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"...he doesn't even pay road tax! #Bloodycyclists."
May 22, 2013 4:53 AM   Subscribe

"Toby Hockley was on the 100-mile Boudicca Sportive ride in Norfolk when he says he was struck by a car and flung into a hedge. The driver didn't stop. Hockley emerged from the hedge, sore but intact. It sounds like a run-of-the-mill depressing incident from the UK's roads. But the shocking part came later. A young woman tweeted: "Definitely knocked a cyclist off his bike earlier. I have right of way - he doesn't even pay road tax! #Bloodycyclists.""

More from the beeb

Cycling round Bristol - England's first cycling city.

Canada's Tom Ford's war on bikes.

After "the serious injury of Times reporter Mary Bowers," The Times has a collection of pro-cycling peices:

Cities fit for Cycling

More here. (No login required for any of the Times links as far as I can tell).
posted by marienbad (311 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite

 
Someone's about to learn an important Civics lesson.
posted by Optamystic at 4:57 AM on May 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


"Canada's Tom Ford's war on bikes."

Shh, it's Rob Ford. And he smokes crack! (allegedly)
posted by Vindaloo at 5:01 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Would love to see an interview with the blonde, but it look like she's laying low now.
posted by Leon at 5:01 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can't imagine why you would tweet an admission of guilt. Does she think bicyclist-knocking is a national pastime?

Though my commute is short and I could ride a bike to work, I don't do it. For one thing, I pass an on-ramp and an off-ramp along the way, and I don't trust cars to slow down for me. For another, motorists' antipathy to bicyclists is no less in the US than it is in the UK, and my part of the road would have so little room that the petulant malice of a jackass in an SUV could lay me out but good.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:08 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


The casual evil of average people is often the most surprisingly shocking.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:08 AM on May 22, 2013 [105 favorites]


Once again humans prove that they'll blame whoever happens to be nearest rather than think about the real issue (in this case building roads that will accommodate cyclists).
posted by DU at 5:09 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I used to ride my bike to work, but in Toronto it feels like a lottery where if you "win" you get run over by some jackass in a BMW.
posted by The Card Cheat at 5:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I can't imagine why you would tweet an admission of guilt. Does she think bicyclist-knocking is a national pastime?

I can imagine some reasons:
* for the lulz

* social media bragging

* psychopathy
posted by Foci for Analysis at 5:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


"They're dressed exclusively in lycra and wraparound shades, they ride on the pavement, go the wrong way down one way streets and straight through red lights. And that's why motorists hate them."

Look, when I was 6, Jimmy Casterson was a jerk and a bully to me and he rode a bike. By the transitive powers of my impeccable logic, this means all people on bikes are horrible bullies and I'm totally justified in hearing the crunch of collapsing aluminum frames beneath the tires of my Humvee I bought expressly for this purpose.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:11 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I'm totally justified in hearing the crunch of collapsing aluminum frames beneath the tires of my Humvee I bought expressly for this purpose.

I ride carbon fibre. We cool?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:14 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


...let me get my snow chains.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:15 AM on May 22, 2013 [27 favorites]


I can imagine some reasons:
* for the lulz

* social media bragging

* psychopathy


* massive idiocy
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 5:16 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


* psychopathy

I can only assume it's this. Deliberately hitting someone with a car is nothing short of attempted murder.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:18 AM on May 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


I can only assume it's this. Deliberately hitting someone with a car is nothing short of attempted murder.

As in: definitely stabbed a passer-by earlier. I had the right of way -- he didn't even pay for the knife! #Bloodypassersby
posted by popcassady at 5:20 AM on May 22, 2013 [28 favorites]


btw, while it is the least stupid part of her tweet there's no such thing as road tax
posted by Megami at 5:22 AM on May 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


Deliberately hitting someone with a car is nothing short of attempted murder.

Except 99 times out of a hundred it'll be prosecuted as a lesser offence under motoring-specific criminal legislation because of the tiny difference in evidence between it and catastrophic ineptitude.
posted by cromagnon at 5:23 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


> * psychopathy

For many of us, other people are just a video game.
posted by jfuller at 5:24 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Also on the BBC today:
Glasgow cyclists 'saving city' £4m, claims research body

From the other side of the Atlantic:
NYC Study Finds Protected Bicycle Lanes Boost Local Business

Some ammunition for arguing with those who insist in discussing everything in fiscal terms.
posted by Jakey at 5:24 AM on May 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Hopefully this thread can be all about the specifics of this case, and not turn into "Jerks I Have Encountered, And Their Choice Of Transport", round eleventy jillion.
posted by dubold at 5:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [35 favorites]


Norwich Police tweeted the woman back and told her to report the collision at a police station. "We have had tweets ref an RTC with a bike. We suggest you report it at a police station ASAP if not done already & then dm us".

Lulz.

Ironically this person will soon learn the joys of non-automotive transportation as they're about to be disqualified from driving. The max sentence for leaving the scene of an accident is six months, while that maximum is very rarely used (and in fact, a custodial sentence would be rare) I wouldn't be surprised if a magistrate decided that she needed to spend some time inside given the callousness displayed by her tweet.
posted by atrazine at 5:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Perhaps it was a pun? Not everyone gets those you know.

John Griffin, boss of minicab firm Addison Lee, has argued that the roads were now too busy to allow anyone with a bike to use them. "It is time for us to say to cyclists, 'You want to join our gang, get trained and pay up'."

As a city cyclist, I am down with this. Treat bicyclists like any other operator of a vehicle - licenses, inspections, registration plates, vehicle taxes, fines, insurance, etc. If you are unlicensed, uninsured, intoxicated, or/and un-acquanted with the traffic laws you have no business being on a public road.
posted by three blind mice at 5:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


there's no such thing as road tax

So she is right! He didn't pay it, then.
posted by thelonius at 5:26 AM on May 22, 2013 [16 favorites]


I can imagine some reasons:
* for the lulz

* social media bragging

* psychopathy

* massive idiocy


* for 5 points.
posted by scalefree at 5:27 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


It hugely irritates me that the response of much of the press is a round of victim blaming when a cyclist was reportedly hit by a car travelling at 90mph round a corner in the wrong lane.
posted by jaduncan at 5:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Treat bicyclists like any other operator of a vehicle - licenses, inspections, registration plates, vehicle taxes, fines, insurance, etc.

Yeah! And gas subsidies, parking, and just for fun something new called 'grease tax'. Let's make it an expensive pain in the ass to bicycle in hopes that no one does it anymore.
posted by item at 5:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [34 favorites]


Another reason to be eager for the arrival of self-driving cars - robots generally don't hold reactionary political opinions about cyclists, and will give them the lane until they can be safely passed.

Awareness helps, it really does. Memorial Boulevard in Newport goes right by the ocean - it used to be a two lane mini-highway between a shopping and dining area that went right along a very popular beach, and into the tourist area of Newport proper. It had maybe six inches of shoulder between the white line and the curb.

One day, a ghost bike appeared, chained to the speed limit signpost. This stretch of road had long been a death-trap for cyclists, pedestrians and even cars - it was too short, with too many turn-offs, to be a two-lane mini-highway. Someone decided that enough was enough after one egregious accident caused by an asshole in a hurry, and the ghost bike was painted and put in place, and replaced when removed by the city. Questions started to be asked, regarding the safety of tourists on rented bikes and motorscooters...

Two years later, the mini-highway is gone, replaced by a singe lane road with a bike lane, generous shoulder, and nicely thought-out turn lanes. The ghost bike is still there, and the city trims the grass around it.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:31 AM on May 22, 2013 [56 favorites]


For many of us, other people are just a video game.

Well, I've been close to this while driving after a marathon gaming session.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:31 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Treat bicyclists like any other operator of a vehicle - licenses, inspections, registration plates, vehicle taxes, fines, insurance, etc.

Agreed. Let's also make bikes cost $15,000 and mandate that cyclists buy a barrel of gasoline every month and set it on fire
posted by theodolite at 5:31 AM on May 22, 2013 [57 favorites]


three blind mice - as a city cyclist I hear you, but given that your suggestions are all legal preconditions for being in a car and deliberately running over a cyclist in the first place, I can't hold out a lot of hope for an effective solution.

Without active real-time enforcement - and when was the last time in the UK you actually saw someone *stopped* from driving dangerously rather than recorded and fined after the act? - it won't make the blindest difference.
posted by cromagnon at 5:32 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I believe that it's already illegal here to be intoxicated while riding a bike. Certainly don't agree with the rest of that, though.
posted by forgetful snow at 5:33 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Near where I work there's a four way stop at the bottom of one hill. People blow through that intersection all the time on bikes, sometimes giving a casual wave like the kind you give to the guy who lets you merge into his lane, or perhaps some acknowledgment of guilt. One of these days one of those kids will be a hood ornament. I get angrier and angrier every time I have to suddenly stop (or even slow down). I have the right of way! Sometimes I think about not stopping and claiming I didn’t see the person. Sometimes I think about speeding up and teaching the person a lesson about traffic laws as they fly through the air and land on their teeth. But this would make me a vigilante, so instead I writhe in impotent rage and sometimes give the finger.

Seriously, I have as much respect for cyclists that obey traffic laws as I have disdain for those that don’t. There’s a lot of fucknuts out there in cars as well, but the cyclists have them beat.

Maybe I am old, but when I bike I make sure I obey the laws. Hold both parties to the same standards. In this case the woman needs charged with a crime.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:36 AM on May 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


Agreed. Let's also make bikes cost $15,000 and mandate that cyclists buy a barrel of gasoline every month and set it on fire

A flaming bicycle is definitely one was to make sure everyone keeps a safe distance away from you. As a bonus, no more need for lights and reflective gear.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 5:39 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Yeah! And gas subsidies, parking, and just for fun something new called 'grease tax'. Let's make it an expensive pain in the ass to bicycle in hopes that no one does it anymore.

What is a gas subsidy, please?
posted by atrazine at 5:40 AM on May 22, 2013


Norwich Police tweeted the woman back and told her to report the collision at a police station. "We have had tweets ref an RTC with a bike. We suggest you report it at a police station ASAP if not done already & then dm us".

That's rather odd.
posted by jeather at 5:43 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does she think bicyclist-knocking is a national pastime?

Tweeting about how much you hate cyclists appears to be a common pastime.

three blind mice: vehicle taxes in the UK are based on emissions, so a cyclist would pay as much as a Toyota Prius, Nissan Leaf, etc, which is currently zero. Insurance is similarly cheap for cyclists - third-party insurance comes with a British Cycling membership, so insurance is some part of my £28/year. I think there are reasons why we might want to have people insured, licensed and registered before they are put in charge of large, heavy, fast-moving objects with the potential to main or kill someone, and while cyclists do cause injuries it's not at the same level of danger as a car.
posted by penguinliz at 5:47 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


This is off the topic of outrage but I do think it would be a good idea for cyclists to be registered users of the road and have their own 3rd party insurance. Comprehensive insurance would probably be a good idea - one accident on a bike could wipe you out and leave you bankrupt.
posted by vicx at 5:48 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm not that surprised she tweeted such a dim statement. I know of at least one criminal case in Canada where the accused, charged with assault (attacking a gay guy in a nightclub), was convicted mainly on the strength of his post to facebook that night of "I totally just suckerpunched a fag". The judge didn't believe that he was joking, for some reason.

People are not really clear on the permanence or visibility of posts. In these types of cases I can't say I have much sympathy.
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


There’s a lot of fucknuts out there in cars as well, but the cyclists have them beat.

You seriously need to try bicycle commuting for, like, a week.

My favorite was the time the bus tried to deliberately flatten me - repeatedly, at, like every stop. He'd wait, and then merge back into traffic once I was level with the middle of his vehicle.

Because if you think scofflaw cyclists are enraging, wait until you deal with one who's obeying the law and taking the lane to pass a row of parked cars safely. This apparently justifies murder.

Car drivers are dangerous, distracted, aggressive and unpredictable - you don't notice as much with a nice safe cage of steel around you.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:52 AM on May 22, 2013 [62 favorites]


That's rather odd.
The next morning, she checked Facebook.
YOU HAVE (3) NEW FRIEND REQUESTS.
YOU HAVE (1) OUTSTANDING WARRANT.

posted by aw_yiss at 5:53 AM on May 22, 2013 [51 favorites]


Can't we just admit most everyone in a form of transport is an asshole and narcissistic douchenozzle? Some just have mass and inertia as weapons.
posted by petrilli at 5:54 AM on May 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


Seriously, I have as much respect for cyclists that obey traffic laws as I have disdain for those that don’t. There’s a lot of fucknuts out there in cars as well, but the cyclists have them beat.

Oh yeah. On the road, I can at least count on 99.99% of the cars stopping at a red light, but on a very nice bike path with "STOP - DISMOUNT BEFORE CROSSING" signs at every grade crossing, hardly anyone stops, let alone dismounts. Sure, those signs might be annoying or uncalled for, but using those excuses to ignore the rules wouldn't ever fly if you were in an automobile.

And don't even get me started on how many cyclists tear down the Minuteman Bikeway weaving in and out of slower bicycle traffic as if they owned the road
posted by RonButNotStupid at 5:55 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Near where I work there's a four way stop at the bottom of one hill. People blow through that intersection all the time on bikes, sometimes giving a casual wave like the kind you give to the guy who lets you merge into his lane, or perhaps some acknowledgment of guilt. One of these days one of those kids will be a hood ornament. I get angrier and angrier every time I have to suddenly stop (or even slow down). I have the right of way! Sometimes I think about not stopping and claiming I didn’t see the person. Sometimes I think about speeding up and teaching the person a lesson about traffic laws as they fly through the air and land on their teeth. But this would make me a vigilante, so instead I writhe in impotent rage and sometimes give the finger.

So you're saying you don't stop either? You just blow through the stop sign as well? That's what it sounds like. How can you be HURR DURR IM MAD ABOUT BIEKS when you do the same thing?
posted by thylacine at 5:55 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hopefully this thread can be all about the specifics of this case, and not turn into "Jerks I Have Encountered, And Their Choice Of Transport", round eleventy jillion

Is it okay if I make it "jerks in this country", in particular? Because the attitude of motorists towards cyclists in Britain is absolutely shocking. I ride in Paris, in New York and in the South of England and I feel by far the most vulnerable here. There is indeed some misconception that cyclists by nature do not have right of way - I've been honked at just for daring to be in the road. And it's so uncharacteristic because in general I find British drivers far more considerate than their counterparts on the continent. Why this rage? I don't quite get it. There definitely needs to be some serious re-education in this country though. Or compulsory bike week or something.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 5:56 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh for crying out loud. These old arguments again? Transportation is a right. Driving a car is not a right. Minors, people with different abilities and poor people all deserve to be able to use our public roadways in peace and safety. Bicycles were here first. Bicycles are not dangerous in any way that is comparable to how cars are the #1 cause of accidental death worldwide. Comparing the dangers of cars and how they need to be regulated by the state to bicycles is the most inane kind of false equivalence. Cars are regulated because cars kill lots and lots and lots and lots and LOTS of innocent people.
posted by Skwirl at 5:57 AM on May 22, 2013 [41 favorites]


I believe that it's already illegal here to be intoxicated while riding a bike. Certainly don't agree with the rest of that, though.

Obviously laws vary, but I used to represent DUI clients in a jurisdiction where the law made it technically illegal to operate a sled while drunk. Enforcement, on the other hand, is obviously pretty different. Partially because drunk sledding is awesome.

I'm a pedestrian the vast majority of the time, and I have plenty of annoyance at cyclists (mostly for blowing through red lights when I'm trying to cross), but the attitude my car commuter coworkers have for them is something else. It's a lot of "who do they think they are, riding in the street?" Or "they're so smug with their stupid outfits." Between talking to those people and spending time with the bike loving denizens of Metafilter I feel like a nice happy medium.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:58 AM on May 22, 2013


I am a cyclist. If I run a red light and there's no cars near the intersection to notice, is that wrong?
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 5:58 AM on May 22, 2013


You seriously need to try bicycle commuting for, like, a week.

Point taken. Also, I plan to. I just started a job where I live exactly 3 miles away! My life's ambition was to live near where I work.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:58 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Near where I work there's a four way stop at the bottom of one hill. People blow through that intersection all the time on bikes . . . I get angrier and angrier every time I have to suddenly stop (or even slow down). I have the right of way! Sometimes I think about not stopping and claiming I didn’t see the person.


cjorgenson, how can you only "slow down" but still "have the right of way" at a "four way stop?"

Does. Not. Compute.
posted by spitbull at 5:58 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The remarkable thing about this situation is that the perpetrator and the victim are being linked. In so many cases a cyclist gets injured and nothing comes of it. I'm not claiming that the auto driver is at fault in every case, but the amount of hit and run incidents is alarming and I don't know why motorists don't understand that they have a duty to remain at the site of the accident. I would like to see more education initiatives aimed at drivers to make them aware of how an unfortunate situation can easily turn into a felony by deliberately fleeing the scene of an accident.
posted by dgran at 6:00 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Treat bicyclists like any other operator of a vehicle - licenses, inspections, registration plates, vehicle taxes, fines, insurance, etc.

Because, obviously, operating a vehicle that weighs 25 pounds (or less) and rarely goes above foot-running speeds is exactly the equivalent of operating a vehicle that weighs at least more than a ton and goes several times as fast.

FFS. The main hazard to car drivers isn't cyclists, any more than it's pedestrians; it's other car drivers, not coincidentally the main hazard to cyclists and pedestrians as well. Many cyclists ride on the sidewalks or the wrong side of the street in the mistaken notion that it makes them safer. I'm all for cyclists having the same rights and responsibilities as a motorist when they're on the road, but that doesn't require the same sort of bureaucracy as a larger, more dangerous vehicle. Just start issuing them tickets. Word will get around. The flip side to that, however, is to also issue tickets to motorists who put cyclists in danger.
posted by Halloween Jack at 6:00 AM on May 22, 2013 [19 favorites]


Slap*Happy: "Because if you think scofflaw cyclists are enraging"

About 75% of the time I hear this term, people use it to describe completely legal behavior.

Bicycles are neither cars nor pedestrians, and (surprise!) most traffic codes actually do address this distinction with a fair amount of clarity.

It's amazing how willingly people will accuse others of breaking the law, without actually having any knowledge of what the law is.

(And, yeah. I used a bike as my primary mode of transportation when I lived in Scotland. Most of the time it was fine, but there were occasional moments of visceral terror due to the combination of motorists' outright refusal to yield to cyclists, the complete lack of shoulder on most roads, and general tendency for people to drive crazy speeds on narrow roads. Many areas of America are shitty to cyclists, but I definitely felt more at risk in the UK.)
posted by schmod at 6:01 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


i'm skeptical that Norfolk police even followed up on this event. as if cops would actually properly investigate cyclist/auto collisions with the seriousness that they deserve?

i'd pay for registration/insurance/etc. if cars and bikes were really equal - if they cost the same, if they polluted the same, if they moved at the same speed and caused the same amount of damage - but they're not. rather than treat bikes as an automobile and insure/register them as such, we need to realize that bikes are not peds and bikes are not cars. they are a step inbetween pedestrian and car - and we should design them into the system as such.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:01 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I think about not stopping and claiming I didn’t see the person. Sometimes I think about speeding up and teaching the person a lesson about traffic laws as they fly through the air and land on their teeth. But this would make me a vigilante, so instead I writhe in impotent rage and sometimes give the finger.

OK there, D-fens. Hopefully you also don't do it because that would be the act of a complete sociopath.
posted by jaduncan at 6:02 AM on May 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


Yep. Some cyclists are asshats. But it doesn't follow that it is then acceptable to smack them with your car. This seems obvious to me, but I fear I am in a minority. Apparently costing a driver even a few seconds is unacceptable in my community.

OI can't help but think these car drivers would be regular nice people if they weren't in cars. Maybe cars make people more selfish, territorial or entitled, and less caring about the safety of fellow humans.

I'd like to see a phycological study on it all.
posted by cccorlew at 6:04 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I presume the UK cops can get a the equivalent of a subpoena to order twitter to give up that idiot's IP address, and then her ISP to give up her name and address. Lets see if the car at matches the report.
posted by spitbull at 6:06 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


spitbull: "cjorgenson, how can you only "slow down" but still "have the right of way" at a "four way stop?"

Does. Not. Compute.
"

Please let's not turn this into another debate about the Idaho Stop.

But, yes. You can safely navigate a 4-way stop without coming to a complete halt. I don't understand why this is so difficult for some people to comprehend.
posted by schmod at 6:07 AM on May 22, 2013


Car drivers are dangerous, distracted, aggressive and unpredictable - you don't notice as much with a nice safe cage of steel around you.

This is the essence of the difference.
posted by dry white toast at 6:07 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Schmod, not in a car you can't roll through a stop sign, no way. And that's what I was talking about.
posted by spitbull at 6:08 AM on May 22, 2013


I presume the UK cops can get a the equivalent of a subpoena to order twitter to give up that idiot's IP address, and then her ISP.

The BBC isn't naming her out of journalistic ethics.

People know the name of the driver, cyclist, employer of the driver (who have actually made a public statement of condemnation of the behaviour), and have screengrabs of other posts she's made with her speedo exceeding the limit considerably given the location of the post. I won't go into it more here, since witch-hunts are not what MeFi does.

Ironically enough, the driver was a trainee tax accountant. Possibly her employer also wishes to highlight that their actual employees do have an understanding of the tax code. This is probably career ending for her though; you can't be an accountant with a criminal conviction and this is an open and shut failure to stop at the scene of an accident due to the demonstration of mens rea/intent in the tweet.
posted by jaduncan at 6:08 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Presumably d-fens has come to a complete stop at a stop sign, started into the intersection, then had to stop or slow to avoid collisions with cyclists blowing the stop sign through the cross street.
posted by kavasa at 6:09 AM on May 22, 2013 [15 favorites]


1) ok, but that wasn't at all clear
2) who is d-fens?
3) this is when cyclists get annoying ("Idaho stop" bullshit)

Stop means stop. As a driver I need to know you ate going to act predictably like every other vehicle. I realize you lose precious momentum. I have to burn extra gas to stop and start too. But unless the law is changed so drivers know you will be rolling through, I expect you to stop. Thanks! Might save your life.

I love cyclists. I don't want to hurt them if I'm driving.
posted by spitbull at 6:11 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I'd like to see a psychological study on it all.

Judging by the title it's probably not the most objective study, but Google Scholar turns up this article, which looks like a fun read along with its related articles: "Monsters in Metal Cocoons: 'Road Rage' and Cyborg Bodies."
posted by Skwirl at 6:11 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Drivers' moral progress, and why they hate cyclists
I spent Monday morning at a speed awareness course, whither I had been dispatched for failing to notice a speed camera on the other side of a dual carriageway. It was an interesting opportunity for the examination of the emotional mechanisms underlying moral conduct. ...
The only time there was an outbreak of moral outrage was when one of our number confessed that he sometimes rode a bicycle. Cyclists, we rapidly learned, were vile, dangerous outlaws who shot red lights, paid no tax, rode on the pavement and behaved with utter disregard for the safety of anyone else on the road.

While this noise was going on, I had a small epiphany. The cyclists were hated because they are cheats. They are getting away with something that car drivers cannot.
I used to ride a bicycle pretty frequently. I miss it - the roads where I live now are poorly designed, and the drivers actively dangerous. I don't know how the UK pays for roads, but I do know in the States that automobile drivers in no way bear the full cost of road construction and maintenance.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 6:12 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yep. Some cyclists are asshats. But it doesn't follow that it is then acceptable to smack them with your car. This seems obvious to me, but I fear I am in a minority.

I wouldn't say you're in the minority at all, and especially not here. There are there axes being ground, but I don't think anyone would ever condone the actions of the driver in the FPP.

OI can't help but think these car drivers would be regular nice people if they weren't in cars. Maybe cars make people more selfish, territorial or entitled, and less caring about the safety of fellow humans.

It's the abstraction. Inside a car, you're more removed from the environment and less able to exchange subtle expressive cues with others. A near collision between two pedestrians is much more easily resolved amicably than a near collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian or a motorist and a cyclist.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 6:13 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


2) who is d-fens?

Michael Douglas's character from the movie Falling Down who is a stereotypical "angry white man" who has a mental break while stuck in traffic and goes on a crime spree.

The movie is better than that sounds.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:13 AM on May 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Ok, but that post was by cjorgenson.
posted by spitbull at 6:14 AM on May 22, 2013


This is about the most entertaining derail ever.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:15 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yeah, the reference was to the similarity of behavior, I think. The idea being cjorgenson is contemplating acting like Michael Douglas in the movie. I think the reference was a touch uncalled for, to be honest, but I'm pretty sure that's what was meant.

It's also entirely possible to stop at a four way stop and then still need to stop again because a bicycle has shot into the intersection unexpectedly. I have no idea why we're assuming that cjorgenson isn't stopping.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:17 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I'm going to echo schmod and throw out my theory (as both a cyclist and a driver- some of us do both!) that many instances of cyclists behaving badly are as much the result of infrastructural design flaws as 'asshat' cyclists. Bikes aren't built like cars, and they don't work in the same way, thus bike-friendly infrastructure needs to take this into account. The red light/stop sign issue is a classic one that some municipalities have figured out how to deal with, but there's also the challenge of one way streets and the issue of splitting lanes in stopped traffic. Frankly, I find these more interesting to think about as an issue of urban design rather than moral behavior anyway.
posted by Polyhymnia at 6:19 AM on May 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


There’s a lot of fucknuts out there in cars as well, but the cyclists have them beat.

A cyclist is much, much, orders-of-magnitude less likely to kill someone by being a fucknut than a driver. On the likelihood-and-consequence graph, drivers have cyclists beat, whether collectively or by average or by any other method one chooses to cook one's numbers.
posted by Etrigan at 6:20 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Until these incidents are treated like the attempted vehicular manslaughter (or manslaughter) that they are nothing is going to change. I happen to live in one of the most dangerous places in the country for bicycle commuters and pedestrians and I can think of 3 recent cyclist deaths caused by straight up motorist negligence where the driver got off with a relative slap on the wrist.

Furthermore, all of this rage towards cyclists running a stop sign or possibly inconveniencing a driver being punishable by, well, DEATH is disgusting. When someone slows me down in the grocery store with their cart do they deserve a public beating? Why is it that because someone is in a car they're entitled to some god-like sense of entitlement? Slow-the-fuck-down and give your fellow man a break. Since I started riding on the roads nearly 10 years ago I've realized that there are a tremendous amount of very unhappy people in this world and they'll go out of their way to ruin your day as well given the chance.
posted by photoslob at 6:21 AM on May 22, 2013 [36 favorites]


There are there axes being ground, but I don't think anyone would ever condone the actions of the driver in the FPP

When a post is made about a hit-and-run where the driver is going 90mph in the wrong lane, and almost all of the comments are about how much bikes and their riders suck, one could be forgiven for getting the impression that plenty of people condone her actions.
posted by enn at 6:22 AM on May 22, 2013 [51 favorites]


PS -- Having an active cycling population on the same roads as you are driving on, makes those roads significantly safer for all road users, including safer for drivers. That may seem unintuitive, but the mechanism is that most drivers are kind of awful at driving and they don't pay attention and seeing other vulnerable road users reminds them that they should pay attention after all.

Bottom line: Drivers who hate on cyclists are also hurting their own safety.

Interestingly, the decrease in fatality occurred not just for people on bikes, but for all classes of road users – including people in cars and people on foot. In other words, the increase in bike use has benefited all road users by helping transform the streets into safer places.

(http://www.planetizen.com/node/50020)

Surely the empirical fact that increased bicycling, even bicycling by scofflaw bicyclists, results in making your city and neighborhood a safer place for you as a pedestrian and for you as a driver will finally resolve this whole hatred and discouragement of cycling for once and for all?

Oh, the answer is "no?" It's not about that at all, you don't give a whit about safety and it's really about othering and having a chip on your shoulder for the indignities of modern life? Well carry on then, I guess.
posted by Skwirl at 6:23 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Regarding the name: yeah I'm posting from my phone and looking up the correct thing is a pain, so I just took the most recent mention as correct. Oh well!
posted by kavasa at 6:24 AM on May 22, 2013


Treat bicyclists like any other operator of a vehicle - licenses, inspections, registration plates, vehicle taxes, fines, insurance, etc.

I know we've had this conversation before, but the more you put in the way of bicycling - the more you increase the cost, the regulatory angle and the contact with police - the fewer people bicycle, especially poor people, kids and people of color (who have particular reason to suspect that the cops will hassle them). It is widely accepted that the public health benefits of bicycling are such that this is a bad idea. Here in Minneapolis, for instance, the woman who is in charge of the bike-share (or whatever they call it - cheap, widespread bike rental depots) appears in public without a helmet because even giving the impression that bicycling is so dangerous that you will die without a helmet has a negative public health impact*.

Here in Minneapolis, we actually stopped having bike licensing both because it was very costly to enforce and because of a big scandal when it was discovered that the cops were using it as an excuse to hassle riders of color.

Honestly, the way to increase bike safety is to increase bike use, because drivers become more accustomed to cyclists and as average people cycle more, the percentage of road warrior types goes down. I've been riding here in Minneapolis since 1997, and I have observed that there are a lot more bicyclists now at all times of year (with a massive uptick in year-round cycling over the past couple of years) and I definitely feel that both drivers and cyclists are more accustomed to each other. When I need to make a left turn, for example, I feel confident in doing so from the left hand turn lane (with the caveat that I do this on average to quiet streets) and that drivers will know what I'm doing, let me take my turn and not hit me. This would not have been possible in 1997, and it's really because bicyclists are part of traffic now.



*Note that public health is aggregate, not individual - as a society, we are healthier when more people ride, even if some ride without helmets and some of those people get preventable head injuries. Which is why folks who want to wear helmets certainly should.
posted by Frowner at 6:24 AM on May 22, 2013 [26 favorites]


When a post is made about a hit-and-run where the driver is going 90mph in the wrong lane, and almost all of the comments are about how much bikes and their riders suck, one could be forgiven for getting the impression that plenty of people condone her actions.

Do you mean the comments here? Because that is a completely unfair description of the comments here, which are overwhelmingly pro-cyclist. I counted maybe three "asshole cyclists I have known" style comments.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 6:26 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


By farjaduncan, I just thought I'd point out that she took the 95mph photo of her speedo about 6 months ago (I saw her Twitter feed before she deleted it), not at the scene or time of the collision.

By far the most interesting thing for me about this is that, having seen the @CyclingHatred Twitter quite often, is that the driver in question is part of a demographic which seems particularly prone to aggressive tweets against cyclists. This is women in their early 20s, training for a white collar vocational qualification (normally accountancy or teaching), who are very well made up and dressed in their profile pictures, and of course they're car owners. It's an intriguing demographic, and my only intuition about why they may be so threatened by cyclists is that their understanding is that they are playing by society's rules in a concrete, defined way, and climbing towards a comfortable social role. Seeing a cyclist outside this constrained system of what a successful lifestyle is must cause some cognitive dissonance.

Like I said, I don't have the time or the training to investigate or expand on this hypothesis any further, but I think it's an interesting phenomenon.
posted by ambrosen at 6:28 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Megami: "btw, while it is the least stupid part of her tweet there's no such thing as road tax"

From the link:
"It will only be a step from this for [motorists] to claim in a few years the moral ownership of the roads their contributions have created." -- Winston Churchhill on his opposition to 'road tax', 1926.
posted by jcreigh at 6:28 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am a cyclist. If I run a red light and there's no cars near the intersection to notice, is that wrong?

Yes. Yes it is. A red light means "Stop."

Stop. You are wrong in every way if you fail to do so.
posted by eriko at 6:32 AM on May 22, 2013 [35 favorites]


By farjaduncan, I just thought I'd point out that she took the 95mph photo of her speedo about 6 months ago (I saw her Twitter feed before she deleted it), not at the scene or time of the collision.

Yes. It's unrelated to the accident, it's just that people worked out the location of the photo and the actual speed limit for it. Sorry if that wasn't clear enough.
posted by jaduncan at 6:33 AM on May 22, 2013


By the way, a lot of things that one might want to see prosecuted as attempted murder are not. I know a guy who got gut-shot by a mugger. The lad was charged with aggravated assault for that part of the crime. The prosecutors explained to my friend that an attempted murder charge, which asks the jury to make conclusions about someone's intent, is hard to convict people on. But the assault charge requires no appeal to anything except the public, physical facts.
posted by thelonius at 6:36 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm going to echo schmod and throw out my theory (as both a cyclist and a driver- some of us do both!) that many instances of cyclists behaving badly are as much the result of infrastructural design flaws as 'asshat' cyclists. Bikes aren't built like cars, and they don't work in the same way, thus bike-friendly infrastructure needs to take this into account. The red light/stop sign issue is a classic one that some municipalities have figured out how to deal with, but there's also the challenge of one way streets and the issue of splitting lanes in stopped traffic. Frankly, I find these more interesting to think about as an issue of urban design rather than moral behavior anyway.

And this!

Situations I encounter on my bike that are dangerous and frustrating despite everyone involved behaving well:

1. Crossing a busy stop-sign-less road while biking along the greenway. The way I like to do this? I come to a complete stop until there is a break in both lanes of traffic so that I can bike across safely including the time I need to start up from a complete stop. What often happens? A helpful driver in one lane will decide to stop. Traffic will back up behind her. Maybe there is no break in the traffic in the other lane, but Stopped Driver is gesturing me across. What do I do? Gesture her on? She gets confused. Wait until there is a safe break in the other lane? People behind her start to honk. Bike across, hoping that I can get a safe break in the other lane and racing to start my bike and get up to speed? Yep. I hate doing that. It's not really safe and it's stressful. Either lights at busy crossings, four-way stops or no stops with the understanding that bicyclists will cross ONLY when they can do so safely and there should be no driver "courtesy" - I'd be okay with any of these at all.

2. Cars not understanding track stands. When I am stopped at a four way stop, I usually do my weak version of a track stand - that is, my bike is stopped, but I am balanced and my feet are not on the ground. This makes it much easier and faster for me to start up again when it is my turn. Through no fault of their own, drivers often assume that a track stand means that I am not going to stop, even though I am visibly stopped. So they act all weird, don't take their turn, creep across the road slowly, etc. A track stand is actually good because I can start up again faster and more safely, helping traffic to flow better.

3. Bad [innocent] bike lane design. I cross a bridge with a nice, wide bike lane on it, a bike lane which is between the left lane and the right turn lane. Hooray! Except that the bike lane crosses the greenway. I need to turn left across traffic onto the greenway. This is actually a very common turn, since the route leads from a densely populated area to a very common work/school commuting destination. However, if I want to make that left turn, I have to hang out between the left lane and the right turn lane through five changes of lights, as this is where three roads (rather than the usual two) come together, and I am often blocking the way for bicyclists who want to go straight through instead of turning left, another very common commuting destination. Boo! So I generally bike across on the [wide] sidewalk so that I can safely hang out on the greenway crossing waiting for the light to change.

4. Bad [malign] bike lane design. There used to be two trips I made where there was a bike lane on the left of very, very busy roads, roads that you needed to travel because they were virtually the only connectors across highways, etc. Both those left bike lanes just stopped, with no warning, in the middle of the street. They just ran out. It was the scariest thing in the world to be biking along and then bam, no lane. And you're like, what the hell are people thinking? No bike lane at all is better than this!

I am a cyclist. If I run a red light and there's no cars near the intersection to notice, is that wrong?

I am personally a fan of "rolling stops are legit for cyclists if there are no cars" though. A rolling stop is much different on a person-powered bike than it is in a car.
posted by Frowner at 6:39 AM on May 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


I have the right of way!

Right of way is not something you have. It is something you yield.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 6:39 AM on May 22, 2013 [23 favorites]


Stop. You are wrong in every way if you fail to do so.

Okay, let's say I pedal through the crosswalk, against a don't walk signal. (Cycling on the sidewalk is A-OK in my town). Is that still wrong?
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 6:41 AM on May 22, 2013


So you're saying you don't stop either? You just blow through the stop sign as well? That's what it sounds like.

No, it sounds like he did stop, and has proceed into the intersection. He's now having to stop or slow down in the middle of the intersection, because the bike blew through the stop after the car was already in the intersection.

OK there, D-fens. Hopefully you also don't do it

He said he doesn't do that in the part of the comment you quoted.
posted by spaltavian at 6:41 AM on May 22, 2013


...while cyclists do cause injuries it's not at the same level of danger as a car.

Which is why the licencing wouldn't be anywhere near as complex and expensive and getting a driver's licence is.

I think it's a good idea to encourage all cyclists to have at least a passing familiarity with traffic laws that relate to them. I think the trick is to make it an incentive. Maybe if you have a bike license you get a break on some fee for your car depending on the country. It would make sense. If you use your bike more, you use your car less (presumably) so you cause less wear and tear on the roads that the vehicle taxes are supposed to represent.

I suppose some people would get the bike license just for the break and never ride a bike but even those people having more familiarity with bike traffic laws would probably be a good thing.
posted by VTX at 6:43 AM on May 22, 2013


Not sure about the UK, but here in the states you don't need an automobile to get a DUI. So I can see the logic in requiring any type of vehicle being used on publicly maintained streets to have some sort of registration, training, insurance, etc.

Those of us bantering about requiring burning an barrel of oil are succumbing to the same mental defects as the driver of the car.
posted by Blue_Villain at 6:44 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


cjorgenson, how can you only "slow down" but still "have the right of way" at a "four way stop?"

I stop. I start to accelerate through the intersection, and then am forced to slow down so as to avoid killing someone. It’s been a near daily occurrence. I could probably take video it’s so predictable.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:44 AM on May 22, 2013


As an aside, this is just this one intersection that seems to be so problematic. I think it's because the cyclist have the hill behind them and the last thing they want to do it come to an actual stop and bleed off the momentum.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:46 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've said it before and I'll say it again:


If you hit me with your car, you'd better kill me.
posted by Ghost Mode at 6:47 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


As someone who frequently bikes to work, I've found that the one thing that drivers, cyclists and pedestrians can all agree on is that oblivious tourists using bikeshare are a special kind of awful.
posted by C'est la D.C. at 6:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I am a cyclist. If I run a red light and there's no cars near the intersection to notice, is that wrong?

My rule is:

First - Do what is safe (ie, if there are cars coming, don't run it, doofus)
Second - Do what reflects well on cyclists (if there are cars there who will see me run it and get pissed off, don't run it)
Third - Do what is convenient (run it, after at least slowing and making sure the above conditions are met).

That's my personal bike-riding code of ethics. eriko is correct that it is illegal to run a light but in this situation I don't thing "illegal" and "wrong" are necessarily equivalent, just as driving 5 miles over the speed limit on an empty road or "idaho" (I call it "California") stopping in a car is not necessarily "wrong in every way".
posted by ghharr at 6:50 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


As a british car driver, I take great care to watch out for cyclists (and motorbikes) on my offside, I give them plenty of berth, and don't crowd them from behind when waiting to pass - in many respects, I treat them the same as horse riders. I often feel in a small minority, as the hate for cyclists in the UK is just unreal.

As an ex-cyclist who did take the Cycling Proficiency test back when it was still a thing, car drivers scared the living crap out of me - I got literally smashed off the road twice in one year, in a rural, quiet, suburban area. I lost count of the times I nearly got run over in London while following the Highway Code. It's like if you signal you're pulling out to pass parked cars (or a bus), many car drivers think that's the perfect time to overtake YOU and literally give you nowhere to go but into their grill or the back-end of a parked car. It's why I gave up cycling.

As a pedestrian (again, in London) I hated cyclists who zoomed past at full peddle in crowded pedestrian areas, or joint footpath/cycle lanes in the footpath half. I've been knocked down by cyclists 3 times in my life, and every single time while walking in a predictable ambling straight line on a footpath from behind with no warning - and every time, the cyclist yelled at me for getting in his way.

So cyclists who obey the law have my sympathy, for sure. It's terrifying for sure, cars are goddamned lethal out there, and I don't blame you for taking the footpath at all. But that doesn't give a small number of cyclists the right to be complete cocks to pedestrians.

Cyclists shouldn't pay vehicle excise duty, as it's based upon emissions, and clearly they're emitting little more CO2 than a motor driver. I understand that between VED (road tax*) and fuel duty, motorists are a substantial net gain to the treasury, so clearly there's an amount of resentment there. But taxing cyclists isn't the answer, especially if we want to meet our carbon targets.

I think drivers that exhibit such driving likely to put cyclists (and pedestrians) at risk needs serious penalties, and quite possibly to spend some time in the clink - much more enforcement, rather than the brush off cyclists usually get. Most who knock down a cyclist definitely deserves jail time for dangerous driving. It's a ton+ of metal, and way too many drivers have no respect for it.

But I don't think cyclists always have respect for the damage several hundred pounds of metal and cyclist going at 20-30 mph can do to a pedestrian either. Less dangerous than a car? Sure. But they're not built out of fluffy pillows either.

So I wouldn't mind seeing a return of the cycling proficiency test, and possibly some form of cheap registration/licence plate to ride on the public road, so they can get reported by a pedestrian, and also know not to take stupid risks, especially kids. Perhaps if cyclists weren't seen as completely unregulated and unsafe (due to actions of a visible minority, again often kids) and could be reported in the event of dangerous actions, they wouldn't be loathed quite so much.

The woman in the OP though, christ. She seriously needs to see the inside of a jail cell. She sounds like a bloody sociopath.

*There did used to be a Road Fund, paid for by VED - the tax disc was a Road Fund Licence - specifically to pay for road building/maintenance. It hasn't been like that for nearly 80 years, but some things stick in the public mind, and it's often thought that VED is still a hypothecated tax still for the maintenance of the public roads (as opposed to a sin tax, like cigarettes or alcohol that goes straight to the treasury, which is what it actually is these days)
posted by ArkhanJG at 6:52 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


What is a gas subsidy, please?

US oil companies (and fossil fuel companies in general) are often the beneficiaries of tax abatements and other subsidies. Such practices effectively use tax money to lower the risk of being in the fossil fuel business and ultimately lower the price of fuel. It's even arguable that a percentage of our military spending should count as a fuel subsidy.
posted by Western Infidels at 6:56 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


This sounds simplistic, but fundamentally, I see this an issue of anger being mismanaged by individuals. Why are people so angry, and how is it that culturally, we are not being taught how to manage it better? It's secondarily a question about road logistics.

During any counseling session about interpersonal issues, one of the primary issues that always surfaces is that fundamentally, we have the responsibility to deal with our own discontent before insisting that other people change their behavior. This doesn't mean that we can't have complaints about others, but it does mean that that discussion becomes secondary to our own contributions to the situation, which we get by through honest and intentional reflection. It seems to me that the rage part of road rage needs to be the point of focus here, and people need to buck up and figure out why the are so angry, take responsibility for it, and then talk about solutions.

You can't legislate that though, so I'm not sure how practical it becomes. So, we deal with really angry people and either try to build social fences to avoid bad behavior or put band-aids on whatever results. Of course, the people who are driving the moving weapons and have less at stake here physically are the ones who should be asking this question as the higher priority.
posted by SpacemanStix at 7:06 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Do I break the law? The only two places where I break the law are where the design of the space is poorly thought out:

1) A bikepath begins at the corner of a road junction near my house. I have to go from being on the road to being on the bikepath, and this means I need to cross over a lane of turning traffic. I usually come up onto the footpath about 20 meters before the junction as it is safer that way.

2) The pedestrian zone of my town has a strict no bikes policy. During the day or when it is busy I stick to this. When it is after hours or quiet I ride my bike, though without excessive speed. However, even though bikes are banned, cars aren't! Cars have more right to come through the pedestrian zone than bikes.
posted by Jehan at 7:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


The problem with cyclists is that they want to pick and choose which laws apply to them; they want to be treated like a pedestrian when it suits their needs and like a vehicle otherwise.

The problem with drivers is that they view cyclists as misbehaving pedestrians, and somehow think that vehicular manslaughter laws don't apply to non motorized transport.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


First - Do what is safe (ie, if there are cars coming, don't run it, doofus)
Second - Do what reflects well on cyclists (if there are cars there who will see me run it and get pissed off, don't run it)
Third - Do what is convenient (run it, after at least slowing and making sure the above conditions are met).


When I'm cycling, I find great value in that cyclists literally have the best of both worlds. Hop off the bicycle, and you're magically transformed into a pedestrian able to take advantage of walk signals and crosswalks. Stay on, and you're a road-worthy vehicle that can proceed on a green light. With power like that, who even needs to run a red light?

My rule is: when in doubt, dismount.
posted by RonButNotStupid at 7:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [12 favorites]


This cyclist that was hit and then Tweeted about, he was blowing through a 4 way stop at the time, yes?
posted by Brocktoon at 7:13 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


In the city where I live, biking places can be super scary. My friend's husband was run off the road by a car full of laughing college kids, and he dislocated his shoulder. No on stopped to help him.

Another friend was in the left hand turning lane, you know, to turn left. A car hit him from behind, despite the road being empty of any traffic that might have impeded the driver's vision. That driver's insurance company tried to claim that my friend was at fault, because he had left the bike lane. The bike lane on the right side of the road, when my friend NEEDED TO TURN LEFT.

I got a bike for the summer, but I am tempted to just ride it in circles in empty parking lots, because actually using it for transportation kind of terrifies me.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 7:14 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Actually no, cyclists just want to get from point A to B without getting killed. No one gets in their car with this on their mind. And the person hit by this woman was probably not breaking any laws, so how is that fucking relevant anyway.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:17 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem with cyclists is that they want to pick and choose which laws apply to them; they want to be treated like a pedestrian when it suits their needs and like a vehicle otherwise.

This is said all the time, but what does it mean? Do car drivers scrupulously the law? Is the problem of people not scrupulously obeying the law limited to cyclists?
posted by Mid at 7:20 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


This cyclist that was hit and then Tweeted about, he was blowing through a 4 way stop at the time, yes?

Whatever the topic, we can find a way to blame victims.
posted by Pope Guilty at 7:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


I'm a pedestrian and my shit doesn't stink and normally I'd complain about all of you. But today, this space is reserved for a brand new phenomenon I've encountered in the last couple of months: people on motorized scooters/Vespas riding on shared pedestrian/bike paths and hopping sidewalks to get around inconvenient traffic signals. Just what in the hell do you selfish lazy bastards think you're doing? Let's all hate together.
posted by Hoopo at 7:28 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Funny how car drivers like to point out how awful cyclists are at following road rules, as if they are scrupulous about following laws themselves. Also funny how few car drivers stick to the speed limits, use turn signals, stop completely at four way stops, stop on yellow lights, etc. etc. etc.

So, unless you are absolutely diligent about your driving at ALL TIMES, shut up already about scofflaw cyclists.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


The cyclist never tweeted about it, and only came forward significantly after the story blew up, FWIW.
posted by ambrosen at 7:30 AM on May 22, 2013


This is said all the time, but what does it mean? Do car drivers scrupulously the law? Is the problem of people not scrupulously obeying the law limited to cyclists?

Because a bad driver is from a group of people that includes the commenter. This means that the group are generally ok but contains a minority of bad drivers (or put-upon people who just made a mistake). A cyclist did a thing so cyclists are terrible.

It's almost like stereotyping in general.
posted by jaduncan at 7:32 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


> Stop. You are wrong in every way if you fail to do so.

While you have to stop, there are times (in some jurisdictions) that a bike can legally go through a red. If your bike can't trigger the induction loop vehicle detectors, which sometimes even my ~30kg Batavus fails to do. You could sit all day at a red light until a car came, and the light would never change.

I wish I could favourite SpacemanStix's comment forever and ever. Why are people so angry on the road?
posted by scruss at 7:33 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was just outlining both sides. Please don't assume I'm an advocate of violence against cyclists. FYI I've lived in the biggest urban metro cores in Canada and the US for the last 20 years and don't drive.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:35 AM on May 22, 2013


One aspect of this that I notice -- as a car commuter and as a bike owner who is afraid of my town's fellow drivers -- is that the cyclists have more to lose in an accident with a car.

That is, the car outweighs the bike+rider by many multiples, and contains a lot of safety devices, whereas their bike offers no protection. So when I am on my bike, I am extra-scrupulous about obeying every law and principle of defensive driving.
posted by wenestvedt at 7:36 AM on May 22, 2013


Brocktoon: Actually no, cyclists just want to get from point A to B without getting killed. No one gets in their car with this on their mind.

I'm beginning to think I should escalate my already defensive driving to that level of paranoia.
posted by nathan_teske at 7:36 AM on May 22, 2013


I've seen this from every angle - as a cyclist who's been hit by cars on 3 different occasions, as a pedestrian who has witnessed more than one cyclist-pedestrian collision on in which the cyclists were 100% unequivocally at fault, as a motorist who's seen other drivers do colossally stupid shit on the roads as well as cyclists who behave so badly on the roads that attempted suicide can't be ruled out.

In short, you suck. Yes, you. Except those of you who don't. Whether you suck or not might vary from moment to moment, though.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:40 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am a cyclist. If I run a red light and there's no cars near the intersection to notice, is that wrong?

Yes. As a person with no wheeled vehicles of any kind in my possession, I sometimes feel like both cars and cyclists forget about the pedestrian casualties in their little war. Yeah, you may not get hit by a car when whizzing through a red light, but I'm sick of having to jump back, squealing, onto the sidewalk because, even after I've looked both ways, a whizzing piece of hard metal that is WAY harder to see from a distance (especially by those who are elderly/nearsighted) is cutting through the crosswalk that's giving me the little green man that means "it's safe for you to walk now". If it were up to me we would abolish cars altogether and build a great cycling infrastructure, but also bicyclists would have to go through some kind of mandatory (but free) training period before being let loose on the road.
posted by Mooseli at 7:44 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


This reminds me of an adage from feminism: men are afraid women will laugh at them; women are afraid men will kill them.

Motorists are afraid a bicyclist will inconvenience them; bicyclists are afraid a motorist will kill them.

All this story does is remind me that motorists are at war with bikes, and that they will kill you if you play fair. So until bikes get the infrastructure they deserve, I've found that as a bicyclist I need to act like a crazy person to stay safe. I have front and back and side and helmet lights and a bell and I try to obey the rules; but waiting for a turn in the middle of an intersection is scary when you don't have a ton of armor around you. It's a matter of life and death that I bother the drivers around me, because if they don't notice me they'll kill me. So I slap their hoods so they don't merge over my spine, I swerve erratically so they give me space, and I take up a whole lane for a block because I need to make a left. They're inconvenienced but I'm alive.
posted by daveliepmann at 7:44 AM on May 22, 2013 [35 favorites]


Incidentally, I take shit on a fairly regular basis from some of my friends about why I'll throw my bike in the back of my pickup truck to drive 2 miles to a mixed-use bike/walk trail and ride. Stories like this are the reason why I'll do that - I just don't feel safe riding on the roads any more.
posted by deadmessenger at 7:44 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Motorists are afraid a bicyclist will inconvenience them

Or possibly that they will accidentally kill someone they never saw coming? Jesus.
posted by Hoopo at 7:46 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ack, but if you swerve unpredictably, then I have no idea what you are doing!
posted by ChuraChura at 7:47 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Near where I work there's a four way stop at the bottom of one hill. People blow through that intersection all the time on bikes, sometimes giving a casual wave like the kind you give to the guy who lets you merge into his lane, or perhaps some acknowledgment of guilt. One of these days one of those kids will be a hood ornament.

I can't say for sure what the scenario you're describing is but it sounds to me like you're saying that you're waiting at the bottom of a 4 way stop and you see a cyclist coming down the hill and you don't know whether they're going to stop.

Is that the case? If so, as an avid cyclist, you're the kind of driver that drives me batty. You have the right of way? GO! That is what the cyclist's brain is screaming the entire way down that hill. GO! TAKE YOUR RIGHT OF WAY!

You know why? Because I've timed my speed to allow you to go. I know it's your right of way. There's no car behind you and when you take your right of way, I can then proceed through the stop. However, you don't. You sit there and wait for me to stop so that you can then go and then I lose all my momentum. PLEASE, take your fucking right of way. It's what a good cyclist wants you to do. It's already yours. There's no need for you to wait for my confirmation or for me to give it to you. IT IS ALREADY YOURS. GO!
posted by dobbs at 7:47 AM on May 22, 2013 [22 favorites]


If I run a red light and there's no cars near the intersection to notice, is that wrong?

It is if you hit me when I'm crossing the street, legally and with the little GO AHEAD AND WALK DUDE sign. The point of stopping at red lights isn't solely because it's the law, it's because red for you means green for someone else that you might not notice, including other cyclists or pedestrians.
posted by elizardbits at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yes, you can talk about "picking and choosing laws" when all cars stop speeding, turning without signalling, making illegal u-turns in the middle of a busy street, double-parking in the middle of a busy street, parking illegally but using the magic "park anywhere" lights, running stop signs, gunning through stale yellows, etc. These are things I see every day.

I cycle in Toronto, which is getting increasingly bad for cyclists. We have a mayor who openly despises cyclists, and whose obstructionism on transit and general spending has not only prevented the development of new cycling infrastructure, but made the roads worse for everyone. I feel like this attitude is also translating into more hostility on the road, or at the very least, a culture of carelessness towards other road users. I have been struck twice by cars, while cycling in a bike lane.

On the other hand, people were very helpful following my most recent crash (due to a mechanical and road conditions).


The one thing I think we can all agree on, though, is that e-bikes are for losers.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Is that the case? If so, as an avid cyclist, you're the kind of driver that drives me batty. You have the right of way? GO! That is what the cyclist's brain is screaming the entire way down that hill. GO! TAKE YOUR RIGHT OF WAY!

Except when it's not that simple. There is the risk that the biker will ignore the stop sign, which as you can see by this thread happens quite often. It happened to me earlier this week, actually.
posted by Tarumba at 7:50 AM on May 22, 2013


I used to ride my bike to work, but in Toronto it feels like a lottery where if you "win" you get run over by some jackass in a BMW.

Hm. I was in Toronto in '11 and based on my experience as a life-long biker in the States, I was astonished at how bike-friendly the city seemed.

Speaking of bike stories, here's my favorite.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:51 AM on May 22, 2013


Because I've timed my speed to allow you to go. I know it's your right of way. There's no car behind you and when you take your right of way, I can then proceed through the stop.

But you're doing it wrong. You don't proceed through a stop without stopping.

This cyclist that was hit and then Tweeted about, he was blowing through a 4 way stop at the time, yes?

Nope, which is why the woman needs prosecuted.
posted by cjorgensen at 7:52 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'd posit that it's perfectly safe to drive through a 4-way stop without stopping if you're only going 5-10mph, there's good visibility, and there's a clear order of precedence.

Stick an imaginary pole in the middle of the intersection, and pretend that it's a mini-roundabout. You'll always have to slow down, and you'll frequently have to stop, but it's not necessarily dangerous to yield instead of stop.

This is, of course, illegal in most places, but that doesn't necessarily mean that it's dangerous.

When cyclists are riding with traffic, there are also good reasons to try to stay in motion at intersections (beyond momentum/laziness).

Dismounting/remounting are not instantaneous, and bikes are slow to accelerate. When you're riding with traffic in a city, cyclists don't like giving motorists a reason to pass them (especially the motorists who try to "leapfrog" cyclists in intersections). Passing a cyclist on a narrow road is dangerous for all parties involved. Stopping at each intersection also leaves you at higher risk for being rear-ended (this happens more than any other kind of car-bike accident), and also causes you to spend more time crossing the intersection itself.

Cyclists also have great visibility, are highly maneuverable, and have short stopping distances at low speeds (once you pass 15-20mph, cars actually have considerably shorter stopping distances). If you can see that you're the only person entering a 4-way stop, there's no reason why it's dangerous to proceed at 5-10mph.

And, yes. The drivers who fail to proceed when it's their turn because they're afraid of cyclists are actually making more things more dangerous for everyone.
posted by schmod at 7:53 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


I've found that as a bicyclist I need to act like a crazy person to stay safe

On the contrary, as a bicyclist, to stay safe, I assume that everyone else on the road is a crazy person.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:54 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


While you have to stop, there are times (in some jurisdictions) that a bike can legally go through a red. If your bike can't trigger the induction loop vehicle detectors, which sometimes even my ~30kg Batavus fails to do. You could sit all day at a red light until a car came, and the light would never change.

Yep, Minnesota's one of them.

Except when it's not that simple. There is the risk that the biker will ignore the stop sign, which as you can see by this thread happens quite often. It happened to me earlier this week, actually.

I cross at a crosswalk on my way to school. Cars are legally obliged to stop. Guess how many just blow past without even slowing. Two to three, every time I cross that road, before there's a break in traffic or someone stops. Guess you drivers are all terrible people.
posted by hoyland at 7:54 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


wenestvedt: "So when I am on my bike, I am extra-scrupulous about obeying every law and principle of defensive driving"

These things are not mutually inclusive in many jurisdictions.
posted by schmod at 7:55 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


That woman deserves to be in prison for a few years. When she gets out, she should find her tires mysteriously flat every time she wants to drive somewhere.
posted by Catblack at 7:56 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


The one thing I think we can all agree on, though, is that e-bikes are for losers.

It may be different in Canada, but everyone I see on e-bikes are retirement-age and presumably have health problems that preclude them from pedaling or pushing bicycles up hills. Why is that worthy of scorn?
posted by cmonkey at 8:01 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I mean, on the one hand, I feel much more threatened by cyclists because I've been hit by, at last count, approximately 1 dozen of them, and half those times were on the sidewalk. Other times were when I was crossing a one-way street and a cyclist came barreling down the wrong way. One time was as I was stepping outside the front door of my building, on the sidewalk about 5 feet away from the actual road. These are not things anyone would ever need to worry about with a car.

On the other hand, it is fucking abominable how drivers get so weirdly aggressive towards and threatened by cyclists. You're in a 2-ton machine of death, they're on a fucking bunch of sticks and wheels. How can they possibly harm you or cause you any kind of suffering? Drivers bitching about bike lanes is as nonsensical as drivers complaining about sidewalks. We all learned how to share in kindergarden, didn't we?

It would be pretty neato if bike lanes were overhead like subway els. The on/off ramps would probably be pretty dangerous, though. Sigh.
posted by elizardbits at 8:02 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Brocktoon: "This cyclist that was hit and then Tweeted about, he was blowing through a 4 way stop at the time, yes?"

This is a shitty victim-blaming thing that seems to happen every time a cyclist gets hurt (along with the inevitable question of whether or not the cyclist was wearing a helmet).

We don't tend to make these snap judgments in other kinds of accidents, but it seems to happen every. single. time. there's an accident involving a bicycle.

Cyclists are vastly more vulnerable than motorists are on the road, and almost all of them are acutely aware of this fact. Why doe we automatically assume that they're the ones who are behaving recklessly (or that any of this somehow makes it OK to commit a Hit & Run)?
posted by schmod at 8:03 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


You have no idea how baffling these threads are to this guy from a city where every fourth trip is done by bike. I’m starting to wonder why our road surfaces are not completely soaked with blood.
posted by wachhundfisch at 8:07 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I don't have an axe to grind, since I live in a city with drivers so bad I consider it an active death wish to cycle anywhere but to/from my campus apt. to other parts of campus.

But I wanted to let you all know that my city has installed "bike lanes". They have done this, I shit you not, by simply stenciling bicycles on the pre-existing roads. That's it. No extra lane, no actual effort, just a nice big traffic stencil of a bike in the midde of the traffic. Oh, and they have the temerity to put up "bicycle route" signs on these roads, that then abruptly... stop. There is only one way to get to a main drag of town from another part of town. Two thirds of it is a "bike route" where cyclists are expected to ride on the shoulder (no seriously there are signs) because they couldn't be arsed to make a bike lane. Then it just stops. Before you get the the intersection that lets you get to the other part of town. There are no accommodations for bikes at that intersection.

Of course, I also live in a city that was put on some national registry for least pedestrian friendly and least miles of sidewalk back in, like, 2006. So I guess they're just spreading the hate.
posted by WidgetAlley at 8:09 AM on May 22, 2013


(I like how all the avid cyclists and anti-cyclists are 100% ignoring comments by anxious pedestrians, but to be fair the original link is just about car-on-cyclist violence. But still. Just try to remember we exist and please don't hit us anymore, kthx.)
posted by Mooseli at 8:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I've found that as a bicyclist I need to act like a crazy person to stay safe

I often hear the argument in Dublin that bad behaviour from cyclists is to be excused until we have sufficient infrastructure for bicycles. I've never agreed with this, because it feels like it's possible for me to cycle all over Dublin while obeying the rules of the road and being as safe as it's possible to be on a bike. There's never a point where I have to break a light to ensure my safety, or run a pedestrian crossing, or anything else.

There already is an infrastructure for bikes; it's the series of roads and streets and signs and lights that cover the city. An infrastructure that's incidentally also used by cars and other motor vehicles. If you look at photos of the city in the '50s, there were an enormous number of cyclists. They outnumbered the cars a lot of the time, and it was a given that roads were meant for all kinds of vehicles. We've gone backwards since then, it seems.

But this is Dublin, I don't cycle where you are. Everywhere is different.

and I take up a whole lane for a block because I need to make a left
I would never consider taking the lane "acting crazy". It's a fundamental of safe cycling in the city, legal and proper. Cyclecraft deals with this and is a great book for any cyclist living in the UK or Ireland.
posted by distorte at 8:13 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


they're on a fucking bunch of sticks and wheels

I believe you mean "a fucking bunch of lug-welded triple-butted exotic alloy chromium-molybdenum-manganese-steel tubes, and hand-built box-section tubulars," but otherwise, I appreciate your sentiment.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:13 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is a shitty victim-blaming thing that seems to happen every time a cyclist gets hurt (along with the inevitable question of whether or not the cyclist was wearing a helmet).

There's been some general discussion of how cyclist behave (and probably more comments complaining about that discussion than actually discussing it), but literally no one has blamed this cyclist for anything, and despite your use of the word "inevitable" no one has brought up helmets except for one person saying that helmet laws are bad.

I wish people would stop responding the conversation they think we're having, and read the one that's actually transpiring here.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:13 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Three things:

-Knowing a very-nice "asshat" cyclist who caused an accident by riding early through an about-to-change light, I can tell you for certain that cyclists are in no way immune from the law.

-I get frustrated by cyclists when I'm driving too, but I think the reason a driver needs to be fine with adjusting their driving pattern based on a cyclist is the same reason you should let a pedestrian jaywalk on a rainy day without getting in a huff ... As much as our impulse is to view "share the road" as a principle of equality, it's essential to remember that there are clear disparities in vulnerability. And it's responsible of the strong to make way for the vulnerable.

-While living in Chicago, I cycle commuted nearly every day for five years, and only had a couple scary incidents (maybe still a couple too many). But what I found helpful as I bent traffic rules was just making myself visible -- not riding in blind spots, standing when rolling through condensed traffic. I might've just been lucky, but it seemed to work.
posted by pokermonk at 8:14 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I have a bike that I like a lot, because it is how I get myself and my shit where I need to go. It has lots of visibility devices. I'm also a scrupulous traffic-law obeyer, to the extent it's safe.

My default attitude on the road is paranoia and hypervigilance. The fact that, as a cyclist, I am at a dangerous disadvantage in almost every way, while using public infrastructure, together with the fact that some of the personally safer -- and also far more dangerous -- people are callous assholes, is why I default to paranoia. When I read the FPP, I started shaking from anger. Sometimes this happens when I get home, too. Fuck cars, basically. I will share the road with you as best I can, when I am on it, and treat you with due caution, but when I'm not: fuck cars. Fuck subsidies for the industries that enable them, fuck the cultural reasons why there's no decent public transport in many places, and mostly fuck municipalities for providing "bicycle infrastructure" as a random afterthought in random places.

More generally: fuck stupid decisions that society made, without asking any of us, that we have to live with. Fuck people who are okay with them.

I'm beginning to think I should escalate my already defensive driving to that level of paranoia.

An easy way to do this is to get a bike, given the number of inattentive or stupid people who are, mysteriously, able to pass a driving test. There are inattentive and stupid cyclists, too, but I doubt they kill 1.2 million people in a year, even adjusting for the relative numbers of cyclists/drivers.
posted by kengraham at 8:17 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


Funny how car drivers like to point out how awful cyclists are at following road rules, as if they are scrupulous about following laws themselves. Also funny how few car drivers stick to the speed limits, use turn signals, stop completely at four way stops, stop on yellow lights, etc. etc. etc.

Preach it.

There's a crossroads junction near my house which I cross almost every day. Both roads are busy and there are a lot of us pedestrians crossing too, so there's traffic lights and the lights are timed with the pedestrian crossings.

I've seen cyclists go through a red light at that junction maybe half a dozen times. Twice I've had to literally jump out of the way of a bike that went hurtling past - once on the road going through red when the pedestrian crossing was green, and one, bizarrely, crossing with the pedestrians but at full speed while yelling at people. Bikes going fast can do a lot of damage to a pedestrian, or to another cyclist, and I have no love for people who come close to harming me because they want to be at their destination 30 seconds sooner.

But the drivers at that junction, they are a whole different level of reckless. It's a box junction. The mechanics of box junctions is something covered on the UK driving test - I know what to do at a box junction, and I don't even have a driving license. And yet, almost every single day I cross there, someone will pull out into the box despite their exit lane not being clear, and then have to sit in the middle of the junction when the lights change, leading to lots of angry hooting from other drivers whose path is now blocked followed by a quick dash through a red light when there's space (and again, red for them means green for pedestrians). Or if they're turning left, they'll slowly inch through the junction when the exit lane's still full of stationary cars, meaning they're again going through a red light and endangering pedestrians and blocking the other side of the pedestrian crossing before they do, so pedestrians have to walk out into the oncoming traffic. Or they'll just go straight through a red light in a direction they're not supposed to turn, meaning they're cutting against a flow of traffic that isn't expecting anyone to turn that way, and once again going through a pedestrian crossing on green.

I am way more afraid of drivers at that junction than I am of cyclists. I am way more afraid of drivers at every junction than I am of cyclists, because that kind of behaviour isn't even all that unusual. My husband narrowly avoided getting flattened a few weeks ago just down the road from there, by a driver on the school run in a giant 4X4 who didn't see the red light at a pedestrian crossing - full-on screeching emergency stop and the front of the car still tapped him, although he wasn't hurt. To her credit the driver looked horrified and apologised a lot, and will presumably pay more attention in the future, and it's not in the same league as the guy I know who was deliberately knocked off his bike by an angry driver - but that's not much consolation if the car hits you, you know?

So I find it really strange that any time the subject of drivers vs cyclists is in the news, there's this weird strain of "but cyclists don't Follow The Rules!" in the following conversation, like the seething rage of so many of the drivers like the ones retweeted on the CycleHatred twitter is the justified anger of law-abiding citizens being oppressed by cyclists who get away with doing whatever they want. Even when that's 'not paying road tax', a tax which hasn't existed for seventy years. Even when it's a news story about a bike-car collision with no suggestion that the cyclist was at fault, like this one - and the BBC news article still asks "Is it time for the return of the cycling proficiency test?" Well, yeah, maybe it is, and certainly there are cyclists who could benefit from some kind of Pedestrian Awareness Training, but sheesh, drivers - put your own house in order first, because the amount of vitriol about cyclists is unjustified and insane.
posted by Catseye at 8:17 AM on May 22, 2013 [17 favorites]


You know why? Because I've timed my speed to allow you to go. I know it's your right of way. There's no car behind you and when you take your right of way, I can then proceed through the stop. However, you don't. You sit there and wait for me to stop so that you can then go and then I lose all my momentum. PLEASE, take your fucking right of way. It's what a good cyclist wants you to do. It's already yours. There's no need for you to wait for my confirmation or for me to give it to you. IT IS ALREADY YOURS. GO!

This is actually a thing. If you don't bike a lot, you don't realize that there is a big difference between what you might call a "dead stop" (feet on the ground, marked pause between stopping and starting again) and a...well, let's call it a "live stop" - where you slow a lot and stop fully for a very brief moment, then go on, something stoppier than a rolling stop but less stoppy than a dead stop. A dead stop is a total loss of momentum and it's much slower to get started again. A "live stop" is not.

Now, I'm not saying that one should come down a hill and expect to blow through a stop sign, but it is frustrating to encounter the whole "driver waiting at the bottom of the hill for you to make a full stop; even though it is their turn to go, they are just hanging out to see what you will do" thing, because then you have to make a dead stop rather than a live stop, and it's frustrating.

If there were one thing that I would tell well-meaning drivers, it is "take your turn! and trust me to take mine!" I am a fairly law-abiding cyclist whose worst offense is a rolling stop on an empty street, and it is very frustrating having to second-guess drivers all the time. Are you stopping even though you don't have a stop sign? You're creeping along really slowly but not coming to a complete stop, why is that and are you going to speed up again? We're at a four-way stop, it is your turn, I am stopped and yet you are gesturing me to go, something you would not do for a car. "Take your fucking turn," I murmur to myself. Occasionally it is "it is my fucking turn, not yours" when a car does not let me take a turn when it's my turn.
posted by Frowner at 8:17 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


But you're doing it wrong. You don't proceed through a stop without stopping.

I'm not doing it wrong. I'm breaking the law but if the way is clear and it's my right of way, it is safer for me to stay in motion and not stop. I can understand how that might not make sense to a non cyclist but it's 100 percent true.

As someone who spends a lot of time on a bike, here are my rules:

1. Stop at any sign or light where it is not my right of way. So, in your scenario with the 4 way stop, I will always "stop" unless it's a completely clear intersection--of other vehicles or people.

2. When approaching a stop, slow well in advance and time my speed so I hit the stop area as it becomes safe to go (so, right as the light turns green or it becomes my right of way). Then, proceed. Usually at this point I'm going so slow I could put down my foot and be in a full stop.

3. Do not come to a full stop unless I absolutely must.

These rules are safest for everyone around me and myself. I never "race" through intersections without processing the above.
posted by dobbs at 8:17 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Dismounting/remounting are not instantaneous, and bikes are slow to accelerate.

This. Whenever I come to a complete stop at 4-way stops it seems to make car drivers crazy. They'll either try to go right after the car in front of them for whom I had waited, making me wait far longer than I should have to, or they'll start into the intersection just as I'm starting as well, and maybe screech to a halt when it's clear that otherwise we'll collide. Most drivers seem to actually prefer it if I slow down to a very slow speed instead of stopping completely, because it ends up inconveniencing them less. (Which is, of course, what they usually do--at best 15% of drivers ever come to a truly complete stop at a stop sign.)

I've also been honked at for not running a red light, because a driver wanted to turn left. And I've been honked at for turning left at a light, or simply for biking on the road, rather than on the sidewalk. Or cars will turn left with a complete disregard for my existence as I'm going through a green light, forcing me to stop in the middle of an intersection to avoid being run over. These things are not rare occurrences, they happen on a literally daily basis, in a supposedly bike-friendly city.

I want to accomodate drivers, I really do, because I would rather not be struck by an enormous hurtling metal cube! But there is simply no consensus among drivers on how I'm supposed to act, and in many cases I'm as likely to get hollered at or put into a dangerous situation for following the law as I am for breaking it.
posted by IjonTichy at 8:21 AM on May 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


Avid cyclist here, and it boils my blood to see other cyclists ignore pedestrians. People should always watch out for others who are more vulnerable than they are.

That said, unlike a car-bike carash, a bike-ped crash is still pretty terrible for the "driver". These accidents do occur, and they're unfortunate. However, they're also pretty rare, and unlike car-bike accidents, they seem to actually be taken seriously by law enforcement and the judicial system. I'm not familiar with how these cases are tried in the UK, but this woman would probably not suffer any severe consequences if this happened in the US.

Close encounters are more of a nuisance, and I'd totally be OK if I saw cops ticketing cyclists who engaged in that kind of behavior (but to keep things fair, I'd also love to see them ticket drivers who don't stop at crosswalks).

On the flipside, I routinely have to swerve into oncoming traffic to avoid pedestrians who cross against a "Do Not Walk" sign, often stepping *DIRECTLY* into my path when I have a green light. I know a number of cyclists who have been injured this way. In my several years of bicycle commuting in DC, this has been a *far* bigger hazard than the cars on the road (except for the cabbies by Union Station who seem to be aiming for cyclists).
posted by schmod at 8:23 AM on May 22, 2013


I'm not doing it wrong. I'm breaking the law

Uh, no.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]



This. Whenever I come to a complete stop at 4-way stops it seems to make car drivers crazy. They'll either try to go right after the car in front of them for whom I had waited, making me wait far longer than I should have to, or they'll start into the intersection just as I'm starting as well, and maybe screech to a halt when it's clear that otherwise we'll collide.


Yes! Now, if the way things shake out is "the new normal is that bicyclists must make complete, feet-on-ground stops at all lights and stop signs", I will accept that. I think it's not a very good fit for the mechanics of the bike, but whatever. But if this is the preferred option, drivers must understand that I am not a car. I cannot start instantly or get up to full speed rapidly, and there's a moment when I am starting from a dead stop where I am moving very slowly, and I still need to get my turn when this is the case. This is, in fact, why I prefer to make a soft/live/non-dead stop if possible. It helps the flow of traffic and it is safer for everyone.
posted by Frowner at 8:25 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm not familiar with how these cases are tried in the UK, but this woman would probably not suffer any severe consequences if this happened in the US.

It depends, but penalties can be disappointingly mild. This case was in the news recently, where a driver received a five-year driving ban and 300 hours of community service for hitting and killing a cyclist - and it wasn't even the first cyclist he'd killed.
posted by Catseye at 8:28 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've also been honked at for not running a red light, because a driver wanted to turn left. And I've been honked at for turning left at a light, or simply for biking on the road, rather than on the sidewalk.

Oh god. If I get abuse shouted at me, it's usually by people who are pissed that I am stopped at a red light in the bike lane because they want to make a right turn. If I'm approaching the light and you're coming up behind me, indicating and making it really obvious you're not going to hit me, I'll pop over into the main lane and let you turn right through the bike lane (which is how they're meant to turn right). But if you're nowhere in sight when I got to the light and you honk at me, no, I am not fucking moving. You wouldn't be honking or shouting abuse at a car that wasn't turning was stopped in front of you at a red light when you wanted to turn right on red.
posted by hoyland at 8:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


let's call it a "live stop" - where you slow a lot and stop fully for a very brief moment, then go on, something stoppier than a rolling stop but less stoppy than a dead stop. A dead stop is a total loss of momentum and it's much slower to get started again. A "live stop" is not.

I don't know what you think you're doing, but it is not possible to "stop fully" without a total loss of momentum.
posted by straight at 8:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Ack, but if you swerve unpredictably, then I have no idea what you are doing!
I've biked in NYC and upstate NY. If I don't put the fear o' God in those drivers, they'll pass me with three inches of clearance at fifty miles an hour while honking at the precise moment calculated to make me jump. I have a few inches of bumpy pavement to myself; if I swerve an inch left I'm in their wheel well, if I swerve an inch right my handlebar clips a car and I crash at 12 mph with traffic whizzing by.

When you're fifty feet behind me and there's a gap in traffic, I swerve like into the middle of the lane like a drunkard singing in the rain to make sure you see me. As you approach I move back towards the shoulder. Best case scenario, you wait until it's safe to pass. More likely you'll just give me an additional foot of safety. Least common scenario, you do what I was expecting in the first place with the three inches of clearance and a honk.

It's the same reason motorcycles are so loud; they and we need to be obnoxious in order to get basic respect and not get killed by accident. The reason this causes discord is that the defaults are all out of whack: the roads are expected to be filled with cars, and maybe a pedestrian crossing at a zebra after a two-minute wait. If everybody by default walked or rode a bike, then bicyclists wouldn't need to be such jerks about not being killed.
posted by daveliepmann at 8:32 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


It may be different in Canada, but everyone I see on e-bikes are retirement-age and presumably have health problems that preclude them from pedaling or pushing bicycles up hills. Why is that worthy of scorn?


Sorry- I completely agree that if you have any sort of mobility issue, an e-bike is absolutely appropriate. I was being a bit tongue-in-cheek back there.

There is a loophole in the Ontario Highway Traffic act that permits e-bikes to travel in bike lanes, without clearly defining what an e-bike is. The result in Toronto is people riding what are essentially (sometimes quite large) electric scooters with two weird vestigial pedals stuck to the side. These people are frequently young, and able-bodied, and buy their scooters from dealers who explicitly list ability to ride in bike lanes as a selling point. My disdain for them is entirely irrational, based on their ability to use the advantages of a bike lane for their powered vehicle, without ever turning a pedal.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 8:32 AM on May 22, 2013


I'm not doing it wrong. I'm breaking the law but if the way is clear and it's my right of way, it is safer for me to stay in motion and not stop. I can understand how that might not make sense to a non cyclist but it's 100 percent true.

You can't have it both ways. Either you behave in a manner consistent with the law so cars know what to expect or you do it your way and go with god.

For the record, I get just as pissed at cars that do this sort of shit.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:32 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]



It depends, but penalties can be disappointingly mild. This case was in the news recently, where a driver received a five-year driving ban and 300 hours of community service for hitting and killing a cyclist - and it wasn't even the first cyclist he'd killed.


In the summer, when car windows are often down, maybe cyclists should carry little bags of weed to toss into the open windows of cars whose drivers behave badly, to ensure that the driver actually suffers serious legal consequences if they end up getting pulled over later.
posted by kengraham at 8:32 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Bulgaroktonos: "There's been some general discussion of how cyclist behave (and probably more comments complaining about that discussion than actually discussing it), but literally no one has blamed this cyclist for anything"

The comment I quoted made the assumption that the cyclist was breaking the law, which is how these discussions usually go.

The helmet comment thankfully seems to be irrelevant here, but was discussed extensively the other day on another forum that I occasionally participate in. Local news coverage of a fatal bike accident got hung up on the cyclist's helmet use, rather than discussing any actual details of what happened.

I'll pull a few comments that were critical of how bike crashes are often discussed by the media:
"[The article] Mentions the helmet status of the cyclist. Doesn't mention how the accident occurred (was he right hooked? left hooked? pull out collision?)"
"Nowadays helmet status of a bicycling death = seat belt status of automobile death ( = smoking status of a lung cancer death). Implication being, the victim was taking risks and deserved his/her fate. Sorry, but that is just the way it is."
"Also, no mention of the cause of death. Helmets are an important component of bicycle safety but are completely irrelevant to the story if, say, a broken rib punctured your lung."
"When I recently hit the deck, and was in the ER, every person who spoke to me from the attending physician to the woman who took my insurance information gave me a jaded look while asking, "And did you say you were wearing a helmet?"
When I said, "Yes" they immediately warmed up and proceded with great sympathy. I fear to imagine what the response would've been if I'd said, "No." Probably would've banished me to the loading dock.... :)"
posted by schmod at 8:33 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The point of stopping at red lights isn't solely because it's the law, it's because red for you means green for someone else that you might not notice, including other cyclists or pedestrians.

I see your point. I guess my commute takes place in a very different context. It's impossible for me not to notice pedestrians at the intersections I cross on my way to work. I'll always stop for one if they are there, though. I just think it's silly for me to wait 90 seconds for a light at an intersection with very sparse traffic, pedestrian or otherwise.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 8:33 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know what you think you're doing, but it is not possible to "stop fully" without a total loss of momentum.

This is why it is helpful for folks to cycle a bit. I used to drive every day for years, so I have a fair idea of what various kinds of stops feel like in a car, etc, and I know that bicycles can be hard to see and that it feels like you're really close to one even when you're four feet away and that's stressful.

On average, people who bike regularly would know what I mean.
posted by Frowner at 8:34 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Last weekend a friend of mine was repeatedly driven at by a small guy in a big pickup and survived only because she is an expert bike handler. There were witnesses. The licence plate number was taken and the police called. The culprit was known locally. The police took a report and told her they wouldn't press charges because the DA wouldn't ever bother prosecuting a case like that.

This is the reality of sharing the road and obeying all the rules. This is not a strange and isolated case. This is why, as a cyclist, reading arguments about the morality of coming to a full and complete stop at a stop sign with no other traffic present makes me bite my tongue and groan in despair.
posted by normy at 8:36 AM on May 22, 2013 [9 favorites]


The Pedestrian-Cyclist Armistice

Getting bag to Norwich, could someone explain if the police response is typical? Are car-on-bike collisions taken seriously? 'Cause, here in LA, they sure as hell aren't.
posted by RakDaddy at 8:37 AM on May 22, 2013


daveliepmann: " Motorists are afraid a bicyclist will inconvenience them; bicyclists are afraid a motorist will kill them."

I drive in NYC and the boros. Manhattan is not a city that is friendly to cyclists, and many ride aggressively as a result. Queens and Brooklyn are a lot better. Many roads, especially as you travel out towards Long Island, have bike lanes. But cyclists here can act in ways that I would characterize as very dangerous and reckless and not just as an inconvenience. I've been cut off sharply while doing 25-30mph in a 30mph zone. Have had to slam on my brakes because a cyclist decided to roll through a red light without bothering to look for oncoming traffic. I've had cyclists lean their bodies against my van while we were stopped at a red light (which means that when I start to drive I might actually injure them.) I've had cyclists try and squeeze between my car and another, while I was signalling to turn. In one case, a cyclist actually slammed into and broke my passenger side mirror because he didn't pay attention to my turn signal. I wasn't even moving. I had turned slightly into the lane and was waiting to go, and he slammed into and took out my mirror.

This isn't merely an inconvenience. I'm worried that a cyclist will disobey the law / rules of the road, and I will inadvertently slam into, injure or heaven forbid, kill them. I drive a van that doesn't give me perfect visibility all around. I'm very careful, super-polite, am not subject to road rage and simply don't drive angry. But I'm a hell of a lot more nervous driving around cyclists than I am around other cars both because I think they're more unpredictable, and because I don't trust them to obey the damned rules.

It's a two way street whether you're a cyclist or a driver: Obey the rules. Pay attention to your environment. Be hypervigilant. Drive / Ride politely and not too aggressively -- this isn't a race. And for heaven's sake, don't drive/ride with headphones on.

That said, the woman in this FPP should see the inside of a jail cell. Absolutely. She's a fucking sociopath.
posted by zarq at 8:37 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The comment I quoted made the assumption that the cyclist was breaking the law, which is how these discussions usually go.

Assuming you're referring to your quote of:

"This cyclist that was hit and then Tweeted about, he was blowing through a 4 way stop at the time, yes?"

You need to read that comment again; that comment was of the "why are we even talking about bicyclists not stopping at stop signs" type, just phrased with sarcasm.

Again, assuming that by "we" you mean Metafilter, no one has blamed this victim, and overwhelming sentiment is to string this woman up.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:38 AM on May 22, 2013


you can't be an accountant with a criminal conviction

Is this really true? I can't imagine this in the USA, at least, where it seems to almost be a prerequisite for certain financial types.

I both bicycle and drive. I try to be nice to people. I really can't imagine hitting someone and being all HAR HAR, even if they were breaking a road law in the process. Like, if a cyclist ran a light and I hit them, my first thought would not be "I should drive home and tweet about this without helping them".

I did once almost get hit by a cyclist on a fixie while I was driving. 4-way stop, I stop, look both ways, start into the intersection, all of a sudden I notice a cyclist barreling down on me, I stop, he swerves around the car and apologizes, I go on my way. I was all "OMG am I about to get hit by a guy on a bike!?" but not really threatened, because if he hit my car, he was in much more danger than I was. I also didn't realize why he didn't just use his brakes until later when I found out about people who ride fixies with no brakes, and then it made more sense. Except the whole "riding a bike that doesn't have brakes thing", which makes less sense. I'm not going to begrudge anyone for it, though, I just like the idea of having brakes.
posted by nTeleKy at 8:39 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


On the other hand, it is fucking abominable how drivers get so weirdly aggressive towards and threatened by cyclists. You're in a 2-ton machine of death, they're on a fucking bunch of sticks and wheels. How can they possibly harm you or cause you any kind of suffering? Drivers bitching about bike lanes is as nonsensical as drivers complaining about sidewalks. We all learned how to share in kindergarden, didn't we?

I can't speak for anyone else, but the most terrified I've been while driving is when pedestrians or cyclists are acting unpredictably. Why? Because their behavior can easily, through no fault of my own, cause me to kill or maim them. I have the responsibility to avoid hitting people, but my agency in that is taken away when someone just darts in front of my car. There is a sort of kill zone in front of all cars that is the sum of reaction time and stopping distance- responsible drivers like to keep that clear. When other people jump into that zone, we CANNOT react in time to avoid hitting them.

I'm all for sharing the road. Follow the rules, take your lane and I'll give you all the deference you need. But cyclists and pedestrians have to do their part of the sharing too, and that means they have to follow the rules as well.
posted by gjc at 8:41 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


Either you behave in a manner consistent with the law so cars know what to expect or you do it your way and go with god.

But drivers of cars generate their expectations not based on laws that go unenforced but how people tend to behave on the road. I do stop at stop signs, and about half of the time the driver to my right will wave me on, even though he was very definitely there first. So I wave him on. And he waves me on again. People behind me start to honk, the other driver is getting angry, etc. etc.

There is literally no way to behave on a bike at a stop sign such that the driver can predict your behavior. I will acknowledge that this is in large part because of how many cyclists behave, but there's little that I, as a single cyclist, can do about it.
posted by IjonTichy at 8:42 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Best thing I've learned in 20 years riding the streets of Philly and surrounding areas: Look at the drivers. Wave! Say hi! A brief personal connection, half a second of eye contact, can do wonders for your outlook and personal safety. Some people are still going to be jerks, but most drivers honestly don't realize that they're putting you in a dangerous situation.

And also, yeah, be hypervigilant and assume that everyone is trying to kill you.
posted by Mister_A at 8:43 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I just think it's silly for me to wait 90 seconds for a light at an intersection with very sparse traffic, pedestrian or otherwise.

Why is it silly for a bicyclist to have to wait and not an automobile?
posted by gjc at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


zarq, how many times have you had a near crash with another automobile? Somehow, I'm thinking it's rather more than your close calls with cyclists.

Follow the rules, take your lane and I'll give you all the deference you need. But cyclists and pedestrians have to do their part of the sharing too, and that means they have to follow the rules as well.

You realise there's a reason cyclists are timid about taking their lane, right? That reason being roughly every driver who isn't you, assuming you don't try to run cyclists off the road.
posted by hoyland at 8:47 AM on May 22, 2013


I'm breaking the law but...

As with apologies, the inclusion of the word "but" renders the rest of the statement kind of...empty.

I stop at red lights and four-way stops when no one is around, in the middle of the night, when I am in a hurry. Just do it.
posted by wenestvedt at 8:48 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is literally no way to behave on a bike at a stop sign such that the driver can predict your behavior.

You could look the driver square in the eyes until you see them look back at you. You could point at them when it's their turn (which is what I do in my car), or make that "No, after you!" gesture with a smile. Literally!
posted by wenestvedt at 8:49 AM on May 22, 2013


There is a loophole in the Ontario Highway Traffic act that permits e-bikes to travel in bike lanes, without clearly defining what an e-bike is. The result in Toronto is people riding what are essentially (sometimes quite large) electric scooters with two weird vestigial pedals stuck to the side.

Ah, you mean mopeds. Yeah, those shouldn't be in bicycle lanes at all.
posted by cmonkey at 8:51 AM on May 22, 2013


about half of the time the driver to my right will wave me on, even though he was very definitely there first

This is actually a good point, and not just for bikes. Drivers as 4-way stops are unpredictable and appear to forget how it's supposed to work.

Also, drivers: maybe just skip the "wave across" thing and keep going. I know you think it's a nice gesture, but more often than not it slows everybody down, and sometimes you are waving someone into a dangerous situation. As a pedestrian I've had people in the closest lane to the sidewalk try and wave me across a 4-lane street with traffic in both directions.
posted by Hoopo at 8:51 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


I gave up track standing at stop lights and stop signs--it really does mess with drivers' heads, and that's not productive for anyone. Full stop, at least one foot on the ground.

That said, any equivalence being made between asshole cyclists and asshole drivers is inane. A car is going to fuck a cyclist up; when I am driving, the onus is on me to account even for horrible cyclists, because I am in the massive, metal, enclosed thing. How is this controversial?
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 8:53 AM on May 22, 2013 [7 favorites]


There is literally no way to behave on a bike at a stop sign such that the driver can predict your behavior.

You could look the driver square in the eyes until you see them look back at you. You could point at them when it's their turn (which is what I do in my car), or make that "No, after you!" gesture with a smile. Literally!


That's actually exactly wrong! I used to do that and they would simply return the gesture over and over again! No, the only way I've found that works, oddly, is to stare at the ground and make the waving gesture over and over again until they go. Sometimes even that doesn't work and I'm tempted to get off of my bike and lie down on the ground until they finally go.
posted by IjonTichy at 8:53 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


This is actually a good point, and not just for bikes. Drivers as 4-way stops are unpredictable and appear to forget how it's supposed to work.

4 way stops are a menace generally, for all parties; why they persist in areas with heavy traffic is beyond me.

I have some hope that increased cycling with encourage the development of the same kind of expectations that cars have of each other, but at four way stops we haven't really figured out how to get people to behave appropriately even without bikes in the mix.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:53 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


zarq, how many times have you had a near crash with another automobile? Somehow, I'm thinking it's rather more than your close calls with cyclists.

Very close call? Once. I've never had a car accident. *knock on wood* I've been driving since October 2008.

It doesn't matter. The number of times I've had a close call with another car is irrelevant to the points I made above. Reckless behavior from other drivers does not excuse or negate reckless behavior from cyclists.

As others have noted above, there is a different dynamic between two cars than between a car and a cyclist. As 'sandettie light vessel automatic' notes above, the two situations are not equivalent.
posted by zarq at 8:53 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Why is it silly for a bicyclist to have to wait and not an automobile?

Because automobiles accelerate much more quickly, yet stop and maneuver far more slowly. There's more - a bicyclist who stops at an intersection will spend much more time in the intersection than a motor vehicle as they get back up to speed. More, still - when accelerating from a stop, it's difficult for a cyclist to maneuver or otherwise react to other traffic. Coming to a complete stop, instead of a rolling stop, is more dangerous for a cyclist, provided there's sparse traffic and good visibility.

It's not fair a cyclist can use an Idaho stop... but it's not fair a car can go through an intersection from a complete stop with the twitch of an ankle in a twinkling. It evens out... except a lot of drivers use it as an excuse to be horrible to cyclists.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


You could look the driver square in the eyes until you see them look back at you. You could point at them when it's their turn (which is what I do in my car), or make that "No, after you!" gesture with a smile. Literally!

Don't know if you've ever done this on a bike, but, as someone already explained in comments, the cars ignore you trying to tell them it's their turn.

Drivers do all manner of weird shit, like not entering intersections when their light is green, when they see a cyclist and then blame cyclists for not acting predictably. Is it any wonder that if you have a green light and I'm turning left, I'm not going to turn left in front of you? I'm still not going to do it if you keep sitting there.
posted by hoyland at 8:56 AM on May 22, 2013


It doesn't matter. The number of times I've had a close call with another car is irrelevant to the points I made above. Reckless behavior from other drivers does not excuse or negate reckless behavior from cyclists.

Yeah, but it matters when you devote a paragraph to telling us how horrible cyclists are. Do you live in the land of uniquely bad cyclists, the land of perfect drivers, or are you just dumping on cyclists and ignoring shit drivers?
posted by hoyland at 8:57 AM on May 22, 2013


Why is it silly for a bicyclist to have to wait and not an automobile?

It's a poorly designed intersection. 90 percent of the time, the impact of me running the red is 0. Now, that's the case for a lot of cars as well, but they are more likely to get a ticket.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 8:58 AM on May 22, 2013


Some cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians alike suffer from the extreme misconception that they have a empirical "right" to be wherever they are, regardless of what is going on around them, and as such are empowered to conduct themselves according to this belief, whether it be out of legal fact, ignorance of said legal facts, or obliviousness to a dangerous situation.

The simple fact is that operating a device which propels one to a "superhuman" speed and/or interacting in close proximity with these devices requires awareness, responsibility and more importantly, empathy.

Whether or not the law states one particular device (or lack thereof as a pedestrian) has precedence over an other, you are ultimately responsible for your safety and the safety of those around you.

I don't care if you commute to work or play outside on your scooter, bike, skateboard, car, truck, ATV, or on foot.

Pay attention, be considerate, and remember your family and friends would really miss you and feel really terrible if you died, got hurt, or ended up in jail for harming someone else. Not to mention the misery one would likely feel themselves for getting badly hurt or living with the guilt of hurting others.

Granted, there may be the occasional sociopath who is incapable of empathy and being considerate, but these people are destined to hurt others, whether it be behind the wheel, the handlebars or just in life at general. Why is this so hard?
posted by Debaser626 at 9:04 AM on May 22, 2013


You realise there's a reason cyclists are timid about taking their lane, right? That reason being roughly every driver who isn't you, assuming you don't try to run cyclists off the road.

Most of those drivers are trying to run everyone off the road. The bad behavior of other people is not an excuse for anyone to behave badly.

Because automobiles accelerate much more quickly, yet stop and maneuver far more slowly. There's more - a bicyclist who stops at an intersection will spend much more time in the intersection than a motor vehicle as they get back up to speed. More, still - when accelerating from a stop, it's difficult for a cyclist to maneuver or otherwise react to other traffic. Coming to a complete stop, instead of a rolling stop, is more dangerous for a cyclist, provided there's sparse traffic and good visibility.

It's not fair a cyclist can use an Idaho stop... but it's not fair a car can go through an intersection from a complete stop with the twitch of an ankle in a twinkling. It evens out... except a lot of drivers use it as an excuse to be horrible to cyclists.


If I drive a slow car, do I get to run *some* red lights? If I drive a fast car, do I have to wait an extra 5 seconds before accelerating? The traffic laws aren't about fairness, they are about predictability and safety.
posted by gjc at 9:04 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


hoyland: " Yeah, but it matters when you devote a paragraph to telling us how horrible cyclists are.

I was responding to a very specific comment that said that cyclists are merely an inconvenience to drivers, and by implication, not dangerous. My response to that comment was to give examples from personal experience of how shitty behavior on the part of a cyclist can endanger both themselves and others.

I get that this is a fast moving thread and it might be easy to lose the context of what I was responding to. Which is why I actually quoted and linked to the comment I responded to.

If you would like to have a different conversation with me about how drivers of cars, vans and other motor vehicles can be shitty to cyclists and others, feel free. Happy to discuss and we'll probably agree on those points. But that wasn't the comment I was responding to, and I did not bring up a comparison because it wasn't required or relevant to the discussion at hand.
posted by zarq at 9:06 AM on May 22, 2013


The problem with cyclists is that they want to pick and choose which laws apply to them; they want to be treated like a pedestrian when it suits their needs and like a vehicle otherwise.

This is said pretty often, and ignoring the question of motorists following the law, it's a mischaracterization that really bugs me.

The problem often isn't that cyclists (of which I count myself) want to choose which laws apply to them. The problem is that many laws are written in a way which categorizes cyclists either as motorists or pedestrians, depending on the circumstances, and often are impractical to interpret reasonably when on a bicycle, which is neither thing.

As an example, when I'm cycling in the city (which is most of my cycling in recent years), and I come to a stop light, I evaluate oncoming traffic and then proceed. There are good reasons for this - often I'm cycling on a major road, and the signal is timed so that minor roads will occasionally get the light. But most often there's either no cross traffic, or the cross traffic clears quickly enough that it's all gone by the time I'm proceeding. This is illegal, yes, but there's an important aspect to this. Beyond the value of conserving my momentum (which is significant), the next 1/8th to 1/4 mile after I've run the light are the safest blocks for me. I've got little or no traffic to avoid, and when the motorists at the light start moving again, they can all see me. This is also beneficial to motorists (of which I count myself) - there's less congestion at the light, and the cyclists are easier to spot and avoid. It's actually better, at minor intersections, for *everybody*, if I consciously evaluate oncoming traffic from minor roads and selectively run those lights.

Major intersections are a different story, though. If I'm riding down a major road and I come to an intersection with a major road, I need to stop as part of motorist traffic, or else I'm creating a danger to myself and others. But in these cases, there's no significant harm to me proceeding with crosswalk signals - and again, the advantages of being out in front of motorists when the light changes hold true.

The level of danger to yourself on a bicycle in a city is fairly high, and there are plenty of cases where violating the law makes you safer. There are also plenty of cases where, say, yielding the right of way to a car is the best thing to do. But the reason for this discrepancy is often that bicycles are generally classified as (somewhat special, given the presence of bike lanes) motor vehicles, and laws for motor vehicles are often written to prevent danger from one particular aspect of them - the ability to accelerate significantly faster than pedestrians.
posted by atbash at 9:07 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Hooray, another mefi thread about bikes. I have said my piece in the countless other threads on the subject but this raises some things I haven't talked about.

I am a cyclist. I am ALSO a driver. I am ALSO a pedestrian. I am ALSO a public transit user.

I have found (through observation and even through fighting the tendency in myself) that drivers always have but rarely use the option to hold back and wait. Just wait. Slow down for half a fucking second to see what the cyclist is about to do. I'm not really referring to intersections (though I experience the 4-way-stop clusterfuck and cars being mad at me for being in their way at a red light daily talked about upthread) but when we're all on the road travelling together.

Often there will be some sort of obstruction in my path as a cyclist. Lots of delivery vans parked in bike lanes, flung open doors of it's-not-really-parking-if-I-have-my-hazards-on cars outside the five different Starbucks I have to pass to get to work every morning, and this time of year lots of potholes that really should be classified as geological features they are so big. And what happens when I signal my intention to take the lane to get around these obstructions? A car insists on trying to pass me anyway, which is terrifying for me, for the driver of the car, and probably for the drivers of the oncoming cars as well.

And yet the driver does it anyway, because there is this weird compulsion when driving to always be moving, to never just slow down to see how the situation in front of you develops. I can see the death grip on the steering wheel and the tensed shoulders of the driver as they pass me, as if they know this is kinda close and it's not like they want to kill me so they are nervous. Yet somehow the option of just waiting doesn't cross their mind. Like they don't actually have control over their speed or something.

I'm not saying that you should creepy mccreeperson slowly drive behind a cyclist for blocks and blocks. But please, for the love of god, use the brake (it's that pedal to the left of the gas pedal) and slow the fuck down until it is safe to pass.

And on to the pedestrian thing, I think there is an order of magnitude difference from NYC/Manhattan(/downtown Chicago in my case) pedestrian interactions and the vast majority of my commute every day in which I do, yes, roll through stop signs and sometimes go through red lights after coming to a stop. There are usually literally no pedestrians at any of those intersections, especially at 7am on my way to work, and my visibility as a cyclist going 5 mph as I approach intersections is really, really high. I promise you pedestrians, I see you approaching the intersection long before you even think to look up from your phone and see me. So yeah, downtown I follow all signals and stop signs to the letter of the law, but outside of downtown I don't.
posted by misskaz at 9:09 AM on May 22, 2013 [14 favorites]


If I drive a slow car, do I get to run *some* red lights?

No, because there are no slow cars when compared to human-powered conveyance. A car is NOT a bicycle, and their capabilities aren't anywhere close to each other in inception or design. Applying the same rules to both is dangerously stupid.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:13 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Can't we all just agree to
1. Follow the laws about stopping, speed limits, sharing the road, and yielding the right of way; and
2. Be polite, damn it: quit the agressive shit.... cars don't get to run over bikes, cyclists don't get to run over pedestrians, and pedestrians should walk on the sidewlk not saunter down the roadway.

And that numbskull who rammed into me from behind last summer (I was a pedestrian, walking properly on the sidewalk) should watch where he's driving his electric wheelchair, too.
posted by easily confused at 9:19 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


For me and my bike to have the same momentum as an automobile moving at 50 mph, I would need to be going about 920 mph.
posted by Ghost Mode at 9:20 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


You realise there's a reason cyclists are timid about taking their lane, right? That reason being roughly every driver who isn't you, assuming you don't try to run cyclists off the road.

>> Most of those drivers are trying to run everyone off the road. The bad behavior of other people is not an excuse for anyone to behave badly.


And if you think that sweet little moral imperative will in any way encourage me to risk my neck staring down some swivel-eyed road-raging psychopath who can maim me with a flick of their foot, you are sorely mistaken.
posted by ominous_paws at 9:24 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


As big a fan as I am of recycling, I'm all for throwing away the key on this one...
posted by sexyrobot at 9:26 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes, at a 4 way stop, please don't try to wave me through. I've been judging the situation in the 15+ seconds I've had as I rode up to the intersection. I know that by the time I get there that you and the car across from you should have gone. But no. Now you're waiting for me to not only ride up to the intersection but ride up to, stop, judge, and continue riding through. In the mean time, you're holding up traffic. Sometimes you decide I'm taking too long and go through anyway, even though we had "a connection" where I thought I saw into your soul.

And look, in the time between my having to slow down considerably because I can't trust you, the giant ass car of doom, and the time when I would've otherwise been able to slip across like a speedy gazelle through a completely empty intersection, that pedestrian mommy stroller-jogger I saw from several yards away is now about to cross so I have to stop completely anyway.

Now that's she's past, I have to re-establish a connection with you, along with the 2 new cars and the motorcyclist making a turn, who are wondering what the hell you're doing.

If you took your fucking turn in the natural way (where most people with decent judgement seem to know how many quick heartbeats to wait at a stop), we never would have had this problem.
posted by DisreputableDog at 9:26 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


I would need to be going about 920 mph.

That would be fucking badass though.
posted by elizardbits at 9:26 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


If I ride an a street where there's no bike lane, I take a regular traffic lane. I don't care if I'm going 15 mph slower than the cars around me. I take a lane and keep it. I'm not getting shunted aside to get doored, I'm not getting crushed when someone merges into me, or flipped over a hood when someone takes a quick right at an intersection. If anyone has a problem, they're welcome to meet me at the next traffic light.

My mantra: "I am not in danger, Skyler. I am the danger."
posted by Ghost Mode at 9:28 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


If you don't bike a lot, you don't realize that there is a big difference between what you might call a "dead stop" (feet on the ground, marked pause between stopping and starting again) and a...well, let's call it a "live stop" - where you slow a lot and stop fully for a very brief moment, then go on, something stoppier than a rolling stop but less stoppy than a dead stop. A dead stop is a total loss of momentum and it's much slower to get started again. A "live stop" is not.
No, what straight said: this makes no sense from a physics standpoint. If you're stopping fully -- for even a brief moment -- you have by definition lost all your momentum. This "live stop" thing really comes across as a way of dressing up not actually stopping as a stop.

That said, "must slow to a speed from which you could safely stop at the line if needed" would be a much more humane rule for cyclists than "must stop".

On drivers waving you on and not taking no for an answer: yes, it annoys me as a pedestrian too. You don't have the same sight lines I do: you cannot make a judgement of whether it is safe for me to proceed. My driving instructor back in the UK told me sternly not to do it for just that reason. (He also added an undercurrent of "and if they go and then get hit it might be partly your fault"; I don't know if that has any legal weight but it stuck with me as a useful moral code.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 9:35 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The driver in question has done an interview. Afraid I haven't watched it yet, but apparently she apologises for tweeting, but omits to apologise for the driving.
posted by ambrosen at 9:37 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Standing upright, pointing at the stop sign then folding my arms and staring at them usually gets the message through to 'helpful' drivers.
posted by normy at 9:41 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


The driver in question has done an interview.

"I'm sorry I used a public forum to admit to committing a major offense."
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 9:45 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


This discussion has made me very grateful that we have very few 4 way stops in the UK. Most crossroads give one road priority so it's treated largely as a pair of normal side junctions (though the impromptu semaphore between two drivers facing each other on the side roads as they try to work out who turns across the other first is always a drag)

Roundabouts might be little circles of hell in busy traffic, but at least 'people on the roundabout have priority' makes it easier to figure out who goes first.

I was trained (by an ex-ambulance driver) never to wave someone on unless you're absolutely sure their entire route is clear, and even then it's only generally appropriate in slow moving/stopped traffic for someone trying to merge - that way, they won't try and force themselves into a unsafe gap, possibly the one in front of you, so it's safer if you give them space and explicit permission. It's almost always safer and more predictable under other circumstances to just keep your speed and proper order of priority.

Oddly enough, he didn't tell me not to intentionally ram cyclists into a hedge because they don't pay road tax. Perhaps it should be added to the written part of the driving test.

Q: When is it appropriate to drive at a cyclist?

1) Only when they're wearing lycra.
2) When they jump a red light in front of you, they had it coming.
3) If they're not another car user who's paid VED already.
4) Never, because I'm not a sociopath.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:46 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Regarding regulating bicycles as if they were cars:

I use a bicycle in order to NOT use a wheelchair. I got my bike as a holiday gift. If bikes got the ridiculous regulation suggested, I'd lose my only transportation option to get me more than a mile from my home as I cannot walk that far. Why should the poor be punished because vehicle drivers are careless?

I get hit (bumped) by a car about once a month, usually while the driver is making a right turn on red. I'm only riding my bike about 20 minutes roughly three times a week. Only one hit was close to serious but that was a driver using the bike lane to align his vehicle with the road swiping me as he passed. After the side-swiping, my bike was wrecked and I lay there for ten minutes before I could get up and limp home with my broken machine. Luckily, I was only about a half-mile from home.

Note: not one driver stopped after knocking me off my bike, nor did any other drivers stop to inquire whether I needed assistance. However, I do get pedestrians and other bikers stopping to assist.
posted by _paegan_ at 9:48 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


On drivers waving you on and not taking no for an answer:

I just turn my head, ostentatiously watching traffic coming from the other way. Very occsaionally, they'll escalate to honking, at which point I look to make sure something dangerous isn't happening, and then go back to looking away from them.
posted by Etrigan at 9:50 AM on May 22, 2013


No, what straight said: this makes no sense from a physics standpoint. If you're stopping fully -- for even a brief moment -- you have by definition lost all your momentum. This "live stop" thing really comes across as a way of dressing up not actually stopping as a stop.

Well, there's the momentum of you going forward, but there's also the effort/momentum/time of scooting off the saddle, tilting the bike to the side, and putting your foot down. And then the effort of putting your foot back on the pedal and pushing forward so you can start pedaling again. I don't know the technical physics formulas that demonstrate this, but I know as a cyclist that there is a huge fucking difference in the effort I expend as well as how quickly I can get moving again and get through the intersection and out of everyone's way. I can also guarantee you that someone doing a true track stand is fully stopped -- often you rock back and forth to keep your balance, and you can't start rocking backward if you haven't fully stopped going forward.
posted by misskaz at 9:50 AM on May 22, 2013


OMG that interview. "I'm sorry I said something on twitter and now it's gone global, and now I'm getting called nasty names and I've been suspended and my career is at risk."

Not an ounce of remorse for what she actually did to the cyclist, concern whether she might have killed the guy, nor that that tweet showed a shocking lack of not being well, a normal empathetic human being. She's just sorry she got caught out. Christ.
posted by ArkhanJG at 9:53 AM on May 22, 2013


normy, I prefer looking them in the eye in a friendly way, tilting my head and gesturing with a pointed index finger the way they should go. Polite, but firm.

It normally leaves me in control enough of the situation that I can smile in appreciation of the fact that they thought they were doing me a favour, and I can usually muster a little sympathy for the anxiety they had about having to drive across my path.
posted by ambrosen at 9:54 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Not an ounce of remorse for what she actually did to the cyclist, concern whether she might have killed the guy, nor that that tweet showed a shocking lack of not being well, a normal empathetic human being. She's just sorry she got caught out. Christ.

She's probably received legal advice not to make further statements about the actual crash, as that's the event that determines charges and sentencing.
posted by jaduncan at 10:16 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


No, what straight said: this makes no sense from a physics standpoint. If you're stopping fully -- for even a brief moment -- you have by definition lost all your momentum. This "live stop" thing really comes across as a way of dressing up not actually stopping as a stop.

What we cyclists are referring to is coming to a full stop, briefly, but maintaining the potential energy by not putting our foot down. Keeping both feet on the pedals maintains that potential energy and makes starting and accelerating much faster. There is a complete loss of momentum, but not a complete loss of potential energy.

It's hard to perceive potential energy while driving a car, but you're constantly aware of it when cycling.
posted by rocketman at 10:19 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yes. Yes it is. A red light means "Stop."

Stop. You are wrong in every way if you fail to do so.


No. We're on a 20 lb machine made of pencil lead and soda cans and you are in 3 tons of steel. If we run a stop we're only putting ourselves in danger. You put everyone in danger when you run a light, distracted drunk/texting. You slip up once and have to pay for a little body work and paint, but it can kill one of us. What could this rage possibly be other than jealousy that you have to stop and wait? In any case, it doesn't affect you at all. Do you drivers also get mad at pedestrians when they j-walk?
posted by hellslinger at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Keeping both feet on the pedals maintains that potential energy and makes starting and accelerating much faster.
Before the physics pedants jump on this, it's not just gravitational potential energy being maintained, but also the effort required to regain balance, etc.

(Dear pedants: when used colloquially, "momentum" doesn't necessarily mean p = mv, and "stop" doesn't necessarily mean v = 0.)
posted by cdward at 10:30 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Marshall McLuhan's famous book Understanding Media is subtitled "The Extensions of Man."

And it has a chapter about the automobile. He is right. When you drive, you are conditioned to see your car as an extension of yoru body, and that explains both a lot of behavior and some of the comments here.
posted by ocschwar at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Getting this out of the way: yes, I obey the rules of the road, do my best to be visible and predictable, yield to pedestrians, etc., etc. I invite you to bike with me if you're nervous about riding on the road; I'll gladly show you the ropes. If you haven't already seen How to Not Get Hit by Cars, it's useful.

On to some of my real infrastructure concerns:

1) As long as we're designating random side streets as bicycle routes, why can't we eliminate as many stop signs as possible on those routes?
2) As long as we've got nice off-street paths we encourage cyclists to use, why can't we put some thought into how cyclists can get on and off them safely and conveniently?
3) As long as we're going to crisscross our cities with enormous freeways, why can't we put more work into making sure that cyclists and pedestrians can get past them safely?
4) And if we're going to have bike lanes, why not make sure to increase the street sweeping schedule for them?
posted by asperity at 10:31 AM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


C'est la DC: Ha, in my cubicle I have a clipped headline from the always objective Washington Examiner that says: "Motorists fuming as bicycles pack roads -- Everyone angry at clueless Bikeshare riders."

But the truth is that all bicycling, regardless of skill or maliciousness, makes our roads safer *for all road users*. Fuming at a scofflaw bicyclist? Now imagine that horrible person controlling the wheel of the #1 cause of accidental death. Yup, tourists on bikes are alright with me.

Is it just me, or is debating bicycle licensing and rolling stops incredibly inappropriate in a discussion originally about a specific incident of vehicular assault? It's as on-topic as debating the jaywalking proclivities of New Yorkers in a discussion on the World Trade Center attack.
posted by Skwirl at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


On to some of my real infrastructure concerns

But...but...that would involve TAXPAYER'S MONEY being spent on CYCLISTS!
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 10:35 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If we run a stop we're only putting ourselves in danger

No, not really. People in general don't want to be responsible for someone's death or injury, accidental or otherwise. They don't want to kill you or seriously injure you when they drive through the intersection on their right of way. If you get smoked by a car while running a red, the effects are not just your injuries. The drivers are very likely traumatized, and it's likely their insurance will come into play or they wind up in court for medical bills/loss of income/damages/whatever else. Or perhaps the driver sees you running the red at the last minute and needs to take swerve out of the way or slam on the brakes and causes an accident.

It's certainly WORSE for the person on the bike, but it's not "only themselves" that are put in danger. Don't run reds.
posted by Hoopo at 10:37 AM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


If you are unlicensed, uninsured, intoxicated, or/and un-acquanted with the traffic laws you have no business being on a public road.

Ah, then--99% of everyone currently on the road will be banned. I'm quite looking forward to this . . .
posted by flug at 10:41 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Quick thought experiment for the drivers here:

You're driving your car in the curb lane of a 4 lane city road that also includes a typical bike lane, about 3-4 feet wide, to your right.

You can see that the traffic light a block away has just turned red. There are no cars ahead of you, so you expect that you can arrive at the intersection and turn right, as is legal in this jurisdiction.

But as you get closer, you can see that a cyclist well ahead of you is shoulder checking, signalling, then moving from the bike lane to the center of the curb lane. The cyclist stops at the light, in the middle of the curb lane. They are not turning right. You brake to a stop behind them and wait. And wait.

When the light finally turns green, the cyclist starts up, stays in the middle of the curb lane through the intersection, and moves back into the bike lane again after leaving the intersection.

Was that cyclist breaking the law? Being reckless? Being rude? Could they have made a better choice? Why or why not?
posted by maudlin at 10:42 AM on May 22, 2013


To comment on the original link, and loop back to ocschwar's comment above, I do think the vulnerability of cyclists is both advantage and disadvantage.

If this woman had been on a bicycle, she might have had a positive interaction with this fella, and he with her. Being in a car almost guarantees you will be isolated from your fellow humans, with your ego swollen to fill the moving metal and glass cage.

Riding a bicycle allows you to have meaningful interactions with others while going from A to B. Two days ago I was biking home from work and saw an old friend stopped on his bike. I didn't know he'd moved back to town, and we were able to stop and chit-chat for a few minutes. If we'd been in cars, chances are high that I never would have seen him.

Or the day before that, I was biking home from the hardware store, and a woman on a bike was lost and asked me for directions. We were able to ride together and talk while I got her to the route she needed. It was fun! We have friends in common!

But I feel bad for this woman in the story.
posted by rocketman at 10:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Is it just me, or is debating bicycle licensing and rolling stops incredibly inappropriate in a discussion originally about a specific incident of vehicular assault?
For real. This kind of discussion would never happen on a thread about a collision with a pedestrian or another car, but it happens in every bike thread.
posted by cdward at 10:49 AM on May 22, 2013 [8 favorites]


I've read all of these. And the fact is that a large portion (not majority - not ... who knows? this is a CYA paranthetical) of the bikers near me, in a large urban area (the USA nation's capital) act like laws do not apply to them unless and until they are threatened by a vehicle: they run lights, cause accidents - I have seen it, not second-hand- that they escape unharmed, treat traffic laws as things not applicable to them because, hey, they're bikers; they generally make a commute down a ROAD DESIGNED FOR CARS a freaking paranoid, watch-out-for-the-idiots nightmare. People hate bikers: not because they are jealous, but because a significant (not saying majority) portion of bikers feel that the fact that traffic laws are designed for cars to be insulting and ignore everything legal. Cause, hey, you're a big car, it's your job to watch out for me. I did not hate bikers until I moved to a place where there were a lot of them. This was a learned response to being around a lot of arrogant people with very little concern for anyone else but themselves. Say that about drivers if you want, and the driver in this story clearly was an a-hole, but I have a bike; I ride it when and where I think appropriate. IN MY EXPERIENCE bikers bring rage upon themselves. Or worse, they bring rage upon other bikers: people who may actually not be presumptive idiots who feel that their very vulnerability should be able to allow them to do anything on the road they please. Screw bikers. I have a 20-mile bike path four minutes from my house. Never have a problem there. Not one. But if I drive to the bike path in my car, however, I almost hit 10 idiots every day, cause, hey: watch out for me, asshole, you have a big car: your job, screw red lights and stop signs and everything else; I'm a BIKER. Yeah bikes are green and good; but a lot of bikers are jerks. And jerks cause further jerk-ism.
posted by umberto at 10:53 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Yes. Yes it is. A red light means "Stop."

Stop. You are wrong in every way if you fail to do so."

No. We're on a 20 lb machine made of pencil lead and soda cans and you are in 3 tons of steel. If we run a stop we're only putting ourselves in danger. You put everyone in danger when you run a light, distracted drunk/texting. You slip up once and have to pay for a little body work and paint, but it can kill one of us. What could this rage possibly be other than jealousy that you have to stop and wait? In any case, it doesn't affect you at all. Do you drivers also get mad at pedestrians when they j-walk?


What? Yes. Yes I do. Because there are crosswalks for a reason and it is ridiculous that drivers should have to deal with the moral or legal repercussions of killing a person that didn't feel like following the rules that are there for everyone's safety.
posted by nakedmolerats at 10:53 AM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Should bicyclists have to obey the law and come to a full, total stop at stop signs and red lights? Yes indeedy.

A friend of mine, an avid cyclist, used to argue the "but it would waste my momentum!" argument...... after she ran (yet another) red in front of a plumber's truck, she had a closed-casket funeral. And I wish this anecdote was hyperbole; I miss her.
posted by easily confused at 11:06 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


there are crosswalks for a reason

Or not.
posted by wikipedia brown boy detective at 11:06 AM on May 22, 2013


maudlin: Was that cyclist breaking the law? Being reckless? Being rude? Could they have made a better choice? Why or why not?

Well, as a cyclist, I do tend to jump out of the shoulder into a full traffic lane if I'm riding into a stopped red light. If you cross in the crosswalk it can often be impossible to rejoin the traffic lane later, as the cars that accumulated at the red light zoom by and refuse to let you merge. It's best to take your lane early. Besides, a strong rider can accelerate and make it through the intersection as fast as a car can anyway; you don't start impeding traffic until you hit your maximum speed at 15-20 mph.

As a driver, I'm pretty sure it's legal and I don't really consider it reckless. Crossing in the traffic lane is probably the safest thing a cyclist can do; despite how you feel on a bike, being mowed down from behind is actually one of the least likely ways to get hit by a car (unless you ride at night without lights). It's annoying for the driver behind you, sure, but is it really different than being stuck behind a car that wasn't turning right? You'd still be stuck.

Also, as a cyclist, I understand people who don't want to use a bike lane. They're often too narrow, too slanted, full of grates, trash and gravel, and they encourage cars to pass you at full speed without moving over even a little bit. I'd say at least half the time there's a bike lane, I'll still use the road. It probably annoys the hell out of drivers, but would you rather I rode in the road all of the time or hit a grate and weaved unexpectedly into it?
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:09 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Right, getting a helmet cam for myself. Maybe one for rear, too.
posted by tilde at 11:10 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


the giant ass car of doom

I read that as "the giant ass-car of doom." I blame xkcd.

Didn't detract from the points made, either. It was just funny.
posted by MoTLD at 11:10 AM on May 22, 2013


I ride in Paris, in New York and in the South of England and I feel by far the most vulnerable here.

I've never had trouble out on long rides in the north of England, or in and around Oxford where there's a sufficient number of cyclists to change the expectations of drivers. (That said, I once ended up over the bonnet of a car that pulled out blindly from a minor to a major road.) I've had friends in London badly hurt by idiot drivers in commercial vehicles and there are too many high-profile horror stories (Gary Mason, Mary Hansen) to make me comfortable about Boris-biking on my visits, and I live somewhere that's simultaneously good cycling terrain but also full of drivers who seem personally offended by the existence of bikes.

the fact is that a large portion (not majority - not ... who knows? this is a CYA paranthetical) of the bikers near me, in a large urban area (the USA nation's capital) act like laws do not apply to them unless and until they are threatened by a vehicle

Two things: firstly, it's a CYA parenthetical because I'm guessing you don't keep a running total of the number of drivers who behave like idiots, so there's probably a selection bias going on there. Secondly, when a group of people is systematically marginalised, should you really be surprised that they embrace a status that has been imposed upon them? I suspect that if you were told to fuck off by random strangers fifteen times a day, you'd develop a certain amount of hostility in your daily routines.
posted by holgate at 11:15 AM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


What we cyclists are referring to is coming to a full stop, briefly, but maintaining the potential energy by not putting our foot down.

Ah, now I understand. Sorry for the BUT PHYSICS derail.
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:19 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


there are crosswalks for a reason

Or not.


I mean, I agree that a lot of roads are very ill-designed for pedestrian safety and I wish that would change, but that doesn't absolve you of legal culpability if you choose to cross a dangerous street. It sounds like those charges were over-the-top and probably had a healthy dose of racism, too, but the general premise that you are accepting both personal and legal risk by crossing where there is no crosswalk is OK with me.

Another article about that case says that the nearest crosswalk to the accident was half a mile away (another says three-tenths, so not sure). An annoying distance to walk? Yes. Worth it to have had a much higher chance of crossing safely? Yes.
posted by nakedmolerats at 11:28 AM on May 22, 2013


that doesn't absolve you of legal culpability if you choose to cross a dangerous street

A lot of things go into determining this, it's not a simple yes/no and the liability is often shared in many jurisdictions.
posted by Hoopo at 11:37 AM on May 22, 2013


But I feel bad for this woman in the story.

The woman who ran someone down due to reckless driving and then boasted about having done so on social media after failing to even check they were alive?

You're right, she is the real victim here.
posted by jaduncan at 11:51 AM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


What we cyclists are referring to is coming to a full stop, briefly, but maintaining the potential energy by not putting our foot down. Keeping both feet on the pedals maintains that potential energy and makes starting and accelerating much faster. There is a complete loss of momentum, but not a complete loss of potential energy.

Precisely. It would be nice if folks would take the whole "I am trying sincerely and truthfully to explain something that lots of cyclists have experienced, without using snark even" and assume that there is some truth value there rather than go into "but you must be confused, lying or totally ignorant of science!!!"
posted by Frowner at 12:08 PM on May 22, 2013


The woman who ran someone down due to reckless driving and then boasted about having done so on social media after failing to even check they were alive?

You're right, she is the real victim here.


You can feel bad for someone without thinking they're a victim. I feel bad for her because she seems like people I know who have road rage problems; it must be awful to spend so much of your life being that angry. I feel bad for anyone with that much of a sense of entitlement and anger at the world around them, because it usually comes with a great deal of unhappiness. None of that requires those people to be victims.

That I also feel bad for the guy who got thrown off his bike should go without saying.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 12:08 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


* psychopathy

I can only assume it's this. Deliberately hitting someone with a car is nothing short of attempted murder.


As someone who has been bumped by cars at traffic lights (and had cigarettes thrown at many times), I think there is something rather sociopathological about the act of driving a motor car.

There's a level of depersonalization that goes on in regard to pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers; there's no feedback from the other traffic participants (apart from beeps); and there's the bizarre frustration of restricting a machine capable of 100+mph to 20mph bursts of 500 yards between traffic lights.

So I don't think it's attempted murder. The results of the bicyclist in these cases are of no concern to the driver. They couldn't care less. IANAL, but it's more like manslaughter or reckless homicide.

I dunno. Driving is bad for your soul. I have a car and I drive plenty. I can feel it. It's like the Ring, or like giving everyone a shotgun and saying "go shoot dinner."
posted by mrgrimm at 12:28 PM on May 22, 2013 [10 favorites]


mrgrimm: " I dunno. Driving is bad for your soul. I have a car and I drive plenty. I can feel it. It's like the Ring, or like giving everyone a shotgun and saying "go shoot dinner.""

Look, not for nothing but your personal feelings about driving don't necessarily apply to the rest of us. I don't think there's anything sociopathic about driving a car. Not for me, anyway. I enjoy driving and only very rarely find it frustrating. (Extenuating circumstances notwithstanding. ;)) If I don't make a light, it will change in 30-60 seconds. If I get stuck in traffic, that's life. Whatever. I don't depersonalize other drivers, pedestrians or cyclists. Don't speed and do obey the rules. Life is too short to waste anger on driving a freakin' car.

It is possible to feel disassociated from reality and the people around you in any environment, including riding a bicycle. There's nothing about driving a car that automatically turns drivers into sociopaths.
posted by zarq at 12:40 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I used to ride my bike to work, but in Toronto it feels like a lottery where if you "win" you get run over by some jackass in a BMW.

I'm not exactly sure what you mean, but ... as someone who was hit by a taxi and received a large (to me) settlement...

I run about 90% as fast as I used to. Some days it feels like there is a brick in my right hip. I have a 9-inch long platinum rod in my leg. I was in a wheelchair when my daughter was 4-8 months old. I couldn't walk unassisted until she was 1. I couldn't run for almost a year. I didn't have sex with my wife for 10 months. I have arthritis in my knee and ankle and will likely need arthroscopic surgery and a new hip.

And that was a good recovery.

So yeah. it's more like a deal with the devil than winning the lottery, if I understand your analogy. I received money, but it cost me a lot, it will cost me a lot, and it affects me every single day.

The problem (I suppose, if there is a problem). in my case, the driver and the passenger both broke the law and were cited ... with no punitive damages (no fine , ticket, nothing).

Litigation is the only avenue victims have to recover losses and, to be completely honest, receive compensation for what they've lost and will have to pay for later.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:43 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I dunno. Driving is bad for your soul. I have a car and I drive plenty. I can feel it. It's like the Ring, or like giving everyone a shotgun and saying "go shoot dinner."

It's amazing how a comfortable car (in my case a classic Caddy) driven at an unhurried pace, with no destination in mind and only on the backroads and alternate routes, can really change your perspective on driving and interacting with the world in an automobile. If you only use your care to commute or run errands, or you never leave the interstate, you get bitter, impatient, aggressive and angry with the act of driving.

On the other hand, I'm less eager to drive just to drive now that gas is as expensive as it is, and since AGW is now a thing we need to keep in mind. I'm hoping for a breakthru in hydrogen storage or battery/capacitor tech.
posted by Slap*Happy at 12:44 PM on May 22, 2013


There's nothing about driving a car that automatically turns drivers into sociopaths.

And that's your opinion, man. I'd argue the opposite. I obviously speak strongly, but I do think it does encourage drivers to act like "sociopaths." Obviously most of us can overcome it, but that's the fundamental fact.

"As a result of my studies, I've concluded that aggressive drivers need other behavioral modification techniques to manage their competitive impulses on the road."

- Leon James

15 aspects of driving that act as stressors
posted by mrgrimm at 12:51 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wouldn't call it sociopathy as such, more that the environment both of the road, and of a society which portrays driving as an unalloyed freedom* gives some people a Milgram Experiment/Stanford Prison Experiment feeling of insulation from their impact on their surroundings.

I feel viewing people who do things like this as people who are enabled in doing this by the context they live in is important because that gives us power to change the environment which enables driving without an awareness of the great power and responsibility that lies with you as a driver.

*albeit one which is constrained by the 'evil government' for evil government purposes rather than for pragmatic space, speed and cost reasons
posted by ambrosen at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


"Is the motorcar evil? Of course not, because it can have no intentions, no interior life, nurse no resentments, and harbor no malice. In daily life it has become commoner than the cold. In the moral realm the auto lacks pizzazz. It is merely an instrument of evil, crippling or killing thousands every year, consuming many of the resources of the earth; eviscerating cities as routinely as butchers their beef, poisoning the atmosphere, fostering illusions of equality and dominion, encouraging envy and macho competitions, facilitating adolescent fornication, and ravaging the countryside. Its horrid offspring are garages, interchanges, and gas stations. Popular delusions, much destruction, increasing casualties, do not make the motorcar evil, because these consequences were never aimed at. The word in vogue for the damage it does is "collateral." But the most considerable obstacle to calling the car "evil" is that its effects are easily explicable. Carbon monoxide is odorless, but that is the extent of its mystery. The price we pay for our automobiles seems more onerous to us than the cost of their use. Just add air bags and buckle up. Our callous indifference to ruinous truth may be less readily formulated."

- William Gass
posted by mrgrimm at 12:53 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I am personally a fan of "rolling stops are legit for cyclists if there are no cars" though. A rolling stop is much different on a person-powered bike than it is in a car.

I don't mind sharing the road with cyclists and I appreciate that they are trying to do their part for the planet and everything. I try to read these threads to see what I am supposed to do to drive safely and kindly with bikers on the road.

At the same time, the number of experienced cyclists on here who are claiming (1) that it is okay for them to blow through red lights when they think it is clear and who are (2) at the same time getting pissed at motorists who insist on waiting for cyclists to stop before the motorist will take their turn at an intersection blows my mind.

You cannot tell me that you are going to continue to blow through intersections despite stop signs and traffic lights that DO apply to you so long as YOU don't see anyone and expect me to trust you to see me. Me and my car are a hell of a lot bigger than you and I am trying to keep you safe. It is too bad if a full stop is going to make you work harder but dammit those are the laws you agreed to when you got on the road. Stop blowing through intersections and we as car drivers will actually start trusting you to stop and will start taking our turns before you get to the intersection. But you can't have it both ways, because when we get to an intersection I really have no idea how skilled a cyclist you are and whether or not I can count on you to see me and stop. And I have a responsibility not to hurt you.
posted by onlyconnect at 12:54 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


mrgrimm: "And that's your opinion, man."

Yes it is. My point is that you don't speak for all drivers. You can't.
posted by zarq at 1:04 PM on May 22, 2013


feeling of insulation from their impact on their surroundings.

egocentricity is a signal of psychopathy.

But you can't have it both ways, because when we get to an intersection I really have no idea how skilled a cyclist you are and whether or not I can count on you to see me and stop.

Oh yes, they can have it both ways.

I have a simple rule when driving. I always wait for the cyclist. If I have to wait another 3 seconds to see what the fuck they are going to do, so be it.

As a cyclist I do stop at signs when motor car drivers get there first, but it confuses many and more than half wave me thru. So the communication issues go both ways.

The thing about two cyclists at an intersection. We can actually say "you first," " no you," "i insist," and fucking hear each other. Also, if we run into each other, we usually get scraped knees, not broken bones.

But unless the law is changed so drivers know you will be rolling through, I expect you to stop.

Sorry, no can do. Cars are made to stop and start easily. Bikes are not. Keep it rolling.

Yes it is. My point is that you don't speak for all drivers. You can't.

I'm not speaking for all drivers. I'm speaking about the condition of driving. Sure, there might be some Hobbits who have the ability to resist the Ring. Maybe Bilbo and Frodo were just weak-ass posers. I can't speak for all Hobbits. I sure as hell know that I can't, nor can 95% of the drivers I see on the roads every day.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:08 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


There is a sort of kill zone in front of all cars that is the sum of reaction time and stopping distance- responsible drivers like to keep that clear. When other people jump into that zone, we CANNOT react in time to avoid hitting them.

Which is why I choose not to drive. I'm not surprised by the willingness of people to risk accidentally killing or hurting another person because almost everyone is but I am surprised by the number of people who are unaware they are even making this choice.
posted by srboisvert at 1:14 PM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Just my .02, but how can anyone expect to follow or enforce the rules when most people don't know the rules, including the police. Two examples, albeit on a moped, which in my state have similar rules as bicycles. Example 1. A motorist literally pulled onto the sidewalk in an attempt to cut me off because, as he claimed, I wasn't following the rules about passing on the right. This of course automatically gave him the right to try and kill me. Example 2. and 2a, and 2b. Two motorcycle riding coppers, and one directing traffic threatened me with tickets and towing on three different occasions because I was passing on the right or traveling in a bike lane. Passing on the right, and traveling in bike lanes is allowed and is in fact stated on the registration form that I must carry. After showing this to the 3rd officer he apologized and said "you learn something everyday".

Meanwhile I am often passed by cyclists as I sit at the red light in the bike lane.
posted by Gungho at 1:20 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


mrgrimm, my read on the lottery comment, which I completely agree with, is that it's a lottery in the sense of the book. You have essentially no predictability and the prize is death/serious pain. I don't think it was about payouts to victims & litigation at all.

Also that sucks, my sympathies.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:21 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


You can feel bad for someone without thinking they're a victim. I feel bad for her because she seems like people I know who have road rage problems; it must be awful to spend so much of your life being that angry. I feel bad for anyone with that much of a sense of entitlement and anger at the world around them, because it usually comes with a great deal of unhappiness. None of that requires those people to be victims.

Exactly. I see someone behaving like that, and I wonder how difficult her path must be, whether she knows it or not.
posted by rocketman at 1:46 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm not going to get into the "cyclists suck," "no, motorists suck worse" argument, since it's been covered to death here; I have, however, resolved to try to get less irritated at cyclists after this thread, so there is that. What I will say:

1. Cyclists should stop at red lights and stop signs, not only because it's the law or because they might hit a pedestrian, but also because if they don't and they get hit, they could potentially either wreck their bike, get hurt, or die. I think that's worse than losing momentum. If I was on a bike, my biggest concern would be my own safety, and I wouldn't do ANYTHING to jeopardize that. If you're making the argument that blowing through a stop sign or a red light is actually safer, okay, but you've got some convincing to do.

2. Motorists are often stressed out by cyclists not because they are taking up "our" road, but because we know that if something bad happens, it's going to disproportionately affect the cyclist. I don't want to go through life knowing I have hurt or killed someone, even if it was not technically "my fault." It's the same way I feel about any other bad decision made on the road by any other user of the road. I'm less worried about being right than I am about getting hurt or hurting someone else.

3. To answer the person up-thread who said that at a four-way stop, the motorist with the right of way should just go because the cyclist has calculated that already - how do I know that? If true, you're right, the flow of traffic would work better. But what if the cyclist in my situation isn't planning it? What if they don't time it right or miscalculate the distance? What if they aren't paying attention and blow through that stop sign and, god forbid, I hit them? I'm not willing to make that leap of faith about someone I don't know. It's the same issue as the entrance ramp on a highway, and that miscommunication/lack of communication/inability to read minds causes issues there, too. I sometimes assume the person entering the highway is going to follow the law and yield to me since I'm already there, and they don't and we almost wreck. Other times I don't think the person knows I'm there and they're just going to blow right out onto the road, but they don't and it almost causes a wreck because I slow down and screw up their merge tactic. The difference is this is another car, and probably the worst that will happen is a fender bender. If I do that to a bicyclist, he or she could end up dead. I'm not willing to have that on my conscience.

In short, I don't trust ANYONE else on the road completely. It's a guessing game every time you drive. Some people just have more ire toward bikers for whatever reason. The fact is that roads are not designed (in most cases) for bicycles, and it is an inconvenience for drivers and a potentially deadly inconvenience for cyclists. I'm not willing to put my life in the hands of my fellow drivers any more than I have to, and if I was on a bike, my righteous indignation at the lack of infrastructure or common courtesy from motorists would take a back seat to my safety, even if I am technically "right."

IMHO and all that.
posted by jennaratrix at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Leaving aside for now the obvious guilt and callousness of the driver in the FPP, this issue comes up all the time and it seems to me it's about time we took some serious action to deal with the underlying problem. People -- both cyclists and drivers -- have no idea of what the rules of (and rights to) the road are for cyclists. For every person who has driven by me on my bike giving me six inches of space at most while screaming at me to "Get on the sidewalk!" there is a cyclist who comes at me going the wrong way down the street or who cheerfully blows through a major intersection without so much as slowing down to look for traffic.

A major public awareness campaign is clearly in order. Bike paths are nice, but not enough (I had someone come at me the wrong way down the bike path the other day, for example, and drivers routinely ignore those marks on the road). That one page that appears in every state's driver's manual is apparently entirely ineffective in educating drivers, and cyclists without a driver's license (particularly teenagers) presumably don't even see that thing, nor do they read that manual. I'm not necessarily even opposed to suggesting that we make cyclists using major roads (however we want to define that -- two lanes or more? Roads with dividers of some sort? Whatever) have a license or at least be able to prove they've passed a road safety course (which should be affordable, if not free, in that it involves public safety here and cycling should be accessible to all).

I'm aware of our undying love for the car in North America, but it still baffles me that we don't have any kind of major information system in place already, especially in cities, where cycling has long been common. Hopefully, with the increase in cycling of late, things are about to change.
posted by CoureurDubois at 1:54 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


You cannot tell me that you are going to continue to blow through intersections despite stop signs and traffic lights that DO apply to you so long as YOU don't see anyone and expect me to trust you to see me. Me and my car are a hell of a lot bigger than you and I am trying to keep you safe. It is too bad if a full stop is going to make you work harder but dammit those are the laws you agreed to when you got on the road. Stop blowing through intersections and we as car drivers will actually start trusting you to stop and will start taking our turns before you get to the intersection. But you can't have it both ways, because when we get to an intersection I really have no idea how skilled a cyclist you are and whether or not I can count on you to see me and stop. And I have a responsibility not to hurt you.

I am actually really sympathetic to this, and I understand that it is the behavior of my fellow cyclists that has gotten us to this state of "you go" "no YOU go" at four-way stops. It frustrates me too, though I admit to thinking in my head "just go! JUST GO!" as I approach intersections. But I take issue with the categorization of slowly rolling through a stop sign I know is clear (not think, know, because at 5pmh in a quiet residential neighborhood with clear sight lines I can see all approaching vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, squirrels, pigeons, etc.) as "blowing" through an intersection. Just like a car driver going 3mph over the posted speed limit isn't "flying" down the street.

Words matter, and carry judgement in their use and tone. If we use words like "blowing through the intersection" to describe quite safe, reasonable behavior as well as the more egregious stuff, it reduces the nuance of the discussion.

I also have observed on my bike commute (and maybe my bias is showing) that it is the fair-weather casual cyclists on poorly maintained bikes that seem to be the ones who really carelessly ignore stop signs and red lights at intersections, while the more experienced/"hard core" cyclists are more likely to stop or at least look both ways before continuing through. (Bike messengers in the heart of downtown excluded, because not only are they a different breed, there are maybe less than a hundred of them in all of Chicago so they make up a small proportion of the cycling community.) Yet when people start ranting about cyclists it's always using pejorative terms like "fixie" and "hipster" or "lycra" and "Lance-wannabe" -- when in fact those are the folks that ride the most and have the most experience and IMO better judgement when riding on the streets.
posted by misskaz at 2:08 PM on May 22, 2013 [11 favorites]


Yes, I am a frequent and enthusiastic cyclist, and I always stop at stop signs and red signals. I do this because I know it is actually making my legs and cardio-vascular system stronger, and because I like to pretend I'm competing in a track sprint.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:21 PM on May 22, 2013


People -- both cyclists and drivers -- have no idea of what the rules of (and rights to) the road are for cyclists. ... A major public awareness campaign is clearly in order.

Don't worry, Minnesota has one. All it's taught me is that it's apparently my own damn fault if I get killed crossing the road (on foot or bicycle) because I didn't look both ways hard enough or something. Every single one of their ads, which appear on the sides of buses and trains and inside the buses and trains, is aimed at non-motorists, scolding us for daring to not being in a car or something. And this is in an area that likes to brag about how bike-friendly it is.

I also have observed on my bike commute (and maybe my bias is showing) that it is the fair-weather casual cyclists on poorly maintained bikes that seem to be the ones who really carelessly ignore stop signs and red lights at intersections, while the more experienced/"hard core" cyclists are more likely to stop or at least look both ways before continuing through.

On thing to keep in mind, though, is that, at least round here, people riding poorly maintained bikes (at least during the week) often aren't casual cyclists, they're people biking as their primary non-walking transportation who can't afford to maintain their bikes better (or take the bus). They're probably logging more miles than me, who maybe spent six months of last year with my bike as my main form of transportation (my bike probably counts as poorly maintained, too). I am, however, perfectly happy to moan about people on Nice Ride bikes (our Boris bikes). Granted, those things are so heavy that I don't think they can be anything but a nuisance, no matter who's riding them.
posted by hoyland at 2:22 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'd like to see more and more effective public education campaigns aimed at cyclists, drivers, and pedestrians, since what we've got is spotty and clearly not reaching everyone using the roads. Problems with that include poor funding and the predictable "how dare we spend money on anything related to bikes when a cyclist frowned at me once" crowd that you see commenting in local newspapers.

We can all use more education here. Many drivers got their licenses fifty years ago in another state or country that may not have had strict testing requirements and could have had different rules of the road -- and they haven't had to do anything more than pay an annual fee since then to keep driving legally (if they're driving legally). The cyclist population's even more varied and hard to reach than the drivers. And every one of us is a pedestrian at times, so to do it right, you'd need to get near-total coverage. What publicly-funded marketing campaigns can manage that? Even Coca-Cola isn't recognized by everyone.
posted by asperity at 2:38 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Umberto -- You must be bicycling in a totally different capital of the USA than I am, because in this capital I am way more wary of taxi cab drivers, delivery vans and diplomat plates causing accidents than bicycles.

Zarq -- People who spend a lot of time on the vulnerable end of the road user scale all explain that automobile drivers treat them as second class human beings. If automobiles and automobile infrastructure themselves do not cause sociopathic disregard for human life, then it is just too depressing to think about how many truly horrible people there are out there. I'd rather believe in the evil cyborg theory than admit that most people don't care about my wellbeing.

Onlyconnect -- "dammit those are the laws you agreed to when you got on the road"

Well, actually, now that you mention it. No. No, I did not agree to being bounded on all sides by asphalt during my entire life from cradle to grave. There are some pretty good stories about why that infrastructure was built as opposed to a more human-scale one -- start with the General Motors streetcar conspiracy. Or the stories of great African American cultural centers mowed down for freeway projects.

One out of 81 of us will be sent early to that grave due to an interaction with a machine that the asphalt infrastructure was built around. There is a way to opt-out? Do tell.

If safely maneuvering your vehicle is impossible when you have trouble determining the intentions of bicyclists then the moral imperative is DO NOT DRIVE. This is EXACTLY why I choose to minimize my driving and why I choose to live my life in such a way where daily driving is not required. Holy crap. There are children, people with mental and physical disabilities and pets out there in neighborhoods. I make a conscious ethical decision to minimize this risk to others by choosing other modes as applicable.

I listen to the NPR traffic report every morning and it is unbelievable how we put up with this day to day crisis that is automobile infrastructure. We're talking about fatalities equivalent to having 9-11-2001 every f$@&ing month. In a good year! Police, fire, EMTs, doctors, nurses, all tied into this endeavor of getting people from Point A to Point B in an infrastructure built for inefficient 2-ton single occupancy machine transportation.

Like, most of y'all don't even carpool. 78% drive to work solo. In a 2-ton, $30,000 machine that seats five and costs $7,000 a year in upkeep with no mitigation for externalized costs like climate change and childhood asthma attacks. What's up with that? Fix that and maybe we can start talking about harmless scofflaw bicyclists, mm'kay?

Y'all can't even self-police your car clique enough to prevent 9,878 drunk driving deaths each year! Come on! If I can tell all my bike friends to stop rolling through stops to spare your feelings, surely you all can tell all your car friends to stop killing people wantonly. See how that othering logic works in reverse?

You bet I'm a self-righteous jerk about this stuff. It's the most likely thing to kill me today and, if you're healthy right now, the same goes for you.

And, again, my bicycling is making your road safer *for all road users* by attenuating poor drivers and making them pay attention. This effect is true no matter how awful I maneuver my bike just because single-occupancy automobiles are just that much more awful as a transportation mode.
posted by Skwirl at 4:03 PM on May 22, 2013 [21 favorites]


Well, that's certainly an opinion.
posted by Hoopo at 4:13 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I mostly love how the write-ups about this in the news all chide the woman for getting caught. A good reminder that if you want to murder someone and get away with it, just do it with your car.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:22 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Cars being the #1 cause of accidental death is a fact, as were many of my other points. My rhetoric aside, it's pretty damning in its own right. I can imagine a better world. (http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/acc-inj.htm)
posted by Skwirl at 4:25 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


What I find really interesting is the choice of terminology in these discussions. It's not "a person on a bike" and "a person driving a car", but "a cyclist," and "a driver". Cycling and driving, apparently, aren't simply things people do, but something they are.

This is weird, because despite the fact that the same person might drive one day and cycle the next, I think some view means of transportation as class and status markers. Owning a horse and being a member of the gentry used to mean getting to shove peasants into the ditch; I get the same sense of entitlement and social superiority toward someone who "doesn't even pay road tax!" from the lady's tweet.

In her worldview, I imagine "car owner" implies "employed middle class respectable citizen," while "cyclists" are deadbeats/peasants/scofflaws/teenagers/etc. Really, I think this explains the attitude of the legal system toward accidents between cars and bikes as well. After all, people on bikes aren't proper citizens.
posted by Wemmick at 4:26 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Cars being the #1 cause of accidental death is a fact

That's your premise. The questionable part is where you go with it.
posted by Hoopo at 4:36 PM on May 22, 2013


> That's your premise. The questionable part is where you go with it.

What are your questions?
posted by Space Coyote at 4:41 PM on May 22, 2013


> In her worldview, I imagine "car owner" implies "employed middle class respectable citizen,"
> while "cyclists" are deadbeats/peasants/scofflaws/teenagers/etc.

Perhaps with a bit of "What kind of grown-up rides a bicycle? That's something children do" as if cyclists were like adults who go to the playground to swing on the swings and play in the sandbox.
posted by jfuller at 4:50 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Zarq -- People who spend a lot of time on the vulnerable end of the road user scale all explain that automobile drivers treat them as second class human beings. If automobiles and automobile infrastructure themselves do not cause sociopathic disregard for human life, then it is just too depressing to think about how many truly horrible people there are out there. I'd rather believe in the evil cyborg theory than admit that most people don't care about my wellbeing.

Driving a car doesn't make people sociopaths. If it were, then we'd be seeing drivers deliberately running over and killing pedestrians on a regular basis. Nevermind cyclists. There are a lot more people wandering around on foot than there are cyclists. They're far easier targets: slower, and they travel in groups.

People being assholes about sharing the road is exactly what it looks like: they're assholes. Drivers can be assholes. Cyclists can be assholes. Pedestrians can be assholes, too.
posted by zarq at 4:52 PM on May 22, 2013


Perhaps with a bit of "What kind of grown-up rides a bicycle? That's something children do" as if cyclists were like adults who go to the playground to swing on the swings and play in the sandbox.

I'm an adult. I ride. I also go to playgrounds and swing on the swings. Because swings, man. They're freaking awesome.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:55 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


On thing to keep in mind, though, is that, at least round here, people riding poorly maintained bikes (at least during the week) often aren't casual cyclists, they're people biking as their primary non-walking transportation who can't afford to maintain their bikes better (or take the bus).

Trust, I'm referring to white middle class office workers who are choosing to ride their bikes for a little exercise and/or because it's easier, often in workout gear and flipflops on what was a nice mountain bike but hasn't been lubed in 3 years.
posted by misskaz at 4:57 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


What I find really interesting is the choice of terminology in these discussions. It's not "a person on a bike" and "a person driving a car", but "a cyclist," and "a driver". Cycling and driving, apparently, aren't simply things people do, but something they are.

I prefer the term "driver" to "car", at least, because it recognizes that there is an autonomous human being piloting the thing and it's not just a machine that can't be faulted if something goes wrong. A lot of news articles and casual writings about car/bike/ped interactions use the word car in a really weird way, i.e., "the car turned right and hit the cyclist in the bike lane." The same articles often also call the resulting collision an "accident" even if there was significant fault involved, and probably take note of whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet or not despite not being remotely relevant to the circumstances of the collision.
posted by misskaz at 5:05 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


misskaz: "I prefer the term "driver" to "car", at least, because it recognizes that there is an autonomous human being piloting the thing"

Oh, absolutely "driver" is better than "car". I think it's fascinating how the choice of terms suggests a bunch of subtle conceptual biases.
posted by Wemmick at 5:12 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


If safely maneuvering your vehicle is impossible when you have trouble determining the intentions of bicyclists then the moral imperative is DO NOT DRIVE.

This wins the bike threads, pretty much. Driving indicates an essentially sociopathic disregard for human well-being in all sorts of ways, beginning with tacit support for the political and economic coercion and manipulation that gets the cheap gasoline into the tank and including the willingness to operate a heavy machine in a state of uncertainty about one's ability to do so safely. It's also almost impossible for some people to avoid driving (although this number is probably smaller than the number of people who would claim it is impossible). To the extent that this impossibility is infrastructurally imposed, this implies that society encourages sociopathic behaviour, which is exactly the opposite of how communities are supposed to function.

Gun control at least gets some discussion -- there's a large group of people for whom the availability of guns is a problem to be solved -- but for some reason cars are just part of "the way things are" for many of the same people, even though they are manifestations of violence in several different ways.
posted by kengraham at 5:20 PM on May 22, 2013 [5 favorites]


Thank you, ken. I'll enjoy telling my grandchildren some day that I was there when "sociopathic" was defined so far downward as to be rendered entirely meaningless.

FIVE TWENTY-TWO NEVER FORGET
posted by Etrigan at 5:52 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


I haven't seen enough pedestrian hate in this thread.

I'm not going to get killed by a stupid driver. Cars are big and loud and have lights and are reasonably easy to predict. Pedestrians who walk out from between parked cars with their heads down looking at their phone with their dark jackets and who don't look up because they don't hear a car coming -- that's how I'm going to die.

But really, these arguments are stupid, not only because they are tired and predictable. It's stupid because whatever you think of idiot bicyclists or idiot drivers we should all be yelling for *better infrastructure*. Tired of cars pushing you off the road? Bike lines! Tire of bikes getting in your way? Bike lanes! It's that easy, people.
posted by no regrets, coyote at 5:58 PM on May 22, 2013


What are your questions?

Question 1:

How is this:

Well, actually, now that you mention it. No. No, I did not agree to being bounded on all sides by asphalt during my entire life from cradle to grave...There is a way to opt-out?

not Tea-Party-Militia-crazy-I-don't-wanna-pay-my-taxes-and-Obama-wants-to-steal-my-guns-level logic applied to why you shouldn't have to follow the goddamned laws when you are on the road? Does this work for everyone they "didn't agree" to roads being built?

Question 2:

How does this:

Y'all can't even self-police your car clique enough to prevent 9,878 drunk driving deaths each year! Come on! If I can tell all my bike friends to stop rolling through stops to spare your feelings, surely you all can tell all your car friends to stop killing people wantonly. See how that othering logic works in reverse?

come close to anything resembling a point?
posted by Hoopo at 6:00 PM on May 22, 2013


Point is, there's a lot of "cyclists are like X" and "drivers are like Y" in this discussion.

Neither is a group with anything in common besides their respective vehicle.
posted by MoTLD at 6:04 PM on May 22, 2013


The use of the word "reverse" strongly suggests only "cyclists are like X" has been brought up and flipping the script is a novel concept he's introducing
posted by Hoopo at 6:28 PM on May 22, 2013


Driving indicates an essentially sociopathic disregard for human well-being in all sorts of ways

lol.
posted by elizardbits at 6:42 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


That interview with the diver was something else. It makes me wonder what other types of murder she's attempted.
posted by Brocktoon at 7:01 PM on May 22, 2013


But I take issue with the categorization of slowly rolling through a stop sign I know is clear (not think, know, because at 5pmh in a quiet residential neighborhood with clear sight lines I can see all approaching vehicles, bikes, pedestrians, squirrels, pigeons, etc.) as "blowing" through an intersection.

I really thought it was fairly common to refer to any instance of not stopping fully for a stop sign as "blowing through" it, whether a person slowed down first or never slowed down at all. Whether the person was driving a car or a bike. I just googled "blow through an intersection" and that is consistent with how other people are using this phrase. Sort of like "your cover is blown" in that the fact that matters is that your identity is known (you didn't stop at the stop sign), not the velocity at which it was blown. I would also say that a car that slowed down then rolled through a stop had blown through it.

I don't think it is fair to say not fully stopping at a stop sign is "quite safe, reasonable behavior" whether it is a bike or a car rolling through at 5 mph or 25. I don't think it's safe because it violates the law and people's expectations. Moreover if someone rolls through the same stop sign 50 times because no one else is there, s/he builds up an expectation that no one will be there the 51st time.

But I appreciate that we are all just trying to get along on the same roads and that we are trying to act safely in our own ways. I DO care that bikers feel safe on the streets and I will keep driving with that in mind.
posted by onlyconnect at 7:24 PM on May 22, 2013


Driving indicates an essentially sociopathic disregard for human well-being in all sorts of ways

My God, I'm glad someone has pointed that out to me! I've been driving since 1983, and I'd estimate I've driven 500,000 to 600,000 miles, all with no injury-inducing crashes, coming to complete dead stops at all intersections, yielding right of way to pedestrians and bicyclists all the way; yet in all that time, I had not realized I was a sociopath. Wow. I had not connected the dots. Thanks for helping diagnose my problem. I'll be sure to get to a doctor soon. Maybe I should find one I can walk to.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:31 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


As a more serious note, drivers DO need better education on how to properly drive around bicycles, and bicyclists need to be educated on how to ride safely and defensively, and we really need as a society to put some serious thought into best practices for traffic infrastructure design, laws, and enforcement policies for laws. Chicago recently published a very serious, very thick manual for traffic design to protect pedestrians; same can and should be done for bike riders (and the car drivers who love them).
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 7:37 PM on May 22, 2013


I reckon confirmation bias fucks a lot of cyclists in their (saddlesore-but-muscular) asses. Probably Asian drivers in America (does that stereotype exist elsewhere?) are overly mocked/discriminated against for the same reason. You could have a thousand law abiding cyclists pass you on your daily commute, and all you'll remember is that one, or god forbid more than one, dickhole messenger.

I reckon we're all just as reckless/careless, vigilant, precautious, competent/incompetent, easily-distracted, way-too-readily-checking-our-phones horrible asses across lines of modes of transport. Which is not an equivalency. A distracted driver is more dangerous to those around them. A distracted cyclist is way more at risk.

In conclusion..
1. Everyone sucks
2. More people should think about how confirmation bias shapeses their opinions and reaffirms their preconceived notions on a regular basis.
posted by elr at 7:39 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


Skwirl: "C'est la DC: Ha, in my cubicle I have a clipped headline from the always objective Washington Examiner that says: "Motorists fuming as bicycles pack roads -- Everyone angry at clueless Bikeshare riders."

But the truth is that all bicycling, regardless of skill or maliciousness, makes our roads safer *for all road users*. Fuming at a scofflaw bicyclist? Now imagine that horrible person controlling the wheel of the #1 cause of accidental death. Yup, tourists on bikes are alright with me.
"

There's a huge body of research that's concluded that cyclists are safer when there are more bikes on the road. This might seem obvious, but cycling's mode share has been demonstrated to be by far the biggest contributing factor to cyclist safety. Far more than helmet usage, infrastructure, or traffic laws (although good traffic laws and infrastructure do tend to follow in places where lots of people ride bikes).

Simply put, adding more bikes to the road makes the accident rate go down. Even when those cyclists are inexperienced or Bikeshare users.

We can draw all sorts of conjectures about why this happens, but it stands to reason motorists are generally more alert and aware of their surroundings when they're consciously making an effort to share the road with cyclists.
posted by schmod at 7:42 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here, they used to call the rolling through a stop "a California stop", but now the police will give you a ticket. I've heard that they look for a quick three count: look left, look right, one last look left, then go. They will apparently give you a ticket if it isn't a 'full stop' meaning you made at least a brief attempt to look before continuing.

It may be true, because I actually saw the police pull someone over after a really quick stop at a stop sign, and I no longer hear the term "California stop".

And this is all beside the point of the FPP. There was no indication of a bike going through a stop sign, and it seems unlikely considering he was knocked into bushes. This stop sign/stop light discussion was triggered by cjorgensen's comment. In this case a car just hit a bike, then the driver bragged about it on Twitter.

The Dutch are very serious about bikes, commuting by bike, and keeping them separate and safe from drivers (even the very bike friendly drivers of Netherlands). As an example, they just built this bike bridge in Eindhoven. It is a completely different level of looking at the problem than the typical approach of 'lets draw some lines on the road'.
posted by eye of newt at 7:43 PM on May 22, 2013


onlyconnect: "I don't think it is fair to say not fully stopping at a stop sign is "quite safe, reasonable behavior" whether it is a bike or a car rolling through at 5 mph or 25. I don't think it's safe because it violates the law and people's expectations. Moreover if someone rolls through the same stop sign 50 times because no one else is there, s/he builds up an expectation that no one will be there the 51st time. "

If you're traveling 5mph, I'd hope that your reflexes are good enough to hit the brakes if you see someone else in the intersection. It's not like we're suggesting that you close your eyes while approaching and rolling through the stop.
posted by schmod at 7:50 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


A cyclist coming to a complete stop at a 4 stop for no reason other than to be BFF with the written law is not practical or safe. I hate this derail, it sucks.
posted by Brocktoon at 8:01 PM on May 22, 2013 [13 favorites]


If you're traveling 5mph, I'd hope that your reflexes are good enough to hit the brakes if you see someone else in the intersection. It's not like we're suggesting that you close your eyes while approaching and rolling through the stop.

Agreed (on preview, also you, Brocktoon). The whole business of bike riders rolling through stop signs seriously used to piss me off (like, REALLY angered me), until over a span of years I observed it closely and over that long period of time concluded they were, for the most part, not doing anything unsafe, even if it was illegal. If there had been good laws and good education, I wouldn't have had to figure that out on my own. That's part of why I commented above that we, as a society, need to make our laws conform to actual best practices. The current laws made sense when they were written, but they can be improved. There are professionals out there who can provide legislators with the answers they need; just need the gumption to do something, I guess.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 8:03 PM on May 22, 2013 [4 favorites]


Regarding the rolling stop being okay: I learned to drive in a place where residential street intersections (the kind with cars parked on one or both sides, through which often only one car can pass at a time) generally lacked stop signs and were called "courtesy stops." Everyone is expected to slow down, but not to stop, unless other vehicles are coming, at which point the intersection is treated like a regular four-way stop. Given the speeds at which cars are moving on those streets, this seems like a perfectly reasonable rule, and while I'm sure accidents occasionally happen, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that the rate is lower than it is in places where there are always stop signs and people aren't going to slow down or even look out much when they aren't the ones faced with a stop sign. Who among us has never accidentally missed stop sign?

Frankly, I feel like many of our traffic laws could be adjusted and road rage -- if not also accidents -- might go down as a consequence. For example, many of our intersections could easily be turned into four-way stops in the dead of night when there's very little traffic. It seems to work just fine when the power goes out, and this happens during the busy daytime to boot. I'm sure most of us have, when stuck at a red light forever, at least been tempted to just drive through the light that just won't seem to turn green when there's not a soul on the street for as far as you can see.
posted by CoureurDubois at 8:14 PM on May 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


For example, many of our intersections could easily be turned into four-way stops in the dead of night when there's very little traffic. It seems to work just fine when the power goes out, and this happens during the busy daytime to boot. Who among us has not, when stuck at a red light forever, at least been tempted to just drive through the light that just won't seem to turn green when there's not a soul on the street for as far as you can see?

Great observation. I grew up in Indianapolis, which does exactly that. The signal lights at most major intersections (and some minor ones) turn to flashing yellow/flashing red after about midnight or so. So, intersections all turn into four-way or two-way stops at times when little traffic is coming through.
posted by JimInLoganSquare at 8:18 PM on May 22, 2013


Dutch design is so sexy, I want to marry it and consummate the relationship. A few moved lines and a small protective island at the corner and you're done.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FlApbxLz6pA
posted by Skwirl at 9:17 PM on May 22, 2013 [3 favorites]


I'm going to drag this thread back to the original incident. Given where the accident took place, on the Boudicca Sportive route, I'm going to assume two things: that the cyclists were taking the narrow, quiet, winding B-roads of Norfolk, and that the driver was sufficiently familiar with those roads that she would normally treat them like a rally course.

No stop signs, no real traffic. Just a bunch of cyclists taking a route that had been planned out to minimise interaction with cars, and a driver who felt entitled to treat those roads as her own, and whose Colin McRae impersonation was interrupted by #bloodycyclists.
posted by holgate at 10:19 PM on May 22, 2013 [6 favorites]


Driving indicates an essentially sociopathic disregard for human well-being in all sorts of ways, beginning with tacit support for the political and economic coercion and manipulation that gets the cheap gasoline into the tank and including the willingness to operate a heavy machine in a state of uncertainty about one's ability to do so safely.

Aaaand I'm out. This thread has become far too inane and ludicrous for me.
posted by zarq at 10:26 PM on May 22, 2013


I'm sure most of us have, when stuck at a red light forever, at least been tempted to just drive through the light that just won't seem to turn green when there's not a soul on the street for as far as you can see.

And I think most of us would say it's OK to go for a car to go through a red light when there is clearly no on else around for miles. *shrug*

Let's have some common sense. As much latitude as possible should be given bicyclists to encourage that mode of transport.

Stop signs equal yields; stop lights equal stop signs with the other direction having the right of way. It's not rocket science.

I can't believe that a woman ran a cyclist off the road, tweeted about it ... and the bulk of the discussion is whether or not rolling stops are OK?!

I suppose there's not much to discuss except the asshole herself:

"If I could take back doing that tweet, I would...

I'm sorry I got caught. Fucking Christ.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:49 PM on May 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


There's a huge body of research that's concluded that cyclists are safer when there are more bikes on the road.

This, more than anything else in the thread. That's the real reason why the Netherlands is so bike friendly and has relatively little antagonism between drivers and cyclists, even though there are still plenty of stupid ass numbnuts in both categories. Bikers are an expected, every day part of traffic you have to deal with in the city, you know what to expect, you know what they expect of you and because you probably bike yourself when not driving, you know better than to stop to wave somebody through when they're clearly riding in such a way as to get through after you've taken your turn.

Because we never stopped biking, it's not seen as something alien or undutch and therefore there isn't that us or them feeling you do get in the UK or US. Which also means the infrastructure (and the laws surrounding it) is designed for both bikes and cars and everything else that entails.

Since the US and to a lesser extent, the UK have gone car supremist since WWII, the infrastructure and city layout has been designed only with car needs in mind. Changing this, as well as the general patterns of transport in society is the work of decades and won't be solved by public awareness campaigns, helmet laws or arguing about who disobeys the laws more.
posted by MartinWisse at 3:53 AM on May 23, 2013 [4 favorites]


It would be nice if folks would take the whole "I am trying sincerely and truthfully to explain something that lots of cyclists have experienced, without using snark even" and assume that there is some truth value there rather than go into "but you must be confused, lying or totally ignorant of science!!!"

Well I'm a cyclist myself and I honestly couldn't tell whether he was talking about maintaining his balance on the bike or equivocating about not coming to a complete stop. Especially when someone says something like this:

(Dear pedants: when used colloquially, "momentum" doesn't necessarily mean p = mv, and "stop" doesn't necessarily mean v = 0.)


That's true about "momentum," but there's no colloquial version of "stop" where v > 0 other than people lying about whether they're actually coming to a stop or not.
posted by straight at 7:49 AM on May 23, 2013


As a cyclist, I hate the thing where cars make unpredictable allowances for me (the thing where one lane of traffic stopping to let me cross out of turn while the other lanes keep going is so nerve-wracking that there's one intersection I just give up, get off my bike, and cross on foot at the crosswalk).

But that's never going to change--drivers are never going to treat bicycles as just another vehicle--as long as cyclists feel entitled to selectively obey the stop signs and traffic lights.
posted by straight at 7:59 AM on May 23, 2013


I am, however, perfectly happy to moan about people on Nice Ride bikes (our Boris bikes). Granted, those things are so heavy that I don't think they can be anything but a nuisance, no matter who's riding them.

I actually like the Nice Ride bikes. I mean, they're fifty kinds of hideous, of course, but I do see a truly surprising number of people riding them and having quite clearly a good time, and I can't help but think that this is a good thing. I'd be interested in some kind of longitudinal study to find out whether people who use the Nice Ride bikes switch over the riding regularly on their own. I only ever really see them on the bike path or pretty safe places anyway.

Well I'm a cyclist myself and I honestly couldn't tell whether he was talking about maintaining his balance on the bike or equivocating about not coming to a complete stop.

I actually said the original thing, and I was trying to explain the feeling of being on the bike when you've put your foot on the ground versus the feeling when you're doing a track stand, and how this affects starting up from a stop. Instead of saying "hey, I know you bike a lot but I don't quite follow you", several people leaped to the whole "you must be lying or stupid" routine, which, look, I know the internet is full of assholes and if you can't stand the heat get out of the kitchen, but I actually found a bit hurtful and shaming.

One thing that is consistently frustrating to me in these bike threads is the assumption of a sort of malign ignorance on the part of vast swathes of the population about something that they do every day, and that the best way to respond is to treat them as if they are lying or stupid.
posted by Frowner at 8:23 AM on May 23, 2013 [5 favorites]


Because we never stopped biking, it's not seen as something alien or undutch

This is the weird thing, though: there's always been a decent recreational and casual cycling culture in the UK, even before the effort to pick up a stack of Olympic medals and the Tour de France. And yet Bradley Wiggins gets knocked off his bike... by a the owner of a Porsche dealership driving a van.

I think it's possible to learn an attitude of indifference or hostility; I think it's possible for that attitude to be taught and reinforced -- actively, through the whole "bloody cyclists" thing, and passively, through a lack of infrastructure and light punishments for idiots who kill and injure cyclists. And I think it's possible to change that from the top down, without having interminable local arguments about bloody stop signs.
posted by holgate at 8:24 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'll enjoy telling my grandchildren some day that I was there when "sociopathic" was defined so far downward as to be rendered entirely meaningless.

Your grandchildren might disagree. They will probably register their disagreement with a wheeze.

All I said was that the fact of people driving has numerous negative consequences for human life, and anyone driving is apparently at least not sufficiently disturbed by the prospect of those consequences to avoid driving. For many of those people, this is because there are not good alternatives to driving, which means that people are forced (or at least strongly encouraged) to disregard the numerous negative consequences that their actions have for others.

Moreover, for whatever reason, there's often an attitude of glee about this state of affairs, among many drivers, which reduces the extent to which I sympathize with them for not having viable alternatives to driving. People who both drive, and are okay with having to drive, seem to me to be okay with disregarding the negative effects that their actions have on everyone else. Being okay with one's actions' negative effects on others is sociopathic.
posted by kengraham at 8:41 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I still think that bicycle roundabout looks goofy. Like it's more of an architect's statement than a usable piece of transportation infrastructure.

I also have mixed feelings about people who are pushing for complete separation of modes. While there are certainly many places that would greatly benefit from dedicated bicycle facilities, it's not practical in many areas, and discourages the whole "share the road" mentality that actually improves safety. (I also feel like there are places where dedicated bike paths can foster a pedestrian-hostile environment.)
posted by schmod at 9:10 AM on May 23, 2013


People who both drive, and are okay with having to drive, seem to me to be okay with disregarding the negative effects that their actions have on everyone else.

"People who both fail to exercise, and are okay with not having to exercise, seem to me to be okay with disregarding the negative effects that their actions have on everyone else."

Being okay with one's actions' negative effects on others is sociopathic.

No, it can be sociopathic. There is a distinct difference between "this behavior can be the result of this root cause" and "this behavior is a result of this root cause." Calling driving "essentially sociopathic" reductio'd your argument ab absurdum.
posted by Etrigan at 9:15 AM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]



No, it can be sociopathic. There is a distinct difference between "this behavior can be the result of this root cause" and "this behavior is a result of this root cause." Calling driving "essentially sociopathic" reductio'd your argument ab absurdum.


"Sociopathic" in my comment means not "motivated by diagnosable sociopathy" but "indistinguishable to a casual observer from behaviour motivated by sociopathy". I don't care about the root cause of behaviour with negative consequences in this instance; I just care about the fact that people, for whatever reason, act without regard for the negative consequences, and are in some instances not bothered by the negative consequences, exactly like a genuine sociopath would be.
posted by kengraham at 9:57 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


"Sociopathic" in my comment means not "motivated by diagnosable sociopathy" but "indistinguishable to a casual observer from behaviour motivated by sociopathy".

A "casual observer" who was deeply personally invested in disliking people who drive, sure. Just like a "casual observer" could make the same comparison for people who don't exercise, despite the reams of clinical data on its benefits not only to the individual but to society to have healthier and more physically fit members.

You want to dislike people who drive, fine. But don't wrap it up in a clinical term to lend your dislike more authority.
posted by Etrigan at 10:10 AM on May 23, 2013 [3 favorites]



"People who both fail to exercise, and are okay with not having to exercise, seem to me to be okay with disregarding the negative effects that their actions have on everyone else."


That's true, but it's much less of a problem since the negative consequences of not exercising, in and of itself, for everyone else, are less severe than the negative consequences of an ostentatiously wasteful and unduly hazardous (to others) activity like driving.

(I'm not even saying people shouldn't drive; that's a ridiculous thing to ask of some people. I'm just pointing out that it's a sometimes-and-for-some-people necessary evil, whose necessity we all have an interest in diminishing, and that that's a better framework for a discussion about road use than one which accepts cars as immutable reality.

On the other hand, people who themselves express uncertainty about their ability to drive safely [or, hypothetically, express dissatisfaction with the environmental, economic, social, or political effects of driving] should consider what their driving says about their own evaluation of the importance of their own ethical computations.)
posted by kengraham at 10:11 AM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm just pointing out that it's a sometimes-and-for-some-people necessary evil, whose necessity we all have an interest in diminishing, and that that's a better framework for a discussion about road use than one which accepts cars as immutable reality.

Do you see how much better that is than calling it an "essentially sociopathic disregard for human well-being"?
posted by Etrigan at 10:18 AM on May 23, 2013



Do you see how much better that is than calling it an "essentially sociopathic disregard for human well-being"?


I don't like it much, either, actually, unless "an interest in diminishing" is replaced with "an ethical obligation to do our part to minimize, to the greatest extent possible (not convenient)".

Is there a term for mass behaviour that persists even though it's detrimental to everybody? Ideally, this term would have stronger moral connotations than "inertia" (which might upset the physics crowd, in any case). What about for individual behaviour that, although not motivated by some diagnosable condition, involves ignoring the negative consequences of one's actions for others, out of passive disregard or out of active antipathy (as exhibited by Emma Way)?
posted by kengraham at 10:46 AM on May 23, 2013


A cyclist coming to a complete stop at a 4 stop for no reason other than to be BFF with the written law is not practical or safe.

How is it unsafe, exactly?
posted by Hoopo at 2:16 PM on May 23, 2013


Hoopo: "How is it unsafe, exactly?"

In the time between deciding to start from a dead stop and crossing the road (since it takes a while to get up to full speed), it can cease to be safe to cross the road, if some car comes racing up at high speed. A non-trivial number of my close calls are of this form. You stop, wait for traffic to clear, start crossing the road and suddenly there's a car coming at you, a car that was nowhere in sight a second ago. There's enough traffic that you could almost never run the stop sign where this is a particular problem for me, but that's the scenario that springs to mind.
posted by hoyland at 2:53 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


kengraham: Tragedy of the Commons comes closest. Everyone does the thing that is beneficial/satisfying to them in the very short term even though the behaviour is negative for the population and thereby often even that individual in the longer term.
posted by jaduncan at 3:57 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


Tragedy of the Commons

It's a useful notion and it does come very close to what I'm talking about, but it lacks the bridge-burningly othering and condemnatory tone I'm after, while absolving individuals of a bit too much responsibility* by being a bit immutable-law-of-nature-y. Something more like "willing minority shareholder in wanton destruction", maybe?

*Garret Hardin's article, from which the phrase originates, defines "tragedy" by quoting Whitehead: "The essence of dramatic tragedy is not unhappiness. It resides in the solemnity of the remorseless working of things. This inevitableness of destiny can only be illustrated in terms of human life by incidents which in fact involve unhappiness. For it is only by them that the futility of escape can be made evident in the drama."

I don't think it's a rhetorically useful term, since I want the principle that people tend to prioritize short-term convenience over other considerations to be violated in the case of cars. Perhaps naively, I want this to happen before it is forced to happen by massive outside forces changing the definition of short-term benefit/satisfaction. Since this will only result from many prudent individual decisions, I want a term that clearly holds individuals responsible for their actions (in proportion to how difficult it would be for them to abstain, I guess; it would be unconscionable for me to drive, but is more understandable for a person with mobility limitations or young children that I don't have).

Hardin's example -- the herdsman for whom the rational short-term course of action is to increase his herd, although it's ultimately to his, and everyone else's, detriment -- seems to me to expect too little from the herdsman, and define "rational decision" too narrowly; it should at least be obvious to the hypothetical herdsman that he should at least consider that his actions have long-term consequences, and that he should at least think about what those might be. The language that we use should reflect this.
posted by kengraham at 6:12 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Externality deadbeats?
posted by jaduncan at 7:37 PM on May 23, 2013 [2 favorites]


I still think that bicycle roundabout looks goofy. Like it's more of an architect's statement than a usable piece of transportation infrastructure.--schmod

I'd think so too, if this were not in the Netherlands, where 50% of people commute to work by bike. It is not just students--it is VPs, CEOs, dentists, accountants, surgeons, pretty much everyone. Here's a video showing city planners from around the US who are in Netherlands to learn, and what they are learning.

There are plenty of bike bridges in the US, but this bridge elegantly solves the more complex problem of providing access for a bike in any direction at a major intersection, while not blocking traffic and keeping bikes separated from cars.

From outside Netherlands, where probably less than 1% commute by bike, and a bike friendly city is one that has stripes on busy roads, this probably looks extravagant.
posted by eye of newt at 9:35 PM on May 23, 2013 [1 favorite]


Externality deadbeats?

Wonderful.
posted by kengraham at 10:00 PM on May 23, 2013


So I probably was the one who injected the word "sociopathic" into the discussion. Yes that was hyperbole. My point is that if you listen to vulnerable road users, they will all tell you a lot of stories of near misses or actual hits. As a pedestrian in a major east coast US city, I can think of several times where I was crossing with the light, looked both ways, and physically had to jump out of the way of a car.

If I walked to work every day and frequently passed by some people with shotguns who did not obey muzzle control and often swung those shot guns to point at me, what would you call those people? An average car moving at city speeds has the same amount of kinetic energy as that shotgun and kills more people, more often. What am I supposed to call that kind of disregard for safety?

I can't choose not to be a vulnerable pedestrian, but people who drive cars can choose to minimize their driving to essential trips. I used to work in the evaluation department of a youth agency. You could eyeball a list of the rural kids from the city kids by the asthma rates alone because the exhaust in cities increases the severity and frequency of attacks.

So choosing to drive more than is necessary may not make one a literal, diagnosed, DSM-V sociopath, but maybe "externality deadbeat" will catch on.

Are strong words warranted? Are they even useful? The Netherlands has one of the lowest road fatality rates in the world: 3.9 per 100,000. The US rate is 12.3. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_traffic-related_death_rate
) The Dutch have such a low rate because they had a major national car-free movement 40 years ago. The rallying cry for that movement was: "Stop the child murder." (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuBdf9jYj7o)
) Are Americans too jaded to take similar steps? Show me how to get from here to there and I'll gladly lay off the strong words.
posted by Skwirl at 10:38 PM on May 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


This post inspired me to write in more depth on the issue of bike-car-ped conflict in real life and online over on my (self link obvs) bike gang's blog.
posted by misskaz at 7:43 AM on May 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


If there were one thing that I would tell well-meaning drivers, it is "take your turn! and trust me to take mine!"

And if you don't, then I end up killing you. So no thanks, I am not going to trust J. Random Cyclist to do the right thing, because even if they do 99% of the time, it only takes that 1% for something terrible to happen. And even though I'm not the dead one, I don't want that to happen.
posted by wildcrdj at 6:49 AM on June 5, 2013


(another way to look at that: I'm going to err on the side of not hurting/killing cyclists. If this inconveniences your momentum, I'm sorry, but surely cyclists would prefer my way of thinking in general --- the usual complaint is that drivers dont care about cyclists. But I don't trust every cyclist to know the Proper Way To Ride A Bicycle, because obviously that is not true).
posted by wildcrdj at 6:52 AM on June 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


While I think some of the comments regarding people who drive are somewhat hyperbolic (seeing as they apply to a large proportion of the population), I do find that some people do have a certain disregard for what they do when they are driving. Cars are a pretty powerful implement, and probably the closest thing to a weapon an average person handles every day, and some people do drive with a disregard that. Drivers who rocket through towns and narrow streets are simply not thinking about what precisely the consequences would be if someone stepped out in front of them, or they met a car going in the other direction.

That said, I have been driving for 5 months, up until that point I was a pedestrian, and had a hatred for cyclists more than cars. Cars for the most part were easier for me to avoid, but practically every day I would encounter a cyclist riding at me at high speed, expecting me to get out of the way. This frustrated me greatly, because just as cars should indeed take car to give cyclists room, so cyclists should give pedestrians room.

I do dislike meeting bikes while I drive, primarily because I tend to meet them in locations where they can be difficult to overtake safely, but there will be an expectation of every driver behind me that I should do that as soon as possible, if not earlier.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 8:18 AM on June 6, 2013


Seems to me that no matter what the mode of travel - by foot, bicycles, cars, etc... - people form a mental bubble in which they have the power and complete control, and can do anything they want. The expression varies - a pedestrian might stand in a street to watch for a bus, a truck driver might not care if a car is smashed while the truck makes a turn, a bicyclist might squeeze through lights and stop signs.

It's a way to not get caught up and lost in a shared chaotic space.
posted by ZeusHumms at 8:36 AM on June 6, 2013


GOOD GRIEF: Is this for real? Or this?

Boggling. The rhetoric is simply boggling.

"The bike lobby is an all powerful enterprise" - Dorothy Rabinowitz, Wall Street Journal editorial board member and three times Pulitzer nominee.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:53 AM on June 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


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