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June 8, 2011 6:38 PM   Subscribe

A few good examples of why it’s NOT always the best idea to stay within the bike lane, even if it costs you a ticket. (via)
posted by dunkadunc (165 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite

 
This man has a point. Unfortunately, it's buried deep beneath the part where he's a douchebag.
posted by KChasm at 6:44 PM on June 8, 2011 [35 favorites]


If I'm reading this comment correctly, that's by metafilter's own.

And yeah, the bike blogs seem to be kind of divided about whether he's a jerk or not.
posted by craichead at 6:45 PM on June 8, 2011


"You're not giving him a ticket!" Stopped watching there. Every single time i hear that, it's a D-Bag thinking just because some other crime is happening they have the right to act how they want and shouldn't get a ticket. Living in a college town i hear this a LOT, kids drinking, public urination, vandals, etc.
posted by usagizero at 6:46 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, the law is... you have to ride in the bike lane unless the lane is obstructed? And he's being ticketed for riding out of the bike lane to avoid obstructions?

Seems like the best defense is to take photos with a cell phone while the cop is writing your ticket showing the obstruction (and the cop in the photo wouldn't hurt) and then challenge the ticket in court.
posted by hippybear at 6:46 PM on June 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


Seems like the best defense is to take photos with a cell phone while the cop is writing your ticket showing the obstruction (and the cop in the photo wouldn't hurt) and then challenge the ticket in court.
I think I probably would not try that on an NYC cop.
posted by craichead at 6:49 PM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Why not? The guy in the video was filming the cop for this youtube video. What's the difference?
posted by hippybear at 6:52 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Stick with the video all the way through; it gets a lot better. the twist at the end is that it is in fact not illegal to ride outside of the bike lane.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:53 PM on June 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


"You're not giving him a ticket!" Stopped watching there.

Yeah, that is pretty much the wrong time to stop watching the video, actually.
posted by hippybear at 6:54 PM on June 8, 2011 [24 favorites]


Bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers, bad manner all around.
posted by nickyskye at 6:54 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bike lanes are a work of the devil. Positively lethal. The cheapest possible way for municipalities to pretend they're being bike friendly without actually doing anything.
posted by unSane at 6:55 PM on June 8, 2011 [23 favorites]


But he's doing the city a favor!

Seriously, I hate that attitude. I always cringe when I see a "one less car" shirt or sticker too. No, it's not one less car. You're not entitled to a car.

Having said that, some of the staged crashes made me chuckle.
posted by roll truck roll at 6:55 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Toronto has no such law (although try telling that to the average driver), but it appears that NYC really does mandate use of the bike lane, even when it's stupid and unsafe:
Lafayette is a one-way avenue, northbound at this point, with the bike lane on the left hand side of the street. The lane begins just two blocks south. Cyclists riding north on neighboring Centre Street must merge onto Lafayette just where the bike lane starts. But they end up on the right-hand side of Lafayette. So that means they then have to cross two lanes of traffic to reach the bike lane. Many do not, especially if they plan to make a right turn soon after.

The police were parked in a van on the left side of the street, about one block after the lane starts. At one point they had pulled over two cyclists at the same time.
posted by maudlin at 6:56 PM on June 8, 2011


I thought it was illegal to ride a fixie with that haircut. In the bike lane. At night.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:57 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


also, though, despite the city as a whole investing heavily in bike infrastructure, 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.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 6:57 PM on June 8, 2011 [19 favorites]


Yeah, definitely starts out annoying and whiny and gets better in my opinion.
posted by meinvt at 6:57 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bike lanes are a work of the devil. Positively lethal. The cheapest possible way for municipalities to pretend they're being bike friendly without actually doing anything.

Amen. John Forester, the country's preeminent bicycle traffic engineer says the safest cycling technique is to ride like a car, following the laws.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:03 PM on June 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


He's not wearing a helmet! I would take his safety concerns much more seriously if he took basic safety seriously by wearing a helmet.

(yes, I am a cyclist/pedestrian, and I've ridden in and out of bike lanes. Helmets are the first safety measure, followed by defensive cycling).
posted by jb at 7:05 PM on June 8, 2011 [9 favorites]


the safest cycling technique is to ride like a car

Safest except in the sense that if the guy in the Cadillac Escalade behind you thinks he could go even 1 mph faster if you weren't there, he will FUCKING KILL YOU.
posted by George_Spiggott at 7:06 PM on June 8, 2011 [11 favorites]


The crashes were cute. I think it would have been easier to like if it were just about the obstruction in the bike lanes and aggressive ticketing without the personal vendetta aspect. I didn't have any experiences with over-zealous police, but many bike lanes might as well be marked "double parking only" in NYC. It's totally a valid issue.

And sometimes you just get stupid tickets. I got an open container summons once just because the officer wanted to show a vanful of trainees how to do it. I thought it was stupid, but I got over it.
posted by snofoam at 7:08 PM on June 8, 2011


I don't get the hate for this guy. He clearly seems to be a veteran biker, out in all weather, and makes an amusing point about people blocking bike lanes with little regard to bikers' safety. It just seems like such a minor infraction to pull him over and ticket him.

If a guy had gotten pulled over in a car for something petty, like not using a turn signal, people would be screaming about cops and their abuses of authority.
posted by boubelium at 7:08 PM on June 8, 2011 [22 favorites]


I must say, the combination of assholery and pratfalls was nice. It would be like the co-ed from a couple of months ago complaining about all the Asians in her university library finishing her rant then getting up, walking away from camera, and plummeting down an open manhole.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:13 PM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


"He's not wearing a helmet! I would take his safety concerns much more seriously if he took basic safety seriously by wearing a helmet."

Whats wrong with bike helmets. I do wear one, but I bristle at this preachy bullshit
posted by Blasdelb at 7:13 PM on June 8, 2011 [34 favorites]


people who ride bikes are actually ethically better people.

I've been googling to try and reply with a snarky image link, but it has actually started to get a little creepy. I can't find any pics of historically recognized evil people on bicycles.

Could it be that centuries of ethical study, philosophy, thought and work were all for naught? Is the answer not "Act only according to that maxim whereby you can, at the same time, will that it should become a universal law.", but, "Ride a Bicycle."?

Anybody got a picture of an evil person on a bicycle?
posted by SomeOneElse at 7:14 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Toronto is a mix of really fantastic and really terrible bike planning. The network of recreation trails along the lakeshore and through the ravines is absolutely fantastic for getting around the city as it's extensive and it separates bikes completely from other vehicular traffic. But the bike lanes are horrific -- often taking you along the side of a row of parked cars, which is just asking to be doored or squished by some moron trying to pass you too close.
posted by unSane at 7:16 PM on June 8, 2011


the video linked by nickyskye shows that a lot of New Yorkers are terrible drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. All three groups broke traffic rules. but, though it pains me to say, the cyclists were by far the worst and had some serious violations (like weaving in an out of traffic, or even weaving in and out of traffic while riding against traffic like they were auditioning for Grand Theft 3-Speed).
posted by jb at 7:16 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Anybody got a picture of an evil person on a bicycle?

You mean like this?
posted by unSane at 7:18 PM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


Anybody got a picture of an evil person on a bicycle?

Perhaps this?
posted by Clyde Mnestra at 7:25 PM on June 8, 2011 [4 favorites]


They're uncomfortably young to be called evil, regardless of what they've been led to believe by evil parents and role-models.

How about this, instead?
posted by tapesonthefloor at 7:27 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Anybody got a picture of an evil person on a bicycle?

Here we go.
posted by logicpunk at 7:27 PM on June 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


helmets don't excuse you from riding safely and legally -- but even very safe riders fall, and even small accidents can lead to serious head injuries. It's a tiny, easy thing to do and makes a huge difference.

That said, we should do more to educate kids and adults on riding safely and legally. Personally, I would require liscensing for riding on city streets -- not because I want to add a layer of beurocracy, but because currently there is no formal cycling education in Toronto. there is a cycling guide at the driver liscensing places, but as a non-driver I'd never been there and had no idea it existed.

We already have a simple licensing system for boating in Ontario - online test on rules, safety, etc - we could set up one just to make sure that everyone has at least read the rules. Of course, I'm a bike-riding pinko, so I would put the study material online for free and not charge more than $15 for the test.

I would also have the police come back to schools about middle-school time and do lectures on traffic laws (what all the various signs and paint mean, what the laws are for pedestrians, bicycles and cars -- basically what you learn in drivers ed but don't formally learn if -like me- you've never done driver's Ed). They do talks in grade one, but that's too simple; they need to come back when the kids are older and just beginning to be too big to ride on sidewalks.
posted by jb at 7:29 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Amen. John Forester, the country's preeminent bicycle traffic engineer says the safest cycling technique is to ride like a car, following the laws.

I will stand safely on the sidewalk applauding him as he makes a stupid-assed legal left-hand turn in a busy intersection in heavy traffic with cars honking and buzzing him.
posted by ovvl at 7:30 PM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


If a guy had gotten pulled over in a car for something petty, like not using a turn signal, people would be screaming about cops and their abuses of authority.

No, I'd be saying that officer deserves a commendation. People who don't use their turn signals are scum and very dangerous scum to bicyclists. Going 15 MPH over the speed limit on a clear highway is fine, but turn/change lanes without signaling an I will want to murder you.
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:32 PM on June 8, 2011 [35 favorites]


Ovvl, how else would you suggest I make a left hand turn? From the RIGHT lane? Now that would be stupid.
posted by MrBobaFett at 7:35 PM on June 8, 2011


"He's not wearing a helmet! I would take his safety concerns much more seriously if he took basic safety seriously by wearing a helmet."

Whats wrong with bike helmets. I do wear one, but I bristle at this preachy bullshit


Oh come on. The guy is deliberately crashing into things. The *least* he should do is wear a helmet.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 7:39 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


They need to design a helmet to protect cyclists from moralists.
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:39 PM on June 8, 2011 [14 favorites]


*Bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers, bad manners all around
posted by nickyskye at 7:41 PM on June 8, 2011


Ovvl, how else would you suggest I make a left hand turn?

I'm not ovvl, but depending on the congestion, terrain, familiarity of the neighbourhood, presence or absence of streetcar tracks, and ambient levels of sanity, I have two options:

1) Left turns from the left hand lane. Changing to that lane, even when assertive and blatantly signalling, requires relatively light traffic and sane drivers. Does not work when I'm anywhere near a highway as this makes drivers unusually aggressive and anxious.

2) From the right hand lane, I go forward alongside the crosswalk, parallel to pedestrians, then hitch my bike around at that far corner and wait for my green on that cross street.
posted by maudlin at 7:45 PM on June 8, 2011


I only ride offroad these days and falls on the trails are a lot more common than falls on the road BUT every year at least one person I'm riding with has a fall that's hard enough to destroy a helmet. Most people walk away, a few have been taken out in an ambulance but nobody died. I shudder to think what would have happened without the helmets.

(For instance, the kid who rode smack bang into a tree and left a mark where his helmet hit it. When I came along he was still out cold. Or the two guys who, on separate occasions, went head first off wooden features and hung on to the handlebars all the way down. Or the guy who flipped his bike backwards going up a stone slope. Or... you get it.)

I refuse to ride with someone who doesn't wear a helmet, and I carry a spare one just in case. You can call me preachy but I've seen lives saved, so it doesn't bother me.
posted by unSane at 7:47 PM on June 8, 2011 [10 favorites]


Damn, the dude was arguing with a cop and getting sort of loud? I guess he just got lucky... unless there was some other way to explain that discrepancy.
posted by codacorolla at 7:53 PM on June 8, 2011


Well, he wasn't black, so there's that.
posted by unSane at 7:55 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


jb: It's a tiny, easy thing to do and makes a huge difference.

No actually. It is huge and irritating thing to do that makes a tiny difference.

jb: We already have a simple licensing system for [...] and not charge more than $15 for the test.

?!?!! You advocate licensing cyclists? Seriously? You think the government of Ontario is capable of charging less than $80 for issuing an ID or certificate of any kind? Seriously?
posted by Chuckles at 7:58 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I only ride offroad these days and falls on the trails are a lot more common than falls on the road BUT every year at least one person I'm riding with has a fall that's hard enough to destroy a helmet.

Offroad and downhill is a really good time to wear a helmet. Especially a full face helmet.

I don't often wear a helmet on my short urban riding. For starters - there's a lot of controversy about the Snell helmet standard here in the US. Those hard foam helmets are pretty bad at protecting an impact and they only work for particular impacts. In addition to that drivers treat you with more space and respect if you're not wearing a helmet because they're more scared of/for you. Sometimes I'll intentionally ride a little wobbly in tight spots and pretend to be a noob to enforce enough passing space as well.

I also take good care of my bike, inspect it often, ride very safely and defensively and I don't trust anything with a motor or walking on legs. Or anything with a door. I even share space with pedestrians on sidewalks here in Seattle where it's legal, and unless I have a free and clear sidewalk with lots of wide space in front of shop front doors - we're talking walking speed plus a MPH or two. In 30 years of riding a bike I've never even come close to impacting a pedestrian, or being hit by a car.

I also have a long history with skateboarding, offroading and generally doing dumb things with wheels. I'm really good at bailing, rolling, crashing and keeping my head and face off the ground when I do. It's a natural instinct. And I pretty much never crash just riding around on a bike when I'm not doing something dumb.

And I've had a couple of accidents where if I'd had a helmet on the injuries would have been worse. One crash in particular involved a cheap bike. The front wheel came apart when I hopped off a curb at a high speed. The forks came down in the spokes and I completely endo'ed and did a full face plant. However, somehow the momentum of my legs and bike upside down above me pulled me up off of my face before I slid and/or fully impacted with the ground. Yeah, I was super lucky. I had bits of gravel and sand in my mouth. But part of that was me keeping most of my head off the ground with my fists and hands as I dived into the ground. But if I was wearing a "recommended" foam/aero style modern helmet the helmet would have grabbed the ground and I probably would have broken my neck.

And when it comes to cars vs. bikes, it's really a gamble with or without a helmet. I'll never argue that someone shouldn't choose to wear a helmet, but I have my reasons for not wearing one and they're valid reasons.

Feel free to laugh at me and tell me how wrong I was if I somehow end up in the hospital with brain trauma that a helmet could have prevented, but it's really not likely that that'll happen to me. I'm personally more likely to die of a massive heart attack just blowing my damn nose or taking a strenuous shit.

(Granted, I also don't ride in NYC.)
posted by loquacious at 8:07 PM on June 8, 2011 [8 favorites]


Anybody got a picture of an evil person on a bicycle?

A late contender: 1 and 2.
posted by andoatnp at 8:07 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


If the cop gave him that ticket for riding around an obstruction, that'd be unambiguously stupid, and so he'd presumably have brought that up in his complaint. That he didn't bring it up, indicates a high likelihood that he was in fact riding around outside of an unobstructed bike lane, for whatever reason. The law may be wrong, and may need to be changed, but I think it's clear that he broke the law as it stands, and jackassing around riding into easily, legally, avoided obstacles doesn't help make his point.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 8:08 PM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Feel free to laugh at me and tell me how wrong I was if I somehow end up in the hospital with brain trauma that a helmet could have prevented, but it's really not likely that that'll happen to me.

Well, it's your brain, but I have a list as long as your arm of just-riding-along accidents that have happened to me and other acquaintances. Generally really, really stupid things at fairly low speed where your attention is diverted for a second as you are doodling around a parking lot and then WHAM you make up five minutes later on the ground and not really knowing what happened until you spot the 1" diameter rock your front wheel hit.

People are naturally cautious when they are doing dangerous things, or at least things they perceive as being dangerous. They are naturally incautious when doing things they perceive as safe, which is one reason why low-speed bike accidents can often be the most serious.
posted by unSane at 8:16 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am a law-abiding cyclist, but I will be GOD-DAMNED before I give either the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto any money for the privilege of doing something that they already actively do their best to make difficult, or even dangerous, for me. I can't even ride down College street without having to avoid multiple cars parked in the bike lane, and I'm considering switching to at least a front suspension MTB because the surface on the Davenport bike lanes is so bad that my headset is starting to come loose. FUCK bike licenses!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:20 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


As an aside -- on the full face thing -- I have three different helmets. One is a regular Bell helmet, one is a Giro full-face for downhill, and one is an absolutely awesome MET Parachute helmet which has a removable chin-guard, so you can use it as a regular helmet when climbing up a hill, then turn it into a sort of full face when descending. My son wears one too, after he piled off a skinny and smashed his teeth...

Anyway, one day I went to ride my regular trail and looked in my bag and realized I'd left my XC helmet at home and only had the full-face (I guess I'd been downhilling the week before or something). So I thought -- OK, what the hell, I'll wear the full-face. I got about a kilometer into the ride -- the easiest part of the trail that I've ridding a thousand times -- when suddenly WHAM the bike goes out from under me and I'm lying on the ground groaning. The FF helmet had saved me from a really nasty jaw-plant, but when I tried to work out what happened I realized that it had cut off my peripheral vision so I didn't see my front wheel stray into a patch of loose gravel.

I guess you can figure out your own moral from that.
posted by unSane at 8:22 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess you can figure out your own moral from that.

Now that sounds sane.
posted by kneecapped at 8:29 PM on June 8, 2011


I guess you can figure out your own moral from that.

Heh...

But seriously... You are taking crazy risks 'cause you think that makes you cool. You use that experience to inform your opinion about people doing normal every day stuff. Don't do that.
posted by Chuckles at 8:31 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


what
posted by unSane at 8:36 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


I don't often wear a helmet on my short urban riding...

Holy crap, who are you trying to convince here?
posted by Brocktoon at 8:38 PM on June 8, 2011


I figured this would turn into another car vs bike thread. Didn't expect this helmet/no-helmet thing.
posted by 6550 at 8:41 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


heh, you haven't hung around bike forums enough
posted by unSane at 8:42 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Oh, c'mon people, it's like you weren't even trying.
posted by docgonzo at 8:44 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ooh, I got one! On a fixie, no less.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:48 PM on June 8, 2011


Oh, and I think cyclists should always wear helmets unless they are taking pratfalls. Slapstick with a helmet is comedy fail.
posted by hydrophonic at 8:49 PM on June 8, 2011


Ultimate evil on a bike.
posted by unSane at 8:50 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Speaking as someone who is about to start cycling around Toronto, I wouldn't mind seeing a licensing system for cyclists. Assuming it was accompanied by a corresponding educational and testing system for cyclists that made those licenses meaningful instead of just a cash grab to pay for bicycle lanes. (I wouldn't totally oppose a cash grab, either, assuming it paid for bicycle lanes or other bike-focused improvements to the city, in much the same way I didn't oppose the car registration fee.)

I can barely get a bike started at this point, and I can't do it without veering about four feet to my left, but I can totally legally get on the bike I do not yet own and ride around on Toronto's streets making things dangerous for everyone in a 200 meter radius around my incompetence. I don't plan to do this, because I have a special soft spot in my heart for not dying a horrible death, but legally speaking, there's not a damn thing stopping me.

There probably should be.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:59 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Cop Blocks Bike Lane To Ticket Cyclists For Not Using Lane

Cop Parked in Bike Lane While Ticketing Cyclist Gets Chewed Out by Another
posted by Combustible Edison Lighthouse at 9:11 PM on June 8, 2011 [6 favorites]


and people like roll truck roll are idiots, people who ride bikes are actually ethically better people.

Of course, all cyclists are virtuous moral people: the guy on the mountain bike who drove into me (from behind) as I was walking on Vancouver's seawall knocking me off the wall and into the rocks below? (I was on the pedestrian path, not on the bike path, but so was he) So was the guy on the bike who killed my friend's dog (little dog, big guy, much merry laughter as he rode away...)? Or the many cyclists who ride (fast) on sidewalks, the wrong way in traffic, into children in strollers, through pedestrians at crosswalks, the wrong way down icy roads, in the dark, without a light, wearing black?

Exactly which of these people are morally superior to me, the pedestrian who dares get in the way?

It's not being splashed, knocked over, run into and swerved at that I object to, so much as the perpetual cry of the virtuous urban cyclist: "Fuckyou bitch get out of my way; I don't have to stop for you; you loser pedestrians are just too FUCKING SLOW; fuck you cunt I have a right to be on the sidewalk; Fuck you, what the hell were you doing there; Hey! you scratched my bike, you bitch!"

Forgive me, oh creature of higher virtue, that I do bleed on your blessed machine of sharp spiky metal protrusions when you ride it into my leg. How dare I object to playing the role of medieval peasant to your knight!

Oddly, unlike the peasant, I have a hard time seeing myself as congenitally inferior.
posted by jrochest at 9:28 PM on June 8, 2011 [12 favorites]


You sure like the way those words sound, eh?
posted by unSane at 9:31 PM on June 8, 2011


I always cringe when I see a "one less car" shirt or sticker too.

I cringe because it should be "one fewer car."
posted by valrus at 9:32 PM on June 8, 2011 [30 favorites]


I like how this thread kind of became about Toronto.
posted by skwt at 9:52 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


Natural selection will take care of the helmetless riders soon enough. No point arguing over it. Everyone crashes eventually.
posted by humanfont at 9:55 PM on June 8, 2011


It's quite predictable how any Metafilter post about fair treatment of bicyclists as equal users of the road leads to several dozen, "why are y'all so uppity?" comments. I'm curious why it's so hard to identify with people who ride bicycles.

Whether or not it's a choice that you feel that you are comfortable with making for yourself, it is clearly the most environmentally friendly and traffic calming choice and that benefits all of us. Honestly, you should know that all the backlash sounds like rationalizing. What is being rationalized here?
posted by Skwirl at 9:59 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


jrochest is correct: there are a lot of dicky, oblivious cyclists. I get to say this as someone who rides his bike to work and also does long-ass road and offroad rides on the weekend.

That fact is not exclusive of the fact that there is also a vast quantity of dicky drivers and dicky DICKY LEOs.
posted by everichon at 10:02 PM on June 8, 2011


Bike riders are naturally uppity. It's in the DNA for some reason. That's one of the reasons I like it so much.
posted by unSane at 10:02 PM on June 8, 2011


Here we have a mixed bag of goods. The guy is unjustly given an unjust ticket, and acts like a douche to the cop. "Why don't you give that guy a ticket?" is not a good defense. And we never actually see the reason he was riding outside the lane to begin with.

He redeems himself with the staged crashes. Very funny, gets his point across very well, and somewhat impressive stuntwork, given that he's got no helmet or pads.

Seriously, bike lanes like that are a joke. Drivers don't give two shits about them, and will drive and park on them as a matter of course. The parting shot in this video is the lede, buried: cops should be ticketing those who block the bike paths.

And cities need to follow the European example of creating bike-only paths, separated from auto traffic.
posted by zardoz at 10:02 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yeah, I'm with those who say there are a lot of shitty urban bike riders.
posted by unSane at 10:03 PM on June 8, 2011


I will stand safely on the sidewalk applauding him as he makes a stupid-assed legal left-hand turn in a busy intersection in heavy traffic with cars honking and buzzing him.

I make legal left-hand turns all the time. I don't feel all that secure doing it, but acting like a car whenever possible (which means stopping at lights and stop signs) is really the safest way to go.

I'm lucky that I live in Victoria, BC, which is pretty used to cyclists. At the same time, the one place where motorists act all weird is at 4-way-stops. Bicyclists are treated as though they weren't even there.

In tight spaces, when I hear a car about to overtake me, I also wobble around a bit, to get the cars to back off and slow down.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:04 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like how this thread kind of became about Toronto.

Yeah, even if you're being ironic, I agree, because Toronto is an awesome bike town. It doesn't have much of a douchey hipster fixie culture but it is a BIG bike center and it has ridiculously great places to ride your bike, from the Lakeshore to the Don and all the amazing road rides you can do around town.
posted by unSane at 10:06 PM on June 8, 2011


jrochest: Those are all really awful anecdotes. Car drivers do all kinds of sociopaths or careless things, but it's A LOT easier to cause major damage in a car, which is why it's the #1 cause of accidental death in the US.

Obviously it's incredibly silly to say X group is more ethical than Y group. But it's pretty clear that when an actor has good intent and can make an ethical choice between action (a) which is very likely to do accidental harm and action (b) which is significantly less likely to do accidental harm, (b) is a more ethical choice with all other things being equal. Pedestrian rights and bicycle rights are very closely tied together.
posted by Skwirl at 10:08 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bike riders are naturally uppity. It's in the DNA for some reason. That's one of the reasons I like it so much.

And sometimes this is a good thing. When I was 16 and a freshly minted driver, I stopped my car in a bike lane for some reason, and a cyclist came up behind me and yelled at me for it. I never stopped in a bike lane again, although it would be years and years before I really understood how annoying it is when drivers do that.
posted by cmonkey at 10:32 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


jrochest: That sucks, and if I saw something like that in person I'd say something.

Bikes can mix with both pedestrians and traffic. I wish I had one of those extreme action cameras so I could document how I safely and politely ride in mixed traffic whether it's pedestrians on sidewalks or on the street with cars. Even the Seattle police who do bike patrols do it, and they're good at it.

Pedestrians always take priority, and I indicate that with body language and verbal communication as needed. I say "Thank you" or "no, you first" and defer to pedestrians. Or stop, wait for them to cross paths if we've misread each other. Or walk when I need to. I often cruise around the Seattle Center (like dozens or hundreds of others) on my bike and kids are always dashing in front of me and I always expect and prepare for it dozens of feet ahead. I treat a bike like a dangerous object like people should treat a car, because it is and I don't like being hit or bit by it, either.

Granted, I'm conscientious than a hell of a lot of people, but my special unicorn snowflake heart just can't take it when people are pissed off at me because of my bike. I'm very fond of bikes and I want people to like them.

and then WHAM you make up five minutes later on the ground and not really knowing what happened until you spot the 1" diameter rock your front wheel hit.

This just doesn't happen when I ride. I know it happens to people quite often, and I know it sounds like bragging or claims of elite ninja skills or whatever, but it just doesn't happen. You wouldn't be able to tell or agree with me unless you went on a ride with me at my pace and followed my lead and riding style. I see and avoid staples and small shards of glass less than a centimeter on the ground because I really don't like fixing flats. I generally wear out a set of tires before I get a puncture, and I ride in glass strewn alleys and streets around Belltown and downtown Seattle.
posted by loquacious at 10:34 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Bicycling is the greatest.

Helmets are a great idea for offroading, less so for riding in traffic. I have one and never wear it, but still like my chances of not being naturally selected while on my bicycle, what with the care I practice while riding. I suspect that there are habitual cyclists out there who have managed to avoid getting killed due to helmetlessness.

Bike lanes are terrible in the places where you'd think they'd be good. I fear and despise them, especially the one on College St.

Self-righteousness is the worst. Bicycles are among the greatest machines ever invented, but they don't improve moral quality any more than accepting Jesus Christ as one's personal Lord and Saviour.
posted by Casimir at 10:35 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Turns out it's not illegal to ride outside of the bike lane. End of story.
posted by gallois at 11:14 PM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know how to eat it on a bike safely from years of practice and even I was pretty amazed at the horrendous diggers that guy was taking. At one point he totally crashes on a curb/sidewalk with poles everywhere. I'm amazed he walked away ready to go again, Jackass style.
posted by mathowie at 11:49 PM on June 8, 2011


People who don't want to wear bicycle helmets sound a lot like the people who didn't want to wear seat belts back when they were made mandatory. Stuff like "I'm a careful driver; I don't need no stinking seat belt." and "But they're uncomfortable." and "They just add another cost I can't afford."

Is there a bicycle helmet equivalent of the old "What if there's a fire, or I drive into a canal, and I'm trapped in the car by the seat belt?!" argument?
posted by pracowity at 11:54 PM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


Evil on a bike!

Evil on a bike!
posted by painquale at 12:03 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


In the words of my Texan uncle, "A pedestarian always has the right of way, but he's a damned fool to insist upon it."

I'm sure that a similar truism exists for the behavior of some bicyclists. If it doesn't, it should.
posted by Graygorey at 12:08 AM on June 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


Is there a bicycle helmet equivalent of the old "What if there's a fire, or I drive into a canal, and I'm trapped in the car by the seat belt?!" argument?

Not exactly, but there's a reasonably persistent argument in cycling circles that helmets create an illusion that cyclists are more protected than they actually are, allowing motorists to be more blase about their safety - that is, if no cyclists wore helmets, motorists might be more careful.

Sounds overly optimistic about motorists paying attention to what's going on around them, to me.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:16 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Evil on a bike? Two dollars, same as in town.
posted by louche mustachio at 12:25 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


This helmet argument is the dumbest thing I've ever heard. I know two people whose helmets slammed the pavement hard enough for them to momentarily pass out. One also got a neck / shoulder injury from the impact. They credit the intactness of their skulls to helmets they promptly replaced. To argue they're equally safe sounds incredibly dumb to me. Anyone care to prove me wrong with a cite?
posted by salvia at 12:42 AM on June 9, 2011


Man, bikes are too hard. Let's nationally replace them with trikes.
posted by Mooseli at 12:49 AM on June 9, 2011


The stats on effectiveness of helmet use are hazy at best.

Personally I wear a helmet when I'm on my road bike, but not when I'm on my upright bike hauling groceries. I really don't give a fuck whether the rest of my cyclist friends wear one because it's a personal thing. It would be a moot point if every city had proper bike infrastructure and strict liability for motorists. Things like mandatory helmet laws decrease the number of cyclists and that's the last thing I want to have happen.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 12:56 AM on June 9, 2011


Anyone care to prove me wrong with a cite?

How reliable do you want that cite? The web is of course infested with cranky sites that will claim to prove pretty much anything you care to to imagine, but bicycle sites seem to be -- or is it my imagination? -- slightly higher on the crank scale than other hobbyist sites?

As with other areas of research involving lots of people and government policy, there are lots of studies, some good and some bad, some old and some new, some indicating X and some indicating not X. The cites and anecdata you'll get will depend a lot on who's giving them to you. If you really want to believe in something, you can always cherry-pick a few reports that appear to support your view.

But big agencies such as the World Health Organisation, CDC, and the British Medical Association continue to recommend that you wear a helmet for increased safety and they don't appear to give much credence to anti-helmet theorizing from people who don't want to wear helmets.
posted by pracowity at 1:28 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's funny how many people will look at something like poverty or crime as a cultural/social problem in need of a collective solution, but something like cycling as a completely personal phenomena

This chart from the "what's wrong with helmets" link does a good job showing how much culture and infrastructure matter to cycling. Go cycle around the Netherlands - no one wears a helmet and no one gets hit because they have ubiquitous high-quality bike lanes, generally marked separate from pedestrian space and with a barrier separating them both from the highway. And in cities where things mush together more cars are less common, slower, and respectful to the point of deference to cyclists and pedestrians. It took me a while to get the courage to just coast through crosswalks and take turns in roundabouts after realizing the cars *literally always stopped*

All the "US cyclists are so rude" hate is badly misplaced. Most of the dangerous or rule-breaking things US cyclists do are for safety or practical reasons because most of the country is an immensely dangerous, inhospitable place to ride a bicycle
posted by crayz at 1:29 AM on June 9, 2011 [10 favorites]


but bicycle sites seem to be -- or is it my imagination? -- slightly higher on the crank scale shaft than other hobbyist sites?

Fixied that for you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:43 AM on June 9, 2011


This chart from the "what's wrong with helmets" link

"I steal other people's images?"
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:45 AM on June 9, 2011


It would be a moot point if every city had proper bike infrastructure and strict liability for motorists.

That's like saying that car design safety regulations (like crumple zones) would be moot if all trees were collapsible.

Of course, I agree the US also needs better bike infrastructure. But my friends' accidents didn't involve cars. Just pavement transitions, a downhill, slippery road conditions, and asphalt. Asphalt will remain hard. We need crumple zones to protect our skulls. Then we can use our brains to advocate for better infrastructure.
posted by salvia at 1:47 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't think he's a douche at all; in fact I laughed when he did that endo into the back of the truck.

9.5 for execution.
posted by bwg at 1:54 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Natural selection will take care of the helmetless riders soon enough.

You've never seen a Dutch person, have you? They are huge, and happy, and have great sex lives and healthy kids.
posted by Meatbomb at 2:03 AM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


There was a researcher in the UK I think who did a study where he cycled around with a device on his bike that measured the distance at which cars passed him. The smallest average distance was when he was wearing a helmet, and the widest average distance when he wasn't wearing a helmet and - crucially - was wearing a long wig so he looked like a women from behind. The conclusion being it's safest (in terms of cars giving you more room) to be an un-helmeted lady.

So it's not helmets we should be bothered about, it's cross-dressing!
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:50 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


A couple of years ago I babysat a friend for a day after he was doored and got concussion. His bike was trashed and his arm was shredded, and he had headaches for weeks afterwards. Another anecdotal data point to go with the "What if he hadn't worn a helmet?" crew.

Living in post-earthquake Christchurch is really interesting because, supposedly, we denizens have a voice in the reconstruction of the central city (300 buildings in the CBD earmarked for demolition so far; more to come). A lot of locals have proposed cycling corridors through the city. We currently have cycle lanes like the one my concussed friend was riding in, and a few cycleways that are parallel but separate to main roads - there's a great commuter route that used to be wasteland next to the train line. It will be great to see if the rebuild includes separate cycle lanes across town. Christchurch is ridiculously flat and a perfect city for bikes, but the drivers are...well, not so much angry as ignorant. And sometimes angry.
posted by tracicle at 3:44 AM on June 9, 2011


EndsOfInvention: the only thing I learned about being a female cyclist (helmeted or unhelmeted) is that I get random catcalls from men in cars more often when I bike than when I drive or walk. The takeaway lesson there is to never bike. Or maybe turn the music up.
posted by tracicle at 3:46 AM on June 9, 2011


Helmets are the first safety measure, followed by defensive cycling

Remind me not to sell you any life insurance.
posted by Djinh at 3:58 AM on June 9, 2011


listening to people argue against wearing bicycle helmets is like listening to people argue that owning a gun will protect them from gun crime.
posted by jb at 4:13 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Go cycle around the Netherlands - no one wears a helmet and no one gets hit because they have ubiquitous high-quality bike lanes, generally marked separate from pedestrian space and with a barrier separating them both from the highway. And in cities where things mush together more cars are less common, slower, and respectful to the point of deference to cyclists and pedestrians.

Two other factors are important here:

- everyone grows up riding a bike, and most adults continue to use bikes as one of their main modes of transport, so drivers have good cycling awareness;
- in an accident involving a car and a bike, the car driver is automatically assumed to be at fault.

Biggest problem riding a bike in Amsterdam? The bloody tourists who think bike lanes are pavements.
posted by daveje at 4:17 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's funny how many people will look at something like poverty or crime as a cultural/social problem in need of a collective solution, but something like cycling as a completely personal phenomena

You don't live in the Netherlands. Here is the situation in the US:
Only four tenths of 1 percent of Americans get to work on a bicycle. Seventy-seven percent, in contrast, drive—and by themselves.
It is pretty much impossible to fix this problem on a grand scale in the US because most Americans don't see lack of a bicycling infrastructure as a problem that needs fixing. Given a choice between improving things for cars or improving things for bikes, they certainly don't want to lose even one inch of potential car lane space (or funds) just so you and your friends can have a special lane to go ride bikes.

If you want bicycle safety, you will have to ride as safely as you personally can manage (wear a helmet and pads, follow the law, avoid shitty streets, keep your eyes open, work around infrastructure limitations, etc.) while you try to get the infrastructure changed piece by little piece with lots of local political work and volunteering. Look at master plans developed by local bicycling advocates and identify one small stretch of your city streets where an inexpensive bicycle lane (perhaps combined with nice walking area and a place where local merchants could grab more pedestrian dollars) would make life better for everyone in the city, then sell that one small change to everyone in the city. Work from there.
posted by pracowity at 4:22 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


jacquilynne,

Have you looked into the CAN-BIKE program? It seems like the kind of thing you are looking for to help you build skill and confidence. Happy riding!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:23 AM on June 9, 2011


As for cyclists who claim that going through red lights or weaving in and out of traffic is "safer" -- bollocks. You are the traffic problem if you do that (see the video linked by nickyskye).

I have cycled from the age of 13 on 6 lane roads; I've ridden my bicycle beside tractor trailers and other heavy trucks. I've cycled in plenty of very car-oriented, bicycle (and pedestrian) hostile places. And I follow the friken traffic rules, to the best of my knowledge (no formal training). that means I stop at red lights (or I would be a pancake) and I signal my turns and stops/slowdowns. As the slowest member of traffic, I ride as far to the right as I can, but if there is a build up in the right hand lane before a turn, I do not pull ahead on the rightside of the drivers, but stay behind the last in line -- pulling up blocks right-turning cars and makes you look like you are turning right. I do all this because then I am predictable to the other vehicles on the road. And my only traffic accident has involved a pedestrian who did something both illegal and unpredictable (I say involved, as I swerved to avoid and hit the bumper of a parked car instead).

As for bicycles on sidewalks: bicycles and pedestrians do not mix well if either are in any concentration. If it's one of those suburban sidewalks where there is a walker or cyclist every 10 minutes at most and there is a nice grass margin for the cyclists to ride all the way around the pedestrians, sure, that works. But cyclists who ride past pedestrians on the sidewalk are an active menace to the pedestrians. Unless you are 6 years old (and belong on the sidewalk) you are too big and you are going too fast to move through pedestrian traffic without disrupting it, forcing people out of your way and/or seriously hurting or killing a pedestrian (as happened to a woman in Toronto hit by a bicycle). If you have ridden in pedestrian areas with steady pedestrian traffic and think this was just fine, then you are fooling yourself or maybe just an asshole like a car driving down a busy bicycle path ("hey, they got out of my way, this is just fine).

/now lives in a denser neighbourhood with lots of sidewalk traffic - and some idiots who ride on the sidewalk, with pedestrians scurrying out of their way
posted by jb at 4:43 AM on June 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


all threads turn into threads about Toronto, or Doctor Who, or the Doctor in Toronto.

/hey, Steven Moffatt - why not a visit to Toronto? the Simpsons did it. Okay, that episode sucked, but you'd make a good one. How about an 1812 invaded by aliens episode?
posted by jb at 4:58 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the lane or out the lane:

It's a myth that the safest thing to do is ride like a car. Only when there is no bike lane (or when the bike lane is a door-zone lane) is this true, and in those cases you should take the lane to be visible, especially at intersections. Protected lanes as they are done in NYC on 1st and 2nd south of 34th are safe, wonderful protected lanes. I can ride in them without fearing for my life or having near-misses every other block.

Helmets:

The Dutch don't wear helmets because everyone and their grandmother (literally) is out there on a bicycle. The drivers are used to them and everyone travels at a slow, bike-like pace. In the States we are simply not there yet, and I'm going to be wearing a helmet until we are (I don't wear one when I'm in Amsterdam).

Douchey cyclists:

When there are no bike lanes or cycle tracks available, the only people out there are the ones who are willing to try to keep up with traffic or lane-split, both dangerous activities, and a larger proportion (not all) of them are testosterone-fueled thrill-seekers. With more lanes and separated cycle tracks you get more women and families on the road, and these folks tend to ride more slowly and obey the rules. Here in NYC we get people who say that cyclists don't deserve infrastructure because they are all a-holes, but they have it backwards, build infrastructure and the polite cyclists will come.
posted by antinomia at 5:43 AM on June 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I liked the end.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:15 AM on June 9, 2011


Not sure if this has been addressed (there's a LOT of comments in this thread, and a basic text search isn't showing me anything), but was he ticketed for not riding in the bike lane, when there were obstructions in the bike lane? Or was he ticketed for not riding in the bike lane, because he didn't feel like riding in the bike lane? That cop didn't seem to be overly dickish, as cops go (hell, he was letting him film the ticketing process), so I somehow don't think that simply briefly merging safely from the bike lane into traffic to avoid an obstacle would have resulted in him getting a ticket.

I *did* enjoy watching him crash into things though :)
posted by antifuse at 6:22 AM on June 9, 2011


Bike lanes are to keep cars out, not bikes in.

And yes, it's one fewer car.
posted by Eideteker at 6:30 AM on June 9, 2011


Or one car fewer.
posted by Eideteker at 6:30 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Segregating bikes and cars into respective lanes isn't a solution as long as each group needs to make turns that egress over each others' lane. Some of the more interesting experiments in urban traffic design involve removing lane markers and reducing sign posts. When this is done people pay attention to each other. It is counter intuitive, but mixed mode is safer than segregation.
posted by dgran at 6:41 AM on June 9, 2011


With more lanes and separated cycle tracks you get more women and families on the road, and these folks tend to ride more slowly and obey the rules.

uhhhh. i'm a woman that doesn't ride slowly or obey all rules. (for example: i'm an avid believer and user of the rolling stop.) the way i ride has NOTHING to do with my sex and everything to do with the fact that i ride to survive on the streets of nyc.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:44 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


a) "Why don't you give that guy a ticket?" is not a good defense.

b) The parting shot in this video is the lede, buried: cops should be ticketing those who block the bike paths.

Sincere question—so, which is it? A couple of the "he's a douchebag" comments in this thread assert a), but in watching the video I interpreted the cyclist's words as precisely an implication of b).

I think if a complaint is valid (b), then it can be stated as part of a statement of defense (a). And clearly in such a brief interaction, many things are left implied.
posted by polymodus at 7:12 AM on June 9, 2011


If we start licensing cyclists, then we should start licensing pedestrians too. The two have more in common than cyclists and motorists do.
posted by hermitosis at 7:16 AM on June 9, 2011


christinachristinachristina, I'm not saying *all* women ride slowly and only men speed. I've seen plenty of women ride to keep up with traffic. Yes, I am making a generalization, but I feel it is an appropriate generalization. From informal surveys of my friends more women say they don't cycle because they are scared to, and in fact when they do ride with me through central park their husbands and boyfriends leave us in the dust. Some of the men I know are also afraid to ride on the streets, but more of the guys are regular bike commuters than the women. Statistics also bear out that when bike lanes are provided and cycling is perceived as being safer, more women get out on their bikes. ..And families, in parts of Brooklyn people have started riding with their kids.. with the kids on their own bikes. It does not mean there is something wrong with women in general to say that women in general are more cautious riders, quite the contrary, I think.
posted by antinomia at 7:22 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


first, there is no h anywhere to be found in my name. not the first time, the second time, or the third time!

second, you really should just take care to avoid making generalizations about women. we are a complex group. i know many women that ride bikes that would take great offense to your "informal surveys." i find i am constantly having to prove that even though i'm a woman, i am not afraid. please provide more substantial data (links) to back up your informal surveys and the next time you do decide to make generalizations maybe you should include a "some or most but not all" disclaimer so as to not cause offense to those of us "douchey" thrill-seeking women that don't want to be lumped in with the rest of the scaredy cats.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 7:48 AM on June 9, 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 7:55 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would just be happy if the cyclists in my neck of the woods knew enough to bike on the right side of the road.

Baby steps, baby steps....
posted by Lucinda at 7:59 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'll say that come winter-time the ratio of men to women on my bike commute starts skewing much more male, for whatever reason. Sometimes I feel lonely.

My helmet after an unfortunate encounter with a curb. Also, last summer mr epersonae was in a crash w/out helmet; he was lucky. Really really really really lucky.

Recommended to all cyclists: Bicycling & the Law, which has both lots of legal info (obvs) as well as some interesting history. Personally I was amused to discover that driving while intoxicated isn't actually illegal in my state, although apparently if the cops think you're a danger to self/others they can pick you up and take you home.

If you're concerned about bike infrastructure, see if your town/city/etc has any sort of official group that advises on cycling issues. I joined my town's Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee last year, and it's been an interesting experience.
posted by epersonae at 8:31 AM on June 9, 2011


I don't wear a helmet. I didn't grow up wearing one; my head is hard to fit; I commute to work at a front desk job and can't have helmet hair; I find helmets distracting and seem to hear and see less well when I have pressure on my head. I am a very cautious cyclist who depends heavily on looking and listening - a lot of people seem to focus on going very fast (which seems reasonable to me) or want to wear one earbud from an iPod.

I too have a friend who dented a helmet - he was riding at night, he hit a pothole and he got a concussion. I also have a white friend who got jumped and beaten up by random young men (but not mugged - it was some kind of gang/group bonding thing) while biking; I recently managed to correct from being shoved into traffic by a similar gang of young men while I was biking at night. These things are unfortunate events, but on balance I don't feel that wearing a helmet improves my overall risk or that police harassment of groups of young men makes me safer.

The fact that some people have hit their heads and been protected by helmets does not prove that helmets make you safer overall. If you are more reckless when you're wearing a helmet, if the helmet compromises your concentration, if the helmet convinces drivers to drive closer to you - your overall risk of accidents may go up. The accident that the helmet "saves" you from may in fact be caused by your/drivers' helmet-related behavior . The material linked above in fact suggests this.

I bike a lot. I certainly see dumb behavior, but I see much more smart, respectful behavior. I also see a lot of ad hoc behavior in unclear situations where there are no rules - where signage is unclear, where traffic is unusual, where there is no good, commonly-understood protocol (such as making a left turn on a busy street). Cyclists are different from drivers and pedestrians in that the intentionally selfish and dangerous behavior of a few is used to allege that the majority are selfish and dangerous.
posted by Frowner at 8:34 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


(Oh, I meant to digress on racism and perceptions about bike safety but didn't - that's why I mentioned that my friend was white - I wrote and deleted a bit more about racism and fear but forgot to delete that.)
posted by Frowner at 8:35 AM on June 9, 2011


cristinacristinacristina, many appologies for misspelling your name.

This is from the NYC Department of City Planning's report on cycling infrastructure usage from 2001 - 2009:

"The number of female cyclists is increasing faster than the number of male cyclists and the male to female ratio has dropped every year since 2003."

And here is the link to the report with all the charts and data:

http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/html/transportation/td_bike_facilities_profile.shtml

By the way, I am a woman, I grew up as a tomboy who climbed trees, built things and played with the boys. I ride my bike nearly every day, obey all traffic laws, stick to roads with lanes when I can, and go to community board meeting to advocate for cyclists and cycling infrastructure. I'm not saying that if you ride fast you are douchey, and if that's the impression I made I am very sorry. Most of the people I see riding through red lights, side-swiping pedestrians, riding the wrong way, etc., are also riding very fast and most of them are male. You obviously do not fit that pattern, but I am not making a statement about you personally, and if you took it personally please, again, accept my apologies.
posted by antinomia at 8:38 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Frowner, you sure have a lot of reasons for not wearing a helmet but many accidents are beyond the control of even a cautious cyclist. A friend of mine was killed (fatal head injury) on his bike while riding slowly in a park. An inline skater going backwards hit him from the side. Helmet would almost certainly have saved him.

Seeing a cyclist lying there perfectly still in the middle of the road with blood coming out of their nose is one of those things you can't unsee.

I don't know if you've ever been to a head injury rehabilitation center or talked to the relatives of people who have suffered serious head injuries, but it's a pretty sobering experience. It's not like a broken leg. It's an injury which can destroy not just your life but the lives of those around you. Many relatives told me it was like having their loved one taken away and replaced with someone they didn't know.

Still, I'm sure you have great hair.
posted by unSane at 9:08 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


That he didn't bring it up, indicates a high likelihood that he was in fact riding around outside of an unobstructed bike lane, for whatever reason. The law may be wrong, and may need to be changed, but I think it's clear that he broke the law as it stands, and jackassing around riding into easily, legally, avoided obstacles doesn't help make his point.

Watch to the end of the movie where you discover to everyone's shock and delight that it is not, in fact, illegal to ride one's bike outside of the bike lane.

This little video would be improved one million percent if they had simply axed the snark inducing opening and started out with the "I was fined..." bit.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:35 AM on June 9, 2011


Evil on a bicycle? How on Earth has this conversation been had without The Wicked Witch of the West?
posted by ErWenn at 9:47 AM on June 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


I cringe because it should be "one fewer car."

*Sigh*

NO, IT SHOULD NOT. Here's the money quote: The Word [less] is most commonly used in speaking of a Number; where I should think Fewer would do better. No Fewer than a Hundred appears to me not only more elegant than No less than a Hundred, but more strictly proper. That was Robert Baker, the founder of the current grammar rule. Someone so otherwise inconsequential that he does not even have a mention in Wikipedia. In that quote, he notes that using "less" for numbers is the most common usage of the word "less" but that he feels that the word fewer is more "elegant" and "proper". If anything proved that prescriptive grammar is silly, we have no better example than the "less" v. "fewer" fallacy, based on just one person's own silly sense of taste and now written in many textbooks as if it were some hard, fast rule.

And also, I'm pretty sure even if you want to base all of your grammar rules on bizarro 18th century grammar books, even then this would not be correct. I think you can only use "fewer" when you're actually using it on a plural noun, as in "I ate fewer apples than John." I don't think you can say "I ate one fewer apple than John." Not without sounding like a freaking idiot.
posted by Deathalicious at 9:58 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


* sigh * NO, IT SHOULD NOT.

I took it as a joke about pedantry, not actual pedantry.

I don't think you can say "I ate one fewer apple than John." Not without sounding like a freaking idiot.

I don't think you can say that without sounding like a humorless jerk.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:22 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


I like how this thread kind of became about Toronto.

Yeah, even if you're being ironic, I agree, because Toronto is the best


I wasn't being ironic!
posted by skwt at 10:29 AM on June 9, 2011


I ride everyday in traffic in a city (Edmonton) that does not have bike lanes on roadways and I feel much safer doing so than when I lived in cities (Vancouver, Toronto) that did have bike lanes. The lanes just give drivers a feeling that bikes should not be on the "real road", which as the video shows is problematic when there are obstructions to the bike lanes. It's even worse when the bike lanes inevitably end cyclists have to very suddenly merge into (unprepared and hostile) traffic.

I also think this dude should wear a bloody helmet.
posted by Kurichina at 11:14 AM on June 9, 2011


I know I'm coming late to the thread, and wanted to say that the cop showed no indication (on video) that he was being an asshole. He was persistent and followed through on the ticket, but when the cyclist was all het up and whiny, he just calmly answered his questions. So good on that cop for not escalating and trying to dominate the situation and be an asshole.
posted by chimaera at 11:16 AM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Coupla things:

—I wear a helmet because I had a bad bike crash where I could have died. I think it's a prudent choice, and I'd encourage them generally (a lot of the anti-helmet arguments seem pretty silly), but I wouldn't make them mandatory or anything.

—Bike lanes don't necessarily improve safety outcomes. I personally prefer sharrows, because I like having it reinforced to drivers that bikes have an equal claim to the lanes, especially since bike lanes tend to be in the door zone and toward the edge of poorly-maintained streets. I've ridden on a couple of segregated lanes and enjoyed it, but in adapting infrastructure, I'd prefer sharrows to lanes.

—I ride in LA on city streets (I'll be riding to a meet up tonight) all the time. About one out of five rides has some douchebag in a car either riding too close to me on the side, or getting pissed off when I take the lane. I admit that I've gotten pretty douchey in return, and am pretty likely to catch whomever honks or gives me shit at the next light, and I'm not shy about calling people out on it. I don't know if this encourages safer driving or just amps up the general animosity, but fuck it, I do have a right to the lane.

—It pisses me off that LA cops don't know the law. I've been told several times by cops that I need to be all the way to the right, when that's not what the law says. The controlling law for LA is that bicyclists need to be as far to the right as is "practicable," which is different than "possible," which is the interpretation that most cops take. In addition, a cyclist has a right to the lane in California at any time when they feel there is a possible hazard ahead, they are making a turn, or when there is a legal right turn within 200 feet ahead of them (this is to prevent the too frequent problem of cars whipping past me, only to make an unsignaled right turn directly in front of me). For some reason, the parking enforcement people have been much more douchey about this than the regular cops, perhaps because of low self-esteem. I am considering having wallet-sized copies of the California vehicle code as it pertains to cycles made up, just so I can show them off when challenged.

—People actually seem to drive unsafely more around my girlfriend, cutting in closer to her than me when we're riding together. I'm not sure why, maybe because I'm pretty loud while I'm out there and am often yelling things like "STOPPING!" or "ROLLING!"

—It's pretty fucked up that the next CicLAvia had to be cancelled because basically, it was too popular and the number of bikes overwhelmed the seven miles of LA that were closed to cars. It was still totally sweet for cyclists, but pedestrians were overwhelmed by the sheer number. There had to be at least a couple hundred thousand bikes out there, and because bikes have different traffic patterns from cars, it was hard to have everyone know the type of etiquette required. There were assholes on both sides, though the peds tended toward the clueless (darting out into the street without looking) and the cyclists more needlessly aggro (don't tell peds they need to be on the sidewalk for a carless event).
posted by klangklangston at 11:31 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You can fall off of your bike riding at two miles an hour
and hit your head on the pavement hard enough to
die even with a helmet on, without the help of traffic.

Exactly this happened to a friend of mine two years ago.

The helmet rant here and anywhere else is pure crap.
posted by No Shmoobles at 11:41 AM on June 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


You can fall off of your bike riding at two miles an hour and hit your head on the pavement hard enough to die even with a helmet on, without the help of traffic.


By the same argument you can trip and hit your head and die walking on a flat sidewalk, so I suppose anyone who ever walks anywhere or encounters a flight of stairs should always wear a helmet, too. You could slip in the bathtub, or on your way to the kitchen for a glass of water. 15,000 people a year die from slip and fall related injuries!

You wear your helmet to bed, right?
posted by loquacious at 12:10 PM on June 9, 2011


Watch to the end of the movie where you discover to everyone's shock and delight that it is not, in fact, illegal to ride one's bike outside of the bike lane.

According to... Who - a random dude on the radio? According to this link (which appears to be an authoritative set of NYC traffic rules)... SubSection 4-12, (p), states
(1) Bicycle riders to use bicycle lanes. Whenever a usable path or lane for
bicycles has been provided, bicycle riders shall use such path or lane only except
under any of the following situations:
(i) When preparing for a turn at an intersection or into a private road or
driveway.
(ii) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including but not
limited to, fixed or moving objects, motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians,
pushcarts, animals, surface hazards) that make it unsafe to continue
within such bicycle path or lane.
So, yes, all those times where he ran into obstructions in his bicycle lane, he would have been perfectly within the law to go OUT of the bike lane in order to avoid them. And as mentioned above, he makes no mention of the cop giving him a ticket BECAUSE he was avoiding an obstacle, just that he got it for not riding in the bike lane.

You can fall off of your bike riding at two miles an hour
and hit your head on the pavement hard enough to
die even with a helmet on, without the help of traffic.

Exactly this happened to a friend of mine two years ago.

The helmet rant here and anywhere else is pure crap.


Other than some "it makes you ride more recklessly" and "it makes drivers more likely to hit you because you're wearing one" rhetoric (I'd love to see some studies proving this), I can't imagine how wearing a helmet could possibly be MORE dangerous than not wearing one. Yes, a helmet won't save your life in all instances. But there are very specific instances where they WILL.
posted by antifuse at 12:13 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"By the same argument you can trip and hit your head and die walking on a flat sidewalk, so I suppose anyone who ever walks anywhere or encounters a flight of stairs should always wear a helmet, too. You could slip in the bathtub, or on your way to the kitchen for a glass of water. 15,000 people a year die from slip and fall related injuries!"

What is wrong with you?
posted by ged at 12:14 PM on June 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Amen. John Forester, the country's preeminent bicycle traffic engineer says the safest cycling technique is to ride like a car, following the laws.

I will stand safely on the sidewalk applauding him as he makes a stupid-assed legal left-hand turn in a busy intersection in heavy traffic with cars honking and buzzing him.


You do realize, that statistically, while riding a bike you are far more likely to be hit by a car while riding on the sidewalk. Seriously, read his book. He's a traffic engineer and a guy who does make those left hand turns all of the time.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:22 PM on June 9, 2011


I used to be a vehicular cycling proponent before I moved to NY. Then I rode on the 1st and 2nd avenue protected bike paths here. I was skeptical at first, but to my surprise there were none of the problems I expected there to be, and I could bike without fearing for for my life for the first time in a city. No driveways on NY streets, and intersections are well marked with merge lanes so cars know to expect cyclists.

Vehicular cycling must be resorted to on (other) US roads because they were not built for cyclists at all. Segregated paths *do* work, and work well, when done correctly, and they bring a huge improvement in safety. Here is a video example from the Netherlands of how to do it right:

http://bit.ly/kGWFLZ
posted by antinomia at 1:12 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


What is wrong with you?

Is there something factually wrong with my statement? People die of traumatic brain injuries all the time just walking around their homes. Therefore they should wear helmets indoors. Statistically speaking you're more likely to be injured in your own home.

For the record I actually have two helmets. A foam Snell rated helmet and an unrated Protec hardshell skateboarding/BMX style helmet. I actually do wear them. Just not every time.

But I really don't understand the frothy terror people work themselves into when I admit I like to ride a bike without a helmet, like I'm suddenly admitting to enjoying juggling pissed off cats and chainsaws while drunkenly walking a slackline without a net over the Grand Canyon.

I also smoke, and if people were really so immediately and personally concerned about my health someone should get over here and duct tape me to a chair until the withdrawals subside.

Seriously? Of all the bad lifestyle choices I've made over my life, not wearing a helmet while biking is really far down the list. My cheeseburger addiction ranks much higher in terms of risk. With the family history of heart disease I have I'm pretty much due to die of a massive heart attack or stroke pretty much any day now. I'm pretty OK with that.

posted by loquacious at 1:20 PM on June 9, 2011


Not my video, I just cut and pasted the description.

Yeah, loquacious, I misread schmoobles comment the same way. I think he agrees with you, as do I.

When I commute, whether by car or bicycle, my primary concern is the safety of myself and others. Being courteous is a distant second, followed by getting where I'm going quickly and efficiently. I regularly disobey traffic regulations in either mode of transport. The real jerks out there are those who deliberately or negligently endanger others, whether they are driving a car or riding a bike and whether or not they are obeying the letter of the law.

No question that wearing a helmet makes you safer in general. So do bike shoes, gloves and glasses. But if choosing between a helmet-less commute and taking the car, I'm not sure which is safer in the long run. Know which one I choose though. Getting that bit of exercise each day is so crucial, and can be so hard to carve out time for.
posted by Manjusri at 1:37 PM on June 9, 2011


"Is there something factually wrong with my statement? People die of traumatic brain injuries all the time just walking around their homes. Therefore they should wear helmets indoors. Statistically speaking you're more likely to be injured in your own home."

Yes, you were factually correct. You were also being a jackass.

The person you were responding to was explaining how their friend died and you were caustic and sarcastic. Does that seem like appropriate behavior to you?
posted by ged at 1:41 PM on June 9, 2011


The person you were responding to was explaining how their friend died and you were caustic and sarcastic. Does that seem like appropriate behavior to you?

No, it doesn't. Sorry. In my rush to be snarky I skipped right past the part where his friend died. I'm not trying to poke fun at that at all.

I promise I'm not going to die from a head injury. I still skateboard. I'm really good at falling down. I've had lots and lots of practice.

Life is risky. I'll always chafe when people demand I take less risks that are personal decisions. I can totally understand if people don't want to be my friend or get close to me for fear of loss or the like. That's a decision that only they can make.
posted by loquacious at 1:48 PM on June 9, 2011


I love segregated paths, and will take them preferentially when I can. But if I'm stuck on roads, then I ride like a (slow, odd) vehicle.

I have a day-dream that Toronto will take a bunch of roads downtown and make them streetcars and bikes (or roller blades, or whatever) only, with pedestrians on the sidewalks -- like Queen Street West - with automobile traffic on selected parallel streets. This is clearly a daydream, of course.
posted by jb at 2:15 PM on June 9, 2011


When I commute, whether by car or bicycle, my primary concern is the safety of myself and others. Being courteous is a distant second, followed by getting where I'm going quickly and efficiently. I regularly disobey traffic regulations in either mode of transport.

Disobeying traffic regulations is itself inherently unsafe. You can't claim that your primary concern is safety when you do something that is actively unsafe. Traffic regulations aren't made for the sake of politeness, they are made to stop us killing each other when moving around quickly in large metal boxes.

We don't need traffic control for pedestrians because we are slow and soft; people bump all the time walking, and it's just annoying. But when we're metal and moving at 50km/hour, we can seriously hurt each other. Even bicycles need regulations in places like Cambridge, UK, where the density is high enough to talk about bicycle traffic - they are banned from certain pedestrian ways as a matter of safety.
posted by jb at 2:20 PM on June 9, 2011


Hey, keep riding without helmets. Neuropsychologists like Oliver Sacks need a steady stream of brain-injured patients to study.

So bike lanes often have obstructions, for legal and illegal reasons. Agitate against this, by all means. but if you're the rider, and there's an obstruction, get off the fucking bike and walk around it, instead of breaking the law and putting yourself and other people in danger.

That video was a bad Jackass knockoff.

I ride to work.
posted by cogneuro at 2:24 PM on June 9, 2011


So bike lanes often have obstructions, for legal and illegal reasons. Agitate against this, by all means. but if you're the rider, and there's an obstruction, get off the fucking bike and walk around it, instead of breaking the law and putting yourself and other people in danger.


Except it's not illegal to take a lane with vehicular traffic, which is what this guy was cited for. It's legal to be traffic in every state I've heard of in the US, especially when it's the safe and correct thing to do.

Sure,he's a jackass for riding into stationary objects, but he's making a valid point about how even the city of NYC doesn't treat dedicated bike lanes as actual traffic lanes. The problem is that many cities and individuals treat bike lanes as just another part of the shoulder of the road.

Because, hey, bikes aren't really traffic. People should just walk.
posted by loquacious at 2:34 PM on June 9, 2011


Agitate against this, by all means. but if you're the rider, and there's an obstruction, get off the fucking bike and walk around it, instead of breaking the law and putting yourself and other people in danger.
If the bike lane is obstructed and a cyclist leaves the lane to avoid the obstruction, then the only person breaking the law is the person obstructing the bike lane. Seriously: people have quoted the law on this thread, and it's pretty unambiguous about that. One of the reasons that a bicyclist may leave the bike lane is:
(ii) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions (including but not
limited to, fixed or moving objects, motor vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians,
pushcarts, animals, surface hazards) that make it unsafe to continue
within such bicycle path or lane.
There's nothing about getting off your bike and walking it. You made that up. And you don't get to make up laws just because you have issues with bikes and use the word "fuck."
posted by craichead at 2:40 PM on June 9, 2011 [4 favorites]


Disobeying traffic regulations is itself inherently unsafe.

Ever try scrupulously observing the posted speed limit? There are many situations where that can be extremely dangerous. There are a lot of similar judgement calls to be made while bicycling because neither drivers nor pedestrians are looking out for you.

In general, observing the regulations makes you predictable and that's good. But every intersection is different, and so is every driver and pedestrian. In the course of a typical cross town commute I switch between bike lane usage, shoulder riding, aggressive lane-taking and riding on the sidewalk, depending on what I think is the safest and most efficient way to navigate through.

If you really think that traffic regulations line up perfectly with a bicyclists safety considerations, I can only assume you don't do much commuting in conditions similar to mine. I assume every driver and pedestrian is unaware of me and likely to obstruct my path unless I make eye contact. I don't cross in front of any car I can safely go behind. I don't hang out at stop lights or stop signs where people take right turns. etc. etc.
posted by Manjusri at 2:54 PM on June 9, 2011


I can't imagine how wearing a helmet could possibly be MORE dangerous than not wearing one

Because in some circumstances some people who might otherwise choose to bicycle will choose not to if they are required to wear a helmet, and will therefore fail to gain the health benefits of that exercise.

Furthermore, in places where mandatory helmet laws for bicyclisst have been enacted, the size of the cycling population is subsequently reduced. Fewer cyclists on the road increases the danger to those cyclists remaining because motor vehicle drivers are less accustomed to their presence.
posted by normy at 2:56 PM on June 9, 2011


*dusts off tiny pamphlet of NYC cycling rules*

*clears throat*

RCNY section 4-12(p)

"Bicyclists should ride in usable bike lanes, unless they are blocked or unsafe for any reason."

RCNY section 4-08(e)(9)

"It is against the law to park, stand or stop within or otherwise obstruct bike lanes."

In other words, the cop was ticketing the wrong vehicle operator. Case closed. The problem is that cops were recently given orders to go out and crack down on bad cycling behavior, but were not fully informed of what the actual laws are. These things happen. This is going to work itself out over time as people contest them and the tickets get thrown out. It's not the ideal system, but it's not a conspiracy, either.
posted by antinomia at 2:57 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


You do realize, that statistically, while riding a bike you are far more likely to be hit by a car while riding on the sidewalk.

You do realize he said he was standing on the sidewalk, not riding on it.
posted by nomisxid at 3:05 PM on June 9, 2011


Because in some circumstances some people who might otherwise choose to bicycle will choose not to if they are required to wear a helmet

yep! hi! All the bike-fan moralizing blather about helmets, and about not riding on the sidewalk, has completely put me off riding a bicycle. No thanks, I'm not going to "share the road" with vehicles fifty times heavier and a hundred times more powerful than me. Hit one of those things and you're going to hurt, badly, whether you've got the little styrofoam thing on your head or not.

motorcycles, though, are a completely different story.... when I'm on my bike I may be just as vulnerable, but I'm faster and nimbler than anything else on the road. I can get out of the way before the car even knows they're about to hit me. And of course I wear a helmet on my bike, along with all the other gear, because - unlike on a bicycle - I actually am going fast enough to hurt myself if I screw up.
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:16 PM on June 9, 2011


Ever try scrupulously observing the posted speed limit?

I don't know how to drive a car, but every good driver I know does scrupulously observe the posted speed limit. The speed limits are there for a reason - that is the safe speed for that road design and location, and crumple zones in cars are designed with speed limits in mind. If you hit something while going too fast, they will crumple too much.

In the course of a typical cross town commute I switch between bike lane usage, shoulder riding, aggressive lane-taking and riding on the sidewalk, depending on what I think is the safest and most efficient way to navigate through.

If you really think that traffic regulations line up perfectly with a bicyclists safety considerations, I can only assume you don't do much commuting in conditions similar to mine. I assume every driver and pedestrian is unaware of me and likely to obstruct my path unless I make eye contact. I don't cross in front of any car I can safely go behind. I don't hang out at stop lights or stop signs where people take right turns. etc. etc.


I do cycle on roads similar to you -- and that kind of "aggressive lane-taking and riding on the sidewalk" pisses me off when someone does it around me -- you are unpredictable for both cars and your fellow cyclists and (if on a sidewalk with any amount of traffic) an active danger to pedestrians. And you do not have a right to "efficiency" in travel, any more than any car has a right to ignore traffic regulations because they "slow them down".
posted by jb at 3:50 PM on June 9, 2011


"I don't know how to drive a car, but every good driver I know does scrupulously observe the posted speed limit. The speed limits are there for a reason - that is the safe speed for that road design and location, and crumple zones in cars are designed with speed limits in mind. If you hit something while going too fast, they will crumple too much."

Actually, it's generally not the safe speed for a given area, at least in the states. I think you may be generalizing too much based on your law-abiding Canuck experience, but I can say that it's totally safe to go much faster than 100km on the 401.

The best practices way to set speed limits is to track the speeds that people go without limits posted, then set the limit at what 80 percent of people are at or below. However, the vast majority of speed limits are set according to a generations-old metric based on fuel consumption.

And no, the vast majority of good drivers do not, at least in America, scrupulously observe the posted limit. In a great many situations, this will lead to unsafe driving and posing a hazard for other drivers (as the established norm is much higher), especially when the slower driver is in the passing lanes.

Further, the idea that crumple zones are designed with speed limits in mind does not support the idea that you are arguing — if it did, crumple zones would have to vary based on the local posted limit. My crumple zone is not going to fail because I was going 45 mph in a 35 mph; if it did, it wouldn't ever survive a crash where 55 mph is the speed limit.
posted by klangklangston at 4:39 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Bicyclists should ride in usable bike lanes, unless they are blocked or unsafe for any reason."

RCNY section 4-08(e)(9)

"It is against the law to park, stand or stop within or otherwise obstruct bike lanes."

In other words, the cop was ticketing the wrong vehicle operator. Case closed.


How do you know WHY the bike guy was not using the bike lane? It's not explained in the video. He could have been tooling down the middle of the street for no good reason when he got pulled over. He never said the lane was blocked or otherwise unusable.
posted by tristeza at 4:46 PM on June 9, 2011


Continuing the derail, I'd like to draw a distinction between arguing against wearing a bicycle helmet oneself and arguing against mandatory helmet laws to force everyone to wear helmets.

They are very different arguments. Anecdotes about 'my friend fell off and hit his head' may be actually useful in arguing the former, but are not productive when arguing the latter.

Mandatory helmet laws discourage people from cycling. Discouraging people from cycling is hazardous to health because:

1) The health benefits of exercise are greater than the health risks of injury
2) The collective safety benefits to having more people on the street riding bicycles counterbalances the added risks of injury

Basically, I'm safer with more bikes on the road, and the more the better. And everyone's safer with some exercise in their life.

It's a derail, but Metafilter has Done Bike Helmets Before.
posted by anthill at 4:53 PM on June 9, 2011


"I don't know how to drive a car, but every good driver I know does scrupulously observe the posted speed limit. "

Sometimes it's wise to defer to people who actually do things when deciding what constitutes doing them well.

"I do cycle on roads similar to you"

Not if you genuinely believe your first quote.

Aggressive lane-taking is all about being predictable. You emote where you are going with confidence so that people don't take it in their head to "squeeze" past you. A cylist can be dangerous sharing a sidewalk or bike path with pedestrians, or he can be reasonably safe as my decades of accident-free coexistence attests. I should note that I did a bit of trials-riding when I was younger and can hold a trackstand indefinitely, and that the bike path that starts at my front door is far more packed with unwary pedestrians than the typical sidewalk.
posted by Manjusri at 5:08 PM on June 9, 2011


Except it's not illegal to take a lane with vehicular traffic, which is what this guy was cited for

We don't know that. We know that he was cited for not riding in the bike lane, when there was a bike lane there. The lane seems to have been obstructed ahead of where the cop had stopped him, with somebody parked there, but there's no mention of the bike lane behind him, where (presumably) the cop saw him riding outside the bike lane. It's a stupid argument to make, to say "I should never ride in the bike lane because sometimes it's not safe to do so" - and that's why the law says that you have to ride in the bike lane, except when it's not safe to do so.

While I enjoy watching this guy ride into things on his bike (flying into the back of the delivery truck was particularly hilarious), I'm not really sure what point he's trying to make.
posted by antifuse at 5:10 PM on June 9, 2011


My interpretation of this is that you are not required to ride in the bike lane in NY:

New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law:

section 1231: "Bicyclists are granted all of the rights and are subject to all of the duties of the driver of a motor vehicle."
posted by antinomia at 5:49 PM on June 9, 2011


The reason I won't ride with people who won't wear a helmet is because I never want to find myself thinking "If only I had made that guy/gal wear a helmet". I'm an administrator of a fairly big MTB group who organize rides in Ontario (Defiant MTB - come ride with us!) and this is a deal breaker for all of our rides.

The last time I rode with someone who didn't have a helmet it was a former defenceman for the Chicago Blackhawks. He was all "I don't need no steenkin' helmet" at the beginning of the ride and at the end of the ride he was all "I'm gonna get a fuckin' helmet".
posted by unSane at 6:16 PM on June 9, 2011


Truly, all that I could think was this: if you're going to deliberately and repeatedly crash your bike in order to prove a flimsy point, then put a helmet on, dumbass.

(Then again, why should I expect common sense from someone who can't even manage to find the shift key on a consistent basis?)
posted by pecanpies at 7:02 PM on June 9, 2011


section 1231: "Bicyclists are granted all of the rights and are subject to all of the duties of the driver of a motor vehicle."

Yes, but I would think that the NYC law, which I quoted above, would add on to the NY State law - ie "yes, you are equivalent to a motor vehicle. But if there's a bike lane, unless it's unsafe or blocked, you gotta be in that lane".
posted by antifuse at 7:09 PM on June 9, 2011


Everywhere else in the the list of laws it says "Cyclists must". In comparison "Cyclists should" sounds a bit less forceful. Unfortunately, there is quite a lot of parking in the bike lane going on, which is extra dangerous as we have to swerve into traffic to get around while craning our necks backwards to look for cars and forward to look out for pedestrians jaywalking in front (not a criticism, I jaywalk all the time, although I do look for bikes first).
posted by antinomia at 7:36 PM on June 9, 2011


Sometimes it's wise to defer to people who actually do things when deciding what constitutes doing them well.

Based on your avocation of unsafe and aggressive cycling, forgive me if I defer to the experienced drivers I know and their opinion on speeding over your own.

they say you can divide the world into good and bad drivers by asking them what the worst traffic problems are. Bad drivers complain about people going too slow; good drivers hate tail-gating.
posted by jb at 10:19 PM on June 9, 2011


"Based on your avocation of unsafe and aggressive cycling, forgive me if I defer to the experienced drivers I know and their opinion on speeding over your own. "

Jb, I like ya a lot, but between misreading Manjusri and the lame joke about driving habits, I kinda think you don't know what you're talking about or that driving in Toronto must be entirely different culturally from any place that I've driven.

You're wrong about speed limits and driving skill. Sorry.
posted by klangklangston at 11:47 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Based on your avocation of unsafe and aggressive cycling, forgive me if I defer to the experienced drivers I know and their opinion on speeding over your own.

they say you can divide the world into good and bad drivers by asking them what the worst traffic problems are. Bad drivers complain about people going too slow; good drivers hate tail-gating.


Umm, as a good driver in Toronto (in that I don't tailgate, talk on the phone or text while driving, drive like a maniac swerving between lanes erratically, no speeding tickets or accidents, etc) and somebody who has advocated safe cycling in this thread (although, cycling style and driving style have absolutely no reason to be related) I can tell you that the VAST MAJORITY of drivers do not consider the posted speed limits on the highway to be the "normal, safe" driving speed. The 401, as an example, is perfectly safe to drive at 120 km/h if traffic conditions permit. It's flat, well paved, and (relatively) straight. If you strictly adhere to the posted speed limit when the rest of traffic is quite happy to drive 20km/h over the speed limit, YOU are the one that is not driving safely.
posted by antifuse at 6:24 AM on June 10, 2011


The 401, as an example, is perfectly safe to drive at 120 km/h if traffic conditions permit. It's flat, well paved, and (relatively) straight. If you strictly adhere to the posted speed limit when the rest of traffic is quite happy to drive 20km/h over the speed limit, YOU are the one that is not driving safely.

jb asked me to come comment in this thread because she realised she was having one of those frustrating arguments by proxy, in which she was just repeating things that I said and getting slammed for them. So here I am to defend my own position!

I disagree that people who refuse to speed are causing a danger, even though I acknowledge that they are, in a sense, causing an obstruction to the general flow of traffic. Here are my arguments laid out point by point:

1. The Engineering Point:

Roads are designed to be driven upon at a given speed. Many factors are taken into account including the degree to which turns are banked, the placement of signs, the width and quality of the hard shoulder, the engineering parameters of the various barriers and buffers which protect cars which have hit the margins of the road and so on.

In the case of a 100 km/h road, all these parameters are set for 100 km/h, with a safety margin around this speed. So yes, it might be perfectly safe to drive a 100 road at 120, because you would still be within the margin of safety set around the posted speed of 100.

Here's the problem though: when you go to 120 you are now at the edge of your margin of safety. Since some drivers will always speed, relative to the flow of traffic, because they are motivated by passing other cars. You are now encouraging these people to go outside the margin of safety, and when they do so they negatively effect not just themselves, but all the people on the road around them. Crash barriers won't contain the speeding car, people merging on and off the road are at risk from people changing lanes to get to exits which now come to quickly, and so on. Furthermore, the margin of safety is also there to allow you to speed up on the case of an emergency (ie. to briefly speed to overtake or to get out from behind a truck that hasn't seen you). If you habitually drive at the edge of the safety envelope, you are putting yourself in unnecessary danger by doing this.

2. Herd Immunity and Traffic Calming:

'Ah', you say, 'but what about the obstructive effects on the flow of traffic by driving slowly?'

Good point, but let's turn that round for the moment: why are you driving 120? Because everybody else is doing so.

This is a very similar philosophical problem to the one we get with vaccines. Nobody wants to be vaccinated, because you might get a bad reaction to the vaccine. But if nobody gets vaccinated, we all get sick, which is bad. So you have to take the bullet for society and get vaccinated so that enough people are vaccinated to get a 'herd immunity' such that the disease can't be passed along.

Many people don't want to drive 100 because they get to their destination more slowly. But when you start speeding you reduce the 'herd immunity' to speeding and everybody has to start speeding in order to be safe. Most people, however, care much more about being safe than being fast. By driving the speed limit, you are reducing the speed of the flow of traffic (ie. 'traffic calming') and thus making it easier for other drivers to slow down.

3. Driving Slow Less Unsafe than Driving Fast:

'But isn't that unsafe,' you say? Sure, a little. But on balance you probably win because going slowly is much less unsafe than speeding, and if you're already at the outside of your safety margin, you're probably speeding a lot.

A car driving slowly is less dangerous than a car going fast because any collisions take place at a much lower speed, which means much less energy is evolved from the crash. Furthermore, drivers are used to defending against slowdowns on the highway (not exactly unknown on the 401) so if you're going slow people are actively watching out for you. Not so if you're going fast and have to make an emergency lane change, or something.

Furthermore, you're slowing down the column of traffic behind you, making all them slightly safer and so on.

4. Good Effects of Slow Drivers:

Indeed, there's an argument to be made that 'slow' drivers (those doing the speed limit) actually have a beneficial effect on congested highways because they open up following distance in front of them, which helps reduce compression waves in the flow of traffic, and thus make the roads flow better. (see trafficwaves.org)

5. Collective Social Responsibility:

Finally, and most broadly, we live in a society of laws. The maintenance of peace, order and good government is the primary goal of our state, and we prefer to do so through the application of universal rules which benefit the whole even while the constrain the desires of the individual.

Speeding is a terrible problem, which leads to many deaths and injuries, and much misery, every year. We have a system of laws in place to reduce this problem: the laws about the speed limit. By ignoring those laws we are not somehow allowing the 'democratic' selection of speeds on the highway, we are allowing a small and anti-social group of speed freaks to push everybody else into unsafe practices.

Naturally, we can't control the drivers around us, but we can refuse to participate. We can choose to follow the law, and in doing so vote for a peaceful and orderly society in which people are not forced into taking unnecessary risks. By doing your social duty and accepting a very small risk now, you are helping to put an end to a much greater and more dangerous risk to society in general.
posted by Dreadnought at 8:27 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


By doing your social duty and accepting a very small risk now, you are helping to put an end to a much greater and more dangerous risk to society in general.

All that, and a transport truck sitting on your ass blowing his air horn at you.

What more could you ask for?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:14 AM on June 10, 2011


"Here's the problem though: when you go to 120 you are now at the edge of your margin of safety. Since some drivers will always speed, relative to the flow of traffic, because they are motivated by passing other cars."

There are several problems with the assumptions you bring to the engineering point: First off, that the envelope of safety is constant for every car, and second, that the number of speeders (especially those motivated by "passing other cars") is constant. You also presume that speeders will not be able to accurately judge the margin of safety they have.

For the first, it is entirely possible to have a margin of safety far above the posted speeds — this has been proven again and again with the removal of the American federal cap on speed limits in the late '90s. While traffic accidents and fatalities did increase subsequently, that has a much higher correlation with an increase in miles driven than any relationship to speed limits. Ergo, speed limits in America did not reflect the margin of safety, and individual drivers are often better situated to make those judgment calls.

For the second, while some drivers may always be motivated by passing other cars, that seems like a particularly spurious rendering of the general motivation of fast drivers, which is to get where they are going as quickly as possible. While some of their norms may be set by relative number of cars passed, far more of them will be determined by relative road conditions. As this judgment must constantly be exercised (the top speed limit is always as posted, or lower depending on conditions), arbitrarily ending it on the top end, as is implied by a speed limit (rather than a speed guideline) makes little sense unless the limit is the actual fastest safe speed for a road, which we both acknowledge is false.

Further, arguing that you are encouraging others to drive even faster is false. In driving situations where a top speed isn't given (e.g. the Autobahn) or is de facto unenforced (e.g. Italian highways), where again the limit is much more explicitly placed on "conditions," there is not a significantly greater number of traffic accidents or fatalities.

Indeed, I'd argue that the idea that one should be responsible for other drivers leads to the type of small-minded obstructionism that does cause accidents — if someone wants to pass you, you move to the right and let them by, regardless of the speed they choose.

"Good point, but let's turn that round for the moment: why are you driving 120? Because everybody else is doing so."

That's inane and assumes a motivation not evidenced. It's perfectly reasonable to counter by saying that I'm going 120km/h because that's the safe speed for the road, as supported by everyone else around me.

Further, the "herd immunity" argument is simply a way for you to ignore the larger point that if the majority of the herd has determined that 120km/h is the safe speed for a given road, you are the one driving unsafely by failing to match the speed of traffic. Matching the speed of traffic is one of the fundamental methods for ensuring a calm and coherent traffic flow. Under your logic, we'd all be better off driving tractors on the highway, because then no one would speed.

"A car driving slowly is less dangerous than a car going fast because any collisions take place at a much lower speed, which means much less energy is evolved from the crash. Furthermore, drivers are used to defending against slowdowns on the highway (not exactly unknown on the 401) so if you're going slow people are actively watching out for you. Not so if you're going fast and have to make an emergency lane change, or something."

But it is those cars going slowly and obstructing the flow of traffic that cause the emergency lane changes!

As for the Traffic Waves guy, he's noticed some moderate effects and has overblown them into an ideology, in part because he's evangelical about driving slowly. I would not cite him as reliable evidence for your argument (for example, his waves beliefs only apply to a small number of traffic situations).

"Finally, and most broadly, we live in a society of laws. The maintenance of peace, order and good government is the primary goal of our state, and we prefer to do so through the application of universal rules which benefit the whole even while the constrain the desires of the individual."

Finally, the moralizing sentiment of a traffic prude.

Handily, it's easy to destroy — morality doesn't flow from the law. If it did, any number of laws generally understood to be unjust now would have been moral then. Further, laws are at best abstractions of desired outcomes. We wish to constrain the number of accidents or fatalities, so we impose speed limits. However, the necessity of those laws is mitigated by the extent that breaking them is likely to result in accidents or fatalities.

Hence the example of the malfunctioning red light — it is still breaking the law to proceed through the intersection, however one can see that there are no risks (cars, etc.) in either direction. As there is no harm in running the light, it may be illegal, but it is not immoral. As such, appeals to universality of laws mistakes the symbol for the object, just as appeals to speed limits over judgment do.
posted by klangklangston at 3:44 PM on June 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


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