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A particularly chilling case of road rage
December 5, 2001 4:52 PM   Subscribe

A particularly chilling case of road rage has been the focus of the Chicago biking community for the past couple of years. Yesterday, the jury came down with a first-degree murder verdict for Carnell Fitzpatrick, who, in April of 1999, deliberately drove down and killed bike messenger Tom McBride after an altercation at a stoplight.

The rights of bicyclists in urban areas has always been a contentious issue. Because of this verdict, drivers will no doubtedly show more restraint in taking their anger out on street cyclists, though likely more out of fear than respect. While I'm happy to see a victory for the cyclists, it's that last part that worries me.
posted by sandor (41 comments total)

 
As a bicyclist, what I retain from this terrifying story is that violence should be avoided by both "sides" on the road.

A long time ago I slammed the driver's side window on a snowplough truck because he had cut me off. The guy got very mad and gave me a scarry and surreal chase all around Harvard Square in Cambridge, MA. I got away, lucky for me.

But my point is (and I have to constantly remind myself of this), even if you're the weaker party, even if you're in the right, it's better not to be all righteous and scream at someone in a car. It's usually counterproductive and often dangerous.
posted by Turtle at 5:53 PM on December 5, 2001


In the past year, I started cycling to get into better shape and so far, I've put in a few thousand miles--many of them on the busy streets of Washington, DC.

I'm still in one piece and the drivers are, for the most part, very curteous. I get a disparaging remark here and there, but I also get positive remarks.

I found myself in questionable situations four times--two tailgaters, a vehicle pulling out in front of me, and once when a guy with a trailer almost run me off the road into a ditch. The last one was in No. VA.

I think it's important to aclimate drivers to the fact that bicyclists are here to stay. We need to use the roads as much as the drivers, so get used to us.

I simply can't understand people with such short tempers that they will have the tenacity to yell, criticise, and--in this case--hurt others for no good reason at all.

On a sidenote, I've been thinking about getting a bicycle jersey with the URL of my page on it. Finally decided against it, as this kind of advertising would likely yield little more than a lot of venting of anger in my guestbook :)
posted by Witold at 6:10 PM on December 5, 2001


As a bicyclist and pedestrian, I second that, Turtle--there was a piece on NPR's Talk Of The Nation about cars, pedestrians and urban design and the horror stories by the people who called in--hit a person walking and your chances of doing any time at all is practically zip. One woman who called in had gotten knocked down in a crosswalk by a hit-and-run driver who ran a red light. Someone else chased down the driver and brought her back. She then started screaming at the woman she'd hit! People have tried to run me down while running red lights when I've been in the crosswalk--redneck ignorami aside, usually the more expensive the vehicle, the more bent out of shape they've been.
posted by y2karl at 6:14 PM on December 5, 2001


witold...you could put someone else's url on the jersey...for days when you want to piss people off...

when i'm on my bike, cars are my enemy, and they are bigger, so i try to avoid them. It is a totally defensive existence. I usually just give people a look that lets them know i'm very dissapointed in them.
posted by th3ph17 at 6:24 PM on December 5, 2001


y2karl, from what I've seen, quality of driving is directly proportional to the pricetag of the car.

Additionally, if a car has dents in it, chances are the driver has extremely poor driving judgement. I avoid those cars like the plague.

th3ph17, if you ever see someone riding in a kottke.com jersey in DC, you'll know who it really is :) hahaha...
posted by Witold at 6:34 PM on December 5, 2001


While a bicyclist will often find that they are obeying the rules, I agree in part with Turtle that the two tons of metal, plastic and glass bearing down on much less rigid matter often outweigh any persuasive arguments that a rider may have about poor driving skills and may even get you in trouble. What I find just as important as watching out for yourself as a bicyclist in an urban area is being conscious of pedestrians. I have seen as many pedestrian-bike accidents as I have car-bike accidents. Does this match with other's experiences?
posted by songoku1 at 6:38 PM on December 5, 2001


Doesn't a lot of the trouble stem from simple bad urban design? You have vehicles, inclusing bicycles, rollerblades, and now this Segway thing, on the same roads as cars and motorcycles. Just the difference in speed, acceleration and braking is going to lead to trouble even if everyone is nice, and everyone is certainly not nice.

I, too, have noticed that the more expensive the car, the worse the quality of the driver, not just in terms of driving ability, but just as a person. It's gotten so that, from experience, whenever I see a Benz or a BMW, I automatically think "jerk". And it's amazing: 99% of the time I'm right.
posted by Poagao at 6:57 PM on December 5, 2001


although this is pretty extreme, I have to say that Chicago bike messengers are a pretty daring and careless lot. Ive seen some do things that can only be the product of spending too much time on the street and taking things too seriously, like cutting off 2 lanes of fast-moving car traffic, flipping off drivers for no reason and inviting accidents by riding extremely slowly and in the middle of the lane so you can't pass. Although it is far from justified, I wanted to run them over more than once.
posted by locombia at 7:17 PM on December 5, 2001


I have seen as many pedestrian-bike accidents as I have car-bike accidents. Does this match with other's experiences?

What's your point? There are about 1000 bicyclist fatalities each year in the U.S. from car-bike accidents. How many fatalities or serious injuries are caused by car-pedestrian accidents? Not a lot.

some general stats on bicycle-related accidents.
posted by gluechunk at 7:25 PM on December 5, 2001


Critical Mass
"Every time I ride around I see other bikers. Sometimes I wave, but usually I just try to react to these huge metal boxes speeding back and forth, cutting me off. It's a familiar image. Wouldn't it be cool if we countered it by riding together once in a while?"
posted by todd at 7:29 PM on December 5, 2001


oops, i meant bike-pedestrian accidents up there instead of cat-pedestrian!
posted by gluechunk at 7:29 PM on December 5, 2001


argh, and i meant car-pedestrian instead of cat-pedestrian. i'm just going to walk away from this computer for awhile (i'll try not to walk into a cat)....
posted by gluechunk at 7:30 PM on December 5, 2001


That's good to hear the driver in this case was punished. I'm used to seeing clear cut cases of road rage that turned deadly end up with the driver walking away with a slap on the wrist.
posted by mathowie at 7:32 PM on December 5, 2001


I consider all human powered transportation to be an advanced form of walking. As such, I ride my bike on the sidewalk (except in rural areas where there are no sidewalks and traffic is sparse). Those who ride in traffic would do well to remember football. Once the the punt returner passes the line of scrimmage, even the scrawny punter is fair game for a harsh block from the receiving team. i.e. if you play with the big boys they make the rules
posted by Octaviuz at 7:34 PM on December 5, 2001


I can speak only for Seattle, but bike messengers are, I think, a pretty trangressive lot when it comes to traffic laws. I used to bike all over downtown Seattle (a friendly thunk on the side from an SUV lost me my biking spirit) and I'd wince when any of my fellow bicyclists chugged right through red lights -- and most of them do. I understand that signals are timed for cars, and that it's irritating to wait and wait on a bike. But I think unless bicyclists are willing to observe the same rules as cars they can't be taken seriously as cohabitants of the road.

That said, bravo for the verdict. Murder is murder is murder -- awful to contemplate, but there you are.
posted by argybarg at 7:50 PM on December 5, 2001


Doesn't a lot of the trouble stem from simple bad urban design?

As an architect, I'd have to say YES.

Has anybody ever biked downtown Amsterdam or some other civilized city? Big, big difference.

If you think that traffic is one of the big problems all large cities face, I'm surprised more planners don't embrace bicycles as a clean, cheap, healthy solution.

In my hometown, Santiago, Chile, you can't get on the subway with your bike, and if you leave it chained up in the station, they'll cut the chain and cart it off as "misplaced" (true story).

I used to belong to something called Movimiento de Ciclistas Furiosos. Once a month they get together and ride around (literally) the city, occupying a lane of traffic for 1 for 2 blocks. It's good fun, excercise, etc. The political effects, so far, have been few.
posted by signal at 8:01 PM on December 5, 2001


Well, it may not make me popular to say this, but...

Yes, I'll say it anyway.

I try to be as courteous as possible to smaller and/or slower craft. Peds, bicyclists, motorcyclists. I have a larger and heavier car, and I could hurt them. I don't want to do that.

However, I'll be able to take the cries from bicyclists a lot more seriously when I see them start obeying the traffic laws. How about starting with stopping at stop signs and red lights? And, yes, you have to wait until it is green.

Furthermore, I'd like to see more tickets for failure to obey these laws. If you want the same "rights and respect" as cars then you need to act the same.

No, that doesn't mean that I think anybody deserves to be hit by a car; I'm just getting tired of nearly hitting people on bicycles and realizing that I would be viewed as the bad guy when I was the one who had right-of-way.

On the other hand I might point out that automobiles don't seem too keen on stopping at stop signs, either. Ah, California drivers...
posted by hadashi at 8:39 PM on December 5, 2001


Let me join the drivers pleading for bicyclists to be more aware of the rules of the road. Today I was making a right turn and nearly knocked over a bicyclist who came up next to me (riding between the lane of traffic and the row of parked cars) in my blind spot and was continuing straight. Uh, if you're not turning at the intersection, then you ought not be on the inside, especially when you've had the ability to see that the car you're trying to pass is intending on making the turn and know that the results won't be very pretty if you're in their path.

The whole idea of "sharing the road" seems far too often to mean "drivers ought to respect everything that bikers want to do, and not bitch about it, and don't you dare ever cause us problems even when we're clearly in the wrong." It's the most skewed notion of sharing I've ever seen.
posted by Dreama at 1:03 AM on December 6, 2001


Re Seattle bicycling: Officer firm that he had green light in crash. Testifying in bicycle death, he says later question at hospital was 'rhetorical.'
posted by Carol Anne at 5:00 AM on December 6, 2001


I'm just gonna reverse here a bit and focus more on the rage side. I've had an altercation (car to car) with someone here in London, who then threatened to kill me and chased me round a few streets. I was not a happy bunny. People in cars are faceless and it's proved that the inability to see people creates an immediate heightened anymosity. SO now I just chill out, and if someone drives badly, I swear, bite the steering wheel etc. , I do not try and communicate my anger, because there some real nutters out there and I am not a fighter.

As for biking on the streets; I ride like a maniac as well as get cut-up by dumb-ass van drivers. The situation is as it is and it will only change when more people get on their bikes. (IMO)
posted by Frasermoo at 5:49 AM on December 6, 2001


In boating, there a lot of very nice and useful nautical rules about what kind of boat has the right of way, under what circumstances, etc. etc., Ultimately, the boater's golden rule of survival applies: yield to tonnage.
posted by groundhog at 6:01 AM on December 6, 2001


One of the problems that I face, qua bicycle commuter and urban planner, is the resistance amongst professional drivers (such as truckers and bus drivers) against bike lanes and other devices meant to separate cyclists from drivers. In a recent community meeting regarding switching a six lane bridge to four lanes and two bike lanes, truckers tried to influence the committee by asserting that bike lanes would impede their business (never mind that the bridge in question never experiences anything close to congestion, even during rush hour, and that the lanes that would be dedicated to bike lanes are already shared by vehicles and bicycles, and are really too narrow to accommodate trucks in the first place).

It seems that drivers think that the more inhospitable the conditions for cyclists, the fewer bikes there will be on the streets (where they belong, by the bye), and the fewer perceived hassles they will encounter. However, the cyclists that they will encounter will be the "militant" riders who will not back down from using the streets, and who will more likely engage in altercations with angry drivers.
posted by Avogadro at 6:04 AM on December 6, 2001


"drivers will no doubtedly show more restraint in taking their anger out on street cyclists"

I don't think people need to know about this verdict to know that running people over is wrong.


Anyway repeat after me: "undoubtedly" "no doubt".
posted by delmoi at 6:09 AM on December 6, 2001


Good riddance to the bastard in Chicago who murdered a cyclist. I hope his wife and kids suffer. Maybe it'll teach other drivers a lesson -- this is what happens to you and your family when you're a murderous asshole.

I commute by bike, and for the most part, other drivers are watchful and courteous. Other people have commented here that the pricier the vehicle, the worse the driver; I have found that it's the weight of the vehicle that corresponds with general assholishness. Drivers of Civics tend to be civil and drivers of Excursions tend to be extraordinary assholes.

Sometimes when an SUV thug pisses me off enough, I give him the "c'mon" gesture and challenge him to stop and fight. They never do. When it's them in their 6,000-pound vehicle vs. me on my 27-pound bike, they think they're tough. But they're never man enough to step out of their steel shells and go mano a mano.

The price-assholishness ratio is still a good rule of thumb, though. When I drive my car, I notice that drivers of expensive cars tend to be the tailgaters, non-signallers and red-light runners. I call it "competitive commuting." They think their daily commute is so much more important than mine because they drive a BMW and I drive a Saturn.

My most recent (albeit minor) brush with a driver was my fault. He was heading toward me and turning right, and I was turning left onto the same street he was turning onto. I signalled left, but he slowed down too much, unsure about my intentions (perhaps he'd been burned in the past by cyclists who didn't signal their turns, or who signaled, then changed their minds). Had I been in a car, he would have turned first and I would turned right behind him. That's what I wanted to happen that day on my bike. But he slowed down too much and we ended up turning at the same time, so I had to swerve into the lane of oncoming traffic to avoid him. I should have slowed down more when he abruptly slowed down. He shouted at me, "You have to follow the same rules, buddy." Pissed me off because I knew he was right, and I hate it when someone points out the wrongness of my ways. Still, we could have avoided this very minor confrontration if he had just made a normal turn instead of almost stopping before he made his turn.

I have a comment about Dreama's recent experience. Dreama says that if you're not turning at the intersection, you shouldn't be on the inside, trying to pass. Well, here's the problem: I risk arousing the wrath of drivers if I get in the middle of the lane to prevent drivers from cutting me off with right turns. So I tend to stick to the right side of the road. If you're driving a car and you pass a bike and then immediately make a right turn, you risk a collision. It's really uncool. Don't pass a bike within 100 feet of an interesection and try to turn right, cutting off the cyclist. Wait for the bike to proceed through the intersection, then turn.

I think a lot of drivers have no clue about how fast cyclists ride. I usually ride 18 to 20 mph, and many drivers assume that I ride a bike as slowly as they do when they ride a bike. If you see someone dressed in cycling clothes, riding a narrow-tired steed, assume that he or she is riding fast.

My pet peeve is honking. If you honk at a cyclist for no reason, you're an asshole and you might find yourself in a confrontation with someone who is fitter and stronger than you. Your choices are to use your vehicle as a weapon, get out of the vehicle and duke it out, or run away like a coward. None of those choices will make you feel good, so don't honk at a cyclist unless there's a really good reason.
posted by Holden at 6:18 AM on December 6, 2001


Uh, if you're not turning at the intersection, then you ought not be on the inside, especially when you've had the ability to see that the car you're trying to pass is intending on making the turn and know that the results won't be very pretty if you're in their path.

If you indeed had your turn signal on, then yes, the cyclist was wrong to be in your blind spot. Keep in mind though that even if the bike is not turning at the intersection, the proper place for the cyclist to be (unless s/he is making a left hadn turn) is on the right side of the right lane so that cars can pass on the left. If that selfsame cyclist were in the middle of the lane, you can bet that there would have been a line of angry drivers following behind, or aggressively charging past.

(note: I just read Holden's reply, and I agree.)

The whole idea of "sharing the road" seems far too often to mean "drivers ought to respect everything that bikers want to do, and not bitch about it, and don't you dare ever cause us problems even when we're clearly in the wrong." It's the most skewed notion of sharing I've ever seen.

Perhaps this is your perception. However, more often than not, drivers are unaware that bicycles belong on the road in the first place, and assume that they should be on the sidewalks (a dangerous place, not just because of the likelihood of colliding with pedestrians, but also because drivers making turns do not generally look for bike on the sidewalks, not that they should have to in the first place).
posted by Avogadro at 6:20 AM on December 6, 2001


Uh, I don't agree with Holden's aggressive stance (easy there, Tex), but with his reply regarding in which lane bike belong.
posted by Avogadro at 6:22 AM on December 6, 2001


Avogadro, I got your number!
(Lame chemistry joke)
Lest I gave anyone the impression that I'm aggressive and ride like a maniac, let me add that I always watch out for drivers, yield to tonnage, always signal turns, stop at the appropriate lights and signs, ride in a straight line, refrain from weaving in and out of traffic, and do whatever I can to allow traffic to proceed smoothly (i.e., when the light turns green, I accelerate fast and get as far to the right as possible so cars can clear the intersection without hassles). I do my best to live and let live, which is why I get so angry when drivers don't reciprocate.
One other thing: Sidewalks indeed are intended for pedestrians. That's why they're called sidewalks. One of the most dangerous things about riding on a sidewalk is dog leashes. Hit one and you hurt yourself, the dog and possibly the dog's owner.
posted by Holden at 6:34 AM on December 6, 2001


I hope his wife and kids suffer.

Well that's real nice.
posted by glenwood at 7:01 AM on December 6, 2001


I commute by bike in and around the boston/cambridge area as well as in the philadelphia suburbs, and the difference between the two is remarkable. I've had some dangerous and scary experiences riding around massachusetts (including an incident last summer where a double-parked suv door opened right in my face and threw me into the oncoming-traffic lane), but for the most part drivers seem to be making an effort to pay attention to bikes and the cities seem to be making an effort to establish viable bike lanes. (there are still some cars that seem to think the bike lane is a good place to park, though. agh. and yes, it is illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk.)

in pennsylvania, though, biking on the street seems to be a guaranteed way to get people to honk at you, chase you, or even throw things out their windows at you. we have signs that say "share the road" but people don't pay any attention to them. I don't know if it's because there are lot more bikers in the boston area so people there are used to them or if people in the suburbs just think they have a monopoly on blacktop.

dreama, you're right that some cyclists don't seem to have much respect for traffic laws. it makes me nuts when I stop at a red light only to have two or three other bicycles pass me to run it. (although I will admit to riding the wrong way on one way streets if it cuts down on my travel time significantly.) on the whole, though, I think bicycle riders are a lot more aware of the laws governing bikes' road rights than car drivers are.
posted by rabi at 7:31 AM on December 6, 2001


I would like to see bikes outfitted with a minimum standard of safety features that would make them more compatible with cars sharing the same pavement:

1) Turn signals. Yes Virginia. Most drivers have not a clue what those arm signals mean, and for the common good, there should be one standard for indicating a turn: blinking lights.

2) Head and tail lights. I know most thoughtful bikers today wear them on their bikes at night, but I have had one too many experiences, especially on a rainy night, with bikers seemingly coming out of nowhere with no visible warning.

Ok, so that's not much, but I think it would help. Bike lanes would also be nice. Inherently, bikes and cars just can't get along, and bikes need their own space, either on the sidewalk (yeah right) or on the road (slightly more feasible).
posted by thewittyname at 7:47 AM on December 6, 2001


What's your point? There are about 1000 bicyclist fatalities each year in the U.S. from car-bike accidents. How many fatalities or serious injuries are caused by ..car/cat/bike..-pedestrian accidents? Not a lot.

Simple statistics lookup (oh, don't I have a lot of free time this morning!) showed that there are about 3 bike/pedestrian accidents for every 10 motorvehicle/bike accidents. This relies on accuracy of reporting, and I must admit that either side could be under-reported.

Of the accidents reported, on average, a cyclist is 150% more likely to kill a pedestrian than a car is to kill a cyclist. Weird. That one caught me by surprise. Cars are fully 350% times more likely to kill a pedestrian than a cyclist will, so at least that makes sense.

Statistics from several sources, including a longitudinal study by the U.S. Govt (which shows a massive DECLINE in cycle/ped collisions since 1980, but not quite so much of one for car/ped or car/bike collisions).
posted by dwivian at 8:40 AM on December 6, 2001


Thanks for the fascinating stats, dwivian. My guess is that in a lot of bike-pedestrian accidents, the pedestrian is a child and is more likely to be killed. If a cyclist hits a kid while zipping along at 20 mph -- well, I shudder to think about it. Egads!
posted by Holden at 9:11 AM on December 6, 2001


cycle lanes. completely seperate from any motor-powered vehicles and pedestians.
in the uk, there is a charity that is responsible for building most cycle lanes, as the government(s) are obviously incapable. (here is a us project, with a similar goal)
one of the many problems with 'in your face' cycling in traffic is that it only works if you are 100% confident in your abilities. many people are scared off cycling in inner-cities by both the traffic and the attitudes on display from certain cyclists.
in holland, where they do have seperate cycle lanes, it is legal to drive a two wheeled vehicle with up to 50cc capacity on the cycle lane. the good burghers do not approve, and i can see their point.
posted by asok at 9:17 AM on December 6, 2001


Horn honking really bugs me too. Instead of hitting the horn why not hit the break?

I bicycled across the country and was honked at many times and for no reason. I used a mirror and knew what was coming. It was my responsiblity.

Cyclists need to be more responsible. Drivers need to be more respectful.
posted by chainring at 9:56 AM on December 6, 2001


If you're driving a car and you pass a bike and then immediately make a right turn, you risk a collision. It's really uncool. Don't pass a bike within 100 feet of an interesection and try to turn right, cutting off the cyclist.

I'm sorry, that's utter and complete nonsense. Complete bollocks. If I pass the bicyclist and they are able to see my turn signal, is it not my responsibility to stop and impede traffic (with my large vehicle) to wait for them to pass on the inside, where they ought not be. This is a perfect example of the "share the road under our rules" mentality that I mentioned in my original post.

If I were operating a motor vehicle and I tried to pass another vehicle on the inside during a right turn, and a collision occured, I would certainly be at fault. My pass would be deemed dangerous and illegal, and I'd likely be cited and have major insurance repercussions because I caused an accident while I was somewhere I shouldn't have been. The rules of the road teach that one should wait behind a turning driver, or alternately, pass on the outside if there is sufficient room for the pass to be accomplished safely.

If a bicycle is going to be on the road, then the bicyclist ought to follow that same rule -- not only for his/her own safety but simply out of common sense. You don't drive or ride into the path of another vehicle, especially when the intention of that vehicle is clear, and if you do, it's no one's responsibility but your own.
posted by Dreama at 11:18 AM on December 6, 2001


Dreama:

I must disagree -- in your first example, you treat your position and the bicyclists position as TWO lanes, whereas in the second example you treat it as ONE. Here's a quick explanation -- if the bicyclist and you are SHARING a lane, you shouldn't pass him -- a car can't pass another car in the same lane -- it's just not possible.

However, bicyclists moving slower than the average speed of traffic are, by law (in CA), supposed to be on the inside -- even though it's not a ideal situation It's a dangerous place to be, because you have to worry about people on your right opening their doors without checking, or people on the road forcing you off of it -- in the manuever described above.

Anyhow, your proper cars analogy should read: there are two cars, one driving in the left lane, one slightly behind in the right. The car on the left makes a signals, and makes an insane right turn across both lanes, and is struck by the car that was in the right lane. I'm not a lawyer, but I'm guessing the at fault car here is the one that made the turn.

If you refer to the DMV manual of California, regarding bicyclists and right turns, "Drivers should look carefully for cyclists before turning right and merge safely toward the curb or into the bike lane Do not overtake a cyclist just before making a right turn. Merge first, then turn." (Bolding mine.)

Now, just because it's in the DMV manual doesn't necessarily mean it's law -- i was unable to find any specific right of way laws concerning bikes and cars (although I didn't look superhard), but California VEHICLE CODE SECTION 21200-21212 has the following:
"21200. (a) Every person riding a bicycle upon a highway has all the
rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver
of a vehicle by this division..."


All this to me means you either yield to a cyclist on the left or you don't pass him. Anyhow, what's ten seconds at a light? It seems that people who drive a lot tend to get incredibly agitated at short delays without much reason -- you're going to get where you're going pretty damn fast, comparably, so why not give a little love to the little guy. Sorry for the huge tirade, but this whole right of way thing is a bit of pet peeve of mine (anyhow, one day i'm going to build a massive 4 ton bike out of lead -- then i'll get the respect i deserve! )
posted by fishfucker at 6:05 PM on December 6, 2001


I must disagree -- in your first example, you treat your position and the bicyclists position as TWO lanes, whereas in the second example you treat it as ONE. Here's a quick explanation -- if the bicyclist and you are SHARING a lane, you shouldn't pass him -- a car can't pass another car in the same lane -- it's just not possible.

No, in either example, there is but one lane of traffic, a lane that the bicyclist attempts to circumvent by moving between the moving vehicles and the parked cars on the right. As to not passing -- fine, I won't pass so long as bicyclists maintain a speed that doesn't impair the flow of traffic, don't pass me on the right when I'm stopped in congestion/at a light/stop sign, and don't otherwise attempt to act as though the rules in general only apply to them when it's to their benefit -- like a "rule" saying that they shouldn't be passed because they might travel on the inside where no lane legitimately exists, and therefore are imperiled by a right turn. Peaceful co-existence between bicycles and motor vehicles will happen when bicyclists begin to act as though all of the rules apply to them, and not just the ones that they feel like observing.
posted by Dreama at 8:45 PM on December 6, 2001


There is no doubt in my mind it is the cyclist’s job to know the rules inside and out and to obey them consistently. If we depend on motorist to understand the concept of ‘sharing the road’, we are putting our lives in danger.

As someone who has ridden on several cross state rides I know from first hand experience most motorist have no idea we even have a right to be on the road. Annoyance is the reaction I get from many drivers, and I follow every law to the letter and show extreme courtesy to everyone I encounter. I cannot tell you how many times vehicles have honked their horn as they pass me. Some for fun, some to tell me I shouldn’t be on the road, and some, I’m sure, think they’re doing me a favor. I also find it amusing how often my hand signals are gazed upon as if I’m communicating in some ancient sign language, if they’re not outright ignored.

Yes, some bicyclists have no regard for the law and make other cyclists look bad. One bad cyclist will make you forget the other 20 you never even noticed. Let me assure you these riders are looked down on in the biking community. At every cross state ride I have attended every rider must attend a class on safe and lawful riding before participating. Safety is always a big concern and a major goal for these events.

It is utterly laughable to believe motorists have a higher level of knowledge on the relationship between bicyclists and automobiles than cyclists themselves do, and I cannot imagine it coming from anyone who has actually spent any time on the road cycling. It is up to the cyclists to know their rights, obey the law, and ride responsibly, showing courtesy when possible. Depending on motorists, many who think we should be on the sidewalk, is a futile endeavor, and could be a very dangerous one.
posted by justgary at 9:57 PM on December 6, 2001


Dreama certainly has a point, though. I obey the traffic laws (mostly) when I ride, and justgary does, but most cyclists I see don't obey the laws. They're the ones who ride without a helmet, on the left side of the street going in the opposite direction of traffic. I wish cops would pull those cyclists aside and give 'em a ticket that forces them to take some sort of training course.

But Dreama, let me ask you a question about something I frequently do. I want to know if you would object to it because it sounds like you would. When I ride home, I ride down a two-lane (one in each direction) road that dead-ends at a stoplight. Just before that intersection, the road widens into three lanes: one in the opposite direction, a left-turn lane in the direction I'm going, and a right-turn lane. I turn left at the intersection, onto a dedicated bike lane.
The traffic often backs up in the left-turn lane. If traffic is backed up, do you object if I pass those cars on the right? When the light turns green, I sprint straight across the road to the bike lane and I don't get in the way of any of the cars.
My alternative is to stop in the middle of the lane behind all the cars and wait my turn to go through the light. I'd rather not do that because I don't want to agitate any drivers who end up behind me, but it sounds like you would prefer for a cyclist in this situation to stop in the middle of the lane with the rest of the traffic. Which is more courteous: to pass the waiting cars on the right, or stop in the middle of the traffic lane?
posted by Holden at 6:07 AM on December 7, 2001


I consider all human powered transportation to be an advanced form of walking. As such, I ride my bike on the sidewalk (except in rural areas where there are no sidewalks and traffic is sparse).

Arrrgh. As a pedestrian, I do not thank you for this.
posted by redfoxtail at 7:25 AM on December 7, 2001


No, in either example, there is but one lane of traffic, a lane that the bicyclist attempts to circumvent by moving between the moving vehicles and the parked cars on the right.

Given; there is one marked lane of traffic; however, riders must ride near the curb if they are not moving at the speed of traffic. Furthermore, if traffic is gridlocked, riders are free to use that to ride in -- there's no law AGAINST riders using this space to ride in. This IS a valid lane for bike traffic, and, if you want make an analogy of a car/bike scenario to a car/car scenario, it is only fair to grant it status as a valid lane in your example.


As to not passing -- fine, I won't pass so long as bicyclists maintain a speed that doesn't impair the flow of traffic, don't pass me on the right when I'm stopped in congestion/at a light/stop sign,

This is not an option for you -- this is law, when a cyclist is moving at the speed of traffic, he has right of way to be in a lane and must be passed as if he is a car. If the cyclist moves slower than the speed of traffic, he must move to the right, at which point you would pass him as if he were in a separate lane to your right (which is a bicycle lane -- whether it's painted or not). The cyclist (at least in CA) basically has the right to a "virtual" bike lane for use at the side of every street unless it's clearly marked that bikes a prohibited -- usually, tunnels, bridges, and freeways, etc. Further, it is an option to ride on the inside (and pass you, as though he was riding in a separate lane) if the traffic is moving slowly, it's not specifically disallowed by law.


and don't otherwise attempt to act as though the rules in general only apply to them when it's to their benefit -- like a "rule" saying that they shouldn't be passed because they might travel on the inside where no lane legitimately exists, and therefore are imperiled by a right turn. Peaceful co-existence between bicycles and motor vehicles will happen when bicyclists begin to act as though all of the rules apply to them, and not just the ones that they feel like observing.


Again, I remind you that it is a cyclists right to ride on the "inside" of the road.

Meanwhile, you're right -- there is no law that says you can't pass a cyclist riding on the side of the road and then immediately turn right in front of them. Similarly, there's no law against tail-gating folks, or honking excessively. However, I think many people would group these activities as inconsiderate and dangerous. I try to behave as well as I can when I'm on the road, and I expect other people to do the same, even when they're not legally bound, and particularly when they have such potential for doing me great bodily harm.

Meanwhile, FYI: when I ride my bike I am very careful to remember what rules apply to me, just as when I drive a car. The only time I'll break the rules is when the car traffic is clearly too dangerous, at which point I usually ride on the sidewalk for my own safety. Not all cyclists break laws. In fact, many cyclists you may have seen "breaking laws" are possibly in accord with their right of way as a cyclist. (Like those riding in what you claim to be a "illegitimate" lane for bike traffic.) I'll grant you that there are MANY cyclists who ride recklessly, but this in no way describes ALL cyclists.

Regardless, I've done my part (been doing my part for many years, actually), so hopefully you're ready to share the road with at least one cyclist.
posted by fishfucker at 2:10 AM on December 8, 2001


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