cross. 3-5 seconds. Even if the light is changing, the faster I get through it, the faster it can switch back to its standard state, which is hopefully designed for max efficiency.

Cars are designed for stopping and starting. Bicycles are not. Drivers of cars have very limited visibility. Cyclists have unrestricted views (depending on how freaky your helmet is, I suppose). Cars and trucks weigh 3,000-7,000 lbs. My bike and I together weigh less than 200 (on good days ;). It's ridiculous to apply the same laws to both. So we OBEY in a manner that works best and we deem to be safest, while also working to amend laws that consider bicycles in traffic flow.

There are supposedly some lights somewhere that give cyclists a head start, which seems like a right approach, and one that might also have a side benefit of promoting biking.

(I'll toss a shoutout here to the (broken) city streets of Berkeley, CA, which have well-painted zones where bikes can stop and set off the traffic light sensors. They work quite well. Hey, you know what? I literally never cross those lights on red, because, hey, I don't need to because, hey, they were designed with bicycles in mind.)

I've never had an accident running a red light. I have been hit by a car running a red light.

Neener neener.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:10 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't say I "run" red lights. (To me) "running" red lights occurs when a motorist or biker accelerates quickly and crosses the intersection as the light is turning red or already 1-5 seconds red. She's late through the intersection.

It's actually rare to see "running" red lights from bikers, because, yeah, it's stupidly dangerous. Catching the tail end of a yellow is usually safe, but after that, check yourself.


I've actually seen bikers "running" red lights in the definition you use, and that's what I'm specifically talking about (not the tail-end-of-a-yellow thing). That's what I'm talking about, rather than the tail-end-of-a-yellow thing. Because, like you said, it's stupidly dangerous, but I see it a lot and do not for the life of me understand why someone would do that. But in this thread I've seen a lot of people try to defend it, and didn't know why you'd want to defend anything that is that dangerous.

But lots of people do things that put their lives at risk. Go figure. It's just that I sort of understand the argument behind "why I want to preserve my right to smoke" or something, even though I don't share it.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:18 AM on June 10, 2011


(I thought there was some state that allowed bikers to treat red lights like stop signs ... I'll look and post if I find it ...)

It's Idaho. The "Idaho stop" is to treat stop signs like yield signs (which I would submit pretty much all cyclists do, including the cycle cops around here) and to treat red lights like stop signs. That is to say: stop, make sure it's safe to go, and then go.
posted by craichead at 8:29 AM on June 10, 2011


And I don't bike drunk. I tried biking stoned once, in California, when I was 18. That was plenty to put the fear of god in me.

Biking stoned is fine for regular stoners. I might argue driving stoned is fine for patients who use regularly and pass a test when stoned. (Research: NIDA / NORML / Erowid).

Biking on LSD or any other sort of hallucinogen is not a great idea, but you probably won't get very far anyway.

Biking "drunk" really depends on how "drunk" you are and probably what sort of person/biker you are. It doesn't take that many drinks for most people to lose enough motor skill to make biking dangerous. A good friend of mine learned the lesson the hard way with 10 or so stitches across the chin.

Again, it also really depends where you are biking? Downtown? No I wouldn't bike drunk. Out in the country, or even in a suburban enclave sort with wide streets and/or sidewalks that nobody uses? Sure, I'd probably bike 3 sheets to the wind. If I were too drunk, I'd use the sidewalk. (Again, context is everything--on a busy rural highway, of course not.)

But I'd bike slowly and carefully. To me, the most important thing, for both drivers and bikers, is just slow the fuck down. Most accidents I have been party to or heard about seem to have involved speeding of what sort or another.

"Live slow, die young" applies to driving and biking perhaps more than anything else.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:31 AM on June 10, 2011


I've actually seen bikers "running" red lights in the definition you use, and that's what I'm specifically talking about (not the tail-end-of-a-yellow thing). That's what I'm talking about, rather than the tail-end-of-a-yellow thing. Because, like you said, it's stupidly dangerous, but I see it a lot and do not for the life of me understand why someone would do that. But in this thread I've seen a lot of people try to defend it, and didn't know why you'd want to defend anything that is that dangerous.

Nope, I don't think there's any defense for running red lights late. (I'm not so sure I see people here defending it either, though.)

The only possible defense would be that it was impossible for you to stop safely in time, i.e. you misjudged how quickly the yellow light would turn red, etc. It's still your fault, but it's a mistake that a new biker could make.

But yeah, most of the guys (and it is usually guys, sorry) who do it are just assholes who don't want to wait and don't care about pissing people off. That applies to drivers as well (where the gender breakdown is a much more balanced). I contend traffic laws that don't take bicycles into consideration encourage that derisive, us-vs-them attitude, however.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:36 AM on June 10, 2011


Nope, I don't think there's any defense for running red lights late. (I'm not so sure I see people here defending it either, though.)


I...kinda got the sense they were, but I'll let others address what context they meant.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:40 AM on June 10, 2011


(I thought there was some state that allowed bikers to treat red lights like stop signs ... I'll look and post if I find it ...)

Idaho

TITLE 49
MOTOR VEHICLES
CHAPTER 7
PEDESTRIANS AND BICYCLES
49-720.STOPPING -- TURN AND STOP SIGNALS. (1) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping.
(2) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to other traffic.


... and more that you might want to know about the Idaho yield law, and the reasons why bicyclists don't want to stop at red lights and stop signs.

Police in Idaho: Rolling Stop Sign Law Dandy

Recently I was giving a presentation in Nampa, Idaho, to a large group of transportation professionals. In the room: a police officer. I ask about Idaho’s unique stop sign law, as they are the one state that allows people on bikes to roll through stop signs if it is safe to do so.

“How’s it working for you?”

His response: a shoulder shrug and “fine.” He added, “Cyclists don’t stop anyway. We’ve got more pressing issues to deal with.”

...

“Officer Moores,” I ask. “Doesn’t it make it hard for you to teach kids about obeying traffic signs when “stop” doesn’t always mean stop for bicyclists?” This is a common refrain from opponents of the rolling stop sign concept.

His answer: “Nope.”

posted by mrgrimm at 8:44 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


That Idaho law sounds brilliant.

I'd also say that I wouldn't mind, as a pedestrian, if cyclists want to use the Idaho law everywhere. That would, of course, mean actually treating stop signs as yield signs, and not to simply blow through them without looking.
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:10 AM on June 10, 2011


But in this thread I've seen a lot of people try to defend it, and didn't know why you'd want to defend anything that is that dangerous.

I wouldn't defend you doing it, and I wouldn't make a general case that it's safe or smart or should be legal. But I've been running red lights in Manhattan since 1980 or so, and when I do it it's because I know from massive experience that I safely can, and for the reasons nicwolff gave above (which you maybe didn't see?)

No cars coming? Run it. The first cars at the light are turning? Run it. I'm on the downstream side of the intersection, where crossing traffic can't get to me? Run it. (And, traffic permitting, I will weave back and forth across an avenue to be at the downstream side of every intersection while the lights are red.)

Once you can do it, once you've been doing it for years, enjoying all the advantages of continuous motion, you'd have to have a good reason to stop. You say it's dangerous, but I have the skill to do it safely. Ged says it's a crime, but that doesn't bother me. So, 30 years now of running red lights; no helmet, no bell, no gears, no reflectors, no clips, no hands. No tickets, no fights, no accidents, no fear.

Unless you can do it, you shouldn't try. You stay safe at your level, and I'll stay safe at mine. But until age, responsibility, or the NYPD makes it too risky, I'm not likely to limit myself to what you can do.
posted by Now I'm Prune Tracy! at 10:11 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


That still doesn't answer my question, prune tracy -- you've gone to great lengths to justify your ability to run red lights, but you have not explained your desire to do so.

I understand that you believe you can do it safely. But what benefits are you getting from doing it in the first place?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:29 AM on June 10, 2011


OK, so you didn't see nicwolff's comment?
1. to get where I'm going sooner, 2. to get where I'm going with less effort, 3. to avoid having to cleat out of and back in to my pedals, and 4. to retain control of my bicycle. That's right: a bicycle is under control when moving, and out of control when stopped.
Although I ride with toe clips, I'd give the same basic list. Especially the point about not stopping -- that's when I feel most vulnerable on a bicycle, when I'm stopped with one foot down and the only way I can move at all is to hop around and try not to fall over. I think I've fallen more times while stopped than while moving!

Do you not ride with clips or cleats? That may be a big part of why you can't imagine not wanting to stop. But, you really can't ride a bicycle well in the city without them; you have almost no ability to accelerate, and any little pothole or patch can pop you off your pedals and maybe off your bike.

Huh, I wonder how well the pro- and anti-stop schism correlates with clipped-in and non-clipped riders?
posted by Now I'm Prune Tracy! at 10:52 AM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't ride with clips or cleats. I have no problem riding in the city without them; probably because I tend to not go too fast, and can steer around potholes safely.

A tangential question, though - you say that you get to where you're going sooner. How much sooner?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:54 AM on June 10, 2011


I've actually seen bikers "running" red lights in the definition you use, and that's what I'm specifically talking about (not the tail-end-of-a-yellow thing). That's what I'm talking about, rather than the tail-end-of-a-yellow thing. Because, like you said, it's stupidly dangerous, but I see it a lot and do not for the life of me understand why someone would do that. But in this thread I've seen a lot of people try to defend it, and didn't know why you'd want to defend anything that is that dangerous.

I'm not sure I've seen anybody in this thread advocating for that (maybe except for nathancaswell) and that's certainly not what I was talking about. Red lights as stop or yield signs is more like it.
posted by invitapriore at 11:22 AM on June 10, 2011


Nope, not advocating. She asked why I do it and I explained why.

It's a personal choice and it's one I probably shouldn't make but I still do. In fact, when I'm riding with someone else (unless it's one of my friends who ride even more aggressively than I do) I actively remind myself not to run reds / make other aggressive moves because I don't want them to feel compelled to try to follow and do something they're not comfortable with. I ride much more conservatively if I'm riding with one of my friends who is not, for example, a former messenger.
posted by nathancaswell at 11:34 AM on June 10, 2011


I'm not sure I've seen anybody in this thread advocating for that (maybe except for nathancaswell) and that's certainly not what I was talking about. Red lights as stop or yield signs is more like it.

Someone advocates it here, and here someone is actually saying they're safer if they run red lights.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:29 PM on June 10, 2011


I don't ride with clips or cleats.

Well I think that settles it. If you ride in espadrilles or whatever, on flat rubber pedals, then for God's sake stop at red lights, and stay on separated bike paths. You can't accelerate, you can't hop a pothole, you basically can't safely go fast or maneuver at all. I wouldn't ride in NYC without cleats or clips for all the US debt in China. Hell, after riding cleated for the last 10 or 15 years I wouldn't willingly go back to clips!

So, will you admit that what you are doing is very different from what I am doing? And that maybe you're the expert on your thing, and me on mine?

Oh, and I'm just back from a ride and I've thought of another reason to run reds: you then have the whole street to yourself except for turning cars for at least one block. You spend all your time riding among moving cars or being overtaken; I spend most of mine riding on empty streets or passing stopped cars.
posted by nicwolff at 2:35 PM on June 10, 2011


Someone advocates it here, and here someone is actually saying they're safer if they run red lights.

I understood that as the slow or come to a stop type of "running" in both cases, because they obviously wouldn't be making themselves safer otherwise. It's still running a light if you go through it when it's red, no matter whether you came to a stop beforehand.
posted by invitapriore at 3:19 PM on June 10, 2011


you say that you get to where you're going sooner. How much sooner?

Between the toe clips and the red lights, and being generally awesome? I'm gonna say that I can get from point A to point B in 1/3 the time in Manhattan, or 1/2 the time Manhattan to Brooklyn.
posted by Now I'm Prune Tracy! at 3:49 PM on June 10, 2011


Someone advocates it here, and here someone is actually saying they're safer if they run red lights.

As for the latter: I think they were referring to jumping red lights (stopping at first, but going once there is no cross-traffic and the light will soon be green, but is currently still red). This is, of course, against the law, but I have a personal connection to a young woman who was killed because she waited for the green to go and was then hit by a right-turning truck that crossed the bike lane. It sounds like a common way for deferential cyclists to be injured.

ged, your legal philosophy is rather primitive -- you really shouldn't obey a law when it endangers you and benefits no one, which is what these cyclists are saying waiting through a whole red light, and going on the green from the bike lane, is far too likely to do. A classic, and a very engaging read: H.L.A. Hart!
posted by palliser at 1:40 PM on June 11, 2011


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