Skip

How to Not Kill a Cyclist
May 22, 2012 7:45 AM   Subscribe

It’s National Bike to Work Day today [in some cities], and maybe you noticed a lot of cyclists on your commute this morning. If you didn’t—and you’re a driver—that’s cause for concern. A plea for safety from cyclists to motorists. How to Not Kill a Cyclist posted by Blasdelb (156 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
I work from home Tuesdays. They make a national day and I'm supposed to change my life around?
posted by Obscure Reference at 7:48 AM on May 22, 2012


I feel your pain, Tuesdays is my telecommute day too. All my other days are velo-commute days though, so there's that.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2012


Lay Off the Horn

I had to very gently explain to my lady friend that using the horn to wave "hi" while passing me at a hundred kilometers an hour on the highway is not terribly appreciated.

Apparently it's not as intuitive as it seems.
posted by Stagger Lee at 7:52 AM on May 22, 2012


Hm. That was last Friday here in DC, although every day is bike-to-work day for me ;-)

Honestly, I actually like driving, but having an effectively-free 10-minute commute is pretty $*#&ing fantastic.

I might as well also plug the fact that DC's a great bicycling city. Tons of bike lanes, and many many other roads that are bike-friendly.
posted by schmod at 7:53 AM on May 22, 2012


Ironically, one of the most common reasons motorists behave unexpectedly is out of courtesy toward us, such as at a four-way stop when a driver skips their turn and motions for the cyclist to proceed instead—it’s a kind gesture but a bad idea.

Oh lord, this. Why would I want to put myself in front of a two tons of strangely behaving metal?
posted by Panjandrum at 7:55 AM on May 22, 2012 [21 favorites]


Last Friday was National Bike To Work Day here. I did participate but since I usually walk to work, biking was a step up.
posted by octothorpe at 7:56 AM on May 22, 2012


I had to very gently explain to my lady friend that using the horn to wave "hi" while passing me at a hundred kilometers an hour on the highway is not terribly appreciated.

People from work do this all the time when I am walking to work, and it is really hard to explain that I have no idea what's going on, if there's about to be an accident, if someone is about to run into me...friendly hellos out the window work if you're stopped! Not a horn! Please!
posted by jetlagaddict at 7:58 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Heh, and this happens the one day I decided to run to work because it's nice out. Oops.
posted by tronfunkinblo at 7:59 AM on May 22, 2012


Ironically, one of the most common reasons motorists behave unexpectedly is out of courtesy toward us, such as at a four-way stop when a driver skips their turn and motions for the cyclist to proceed instead—it’s a kind gesture but a bad idea.

Yeah, this is the one example that leaped out at me from the article. This makes me nervous when I'm on my bike.

Interestingly (at least to me anyway), I was trying out a friend's GoPro on the weekend, and I recorded the trip to and from a grocery store along a bike route. At a 4-way stop, a car did just this - waited for me to go first through the intersection, confusing everybody else.

In my mind as I experienced it, the process of trying to figure out what this motorist was going to do seemed to take forever. On reviewing the tape it took an extra second or so.

Funny what adrenalin will do to your perception.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


From the How to Drive Around Cyclists infographic:
CYCLISTS' COMMANDMENT
Abide by the law. If you want drivers to treat you with respect, that's a two-way street. "You've got to become part of the system," Eichstaedt says. "When you really put yourself out there, visible signalling, stopping at all signs, you'll find you virtually have no conflicts."
posted by notyou at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2012 [13 favorites]


If, for instance, you are behind a cyclist and approaching a stop, passing the cyclist likely will gain you nothing. In fact, you may end up passing the cyclist twice: once before the intersection, a second time after. Which, let’s face it, is going to annoy you.

So... passing the cyclist will gain you nothing because the cyclist will likely try to roll right past the stop sign or traffic light, ignoring the rules of the road, instead of waiting behind you, as a normal vehicle would, and thereby make you have to pass him twice? Yeah, that is kind of annoying.
posted by Behemoth at 8:02 AM on May 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


This has been gone over time and time again, here, but, with bikers v cars, if there is a mishap, it is usually the fault of the biker. The close calls I have had (and I bike to work about 95% of the time) have been because I have done something stupid.

Bikers who ignore their place on the food chain out there, due to either ignorance or their own sense of entitlement for not using fossil fuels to commute do not last long.

I can have whatever opinions I want about the behaviors of car drivers, but I'll be just as splattered, if I am not doubly careful.
posted by Danf at 8:03 AM on May 22, 2012


Oh, but here's where I'll be a curmudgeon:
If I am doing a track-stand at a 4-way stop, please do not engage me in a kindness contest. This confuses everyone, and it's really difficult to hold a track stand for more than a few seconds. Follow the normal order, and go when it's your turn!
Other ways not to kill cyclists (roughly in order of importance):
  • Use your turn signals. Every time. This is the easiest and most effective way to make things safer for bikes.
  • Watch before opening your car door when you're parked on the street.
  • Don't make a left turn across an oncoming cyclist. You wouldn't do it in front of a car, so why would you do it in front of a bike.
  • If you're on foot, treat bikes like they're cars. Don't jaywalk in front of a bicycle. You'll still get hit, and it will hurt both of you.
  • Remember that bikes have a similar (if not longer) stopping distance than a car at a similar speed. Almost nobody ever realizes this.
  • Don't do things in a bike lane that you wouldn't do in the middle of the street. It's not a parking space or a jogging path. There are exceptions here, but use your discretion.
posted by schmod at 8:04 AM on May 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


CYCLISTS' COMMANDMENT
Abide by the law.


Oh God, AMEN. I cannot believe how many other cyclists run red lights, run the wrong way down one-way streets, etc., and they all also look at me funny if I stop at a red light.

I'm also pretty pissed at the cyclists who go to pass me in a bike lane and don't fucking let me know that they're there, so all I know is all of a sudden there's someone right next to me only a foot away oh my god what's happening it's oh wait it's just a guy passing me fuck you why didn't you say something sooner dammit.....
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:04 AM on May 22, 2012 [8 favorites]


Judging from the traffic, today was DC Area Drive To Work At Bicycle Speeds Day.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:04 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


My friend tapped the brake and fell back. As the rider navigated the curve, he swung out into the road and upon reaching the straightaway returned to the shoulder. As my friend passed a few seconds later, the cyclist gave a friendly wave.

A cyclist swings out into the lane during a curve? He must have a death wish. I would never do that. If I needed the extra space, I would move out into the lane BEFORE the curve when the sight lines are clear.

If, for instance, you are behind a cyclist and approaching a stop, passing the cyclist likely will gain you nothing. In fact, you may end up passing the cyclist twice: once before the intersection, a second time after. Which, let’s face it, is going to annoy you.

I prefer to have a car pass me before the stop sign, then tuck in behind, because I only want to be passed once. The pass maneuver is far more risky to the rider than to the driver; not sure why a cyclist would want to get passed twice in rapid succession by the same car.
posted by Doohickie at 8:06 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


And oh god, a million times agreed on "follow the law." Say what you will about cars, but drivers don't typically weave around a pedestrian in a crosswalk as they run a red light. Bicycles aren't going to flatten me like a car would, but it's not a pelasant experience to have anything comign toward you on a street and realize that it's not stopping.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:07 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


All my other days are velo-commute days though, so there's that.

What does that even mean? You ride a velociraptor to work? where would you even park one once you get to work? I have a feeling they are more dangerous to cyclists than cars.
posted by special-k at 8:08 AM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


If I am doing a track-stand at a 4-way stop, please do not engage me in a kindness contest. This confuses everyone, and it's really difficult to hold a track stand for more than a few seconds. Follow the normal order, and go when it's your turn!

If a cyclist *really* wants to indicate that they are taking their proper turn at a 4-way stop, he will put a foot down to indicate that he is truly stopped and waiting his turn. This trackstand nonsense just makes it look to a driver like you might dart out at any moment.
posted by Doohickie at 8:08 AM on May 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


one of the most common reasons motorists behave unexpectedly is out of courtesy toward us,

Oh sweet Jebus, I hate this too even when I'm in the car let alone on a bike or on foot.

JUST GO so I can get on with my life.
posted by DU at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2012


I'm also pretty pissed at the cyclists who go to pass me in a bike lane and don't fucking let me know that they're there, so all I know is all of a sudden there's someone right next to me only a foot away oh my god what's happening it's oh wait it's just a guy passing me fuck you why didn't you say something sooner dammit.....

Get a mirror. How can you operate in traffic, even a bike lane, without one???
posted by Doohickie at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


So... passing the cyclist will gain you nothing because the cyclist will likely try to roll right past the stop sign or traffic light, ignoring the rules of the road, instead of waiting behind you, as a normal vehicle would, and thereby make you have to pass him twice? Yeah, that is kind of annoying.

I think the idea is more that a responsible cyclist will (legally) come up to your side to see the cross-traffic situation at the intersection and is also usually able to get moving again more quickly once the light changes or whatever, but there is also room for a negative interpretation I guess. And why's it so important to pass someone right before coming to an intersection anyway?
posted by psoas at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


What does that even mean? You ride a velociraptor to work?

"Velo" is another word root used to reference cycling. Not sure why (it simply means "speed", as in velocity), but it is.
posted by Doohickie at 8:12 AM on May 22, 2012


As a driver and as a pedestrian: I don't mind if cyclists treat a red light as a stop sign. But I cannot stand bicyclists who ignore red lights and/or stop signs. Also, if you are riding without a helmet or without lights at night, I will fall back on the assumption that you are an ignorant menace to the road and treat you more as a wild dog in the street and less like another vehicle.

Just as a pedestrian: Whenever a bicyclist goes tearing through an intersection and nearly nails me when I'm on foot in the fucking crosswalk I have a moment of thinking that maybe this is the time I'm going to attempt to physically block the rider, but each time I err on the side of being nice or at least safe. (As opposed to cars - if you pass me in a crosswalk and I am close enough to punch the side of your car, I will do so.)

A tip for drivers - When opening a car door into the street, even if you've checked behind you to be sure things are clear, open it just a bit for a moment before opening it the rest of the way. If you miss a car or bike or even runner coming up behind you, that gives them warning that the door's about to open a lot.
posted by rmd1023 at 8:12 AM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


I live in a Maryland suburb of DC and have what maps tell me is a 3.5 mile commute to work. That would seem trivial on a bicycle, and for a long time I fantasized about switching to a bike commute.

The challenge lies in the fact that a part of that 3.5-mile commute lies along a four-lane arterial road with a concrete median, off-ramps, and a 40 mph speed limit. The road only has a shoulder for a fraction of its length. The traffic travels at something approaching 50 mph. The traffic is often heavy.

Best of all, there is no reasonable way to cut through the neighborhood, because it is transected by the metro rail corridor. To cross the metro rail, one needs to climb up a three-story pedestrian bridge with a spiral staircase.

The simple fact is that even bikes need certain infrastructure to make commuting feasible. Because even three and a half miles can sometimes be too far to go by bike.
posted by Nomyte at 8:14 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


As a driver and as a pedestrian: I don't mind if cyclists treat a red light as a stop sign. But I cannot stand bicyclists who ignore red lights and/or stop signs.

I composed a handy haiku for such situations:

I stop for people
whose right of way I honor
but not for no one.

posted by Doohickie at 8:15 AM on May 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Here in Key West, we have another name for National Bike To Work Day.

We call it Tuesday.

'Cause you know we kind of bike to work everyday. I mean on the days we work and all.
posted by Mike Mongo at 8:16 AM on May 22, 2012


CYCLISTS' COMMANDMENT
"When you really put yourself out there, visible signalling, stopping at all signs, you'll find you virtually have no conflicts."


How many drivers really understand what the signalling of a biker means?
posted by astapasta24 at 8:17 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Velo" is another word root used to reference cycling. Not sure why (it simply means "speed", as in velocity), but it is.

Velocipede. Velodrome.
posted by Nomyte at 8:17 AM on May 22, 2012


Use your turn signals. Every time. This is the easiest and most effective way to make things safer

Seriously. Here in Witch City USA, I've been looking into making my own signs that read "Welcome To Salem! Use Your Turn Signals. We're Not All Psychic." and posting them on all the major roads into town. Locals who don't signal are bad enough, but at least they have some sense of the flow of traffic. Tourists, though, are prone to sudden sharp turns and lane changes as they try to navigate often one-way New England streets.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:17 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Doohickie: ""Velo" is another word root used to reference cycling. Not sure why (it simply means "speed", as in velocity), but it is."

It's short for velocipede.
posted by octothorpe at 8:18 AM on May 22, 2012


I didn't see any cyclists on my ride in this morning. Not even the other regulars.

The only thing that bugs me with cars v. bikes is when someone in a car is waiting for me to "make a move" or whatever, but they don't come to a stop; they roll forward slowly. Like I'm going to roll the dice on whatever it is this guy is going to do.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:20 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Is there a national "Bikers - don't be shits to pedrstrians" day? Or possibly just a Seattle wide one? Boy is it needed.
posted by Artw at 8:23 AM on May 22, 2012


I'm all in favor of bicyclists following all traffic rules but lets not pretend that they're the only ones on the road ignoring those rules. I can't walk the 3/4 of a mile to work without seeing drivers of cars and trucks speed, blow through red lights, roll through stop signs, ignore crosswalks, go right on red when there's a "No Turn on Red" sign, text while driving and most of them don't bother with any kind of signals.
posted by octothorpe at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2012 [23 favorites]


Are we going to derail this into a discussion about the Idaho Stop?

Here's the simple truth. The laws were not written for bicycles. Many drivers want bicycles to be treated as cars when it suits them, and as pedestrians when that suits them instead. The fact is, they're neither, and most traffic codes do not adequately make this distinction. Furthermore, many American roads were not designed with bicycles in mind, so a bit of creative interpretation (on the part of both drivers and cyclists) is often necessary on a case-by-case basis.

"Follow the law" is bad advice, because "the law" is usually either nonexistent or inadequately specified. Odds are, the actual traffic code is rather different than the one you envision in your head.

Also, I'm sure these "follow the law" folks never speed (even when it's just by a little bit, and safe to do so) or jaywalk (even when nobody's coming). After all, it's the law. I'm sure that most of those scofflaw cyclists would love nothing more than laws, signs, and roads that acknowledge the existence of bikes.


Now, for the Idaho stop:

On a bike, you can pass through a stop sign without stopping as long as you have full visibility of the intersection, and are going slowly enough to stop if a car does approach. If you approach and cross the intersection at 5mph, you'll have plenty of time to be sure that you're the only one in the intersection. If the visibility's good enough to clearly see that nobody else is approaching the intersection, you can go a bit faster.

Alternatively, if there is orthogonal traffic waiting at a 4-way stop, it's usually OK to do a "rolling stop" or trackstand while waiting for the perpendicular traffic to cross.

Yes, it's possible to do this like a maniac, and those people are stupid.

Stopping, dismounting, remounting, and getting back up to speed at every single intersection is exhausting, holds up traffic, and actually makes things a bit more dangerous to the cyclist, since you're spending more time in the intersection, and are making yourself more vulnerable to a rear-end accident by stopping. Also, being exhausted isn't going to make you bike more safely.

Similarly, there are plenty of cases where it's fine for bicycles to treat traffic lights like cars treat stop signs. Most US pedestrians already have this same mentality, and almost nobody complains about it.
posted by schmod at 8:28 AM on May 22, 2012 [26 favorites]


jaywalk (even when nobody's coming).

I do jaywalk when nobody's coming, provided visiblility is clear enough to make that determination. I take issue with cyclists defining me as "nobody."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:30 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


If I am doing a track-stand at a 4-way stop...

I know track stands are fun, but I really think we shouldn't do this. Motorists see a cyclist up out of the saddle and ont the pedals and expect him to shoot across the intersection, so they wait. Putting a foot down is a much clearer indicator that "I'm stopping and waiting my turn". Track standing at a stop sign is essentially the equivalent of this:

The only thing that bugs me with cars v. bikes is when someone in a car is waiting for me to "make a move" or whatever, but they don't come to a stop; they roll forward slowly. Like I'm going to roll the dice on whatever it is this guy is going to do.

I think we should give drivers e same courtesy here that we expect.

Track stand at stoplights all you like though, people will assume you're obeying the light.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I agree, let's not be pedestrian about it. (ba-dum-dum-tss) Besides... if it's only in a few select cities then it's not really National bike to work day, now is it?

But I didn't bike to work today partially because I wasn't aware that today was such a day. Mostly because I commute 45 minutes each way at highway speeds, but partially because I wasn't aware of it.
posted by Blue_Villain at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2012


> You ride a velociraptor to work?

>> "Velo" is another word root used to reference cycling.

No, the first interpretation is correct: I commute by dinosaur.
posted by Panjandrum at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2012 [11 favorites]


While we're in the business of handing out unsolicited advice.... pedestrians crossing the street: I know that you can do that thing with cars where you time your walk so that you pass inches behind the rear bumper. But please don't do that when crossing the road behind a bike; sooner or later a gust of wind will come along and blow the cyclist into you and then you'll both look stupid.
posted by primer_dimer at 8:31 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Is this the right thread to post videos of bike riding dogs? I'm pretty dsure they're on their way to work or something.

Bike riding dog
Another bike riding dog
Freeloader
posted by mazola at 8:32 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]




If, for instance, you are behind a cyclist and approaching a stop, passing the cyclist likely will gain you nothing. In fact, you may end up passing the cyclist twice: once before the intersection, a second time after. Which, let’s face it, is going to annoy you.

I had always assumed that it was illegal to pass on a residential street anyway. I sure don't see it happening, except with bikes.

Riding on a uphill street with blind corners and no shoulder taught me to take my lane, and I'm 100% safer for it. When you hug the curb/shoulder, as you're told to, the cars treat you like a pedestrian, or like you're not even there. When you're dead center in the lane they have to pass you like a car, or sit behind you. It might drive them crazy to have to go 10km/h while I'm going uphill, but I'd rather get to work alive than make drivers happy. Cyclists really, really need to learn to take their lanes, it's a lot safer.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:34 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It would be absolutely fantastic if we could not spend every bike thread bitching about how terrible some cyclists are to motorists and pedestrians.
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:34 AM on May 22, 2012 [14 favorites]


Doohickie: "Get a mirror. How can you operate in traffic, even a bike lane, without one???"

You turn your head to look if you think something's coming, just like you would check your blind spot when merging on the freeway. If you can't do this safely, you're doing something else wrong.

If you're on a bike and passing another cyclist, you should pass at a safe distance, and use a bell. This is actually codified into law in many places. In DC, you are not legally required to wear a helmet, but you are legally required to have a bell on your bike. This should give you an idea of how important this is.
posted by schmod at 8:35 AM on May 22, 2012


On my way to work each day in Massholia, I see a helmeted, neon-clad biker on his way to work. He even rides on the correct side of the street. He's going in the opposite direction as I am, so I don't know how he does on the hand signals, etc., but I'd expect he does pretty well.

I would like to film him and put the video up on YouTube as an example of How It Should Be Done.

That being said, I don't think I would ride a bike on heavily travelled roads any more, even helmeted. Way too many texters, cell phone blabbers, and other types of jerk on the road.
posted by Currer Belfry at 8:36 AM on May 22, 2012




If you're on a bike and passing another cyclist, you should pass at a safe distance, and use a bell. This is actually codified into law in many places. In DC, you are not legally required to wear a helmet, but you are legally required to have a bell on your bike. This should give you an idea of how important this is.
posted by schmod at 8:35 AM on May 22 [+] [!]


"PASSING ON YOUR LEFT!"
posted by Stagger Lee at 8:36 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stagger Lee: ""PASSING ON YOUR LEFT!""

Yeah. That too.
posted by schmod at 8:37 AM on May 22, 2012


The main purpose of a bell is to ring it when passing in front of movie cameras, in order to signify "guy riding a bike" and save the foley guy a couple minutes
posted by theodolite at 8:37 AM on May 22, 2012 [16 favorites]


Do I care if cyclists go through red lights if there are no cars coming? No. I jaywalk, and whatever. Do I mind passing a cyclist, then being passed, then passing them again? No, that happens sometimes with all sorts of traffic. Do I mind when they take up an entire narrow street? No. I wasn't going to pass until the street wasn't narrow because it makes me too nervous. Do I mind when they do that, but against traffic? Yes, and fuck you. Do I mind when they bike on the sidewalks? Yes, and double fuck you; triple on a narrow sidewalk.
posted by jeather at 8:39 AM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


There's the other golden rule, which is "break rules rarely, but when you do, yield to everything."

Passing on the right and jumping the switch to green by a second or so, when done intelligently, is a safety move because it puts you in the line of sight of vehicles that would otherwise squeeze you into the curb if you were trapped in the entire line of cars. This is corroborated by new intersection designs that build in bike boxes, and pedestrian signals that preceed the green light as well.

Astapasta, while you're right that drivers know jack all about hand signals, the best reason for using them is that it signals, "wait, huh? What is that? I better hang back because that biker guy is trying to do *something*..." which is the desired response anyway. Plus it shows that you're confident and knowledgable.
posted by Skwirl at 8:43 AM on May 22, 2012


If I am doing a track-stand at a 4-way stop, please do not engage me in a kindness contest. This confuses everyone, and it's really difficult to hold a track stand for more than a few seconds. Follow the normal order, and go when it's your turn!

A few seconds?
I think they have an exaggerated idea of how fast people in my town can cycle through a 4-way stop:
Car A: "You go"
{wave}
Bike B: "No, you"
{stare}
Car A: "Ok, I'll go"
{false start}
Car D: "Oh, wait, you're going?"
{stop halfway through sign}
Car C: "Oh, jesus christ, %##$%"
{charge through intersection}

(Repeat at next stop sign, 100 yards down the road)
posted by madajb at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm a very cyclist-aware driver but I've almost killed about a dozen over the last few years. Every single one of them was cycling on a sidewalk.
Ride safe.
posted by rocket88 at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2012


Been biking or walking to work quite religiously since the first of the year (new year's resolution.) Bike swiped from carport yesterday. Yes it was locked up, but obviously not well enough.

Wasn't anything valuable either, just a $100 Craigslist special. Wonder what a bike thief gets for one of those.
posted by jfuller at 8:47 AM on May 22, 2012


This is great. As a small derail. Let's not forget the runners, joggers, pedestrians as well. Be safe and be patient drivers. We're all someone else's family.
posted by Fizz at 8:49 AM on May 22, 2012


Get a mirror. How can you operate in traffic, even a bike lane, without one???

Get a bell (and use it). Not having one in this jurisdiction is punishable by a fine of $85.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:49 AM on May 22, 2012


You too, jfuller ? I'm ticked about the loss of my lovely Sequoia Elite on Thursday night, but also upset about somebody else using it for Bike to Score Your Fix Day.
posted by Kakkerlak at 8:52 AM on May 22, 2012


CYCLISTS' COMMANDMENT
Abide by the law.


Sorry, but nobody else is abiding by the law either, nor is anybody enforcing the law. I bike defensively and stay as far away from everyone (man or machine) as humanly possible, but I'm going to do what I have to do to survive jaywalkers, people jogging in the bike lanes, double-parkers, and cars who don't use turn signals or acknowledge lanes/traffic signals/speed limits.
posted by hermitosis at 8:54 AM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


Any cycling safety program dependent on the courtesy and care of drivers, in the absence of real cycling infrastructure, is inherently not safe. Any cycling safety program that requires bikes to use roads designed for the safety and efficiency of cars moving at high speed is inherently not safe.

The world over, the only things that have actually made commuting by bicycle safe for large numbers of people are: 1) real cycling infrastructure, including physically separate lanes and signals in high-traffic areas, which creates the preconditions necessary for 2) a high volume of people on bicycles.

If you're wondering what safe, sustainable urban cycling looks like, here's Mikael from Copenhagenize riding Copenhagen's Green Wave (where the traffic lights are synched to optimize the flow of bike traffic) to a pretty little ditty called "Jeg savner min blå cykel" ("I miss my blue bicycle") by Ibens.
posted by gompa at 9:00 AM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


When you're dead center in the lane they have to pass you like a car, or sit behind you. It might drive them crazy to have to go 10km/h while I'm going uphill, but I'd rather get to work alive than make drivers happy. Cyclists really, really need to learn to take their lanes, it's a lot safer.
posted by Stagger Lee
I went on a big (for me) urban ride from my work to the mall last week. 6.5 miles (in a wind-advisory, so I was in first gear most of the time), but in new territory that included roundabouts and a new bridge with two left-turn lanes. I needed to take a left turn in order to get into the bike lane. So I took the lane. I made eye contact with drivers and used hand signals and got into the right-most left turn lane. (I'm slow anyway and it was uphill and the bike lane would be on the right). There were two or three cars in front of me and a few cars behind me. No cars in the left-most left turn lane. I didn't get honked at or sworn at or anything. Just looked at funny by one guy (that I noticed, anyway) in the lane to the right of me. And when the light turned green, we went forward. I pedaled as hard as I could and got into the bike lane as soon and safely as I could. The car(s) behind me all behaved and followed me at a safe speed and distance until I was out of their way.

And I had no issues. And I didn't feel threatened. And I'm a new urban biker. So, this is just me saying it works.
posted by jillithd at 9:03 AM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


CYCLISTS' COMMANDMENT
Abide by the law.


How about this one, which is duplicated in every U.S. state?

(b) Persons operating a motorized or nonmotorized vehicle shall not:

(i) Exceed the basic speed rule.

(ii) Obstruct or hinder the flow of traffic on any road.

In other words, don't go faster than the vehicle and conditions will safely allow, and don't hinder the traffic of other vehicles. That means no goddamn groups of bikers going flat out where they can't safely stop (Guys, you're exercising, not going for the yellow jersey). And no bikers getting in the way of others that can safely go faster -- namely, cars.

In other words, bikes and cars won't ever mix; it's a rolling contradiction. Bike lanes should be everywhere! But they should all be physically separated from cars.

This coming from the guy that had to slam on his brakes this morning because a bicyclist decided to change lanes in front of him to make a left turn. If he was driving a car, we'd all say he cut me off. But because he's on a bike, he's some kind of hero.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:04 AM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


BIKES RARGH AMIRITE GUYZ
posted by entropicamericana at 9:09 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


No, he cut you off. But then, if a car did this and then drove away, you probably wouldn't use this anecdote as an excuse to despise all other car drivers.

I also thought it was funny that you cranked about that law in which part (ii) is broken by cyclists occasionally, but part (i) is broken by automobile drivers routinely.
posted by hermitosis at 9:10 AM on May 22, 2012 [10 favorites]


The simple fact is that even bikes need certain infrastructure to make commuting feasible. Because even three and a half miles can sometimes be too far to go by bike.
posted by Nomyte
I can only say that in my town (which is probably much smaller than your DC suburb), interactions with my mayor and city engineers are surprisingly efficient and painless! If you can, try to contact your city offices, let them know this pain point, and work with them to fix this. I know there is a big push (at least in MN) for more bike-friendly streets, so your city offices may either already know about this bottleneck or would be interested in knowing about it.

Also, I'm sure you've done this already, study Google maps (or whatever map website you prefer) to maybe find an easier route and talk to any cyclists you know. I spoke with a co-worker who was more familiar with the road I was going on and he assured me there was a good bike path for most of the way that I did not know about.

Good luck!
posted by jillithd at 9:13 AM on May 22, 2012


(Okay, while we're talking about velocipedes, here is a bit of a poem, found in full here:

Next comes the Queen, so pretty indeed,
How nicely she sits on the velocipede,
With high heels and buckles she treads with
ease,
She's getting quite young is our Queen
That Alderman Salomon out of the lane,
He holds up so stately poor Vickey's train,
Prince of Wales and Prince Tick will come
if they can,
Just to open the Viaduct and Bridge.


It is quoted in Michael Moorcock's exemplary and wonderful Mother London.)
posted by Frowner at 9:13 AM on May 22, 2012


But then, if a car did this and then drove away, you probably wouldn't use this anecdote as an excuse to despise all other car drivers.


Only because car drivers already despise all other car drivers.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:13 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I also thought it was funny that you cranked about that law in which part (ii) is broken by cyclists occasionally, but part (i) is broken by automobile drivers routinely.

Part II is broken by drivers routinely as well. I spend a lot more time stopped on the freeway behind others cars on any given work day than I have spent collectively over the course of my entire life waiting for cyclists.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:16 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I actually don't mind if the occasional jogger uses the bike line, but only on one condition:

FOR THE LOVE OF MERCY LEAVE THE HEADPHONES OFF BECAUSE IF YOU ARE JOGGING IN THE BIKE LANE AND LISTENING TO YOUR WORKOUT MIX ON YOUR IPAD THAT MEANS YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO HEAR ME RINGING MY BELL AND SCREAMING "PASSING YOU ON YOUR LEFT PLEASE MOVE OVER" THE WAY YOU WANT BIKERS TO DO GOD DAMMIT I'M TRYING TO WORK WITH YOU PEOPLE....

...Can we tell I was out on the road this weekend and had some Bad Moments?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:18 AM on May 22, 2012


In other words, don't go faster than the vehicle and conditions will safely allow, and don't hinder the traffic of other vehicles.

Absolutely! Don’t attempt to parallel-park your car in a tight spot when there is any other traffic, don’t wait until you can do a left turn on a busy street and most importantly, don’t be a cyclist.

At least in my jurisdiction™, the idea that cyclists “hinder the traffic of other vehicles” points at a massive misunderstanding of how our streets are supposed to work. The slowest participant (be it a cyclist, a horse-drawn carriage, a stopped bus, a tractor, a moped, or a car preparing for a maneuver more complicated than going straight ahead) defines the overall speed of traffic. Faster vehicles may, of course, pass safely with adequate clearance.

And the speed limit is a speed limit, not a guideline. Sorry for the bold type, but many people do not understand this one.
posted by wachhundfisch at 9:24 AM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Sorry, but nobody else is abiding by the law either, nor is anybody enforcing the law.

There's an old coast guard saying about this. "Be right, but don't be dead right." Yes, if you have the right of way, the other vessel/vehicle should work to avoid you, but you are not behaving responsibly if you insist on holding the right of way all the way up to the collision.

Follow the law as much as you can, break it when following the law would lead to an *immediate* accident.

And if you are not willing to follow the law, don't bitch because other's don't follow the law.

As a driver and as a pedestrian: I don't mind if cyclists treat a red light as a stop sign

I used to think that, then was convinced otherwise. Red Lights Mean Stop Period, and I don't want *anything* making people think otherwise.

I know we have the "can't trigger the light cycle" rule where if you wait more than 30 seconds and there's no traffic, then you may proceed, but that's only to deal with a technical issue (and if you tape a NdFeB magnet of reasonable size to the bottom of the bottom bracket, you'll trigger those lights.)

I do support "Bikes can treat stops signs as yields" in the sense of "if there's no traffic present, continue," but it's not truly a yield, which would say "you stay until there is no traffic"

But Red Means Stop. I'm even against Right-on-Red because of the abuses.

How about this one, which is duplicated in every U.S. state?

RCW 46.61.770
Riding on roadways and bicycle paths.

(1) Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at a rate of speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place shall ride as near to the right side of the right through lane as is safe except as may be appropriate while preparing to make or while making turning movements, or while overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway or highway other than a limited-access highway, which roadway or highway carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes, may ride as near to the left side of the left through lane as is safe. A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway may use the shoulder of the roadway or any specially designated bicycle lane if such exists.
(emphasis mine.)

A cyclist can take the lane when safety requires it, and can explicitly cross lanes to make turns or to overtake, and on a one way street with more than one lane, may use the left side of the left lane in the same way as the right side of the right lane.

And, even less amusing, the law you citied applies to the Department of Natural Resources, which is why it's Title 332, not Title 46.

Furthermore, is worthy of note. It says cyclists "shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable" with a few listed exceptions (RCW 46.61.750-780) and provisions which are "which by their nature can have no application" -- so a rule mandating engine size would be inapplicable to a bike without an engine.
posted by eriko at 9:28 AM on May 22, 2012


I thought National Complain About Bikes Day was next week?
posted by orme at 9:29 AM on May 22, 2012 [9 favorites]


(ii) Obstruct or hinder the flow of traffic on any road.

In most other cases, this means to allow faster traffic to pass when safe to do so. It does not mean that slower traffic has no right to the roadway.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:29 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


the guy that had to slam on his brakes this morning because a bicyclist decided to change lanes in front of him to make a left turn.

That can't have been fun for you. I often find it difficult to make left turns on multi-lane roads due to the same issue -- if I change to the left lane too early, the drivers behind me get angry that I'm taking up space in the left lane, but if I get nervous about changing early and leave it too late, then I might end up having to do it suddenly, as happened to you.

Where possible, sometimes I'll pretend I'm back in New Jersey and make a jug-handle-style turn, but it's often not possible, nor is an alternate route available (or I already screwed up in selecting a route, and I know it, but now I've got to deal with it).

We're all only human, whatever machines we're using to get from point A to point B, and we screw up. If we're lucky, we all still get where we want to go safely.
posted by asperity at 9:29 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm, my last paragraph can be read in two different ways. What I meant is: There is no fundamental right to drive the speed limit.
posted by wachhundfisch at 9:29 AM on May 22, 2012


Everyday is NCAB Day in America.
posted by entropicamericana at 9:29 AM on May 22, 2012


> FOR THE LOVE OF MERCY LEAVE THE HEADPHONES OFF BECAUSE IF YOU ARE JOGGING IN THE BIKE LANE AND LISTENING
> TO YOUR WORKOUT MIX ON YOUR IPAD THAT MEANS YOU WON'T BE ABLE TO HEAR ME RINGING MY BELL AND SCREAMING
> "PASSING YOU ON YOUR LEFT PLEASE MOVE OVER" THE WAY YOU WANT BIKERS TO DO GOD DAMMIT I'M TRYING TO WORK WITH
> YOU PEOPLE....

Empress, you know those canned-freon "air" horns that boaters (and football fans) carry...?
posted by jfuller at 9:41 AM on May 22, 2012


Sigh. I wonder if we can postpone the day due to rain delay. Everyone is so gung ho about biking -- but I very much appreciate the bus on days like this. ;-)
posted by smidgen at 9:42 AM on May 22, 2012


In my state last week, a bicycle advocacy group announced that they'd developed a free toolkit for driver's education instructors to teach student drivers how to share the road safely. This has been met with the usual complaints about lousy cyclist behavior, which confuses me mightily. It seems like the perfect opportunity to create more of the cyclists we want to see on the road, since the vast majority of us have or have had drivers' licenses.

There's no formal education for cyclists in most places in the US, and not enough cyclists around to allow new cyclists to learn good habits by osmosis. If you want better cyclists sharing the road with you, then either advocate for education at the point it will do the most good (when new drivers are learning the rules of the road), or take to the streets yourself and demonstrate good behavior.
posted by asperity at 9:48 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


A typical street on my route to work must accommodate not only bikers; but delivery, service, sanitation and emergency vehicles; private and public buses; horse-drawn carriages; rubber-necking tourists; parallel parking; segways; dogs, kids, and even cats; and parking enforcement with their little electric carts as well. If the prospect of slowing down for any of the above fills you with rage, then what the heck are you doing driving through my neighborhood to start with?
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 9:49 AM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I can't commute by bicycle because I'm a fat old man and I work 22 miles away from where I live, but I am the very model of a modern multimodalist, so I walk/bike/ride/drive in my hometown depending on the distance and what/who I'll be carrying, take a train to work every morning, and keep a scooter and a bicycle in Baltimore to get around between the two facilities I manage and my home office.

There are places in the city where the "bike lanes" are bike/bus lanes, and where riding according to the law in the bike lane invariably ends up with me chugging along with an angry Circulator two feet behind me, so I ride on the sidewalk on certain stretches rather than take the high moral ground and get ground into the pavement and/or a grille.

Fortunately, I've come up with the perfect strategy for sidewalk riding, in that I ride a bicycle so ridiculously tiny (see my profile for evidence) that I look like a circus bear at speeds that would have my grandmother complaining about "the slow guy," with my bell used only to say "I'm here," not "move over," and I always, always defer to the pedestrian, as I'm on their turf. The guys that fly along on mountain bikes get the pissed-off glares and the curses, but me—I get a laugh that means "holy balls, that's a big dude on that tiny little bike!"

I've also mastered the art of getting almost anywhere in the city using alleys, which is far more relaxing than tangling with the rampaging traffic, but it's gotten into my brain to the point that I occasionally forget what mode I'm using at any given time.

"Umm, Joe? Where the hell are we going?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean, why are we in the alley?"

"Uh—"

"This is the way I always go!"

"We're in a car. We could go up Charles Street."

"Ahh...well, yeah, we could do it that way."

The eyes roll. I pass beautiful fat girls with glasses on three-speeds, and I wave, because I think I'm obviously a bicyclist, too, despite being on the motorcycle, and it just looks like sexual harassment instead of my intended statement of unity between cyclists. I pass hip fellows on fixies, who glare because I'm in the Barbie car with the top down like a guy with a middle-age crisis, and wish I was on my bike, too, but sometimes, you just gotta drive it. If I'm transporting two cases of two-ply recycled paper facial quality toilet tissue from the art center to the clock tower, there's enough weight in that three foot high stack strapped to my rear rack that when I stop, the front of the bike slowly raises into a stationary wheelie unless I crouch and lean way forward, but I'm at least conspicuous.

For me, the biggest safety thing is simple—don't hurry. If I'm late, I was late the moment I left, and riding all crazy-like ain't gonna help. I just park my backside on the seat of that tiny bicycle, change to a gear somewhere between that gear that guys who've lost their licenses ride in, with feet churning like mad as they're carting home cases of MB, and that gear that makes me grunt and end up in the middle of the street when the light turns, and take a leisurely, relaxed pace that's perfect for remembering that life is short, so we should move slowly. You'll still get there before anyone could get their car, drive to a place, and find a spot.

Plus, politeness and a gentle deference open up the myriad ways.
posted by sonascope at 9:50 AM on May 22, 2012 [7 favorites]


The US Department of Transportation acknowledges that bicycling is transportation
posted by exogenous at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2012


Ironically, one of the most common reasons motorists behave unexpectedly is out of courtesy toward us, such as at a four-way stop when a driver skips their turn and motions for the cyclist to proceed instead—it’s a kind gesture but a bad idea.

Oh this is the worst. I used to have to walk about 8 blocks to catch my bus, and had to cross a 4-lane street to do it. If everyone just keeps driving like they are, no sudden shifts in speed, this was easy. But I've actually had people stop when I was waiting to cross the 4-lane street and wave me across, as though everyone else in either direction is going to do the same thing and there's no risk of me getting smoked by a bus as a direct result of these "kind gestures." If this is how people driving cars handle a pedestrian trying to cross a street, there is no way I'm getting on a bike and riding amongst them.
posted by Hoopo at 9:57 AM on May 22, 2012


Here in the Twin Cities, we have a whole week where our socialist oppressors demand we bike (or walk) to work. On one of those days, you're required by law to collect your allotted ration of free coffee and a bagel with cream cheese. Then, after a week of that, on the Sabbath we pay tribute to our false idols by closing an entire thoroughfare to motorized traffic, forcing personal interaction among members of the neighborhood without the crutch of a car horn.
posted by antonymous at 10:00 AM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


"I mean, why are we in the alley?"

Lovegrove is totally a street, I swear. It's a street in pieces.
posted by Nomyte at 10:03 AM on May 22, 2012


Bike walk week?

You have a week where you have to walk your bike everywhere? No wonder everyone resents bicycles!
posted by mazola at 10:04 AM on May 22, 2012


Nomyte: "To cross the metro rail, one needs to climb up a three-story pedestrian bridge with a spiral staircase."

They're not going to fix this overnight, but you should write to Metro to tell them about this. They're pouring a lot of resources into improving bicycle accessibility, and they'll want to hear about this.
posted by schmod at 10:06 AM on May 22, 2012


But I've actually had people stop when I was waiting to cross the 4-lane street and wave me across, as though everyone else in either direction is going to do the same thing and there's no risk of me getting smoked by a bus as a direct result of these "kind gestures."

This almost happened right in front of me, about ten or eleven years ago. The pedestrian spun around at the last second; her purse swung out from her body from the centrifugal force. The bus hit her purse.
posted by Lucinda at 10:09 AM on May 22, 2012


your allotted ration of free coffee and a bagel with cream cheese

We got these for Bike to Work Day, too! I love it when I can get free fuel for my vehicle.
posted by asperity at 10:16 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Nice to see the "Judge Us Not by Our Jerks" section. Drivers, don't complain about the 20% of cyclists who blow through stop signs, and the cyclists won't complain about the 80% of drivers who routinely exceed posted speed limits.
posted by scruss at 10:21 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


Be predictable. I'm talking to you, pedestrian/cyclist/motorcyclist/driver.
posted by davejay at 10:28 AM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


So I was biking with my kids in the trailer, waiting for the light at Sand Hill and El Camino Real to change, and counting the number of bikes waiting for the light- the green came before I could finish counting, but it was at least 25. I was wondering why so many bikes this morning, now I know why.

EmpressCallipygos- maybe you need one of these?
posted by ambrosia at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2012


My one rule of thumb: who has the material advantage either by being in a large metal box that could kill or injure a cyclist or a pedestrian, or on smaller metal device that can also kill or harm a pedestrian should take extra care, no matter if it means going above and beyond the drivers education manual or recommendations of governments or various organisations. This is also why, as a pedestrian, I don't shove people with walking issues or small children aside just so I can get somewhere a little faster
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:32 AM on May 22, 2012


Also bike to work week is a great idea, although in Vancouver it also seems to bring huge swathes of rain like magic.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 10:34 AM on May 22, 2012


EmpressCallipygos- maybe you need one of these?

A quixotic part of me is still holding out for the "everyone in the world magically all stops being idiots at exactly the same time" outcome, but like as not that will not happen. I may resort to a plan B.

(And I include myself in the idiocy, it's just that my idiocy lies elsewhere.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:37 AM on May 22, 2012


Drivers, don't complain about the 20% of cyclists who blow through stop signs

I don't know where you are, but here in Chicago I don't think I have ever seen a cyclist obey a stop sign.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:42 AM on May 22, 2012


Nice to see the "Judge Us Not by Our Jerks" section. Drivers, don't complain about the 20% of cyclists who blow through stop signs, and the cyclists won't complain about the 80% of drivers who routinely exceed posted speed limits.

I used to cycle every day until a temporary move to a very cycling-hostile place and then a relative having a near-fatal road accident just made me totally lose my nerve, but I'm still in the habit of taking the cyclist's side even when I'm driving.

From the perspective of anyone in my passenger seat, this manifests itself as "YOU FUCKING ASSHOLE!...JUST THIS ONE PARTICULAR CYCLIST IS AN ASSHOLE, NOT ALL CYCLISTS, JUST THIS ONE."
posted by carbide at 10:48 AM on May 22, 2012


Amazing. Read this a couple of hours ago:
A tip for drivers - When opening a car door into the street, even if you've checked behind you to be sure things are clear, open it just a bit for a moment before opening it the rest of the way. If you miss a car or bike or even runner coming up behind you, that gives them warning that the door's about to open a lot.

Just five minutes ago my pup and I were on our mid-morning walk and we happened upon a local bus stopped in the middle of the block, in the right lane, which is also a "sharrows" lane (bicycles and cars share the lane), emergency blinkers flashing. The bus was empty and the driver was on the pavement taking photos of the back right wheel well, which was creased against the tire. A smear of sky blue paint was laid atop the brilliant red of the bus. It began as a scratch just in front of the wheel well, deepened and spread nearer the wheel, and reached up and over where the evidence stopped in two sudden swooshes, like clouds with their sides sheared off.

Behind the bus were a couple of local BusCo supervisor vehicles (Ford Escape Hybrids), and beyond those, out front of the hardware store, was a sky blue Toyota Prius with its front right wheel squished into the curb and the driver's side door rent open, pulled forward, and deeply crinkled.

A woman who appeared to be the car's driver talked nervously into her cell phone and gestured at the car. She was dressed in black lycra and a hoodie -- there's a gym up on the next the block and one assumes she must have been late for her spinning class or whatever and so, in her haste, came this close to becoming bus meat.

As I stood ogling the scene, stunned by the synchronicity of it all*, one of the mothers parked on the wood and iron benches outside the hardware store, where there's a wooden toy train set for the kids to fuss with and fight over, said, "Wow. Well I guess it's lucky she didn't hit a bicycle rider."

Check your mirrors, people.

----------------------
*Not to mention the too sweet preciousness of it all: Walking the dog; sunny sidewalk; well used sharrows; clean, efficient mass transit; kids playing with wooden train sets; hardware store owners kind enough to put out toys for children; the busco's hybrids; the victim's Prius; the other ogler's concern.
posted by notyou at 11:02 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


And look what I get for trying to follow good practice and use the blockquote tag?
posted by notyou at 11:03 AM on May 22, 2012


"PASSING ON YOUR LEFT!"

The problem with this, and I learned it bike commuting in DC, is that a lot of the people you are passing do not speak English and do not know what "ON YOUR LEFT" means. But a bell, they know what that means.
posted by smoothvirus at 11:22 AM on May 22, 2012


...a lot of the people you are passing do not speak English and do not know what "ON YOUR LEFT" means.

This. Sure, I speak English, but I don't speak "Left" or "Right." It always takes a second or two of flailing wildly about while I process.
posted by Floydd at 11:37 AM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


In other words, don't go faster than the vehicle and conditions will safely allow, and don't hinder the traffic of other vehicles. That means no goddamn groups of bikers going flat out where they can't safely stop (Guys, you're exercising, not going for the yellow jersey). And no bikers getting in the way of others that can safely go faster -- namely, cars.

Contrarily, applying this ridiculous failure of logic to defamation law leads me to conclude that I am entitled to bring suit against you for imputing criminal activity to me. Your only hope lies in pleading abject ignorance, for as far as I know, willful obtusity is not an established defense.
posted by invitapriore at 11:42 AM on May 22, 2012


Well, people can pick apart the merits of whether one should say "Passing on your left" vs. ringing a bell if they like, and for the record I do both, but can we all agree that either one of those two options is better than doing nothing at all?
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:44 AM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


I must be the only cyclist who hates bells. I can never tell what direction the ding is coming from, and I'm often stumped as to why someone is ringing it. Occasionally there will be someone on my commute along Chicago's lakefront who seems to be constantly ringing it, as if the fact that they are riding a bike is somehow noteworthy and needs constant attention. Dude, we, all of us, here on this bike path, are riding bikes. Do you honk at everything you see when you're in your car?

Sometimes it turns out that the persistent bell-ringer is a child, which is rather cute, but there are adults who behave the exact same way.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:47 AM on May 22, 2012


EmpressCallipygos, I would suggest that the offending cyclist's mistake is passing you too close. They should give you three feet, just as a car should give you three feet.
posted by hydrophonic at 11:50 AM on May 22, 2012


I don't know where you are, but here in Chicago I don't think I have ever seen a cyclist obey a stop sign.

This in a city where there are so many hit-and-runs, it's practically a sport.


Wasn't anything valuable either, just a $100 Craigslist special. Wonder what a bike thief gets for one of those.

$20, same as in town.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:50 AM on May 22, 2012


Well, people can pick apart the merits of whether one should say "Passing on your left" vs. ringing a bell if they like, and for the record I do both, but can we all agree that either one of those two options is better than doing nothing at all?

No. You should do nothing at all. Just pick up as much speed as you can gather and zip by so close to them that their clothes flutter. The ensuing wave of fear this creates - which you can punctuate with a passing bird-flip - will probably learn 'em. I mean what are they gonna do, run after you?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:52 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


HAMBURGER
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:52 AM on May 22, 2012


as if the fact that they are riding a bike is somehow noteworthy and needs constant attention

Actually, for some of these people, I think they believe it works like sonar.

"Give me a ping, Vasily...one ping only, please."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:53 AM on May 22, 2012


EmpressCallipygos, I would suggest that the offending cyclist's mistake is passing you too close. They should give you three feet, just as a car should give you three feet.

I KNOW!...

But seriously - yeah, I know they're the ones with the issues. But in their defense - this happens a lot in the narrower two-way dedicated bikeways you find in New York now, where the whole thing is only about five feet across and is bordered by a concrete barrier and has two-way bike traffic. I prefer that because of the barrier, but it still doesn't afford a lot of room to pass someone.

Which is all the more reason why they should freakin' let me know they're there...(sorry, I got an Issue with this, clearly.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:53 AM on May 22, 2012



No. You should do nothing at all. Just pick up as much speed as you can gather and zip by so close to them that their clothes flutter. The ensuing wave of fear this creates - which you can punctuate with a passing bird-flip - will probably learn 'em. I mean what are they gonna do, run after you?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:52 AM on May 22 [+] [!]


I save that move for people with earbuds, jogging dead center down single lane paths.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:54 AM on May 22, 2012


...Erm, that "I KNOW!" was also supposed to have some joke HTML tags, reading thusly:

[Monica on FRIENDS mode] I KNOW! [/ Monica mode]

sorry for the confusion.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:55 AM on May 22, 2012


I save it for a group people walking 4-5 abreast across the MUP, particularly if they have a dog or kid on a 15' leash.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:56 AM on May 22, 2012




I save it for a group people walking 4-5 abreast across the MUP, particularly if they have a dog or kid on a 15' leash.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:56 AM on May 22 [+] [!]


Really? Cause that seems like the perfect opportunity to bunny hop over the leash.
posted by Stagger Lee at 11:57 AM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I think another problem that arises from road rules is when a new vehicle is introduced to street traffic, with laws clearly designed to apply to the safe operation of that vehicle, but not within the context of it having to interact with other vehicles.

Case in point: electric vespas. They're actually gaining popularity in Iceland, but here's the problem - they're classified the same way bicycles are. Which is dumb, because while they can attain the same speeds as cyclists chugging along at full bore, they are a lot heavier. But just as silent. And by law, bicycles must be ridden on the sidewalk. There are also no helmet laws for bicycles, and so no helmets required for vespas. Oh, and you don't need any sort of license to operate them.

So yeah, last summer I saw a number of vespa-pedestrian accidents, as you might expect, while riders who take these vehicles onto the open road are stopped and ticketed by police. It's madness.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 12:01 PM on May 22, 2012


I'm lucky to be able to cycle pretty easily to daycare & work (yes I cycle with a child trailer) here in Cairns, Australia, although the 60 billion roundabouts can be tricky. I've found other cyclists to be very courteous as well as pedestrians because part of the cycle home has to be via footpath due to one insane roundabout I swore I would never risk again.

Yet I get many comments about "dicing with death" and "not as brave to ride as you" which puzzle me - I don't feel as much at risk on a cycle as I do in a car racing along the highway with other cars.

My commute is about 8 kms one way - which takes about 20 minutes depending on weather conditions. It's about the same time as the bus - if you don't include the waiting time for the flaky public transport system.

I just love cycling, the feeling of moving under your own power quickly. Even in the pouring rain.
posted by gomichild at 12:01 PM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


hi, adam! how's things? what's new? anyway.

I stop for stop signs on my bike in Chicago, but not all of them, it's true. Cyclists are allowed, though, as I understand it to treat them as yields where the crosswalk is clear of peoples and the roadway is clear of cars. Which, I guess, contradicts the "be predictable" maxim.

In theory, I love the "be predictable" maxim: use your turn signals, don't turn right from the left lane, follow the speed limit. But I think, unfortunately, there's a lot of safe and legal riding which is not "predictable" to at least half the people in the vicinity at any given time. And I'm not sure a lot of predictable driving is safe. I mean, it's a safe bet that someone who comes up in a car behind me at that one place where I make a left turn from a stop sign into cross traffic that does not have a stop sign is going to make the left turn around me from the right lane. That's damned predictable, but it isn't safe. It's also predictable that at least once a week some idiot cyclist is going to come at me the wrong way down a one way street in my commute. Frankly, I should have plowed into the girl who did it last week, since my other two choices were swerving into the cab passing too fast and too close or into the parked car, which hurt.
posted by crush-onastick at 12:06 PM on May 22, 2012


But I've actually had people stop when I was waiting to cross the 4-lane street and wave me across, as though everyone else in either direction is going to do the same thing and there's no risk of me getting smoked by a bus as a direct result of these "kind gestures."

In my state, at least, I am required to stop for you if any part of you (or anything you are carrying like a cane or bicycle) enters the roadway at a crosswalk (marked or unmarked).
So, if you step off the curb or your bike wheel is off the sidewalk, I have to stop.

Whether or not this is a good idea on a 4-lane road is left as an exercise for the reader.
posted by madajb at 12:20 PM on May 22, 2012


Oh don't get me started on joggers. They love to run at me in the bike line going the wrong direction. If it's night I've had more than a few dive for the curb because I don't see the fuckers until the last minute. And when I do see them in time, it's pretty much thanks for making me swerve out into 50 mph traffic to go around you! And you! Yeah, you, the guy jogging barefoot! WTF. Yeah so I'm grumpy, it's a boring commute with a crappy hill both ways.
posted by Brocktoon at 12:26 PM on May 22, 2012


And the speed limit is a speed limit, not a guideline.

Yes! I totally agree. So many people don't seem to understand this - the speed limit defines the minimum speed at which one must travel to use a particular road. If your vehicle can't go at least that fast, find a smaller road!

Many drivers want bicycles to be treated as cars when it suits them, and as pedestrians when that suits them instead.

Funny, that's exactly how I'd describe bicyclists. They want all the privileges of a car without having to follow the rules.

As a motorcyclist, I just assume that nobody gives a shit about me or even notices that I exist, and that it is my responsibility to keep track of everyone else on the road and make sure I know where they are going so I can make sure to be someone else. Fortunately, being on a motorcycle, it's pretty easy to be somewhere else when I want to. I feel sorry for anyone on a bicycle who only has the power of their own legs to get out of the way.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2012


to be somewhere else, that is
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:29 PM on May 22, 2012


I swear, every Metafilter Bicycle Thread is an exercise in Parkinson's Law of Triviality mixed with a generous helping of Attribution Biases.

Another serving? Yes please!
posted by anthill at 12:32 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


if it's only in a few select cities then it's not really National bike to work day, now is it?

Bike to Work Day was Friday, May 18th (note the date of the linked article . . . it was written Friday, not Tuesday ).

Friday was National Bike to Work Day across the U.S. and Canada, in every place and every city.

I think blasdelb's little parenthetical comment "[in some cities]" was more getting at the fact that not every city in the world is in the U.S. Also, some cities choose to have their local Bike Week and Bike to Work-type celebrations on a different day or week due to local weather or schedule issues--college towns like to do it before school lets out, some southerly areas like to do it before the weather gets too hot, and so on. Nevertheless, those are local celebrations--any locality can have whatever celebration it wants, whenever it wants, and call it whatever it wants. But National Bike to Work Day is the 3rd Friday in May, always.
posted by flug at 12:33 PM on May 22, 2012


madajb: "In my state, at least, I am required to stop for you if any part of you (or anything you are carrying like a cane or bicycle) enters the roadway at a crosswalk (marked or unmarked).
So, if you step off the curb or your bike wheel is off the sidewalk, I have to stop.
"

I think we're mostly talking about bikes riding with traffic or in bike lanes here. Dealing with bikes on sidewalks and in crosswalks is a very different scenario (and really, a non-optimal one for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers).
posted by schmod at 12:34 PM on May 22, 2012


Mars Saxman: "Yes! I totally agree. So many people don't seem to understand this - the speed limit defines the minimum speed at which one must travel to use a particular road. If your vehicle can't go at least that fast, find a smaller road!"

Honest question: Is this supposed to be sarcasm?
posted by schmod at 12:45 PM on May 22, 2012


I think we're mostly talking about bikes riding with traffic or in bike lanes here. Dealing with bikes on sidewalks and in crosswalks is a very different scenario (and really, a non-optimal one for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers).

Sure.
Hoopo was speaking of being a pedestrian though.

I was just saying that there are so many different laws regarding traffic, each with their own particular edge cases and details, that arguing over who is right _legally_ is a shell game.
Better to concentrate, as others have said, on being predictable and courteous.

Like I tell my three year old "Share and take your turn!".
posted by madajb at 12:51 PM on May 22, 2012


I usually prefer to ride in the street but in my bike-commuting days from Arlington to southeast DC there were places where this was not practical. For example, where Glebe Road crosses Rt. 50 I needed to use the narrow sidewalk along the south side of 50 because there simply wasn't anywhere else for a bicycle to go.

Some things I discovered about riding on the sidewalk:

- you can have a pedestrian walking right at you and they will not see you, will not hear your bike bell, and will not hear you yelling anything. They look at their feet and get lost in their own world and will not notice you until you are about 6 inches away.

- the other, more rare, type is the ANGRY middle-aged white man who walks in the middle of the path and like the black knight of Monty Python fame will yield to no bicyclist. If they have children with them the no-yield factor goes up exponentially. Especially if they're tourists from Podunk, Iowa, and they are there for the Cherry Blossoms.
posted by smoothvirus at 12:52 PM on May 22, 2012


schmod, that remark was completely facetious.
posted by Mars Saxman at 12:57 PM on May 22, 2012


but, with bikers v cars, if there is a mishap, it is usually the fault of the biker. The close calls I have had (and I bike to work about 95% of the time) have been because I have done something stupid.

Rubbish. If most of your close calls are because you are stupid, then stop being stupid - don't tar others with your stupidity brush.

My experience of who is at fault is the exact opposite of yours. But I put a lot of effort into being extremely risk-averse and not doing stupid things (I commute every day, so even taking on small risk would rapidly accumulate), and I'm still constantly the one saving others from causing us mishaps through being zoned out or distracted or unable to accurately judge distance/speed, or simply not looking.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:06 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Some things I discovered about riding on the sidewalk:

Possibly you could make the world a better place by discovering that YOU ARE ON THE FUCKING SIDEWALK and acting accordingly? It won't kill you to slow the fuck down from street speed and accomodate people are walking where they are supposed to be.
posted by Artw at 2:11 PM on May 22, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ironically, one of the most common reasons motorists behave unexpectedly is out of courtesy toward us, such as at a four-way stop when a driver skips their turn and motions for the cyclist to proceed instead—it’s a kind gesture but a bad idea.

It's getting to the point where I'm gesturing more and more cars through myself, to head this off if it looks like there is risk of this. Maybe this will anger people who are incensed by cyclists on principle, as they might interpret it as me thinking I'm being oh so generous to follow the law and letting them take their turn ahead of me. I'll find out. I suspect it won't be an issue - you can often tell from someone's driving style as they pull up to the intersection what kind of driving style they'll have when at the intersection.
posted by -harlequin- at 2:17 PM on May 22, 2012


Fortunately, being on a motorcycle, it's pretty easy to be somewhere else when I want to. I feel sorry for anyone on a bicycle who only has the power of their own legs to get out of the way.

Heh - I've felt the same thing from the other side, so I assume it cuts both ways. Motorcyclists have to accommodate exactly the same driver blindness as cyclists, but the consequences of that blindness can unfold at higher speeds. Often, driver craziness has been so egregious that being slower and off to the side of the road was a major asset. :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:31 PM on May 22, 2012


Be predictable. I'm talking to you, pedestrian/cyclist/motorcyclist/driver.

It's a good goal, but one fundamental impediment where I am: most motorists have experience as pedestrians, and most pedestrians and cyclists have experience as motorists, but many motorists here do not have experience as cyclists in traffic, and therefore even the most predictable cycling appears alien and unpredictable to those people because they have little understanding of the different dangers the cyclist must focus on and the best techniques for negotiating these.

(And it's further complicated in that road safety increases when other road users appear to be unpredictable, as this makes surrounding traffic more alert. Of course, appearing unpredictable is not the same as being unpredictable!)
posted by -harlequin- at 2:45 PM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


I think another problem that arises from road rules is when a new vehicle is introduced to street traffic, with laws clearly designed to apply to the safe operation of that vehicle, but not within the context of it having to interact with other vehicles.

Case in point:


Heh, that reminds me of another example - a terrible case of legislating out of spite. Residents (in a city that shall go unnamed) didn't like youths and their skateboarding rollarblading ways, but the police would repeated tell the city "They're not breaking the law. There's nothing we can do".
So The People enacted local legislation to classify skateboards and skates as vehicles, so that if you were using them anywhere other than the road, INSTANT FINE! Thus empowering the police to help get those damn kids off my lawn!

But... this means that if you are a driver, and you turn at an intersection at night - and are struck by a black-clad skateboarder on the road wearing no lights - completely invisible - the kid can make the case that the accident was your fault for failing yield. The law change simply reclassified skates as vehicles, it wasn't thoughtful enough to worry about such minor details as basic road-worthiness, or requiring lights at night!

Idiots.

posted by -harlequin- at 3:01 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, that's interesting, harlequin. Maybe the bicycle experience is not as different as I imagine it to be. Why is it, then, that people get riled up about bicycles in a way they never do about motorcycles? Sure, motorcyclists complain amongst ourselves about "cagers" cutting us off and generally failing to notice that we exist, but aside from the occasional "start seeing motorcycles" bumper sticker, nobody expects anything to change. It's just a fact of life and there's nothing you can do but keep your eyes open, wear your gear, and keep on riding.

With bicycles, on the other hand, there seems to be a weird moral undertone, as though bicycle-riding is a sacred activity and car-drivers have a moral obligation to make way because bicyclists are important people who deserve more respect than other car drivers. "Share the road!" always seems to have an little "...you car-driving asshole" bolted on the end.

I want to sympathize with the bicyclists, because bicycling generally seems like a good thing, and a lot of my friends are into it, but whenever these fights come up I always seem to find myself siding with the car-drivers. I guess it's the sense of entitlement that bugs me: come on, dude, we're all taking a risk every time we get on the road - what makes you so special?

So maybe it's a risk tolerance thing. I know perfectly well that motorcycles are dangerous, and the risk is actually part of what makes the bike so much fun: I have to pay close attention to the world around me, and that extra level of focus is a deeply satisfying experience. It feels good to be tuned in, to quiet down my brain and just be in the moment. I suspect that most people who ride motorcycles are, if not risk-seekers, at least risk-tolerant, and consider the risk of a crash to be part of the package.

With bicycles, on the other hand, I would guess that there are a lot of people who choose to ride a bicycle for fitness reasons, or for ecological reasons, or for financial reasons, who are not so comfortable with the risk. When they discover just how dangerous it actually is, the response is not "well, yeah, duh" but "holy shit something is wrong why didn't anyone tell me I could die doing this!? someone must fix this".
posted by Mars Saxman at 3:05 PM on May 22, 2012


A big part of it is the top speed thing - if there is one thing that drives a lot of drivers absolutely up the freakin' wall, it's a slow driver. Motorcycles are not slow.

Traffic engineers know that more bicycles on the road means car drivers get to their destinations quicker (and bicycles often also get to their destinations quicker than the same trip by car), but these truths are highly counter-intuitive, and they count for nothing when GET OUT THE WAY YOU FUCKER! MOVE!!!!

People also react strongly to groups that are "rule breakers" - in any context - and the different realities of cycling and driving means that drivers will routinely obey and break roughly the same laws as each other, while cyclists will likewise have their own sets of routine obey/break laws, and because those sets are different... RULEBREAKER!!! (Obvious examples: It's a lot of extra physical work for a cyclist to break the speed limit, and none for drivers, so cyclists are good at staying under posted limits, and drivers are not. Conversely, for a cyclist it results in a lot of extra physical work to make a stop at a stop sign, not just a loss of time, while it's no sweat for a driver, so drivers are a lot better at coming to a full stop)

There are plenty of other sources of friction, with the usual road-rage results - but - even passive-aggressive driving responses, let alone aggression, when directed at cyclists from a car, instead of at other cars, the effect is greatly magnified, and many cyclists react at that magnitude, ie very strongly (and badly), and the aggressive tit-for-tat downward spiral is... all too familiar.

When they discover just how dangerous it actually is, the response is not "well, yeah, duh" but "holy shit something is wrong why didn't anyone tell me I could die doing this!? someone must fix this".

Sure, but I'd think "fix this" is also a valid response? It's a valid response in every other facet of life. (We didn't use to require all these crazy safety measures on the factory floor. Now it's just the way things are done and as a direct result almost no-one gets killed anymore, and the sky didn't fall).
I think "duh" is making an incorrect assumption - I've been to countries where cycling is not dangerous like this (cyclists really do own the road, and motor vehicles are secondary and work with that), so it's more a "duh, you're trying to cycle in America in 2012" , not "Duh, it has to be this way". Invariably, there will be people who take the attitude that it doesn't need to be this way, and it shouldn't be this way, so let's change it.
And no-one likes activists of any stripe :-)
posted by -harlequin- at 3:35 PM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


With cars, on the other hand, there seems to be a weird moral undertone, as though driving is a sacred activity and bicyclists have a moral obligation to make way because motorists are important people who deserve more respect than others. "Get off the road!" always seems to have an little "...you snooty spandexed freak!" bolted on the end.
posted by entropicamericana at 3:37 PM on May 22, 2012 [2 favorites]


It's interesting to read through all the comments, it sounds like a different planet (I know it does exisist, I've lived abroad many years, heh). Here in Argentina, one of the arguably worst places about traffic and all types of drivers, the only reason it's not a general demolition derby is that almost everybody knows the rest of the persons on the road are nuts, and their flee-or-fight reflex is constantly on (allowing them to avoid constant disaster by a clever speedup or brakedown). Even in my medium sized city, the simple walk from home to work needs me to deal with lunatics on cars that treat yellow lights as "sprint time!" signals and the crosswalks as parking zone, bikers that plainly ignore the lights, cyclists that on top of that use the sidewalks as an extension of the street (and many times prefer it to the actual street!), public buses and truck transports that give a shit about right of pass when turning right/left and wouldnt even notice you becoming a smudge on the crosswalk, and even the far from occasional dog walker, dog owner, jogger and skater that will happily charge in a trot all over you without a single glance. I suspect most of our population survives because of some secret genetic hidden trick. Me, being a clumsy putz that certainly lacks said gene, fear daily for my ass as soon as I set foot on the street.

/rant
posted by Iosephus at 3:40 PM on May 22, 2012


With bicycles, on the other hand, there seems to be a weird moral undertone, as though bicycle-riding is a sacred activity and car-drivers have a moral obligation to make way because bicyclists are important people who deserve more respect than other car drivers.

When my husband was a cycle commuter, he got insults shouted at him by motorists every single day. Stuff bad enough that he wouldn't repeat it in front of our daughter. And it wasn't for impeding vehicles, either, because at rush hour around here, he could actually outpace the cars stuck in traffic. He had stuff thrown at him a number of times (I mean stuff like pop cans, not like bricks), and once actually had a giant SUV try to sideswipe him while he was in the bike lane while the purple-faced driver yelled at him for being a "punk faggot communist."

I know the moralistic assholes of whom you speak, and I find them tiresome. But don't think that goes only one way. There are plenty of motorists who appear to find the presence of cyclists objectionable on purely moral grounds.
posted by KathrynT at 3:49 PM on May 22, 2012 [4 favorites]


"Share the road!" always seems to have an little "...you car-driving asshole" bolted on the end.

I don't know Mars. If I was ever yelled at by a car-driving motorist while on a motorcycle, the sound was probably lost under the hum of my V-Twin engine. I never hear this because most cyclists I know are the car-driving asshole a good chunk of the time. I've also heard enough anecdotes from women to suspect that they face sexual harassment on top of the usual anti-cycling stuff.

Personally, I have the luxury to pick my route round bike lanes and residential streets with minimal through traffic, so I don't have many of the same safety or harassment issues.
posted by CBrachyrhynchos at 3:59 PM on May 22, 2012


I see all this talk about bells on bicycles. Folks, you're doing it wrong.
posted by mullingitover at 4:10 PM on May 22, 2012 [1 favorite]


I would drop the "fix this" attitude if it were possible to opt-out of the car culture risk. As it is, I'm not a pigeon and I have to cross streets one way or another, as do minors and the elderly and pets and wildlife. As it is, cars are the #1 cause of accidental death in the US and we all have a 1/81 chance of dying prematurely by that cause. As it is, cars are so dangerous that they are the #1 cause of police officer death, consistently above firearms. Meanwhile, we have models for how to do it better. How to build safe streets. How to build communities that minimize the need for cars. Seriously fuck the world as it is. Children, elders, animals and police officers deserve a better fucking world than this one. We all do.
posted by Skwirl at 4:12 PM on May 22, 2012 [5 favorites]


Motorcycles are not slow.

Not to sidestep the original thrust of the thread, but I can say from experience that car drivers get really riled by a motorcyclist who's not living up to the usual motorcycle tradition of just shooting ahead in traffic and leaving the cars to deal with the scrum. My riding buddy continually questions how I can ride the way I do, wondering if I'm afraid to ride at eighty all the time, or if I'm just not a motorcycle person, but frankly, my penis is quite satisfactory, I left on time, and I get enough of a thrill out of life in knowing that I'm on a ball of rock flying through outer space at sixty thousand miles an hour, so that extra fifteen miles an hour aren't really all that exciting.

My own mother described my riding posture and style as "schoolmarmish," which I take as a great compliment. I'm not likely to impress anyone with a thumper BMW, but when I ride like I'm in a car, accelerating reasonably and staying within 10 MPH of the limit, and shifting in that weird middle ground between lugging and screaming, I can get my mileage to just shy of 50 MPG. My riding buddy, on the other hand, regularly gets 32 MPG on his R100, which just seems like a pyrrhic engineering miracle to me, considering I get that in a car that weighs four times as much as an R100. I'm not in a hurry, because wherever I go, there I am.

This, of course, is like driving a wall of middle fingers in traffic. I won't close up the gaps and tailgate, I won't charge out of the red lights like a racehorse, and I'm not going to be the honor guard to some yahoo in a Lexus wanting to do ninety on the interstate between Washington and Baltimore, because the math doesn't support that sort of thing. You're not supposed to think that way, of course, because motorcycles are badass and manly and symbols of wild adventure and all the rough-ridin' pioneers on the great endless American road, but I'm having too much fun and saving too much money riding like a giddy little girl on a big bike.

On my bicycle, I do entertain a certain degree of satisfaction, knowing that I'm using one of the single most efficient, worked-out, and perfect machines ever. On the bike, I'm avoiding dumping clouds of poison into the air while keeping my muscles strong and limber and keeping my soul engaged with the world that feeds me, and I wish people in cars would be less complacent and distracted, but I try to win people over by example, being cautious and sensible and sharing what it is about cycling that makes me feel at peace with things. I can be angry that the world won't go my way, or have sympathy for people who just don't get it.

Mind you, if your car touches any part of me or my bike, I may kick your mirror off, but I'll do it with a smile and a happy little wave. One can't be an angel all the time.
posted by sonascope at 4:38 PM on May 22, 2012 [3 favorites]


Some days I just can't handle the stress of staking out my space to cycle on the road on busy arterials, and just dispense with cycling altogether.

Similarly, I just can't muster the energy to handle another thread where everyone (cyclists included) attacks cycling and people who bike.

It is only when and where cycling isn't stressful for people using any travel mode that it will be taken up by any significant portion of the population.
posted by parudox at 5:30 PM on May 22, 2012


Why is it, then, that people get riled up about bicycles in a way they never do about motorcycles?

Because you won't see motorcyclists going ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD. (which I see all the time in my neck of the woods)
posted by Lucinda at 7:58 PM on May 22, 2012


I mean, I see bicyclists going down the wrong side of the road all the time in my neck of the woods.

(lack of edit window = downfall)
posted by Lucinda at 7:59 PM on May 22, 2012


I don't think that has much to do with it - I haven't noticed any difference in antagonism between areas where bike salmon (swimming upstream) are practically non existent, and areas where it's common.
posted by -harlequin- at 8:03 PM on May 22, 2012


Danf: This has been gone over time and time again, here, but, with bikers v cars, if there is a mishap, it is usually the fault of the biker.

Well, it's not the case in the UK and I doubt is the case in the US either. In the Netherlands, drivers are assumed to be at fault unless it is proven otherwise.

UK stats, all from this PDF from government agency Transport for London, via the London Cycling Campaign:

In crashes where a cyclist over 25 sustained minor injuries (the vast proportion of collisions), the motorist was entirely at fault in between 67% and 75% of incidents, and the cyclist solely at fault in only 16% to 22% of cases (p33).

When a cyclist over 25 sustained serious injuries, the motorist was entirely at fault in between 64% and 70% of the time, with the cyclist at fault in between 23% and 27% of incidents (p33).

In cases when a cyclist over 25 died in a crash, the motorist was deemed entirely at fault in between 48% and 66% of incidents (p33), and the cyclist in 33% to 43% (p33).

NOTE: The figures for faults in fatal and serious crashes are likely to underestimate the number attributable to drivers because the victim's ability to give evidence against the driver is strongly affected by the crash.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:37 AM on May 23, 2012 [5 favorites]


And by law, bicycles must be ridden on the sidewalk.

That seems like a remarkable stupid law, even without the electric bikes. Bikes and pedestrians mix about as well as bikes and cars.
posted by MartinWisse at 4:23 AM on May 23, 2012 [2 favorites]


Seeing as how the yanks are having their weekly cars v bikes war again, let's remind them that the real problem y'all are having is not that cars are evil or bikes are evil, but that the mass usage of bikes is still a relatively new and localised phenomenon and the whole traffic infrastructure (physical, legal and mental) has not yet been adjusted to it. Give it a couple of decades and it'll improve.

(Also remember the first rule of traffic: everybody's an arsehole. Second rule: so are you.)
posted by MartinWisse at 4:26 AM on May 23, 2012


by law, bicycles must be ridden on the sidewalk.

Hopefully the law also requires cyclists to dismount and walk through street intersections.
The sidewalk sight lines for cars entering an intersection are designed so we see all sidewalk traffic moving at normal pedestrian speeds. They're not enough to see faster cyclists. A law like this is going to result in a lot of very nasty accidents.
posted by rocket88 at 6:02 AM on May 23, 2012 [1 favorite]


Cool Papa Bell: "Bike lanes should be everywhere! But they should all be physically separated from cars."

You're not getting it. Bike lanes physically separated from the roads, if and when they cross said roads, would have the same problems as sidewalks. Cars would not see bikes coming off the sidewalks/bike lanes as they would bikes in the street and hit them. See number 3 on this page.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:41 PM on May 23, 2012


Bike lanes physically separated from the roads, if and when they cross said roads, would have the same problems as sidewalks.

It doesn't make sense to speculate about whether physically separated bike lanes would work. They do work, and they can be designed to handle intersections well.
posted by parudox at 8:26 AM on May 24, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm curious...where do accidents with car vs cycle happen more often; at intersections, or along the roads? Anone know?
posted by davejay at 4:14 PM on May 24, 2012


I don't know if there's a way to train drivers to see bicyclists. And motorcycles for that matter. I'm convinced that a lot of drivers don't see bikes and motorcycles in the same way people looking at the basketball players don't see the guy in the gorilla suit walking through the video.
posted by rmd1023 at 6:16 PM on May 24, 2012


parudox: "It doesn't make sense to speculate about whether physically separated bike lanes would work."

Um, what? Those bike lanes are not separated from the roads, except in the intersection for a tiny bit by a little divider. I'm talking about bike lanes that are not at all connected to the road, much like a sidewalk would be.
posted by IndigoRain at 2:03 AM on May 25, 2012


Intersections are the hardest part, so you always have to design for the bike lane to make sense there. The video shows how a conventional North American bike lane can be designed to be better at intersections - by bringing it out and separating it by some curbs. And in the Netherlands, even the substantially separated lanes will often come closer to the roadway in order to handle the intersection safely.

Just find pretty much any town in the Netherlands on Google Street View, and explore. Maybe pick a place like Den Bosch or Groningen—which has 50% of trips made by bicycle—to see how they design their streets so it works that well (not every city in the Netherlands has invested equally in cycling). You will find bike lanes separated from the road by a curb, by a boulevard strip, or even by nothing at all (on low speed streets). You'll find cycling infrastructure at conventional intersections and at roundabouts.

It works well enough that the Netherlands has the highest proportion of trips made by bicycle as well the best record for cycling safety (with virtually no one wearing helmets!).
posted by parudox at 6:45 AM on May 25, 2012


The 15th Street cycletrack in Washington DC is largely separated from motor traffic by either bollards or parked cars. It is not perfect but I think it works well - it's my favorite way to get uptown.
posted by exogenous at 7:54 AM on May 25, 2012


« Older Daddy, I’m going to read you a story, okay? It’s...   |   Telling too much, too little or just enough Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post