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No Longer King of the Mountain
July 24, 2013 1:06 PM   Subscribe

Chris Bucchere, the cyclist that killed a pedestrian last March in San Francisco while attempting to obtain Strava glory has pleaded guilty to felony vehicular manslaughter becoming the first bicyclist convicted of manslaughter in the United States.

Bucchere, discussed previously on the Blue, will not serve any jail or prison time but was given three years probation and 1,000 hours of community service. The family of the man he killed, Sutchi Hui, is filing a civil suit against Bucchere.

The manslaughter conviction, instead of the lesser misdemeanor that Randolph Ang, another cyclist that struck and killed a pedestrian in San Francisco, received was fueled by the lack of remorse from Bucchere following the accident where, from his hospital bed, he boasted of his wreck and mourned the loss of his helmet: In closing, I want to dedicate this story to my late helmet. She died in heroic fashion today as my head slammed into the tarmac... The moral of this little story is: WYFH.
posted by playertobenamedlater (187 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Is Bucchere's sentence for felony vehicular manslaughter a relatively light sentence?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 1:10 PM on July 24, 2013


Is Bucchere's sentence for felony vehicular manslaughter a relatively light sentence?

I got the impression that it was relatively light, and that he was able to avoid jail time in part because the victim's family didn't want him to serve time in jail.
posted by slmorri at 1:12 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Asshole gives perfectly legitimate and responsible bike owners a bad name.
posted by symbioid at 1:15 PM on July 24, 2013 [26 favorites]


"Wealthy tech entrepreneur" can substitute perfectly well for the previous word I used to describe Bucchere, which got moderated instantly.
posted by colie at 1:16 PM on July 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Wow, his talking about the event is terrible. What a horrible man.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:17 PM on July 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Yeah, as a lifelong, enthusiastic bike nerd I am a little disappointed that he did not get jail time.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 1:18 PM on July 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Man bites dog.

He got so much more punishment (and I agree he should have had punishment ) than an equivalent car driver.

The best way to kill someone is to kill them with their car. "I didn't see them" are the magic words.

Bay Area drivers who kill pedestrians rarely face punishment, analysis finds

Driver who struck bicycling boy won't be charged

Luis Felipe Hau of Sunnyvale was driving south on Park Boulevard near Sherman Avenue when he veered into the bicycle lane and struck Sebastian Lerrick on Nov. 5, 2012. Hau told police the sun was in his eyes and he did not see the boy.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2013 [19 favorites]


Yeah, as a lifelong, enthusiastic bike nerd I am a little disappointed that he did not get jail time.

As a lifelong, enthusiastic pedestrian I concur.
posted by DingoMutt at 1:23 PM on July 24, 2013 [34 favorites]


Everything about this case has been infuriating so I guess I'm glad he at least had the dignity to plead out.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:24 PM on July 24, 2013


This seems harsh compared to what drivers typically get. How about a $42 ticket?
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:24 PM on July 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Reading that Strava glory link, holy shit.

The main complaint that I hear (from drivers) about bicycles is that the bikes don't obey stop signs/red lights. Now, the vast majority of those on bikes that I see behave properly, it's only a fraction of bicycles that give the rest a bad reputation. But even though it's only a visible few, bikes still have a LONG way to go before they'll be accepted as belonging in the road. How incredibly selfish of these Strava people.
posted by troika at 1:25 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


It doesn't seem very harsh to me in light of the callous way he treated the incident before he knew what kind of deep shit he was in.
posted by MoonOrb at 1:25 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


He got so much more punishment (and I agree he should have had punishment ) than an equivalent car driver.

A car driver who acted like that afterwards and was participating in what's basically an illegal road race would probably get more than usual punishment, too.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:26 PM on July 24, 2013 [35 favorites]


Hau told police the sun was in his eyes and he did not see the boy.

Did he also say he accelerated towards an amber light? (Sorry, I mean 'laid it down' towards an amber light). As he went to his next 'startup' 'incubator' 'tech' meeting.
posted by colie at 1:26 PM on July 24, 2013


The family will get him on the civil case, since he has money and his comments were so damning.
posted by stbalbach at 1:26 PM on July 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


There's also no evidence here that Bucchere took any actions to avoid hitting pedestrians he saw in advance. His description was that after he "laid it down" to get through the yellow light, he "just plowed through the crowded crosswalk in the least-populated place I could find." He's lucky he only hit one person.
posted by maryr at 1:29 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Kudos to those on the message board he posted about his accident on, who in response to his "moral" WYFH, replied "I'm not sure that's the moral of the story."
posted by maryr at 1:33 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


In my experience "laid it down" means "laying the bike down," as in a somewhat controlled fall in an attempt to stop.
posted by helicomatic at 1:34 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


"Did he also say he accelerated towards an amber light? (Sorry, I mean 'laid it down' towards an amber light)."

I assumed "laying it down" meant the same for a bike as a motorcycle, where lay your bike down purposefully.
posted by moira at 1:36 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Although upon reflection, could also mean "lay the hammer down" I guess. I do not hang out with that particular flavor of bike nerd.
posted by helicomatic at 1:36 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's hard enough in so many places to not be run over by a vehicle with four or more wheels as a pedestrian OR as a cyclist, even while following what, ofttimes screwy, laws are in place.

The US does not need things that make this issue worse or even more complicated or more sadly screwed up than it already is.

This behavior, and specifically this guy, is one of those things.

...and he killed someone.

.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:38 PM on July 24, 2013


How incredibly selfish of these Strava people.

I would guess that the original intent and general usage of Strava is riding out in less populated areas, as many (most?) recreational cyclists do. There's nothing inherently wrong with trying to ride up a hill faster than some internet stranger.
posted by ghharr at 1:42 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also seems like any claim he made to "lay down" in the motorcycle sense is contradicted by the video evidence, although I don't think the actual video is available anywhere (not that I'd really be up for watching if it were).
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 1:42 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Yeah word is he just fucking plowed through a crowded crosswalk.
posted by 2bucksplus at 1:43 PM on July 24, 2013


I think general practice is supposed to be that you don't set up Strava sections across intersections that might require a stop, and obviously, to everybody but this guy, the rules of the road in which you keep an eye out for anything unexpected still apply.

It's fun to use it and similar apps to keep track of how my commute times improve as I practice. Reading about this just makes me feel sick, though.

.
posted by asperity at 1:45 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


The main complaint that I hear (from drivers) about bicycles is that the bikes don't obey stop signs/red lights. Now, the vast majority of those on bikes that I see behave properly, it's only a fraction of bicycles that give the rest a bad reputation. But even though it's only a visible few, bikes still have a LONG way to go before they'll be accepted as belonging in the road. How incredibly selfish of these Strava people.

The times I've seen a cyclist stop at a stop sign in SF I can count on one hand. They will fucking barrel through it as they switch over to "I'm a pedestrian now!" mode and ride the crosswalk where they supposedly have right of way and then swerve back on over into the street.

I hate driving in SF. I really do.
posted by Talez at 1:46 PM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Yea, I'd like to amend my comment in light of ghharr's point because I didn't dive too deeply into the Strava culture so I'm not sure if it's focus/intent is in getting from one point to another in the most efficient manner as well as possible, while promoting biking and good route choices and thus getting more people involved, which is a good thing, or if it's more focused on the macho, 'fuck you get out of my way so I can get the top score' aspect of things.

I support the former and applaud it while totally denouncing the latter.
posted by RolandOfEld at 1:46 PM on July 24, 2013


2bucksplus: "Yeah word is he just fucking plowed through a crowded crosswalk."

See the "killed a pedestrian last March in San Francisco" link in the post, which is titled Cyclist Who Struck Pedestrian At Castro: "I Just Plowed Through The Crowded Crosswalk"
posted by boo_radley at 1:46 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It also seems like any claim he made to "lay down" in the motorcycle sense is contradicted by the video evidence

I think he didn't mean it in the motorcycle sense - I think it was an idiosyncratic expression for slow down" or some such. That was my interpretation at the time, at least.

Which is still total bullshit. Of course he had a choice. He could've jammed on his brakes and taken a (probably pretty painful) trip over the handlebars. Too bad.
posted by rtha at 1:48 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


That guy is just really bad at riding a bike and also being a person. The only good thing about this story is how rare it is.
posted by theodolite at 2:01 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


For me the moral of the story is "shut down Strava". Or find a way to calibrate it so that it fails to record any time that is calculated to have surpassed the speed limit. That shouldn't be too hard.

He could've jammed on his brakes and taken a (probably pretty painful) trip over the handlebars.

Or--and I know this is crazy talk--he could have operated his vehicle at a safe and controllable speed the whole time. There is never a time when a stoplight or stop sign should require a crash in order to stop in time. If you're going too fast to stop safely in time, you're going too fast, period. Or, of course, if you're not even trying to slow down....
posted by Fnarf at 2:03 PM on July 24, 2013 [10 favorites]


For me the moral of the story is "shut down Strava". Or find a way to calibrate it so that it fails to record any time that is calculated to have surpassed the speed limit. That shouldn't be too hard.

I didn't include this in my original post (cut me a break, it's my first FPP), but segments like the Castro Street Bomb [YT] are either hidden or completely removed from Strava.
posted by playertobenamedlater at 2:07 PM on July 24, 2013


Or--and I know this is crazy talk--he could have operated his vehicle at a safe and controllable speed the whole time.

Well, yeah. Not crazy talk at all. Especially since anyone even marginally familiar with that intersection has to be aware that it is really pedestrian-heavy when the light changes.
posted by rtha at 2:07 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


So, I think I've said this before, but knowing that intersection ... this same accident could have happened to someone who was less of an asshole (could have happened to me, in fact) and so I am a bit uncomfortable with some of the more vehement responses.

That intersection is at the bottom of a decently steep hill. The intersection is wide and the yellows are short. Which is to say: it is hard to stop your bike coming down there, especially if you are riding with traffic and want to be going car speed so people in cars behind you don't get pissy and try to pass tooclose . Yellows mean "stop if you can" and it is easy for me to see how you make the determination that situation (coming down the hill) that you should continue through. And then the yellow is too short and people walk without looking because they aren't trained to look for bikes. (Hell, I've had people jaywalk in front of me coming down 14th at Guerrero, which is nearby and similar, and just yelled "BIKE BIKE BIKE" because that was the only option.)

So I am not saying he wasn't an asshole who did lotsa other asshole things. But that was not actually a requirement for this accident to happen. And I am sad it seems to outweigh changes (longer yellows, for instance, more education re:checking for bikes, which are, after all, traffic) that could actually help mitigate the danger regardless of bad decisions people make.

So I am not saying this dude doesn't deserve his punishment, but things are not so black & white as they may seem.
posted by dame at 2:11 PM on July 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Apologies if I missed this, but I looked.

It's the first conviction for felony vehicular manslaughter--there is at least one prior misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter conviction in California.

According to Slate, and other sources I've read, the two cyclists will receive the same sentences.
posted by crush-onastick at 2:11 PM on July 24, 2013


How massively shitty. Damn.

However, since this is, sadly, part of a highly contested larger issue, it's worth pointing out that pedestrians killed by cyclists represent the tiniest of blips compared to the almost 50,000 US pedestrians killed by cars during the last decade. Nearly the exact same amount as if the entire population of Galveston, TX was run down by cars over the course of ten years.
posted by threeants at 2:12 PM on July 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


He got so much more punishment (and I agree he should have had punishment ) than an equivalent car driver.

But he did see the pedestrians; he admitted that. He admitted more.

The driver who killed a father and daughter who were on their bikes (on the sidewalk!) was sentenced to seven years (but will serve less because he was charged as a juvenile). He, like Bucchere, was operating his vehicle recklessly.
posted by rtha at 2:20 PM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, if you keep expecting bikes to do things that don't make sense, you are going to keep being disappointed. Bikes aren't going to stop at every stop sign. It doesn't make sense to do that if you are a bike. It makes sense to slow down, to time it so you go with the car going your direction or so you go when your turn would be, but no, people are not going to put down their feet at every stop sign, every block, especially if that is where the bike lane is (see for instance, Harrison.)

Likewise, if you live where there are hills, bikes are going to come down those hills quickly and they are going to need more room than cars to stop going the same speed.

Most cyclists are not in fact assholes. They are vehicles trying to operate with some sanity in a system that was made for very different kinds of vehicles. San Francisco's shitty public transit means people are going to ride bikes. If you really want everyone to work together than rather than fulminating that a type of transit suddenly makes people *terrible*, advocate for common sense changes that accept the characteristics of all vehicles. Because very few people are so altruistic as to kill their momentum every single block because it makes drivers mad.
posted by dame at 2:21 PM on July 24, 2013 [18 favorites]


Your momentum or your life.
posted by bleep-blop at 2:27 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


A bike is much closer to a pedestrian in weight, and, importantly, in vulnerability. To expect bikes to follow laws laid down for much different kinds of vehicles is foolish. The laws need to be made more sensible to that motorists don't get all bitter about bikes yielding rather than stopping at stop signs and lights.

This case is a distant outlier - if a bike hits a pedestrian you'd expect similar injuries to both participants, which is why bikes tend not to hit other things if they can avoid it.
posted by grubby at 2:29 PM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Look at the bright side, now that he has a felony conviction, he may not be able to ever buy a gun!

But, he probably can still buy bikes. And be a class-A douchebag.
posted by tafetta, darling! at 2:31 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Most cyclists are not in fact assholes.

This. (And I have not been a cyclist in lo these many years). I was driving on Division yesterday evening and encountered many cyclists; they were all fine, yes even the ones who got a little jump on lights here and there. Not that I've never encountered an asshole cyclist, but asshole car drivers are far more numerous.

On the flip side, the exit ramp I take to get to work dumps traffic on a road with a pretty active bike lane. I slow or stop at the top of the ramp when I see cyclists, and without fail, some yutz in a car behind me honks or yells or gives me the finger or all three.
posted by rtha at 2:31 PM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


But we're not talking about stopping at every stop sign; we're talking about one guy who bombed down a hill way too fast and more or less chose to plow through a crowd of people. I cycle (almost) every day and I don't do that. I stop at red lights. I don't stop at every stop sign, because it's always Idaho in a small circle around my bike, but I slow and only go if no one is there. And I don't race on city streets (which is what Strava is, at least in part). If I'm going down a steep hill, I don't go as fast as possible, because I know how to control my bike and what makes control possible.

I regard prosecuting this guy as a "common sense change that accepts the characteristics of all vehicles".

I agree with threeants, though -- such incidents are thankfully rare, and it is also safer to be a pedestrian (or a cyclist) in a congested city than in a rural area.
posted by Fnarf at 2:31 PM on July 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


things are not so black & white as they may seem.

Having the area described makes it so much more black and white for me. Jeez. I hope the victim's family destroys him.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 2:35 PM on July 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


Back when I commuted by bike my little game was seeing how far I could ride without my feet touching the ground. I actually rode slower because I had to coast a lot to avoid hitting red lights and I became hyper-aware of my surroundings because everything on the road had the potential to bring me to a complete stop and lose the game for me.
posted by The Card Cheat at 2:35 PM on July 24, 2013


Talking about Bikes vs. Cars on the internet is about as useful as trying to figure out whether tipping makes sense.

I generally only bike on trails, but I have I have no problem with bikes on the street, but this kind of attitude:

if you keep expecting bikes to do things that don't make sense, you are going to
keep being disappointed. Bikes aren't going to stop at every stop sign.


is what makes some drivers crazy.

If bikes shouldn't have the stop at stop signs, then the law should be changed appropriately, and the public educated accordingly. Until that happens, yeah, drivers are going to get annoyed by cyclists acting unpredictably.

Most cyclists are not in fact assholes.

This is a true statement. As is:

Most drivers are not in fact assholes.

None of this is of course relevant to this one guy who I'm sure would have been as much of behind the wheel of a Hummer as he was on his bicycle.
posted by sparklemotion at 2:38 PM on July 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


In ten years in NYC I've seen ten bicyclists stop at stop lights. It's hard to see how I should support cyclists when the vast majority of them don't follow any of the rules of the road.

Bucchere isn't some outlier here. It just so happens he killed a guy.
posted by ged at 2:39 PM on July 24, 2013 [11 favorites]


A bike is much closer to a pedestrian in weight, and, importantly, in vulnerability. To expect bikes to follow laws laid down for much different kinds of vehicles is foolish. The laws need to be made more sensible to that motorists don't get all bitter about bikes yielding rather than stopping at stop signs and lights.

A bike hitting you sodding hurts, even if it's not going fast and it can clip you and not be affected by it. And it's not just motorists out here - it's pedestrians and anyone biking or driving through a crowded section of a city - or any city - really needs to observe the rules of the road because if you don't you end up with this sort of situation. Just because motorists are arseholes doesn't mean cyclists have to be too - this shouldn't be a race to the bottom.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 2:41 PM on July 24, 2013


Bikes aren't going to stop at every stop sign. It doesn't make sense to do that if you are a bike. It makes sense to slow down, to time it so you go with the car going your direction or so you go when your turn would be, but no, people are not going to put down their feet at every stop sign, every block, especially if that is where the bike lane is (see for instance, Harrison.)

And this is why cyclists can't get any respect: because they act like lunatics. You are expected to stop at every stop sign, the same as a car. You are expected to stop at every stop light. You do not get a free pass because you are on a bike.

Take a little bit of responsibility and follow the rules.
posted by ged at 2:42 PM on July 24, 2013 [39 favorites]


Also, if you keep expecting bikes to do things that don't make sense, you are going to keep being disappointed. Bikes aren't going to stop at every stop sign. It doesn't make sense to do that if you are a bike. It makes sense to slow down, to time it so you go with the car going your direction or so you go when your turn would be, but no, people are not going to put down their feet at every stop sign, every block, especially if that is where the bike lane is (see for instance, Harrison.)

It doesn't make sense, if you are a selfish prick. I'd love to not have to follow the traffic laws, but I do because that's how society works. You don't just get to pick the ones that you like because you are A Bicyclist.

What about scooters and mopeds? Do they get to break some of the rules of the road too?
posted by gjc at 2:45 PM on July 24, 2013 [17 favorites]


Dame, I'm not sure you're as good at riding a bike as you think. I rode down a hill as steep as Castro yesterday (and yes, I know that means very steep. This one was 14%), feathering the brakes to keep down to about 25mph, and when I wanted to test my brakes towards the end, I could stop myself in about 20 metres. Which is ample time to react to a changing light.
posted by ambrosen at 2:45 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Bikes aren't going to stop at every stop sign.

You mean 'bikes piloted aggressively by aggressive young men aren't going to stop at every stop sign.' Nobody else has a problem.
posted by colie at 2:45 PM on July 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


I've thought through this a lot, and really the core issue with cyclists and car drivers interacting together when it comes to traffic control devices (signs, lanes, lights, etc) is really an issue of predictability. We expect and behave as if every car will stop at every stop light. It makes it easier to drive in an opposing lane or perpendicular lane. With bikes, you can't be too sure, but it's really great when they move in predictable patterns, like cars do, only going on greens and stopping on reds.

I spent the first twenty years of my life being an asshole on a bike, doing the equivalent of jay walking by crossing roads wherever I felt like, going across red lights when I didn't see anyone around, etc. I spent the last 20 years not doing that, following laws because I realized as a driver, I hated having riders around me in San Francisco and LA, they were super unpredictable to the point where even if you always assumed the worst, they could still sometimes surprise you and do crazy shit in front of you like cut across six lanes of traffic to avoid a red light, etc.

So yeah, all cyclists, try and be predictable to other riders and drivers and you'll make the streets a zillion times safer.
posted by mathowie at 2:48 PM on July 24, 2013 [24 favorites]


If you want to ride continuously and not have to worry about being inconvenienced by the traffic flow control systems that you are LEGALLY REQUIRED TO FOLLOW, then please find a nice paved bike trail somewhere.
posted by destructive cactus at 2:49 PM on July 24, 2013 [9 favorites]


Just adding a data point - uselessly, as these threads usually go, I know - that I am a driver and a pedestrian and I do not expect bikes to behaves exactly like cars. Why? Because I am not an idiot; I have eyes. I also used to bike in a city.

I do not assume that cyclists will come bombing down steep hills without control or the ability to stop any more than I assume cars will (and most of them don't). I do assume that cyclists don't need to stop at every stop sign when there isn't any traffic, just like I assume many pedestrians will cross against a light when there isn't any traffic.

I don't require everyone to follow every rule religiously in order to gain my respect. And lack of respect (from me or anyone) does not justify attempting to assault or kill them. The kind of abuse cyclists take - do any of you try to pull that shit on car drivers on the regular? Plenty of car drivers piss me off every day by doing blatantly illegal and dangerous shit and yet I don't chase them down, I don't try to run them off the road, I don't throw things at them. Get over your need for everyone to follow the rules and give you respect. You're never going to get it.
posted by rtha at 2:50 PM on July 24, 2013 [20 favorites]


the vast majority of them don't follow any of the rules of the road.

The bicyclists I encounter here in Seattle tend to be really good at obeying the speed limit.
posted by Mars Saxman at 2:51 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which is not to say that education campaigns and efforts - for drivers and cyclists - aren't a good thing, because they are.

I heard recently that a city in the North Bay (maybe Sonoma?) was talking about enhanced penalties for drivers who target cyclists. This discussion came about because a driver who got mad at a cyclist chased him onto a golf course. In his car!
posted by rtha at 2:52 PM on July 24, 2013


However, since this is, sadly, part of a highly contested larger issue, it's worth pointing out that pedestrians killed by cyclists represent the tiniest of blips compared to the almost 50,000 US pedestrians killed by cars during the last decade.

True. I have had three close calls with cars (all three turning onto one way streets while rolling through stop signs and not looking for pedestrians) in the last 5 years as a pedestrian, but only one close call with a bike (which was going the wrong way on the wrong side of the street at 5 in the morning with no light). Well, it's 25%, but I'm just one person.
posted by GenjiandProust at 2:55 PM on July 24, 2013


it is hard to stop your bike coming down there, especially if you are riding with traffic and want to be going car speed

if you cannot control your vehicle and obey the rules of the road, get off the damn road.
posted by ambient2 at 2:57 PM on July 24, 2013 [15 favorites]


Also, generally speaking, if a car hits a pedestrian, the driver isn't charged with anything. If a car hits a bike, it's usually the cyclist who gets a citation, not the driver. There are innumerable cases of drivers killing pedestrians, pinning them up against buildings, etc. and getting off scot-free.
posted by Fnarf at 2:57 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


What's to stop someone from using a car to game Strava stats?
posted by Brocktoon at 2:58 PM on July 24, 2013


Bucchere isn't some outlier here. It just so happens he killed a guy.

As a cyclist in Boston who rides to work almost every day, I sadly have to agree - I ride where I'm supposed to and stop at every red light, and I'm startled on the extremely rare occasions someone stops with me - To be honest, over the course of almost 20 years of commuting via bike I've had FAR more issues with fellow cyclists (flying into the middle of a block off the sidewalk, going the wrong way on one-way streets, running a light while I'm going through an intersection with a green, etc etc) than I've ever had with cars or pedestrians - I think that speaks to both the idiocy of some cyclists AND that riding responsibly tends to cut down on the opportunities for car/bike conflict.

For me the moral of the story is "shut down Strava"

I think a better moral is Strava policing the segment creation more closely and keeping "awards" like this from being possible, which seems to be happening - I use Strava every day, most of us just like to keep track of our mileage.
posted by jalexei at 3:01 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


And let's also not strip the issue of its context. Given the choice between a (real) world where 50,000 people get run over by cars in a decade and a (non-existent) world where 50,000 people get run over by bikes in a decade, I'm still going to go with the latter world every time. Climate change, sprawl, physical inactivity, air quality, civic deterioration-- these are no small potatoes. If you really wanted to get utilitarian about it, it'd be interesting to do a back-of-the-napkin to figure out how much cyclists would have to raise their pedestrian-killing rate in order to offset the lives saved from climate disaster, asthma, sedentarism, etc. in taking cars off the road.
posted by threeants at 3:01 PM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Here's the thing. We, all of us, were kids once, and most kids learn to ride a bike; and most parents teach kids to ride a bike on the sidewalk to be safe, especially in the city.
The transition from "kid being a safe" to "rider obeying traffic laws" is supposed to happen sometime during the rebellious teenage years, when pop culture and parental example teach americans that rules apply to everyone but you.
We are not a cycling culture, so only very strong advocacy from within the cycling community can change the natural antagonism among cyclists pedestrians and motorists. the cycling community has to come out against BS like Strava, has to call for strict enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists and has to call for dedicated biking lanes.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:03 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Given the choice between a (real) world where 50,000 people get run over by cars in a decade and a (non-existent) world where 50,000 people get run over by bikes in a decade, I'm still going to go with the latter world every time.

Maybe - startling thought here - we could aim for a world where 50,000 people aren't run over at all? That would be nice.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:05 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


jalexei: "For me the moral of the story is "shut down Strava"

I think a better moral is Strava policing the segment creation more closely and keeping "awards" like this from being possible, which seems to be happening - I use Strava every day, most of us just like to keep track of our mileage.
"

This has been an issue in the MTB community too, where people were/are posting illegal trails in some places with very sensitive user issues. I don't think it needs to be shut down per se, but it's another example of some jerks ruining a useful tool for others due to their own lack of self control.
posted by Big_B at 3:05 PM on July 24, 2013


(Also, folks recounting tales of frequent near death by bike are by and large beneficiaries of some merciful confirmation bias; their counterparts who might otherwise be in here telling similar stories about how every day a car runs a stop sign and almost kills them aren't here because they died.)
posted by threeants at 3:05 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Look, you can all be mad about how things actually work, but being mad isn't going to get you what you want.

Yelling "RESPONSIBILITY!!!!" isn't going to make cyclists, who see that stop signs are implemented in a way that works for cars, suddenly start making their commutes suck so you feel better. But an Idaho stop law might make them more predictable, which is probably what you want. And making a longer yellow at that intersection is probably a better option than expecting people never to go fast down hills.

But you know, why be useful when you can be mad!!!!
posted by dame at 3:06 PM on July 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Maybe - startling thought here - we could aim for a world where 50,000 people aren't run over at all? That would be nice.

Right there with ya. In fact, that aspirational world sounds quite reminiscent of Amsterdam, where only 6 people per year die in bike-related accidents (not limited to pedestrians killed by cyclists).
posted by threeants at 3:08 PM on July 24, 2013


There are laws. Why are bicyclists exempt?
posted by futz at 3:09 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wake up sheeple?
posted by gjc at 3:10 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The laws need to be made more sensible to that motorists don't get all bitter about bikes yielding rather than stopping at stop signs and lights.

Yielding would be an improvement for the average SF cyclist.
posted by bleep-blop at 3:10 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Dude should stamp license plates forever in Hell. Wow.
posted by basicchannel at 3:14 PM on July 24, 2013


I didn't dive too deeply into the Strava culture so I'm not sure if it's focus/intent is in getting from one point to another in the most efficient manner as well as possible, while promoting biking and good route choices and thus getting more people involved, which is a good thing, or if it's more focused on the macho, 'fuck you get out of my way so I can get the top score' aspect of things.

I support the former and applaud it while totally denouncing the latter.


I think the segments are about ranking and improving your times, not route-finding...but there's nothing wrong with trying to improve your performance as long as you're not endangering others. It's not any more "macho" than trying to improve your age group finish in a 5k or getting better at golf or whatever. Most of the alluring segments are probably uphill anyway, someone going all-out on one might hit 20 mph, if they're strong.
posted by ghharr at 3:15 PM on July 24, 2013


Why on earth should we change what are, at least ostensibly, safety laws to make a biker's commute easier? Stopping at stop signs shouldn't "suddenly" be making a change in anyone's commute.
posted by maryr at 3:16 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's called the Idaho stop, hence my reference above. If there's no cross traffic or pedestrians, you're allowed to slow and yield but not stop at stop signs. This in ultra-progressive Idaho! Of course, most intersections in Idaho are completely deserted, with no vehicles besides the occasional tumbleweed or potato truck for days on end.
posted by Fnarf at 3:17 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Ah, so it's the bike equivalent of the illegal-but-oft-used California rolling stop?
posted by maryr at 3:18 PM on July 24, 2013


You mean 'bikes piloted aggressively by aggressive young men aren't going to stop at every stop sign.' Nobody else has a problem.

No, I mean normal cycling commuters that I see every day. Because for real, you should come hang out on parts of my route — grannies, middle-aged dudes in suits, not so young ladies like me: no one puts their foot down every block because it would be stupid. And until you can accept that not particularly reckless humans are making decisions you don't like because those decisions make sense in their own set of tradeoffs, things are going to be frustrating and more dangerous for people.

I am actually not a particularly reckless rider. I sit at red lights even when there isn't traffic. I take the lane when that is the safest option and generally expect pedestrians to come jaywalking all the time. But coming down Castro, with no bike lane and impatient cars, yeah I am going to take the lane and go 25 or so, because that is actually safer than inching down pumping my brakes. It would be cool if we could talk about ways to engineer the intersection that doesn't pit my determination of personal safety against possible tragedy.

Anyways, I am going to bow out because I don't need to have a "people are wrong on the internet" kind of fight. But it is frustrating to me when we argue over whether someone is a Horrible Person rather than figure out accident mitigation that actually matches human behaviors.
posted by dame at 3:20 PM on July 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


It's called the Idaho stop, hence my reference above. If there's no cross traffic or pedestrians, you're allowed to slow and yield but not stop at stop signs.

But this is absolutely not what is the case here. This guy raced down a hill after going through three red lights, in the middle of a city during the day, through a busy intersection. And killed someone. There's no way changing any rules about stopping should apply here.

(I may be a little sensitive here because I am currently staying in Dublin, where most mornings slightly after 7 I cross an intersection at the bottom of a hill after walking my sister's dog. One in every 3 mornings I see a car go through the red after it's changed. One in every 2 I see a bike do so. I am delighted that in all of these cases apparently their right to have a fast commute outranks my right to cross the street at the light without being nearly killed.)
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:23 PM on July 24, 2013


Why on earth should we change what are, at least ostensibly, safety laws to make a biker's commute easier? Stopping at stop signs shouldn't "suddenly" be making a change in anyone's commute.

Car dominance represents such an overwhelming public health crisis (with manifestations diverse and numerous) that some people might contend encouraging other modes of transportation is worth some potential increase in trauma risk. Absolutely grim to weigh things that way, but it's inherent to policy-making, no? I won't stand steadfast by that argument here and now, but it's definitely one potential response to your question, and worth considering.
posted by threeants at 3:27 PM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


There are laws. Why are bicyclists exempt?

They're not. Take it up with your local police if you think laws should be enforced more regularly no matter what the vehicle the lawbreaker is operating.
posted by rtha at 3:27 PM on July 24, 2013


Stop signs as speed control devices are deprecated (they don't work well for that purpose and encourage people, whatever kind of vehicle they're driving, to disregard actual important traffic signs) but they still exist in a lot of places. My bike commute takes me through a two-way-stop intersection where the through street has stop signs, but the cul-de-sacs at that intersection don't. I'm waiting to hear back about my request that the city fix the situation and put the stop signs where they belong, but in the meantime I'm signaling and stopping at the damn signs. Because even proceeding with caution through completely useless signs (you can see every house and driveway feeding into that intersection from a fair distance) without stopping provides ammunition for the "cyclists are all scofflaws (and therefore deserve to be run down)" crowd.

(Oh, and should you encounter really useless stop signs, I encourage you to do the same and request that they be removed/moved to a more useful location. It's better for everyone than just treating them as yield signs.)

I've taken to pointing at all the cars I see running red lights on a daily basis as I'm waiting at them, but all the cars doing rolling stops are too numerous to bother with. It's really not just people on bikes -- but we're a hell of a lot more visible and memorable than the folks in cars are.
posted by asperity at 3:28 PM on July 24, 2013


There are laws. Why are bicyclists exempt?

Because cyclists are, at best, a half-hearted afterthought to those laws and more often not even considered. I am reminded of this fact every day on my way to work by the always empty 4-way stop placed half-way up a very steep hill which I don't even pretend to stop at. To ride a bike in the supermajority of American cities and towns is to navigate a terrain that was clearly not designed with you in mind. And since they're typically all alone out there, each cyclist has to negotiate their own compromise with that terrain.

And none of this has ANYTHING to do with indulgent, reckless shitheads like Bucchere or the tens of thousands of drivers who killed someone this year.
posted by Panjandrum at 3:30 PM on July 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


By the way, if you want to see fair play "in the wild", this AskMe from yesterday contains numerous drivers discussing deciding to pull into an intersection on a green light and then having to hang a swift left at the very beginning of the red light. A small traffic infraction that makes their drive more convenient. Sounds...familiar.
posted by threeants at 3:33 PM on July 24, 2013


Only that's not actually legally an infraction most places.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 3:35 PM on July 24, 2013 [14 favorites]


Seriously, half of this thread is "...but cars are worse!"
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:35 PM on July 24, 2013 [8 favorites]


FWIW, that's just the way traffic works here in Boston. It is what motorists expect and is the safest way to make your left turn.
posted by maryr at 3:36 PM on July 24, 2013


I would expect a bike to do the same.
posted by maryr at 3:36 PM on July 24, 2013


Ack, sorry, I take that back. Here in Boston you turn left at the very beginning of a green light, which is not what one should do by how one is taught to drive, but it is the way things work. Sorry, sorry, misread that. Left on a red is different.
posted by maryr at 3:38 PM on July 24, 2013


There are laws. Why are bicyclists exempt?

They're not. Take it up with your local police if you think laws should be enforced more regularly no matter what the vehicle the lawbreaker is operating.
posted by rtha


To ride a bike in the supermajority of American cities and towns is to navigate a terrain that was clearly not designed with you in mind. And since they're typically all alone out there, each cyclist has to negotiate their own compromise with that terrain. posted by Panjandrum

So take it up with your lawmakers? So that the drivers can be reasonably certain of what you are going to do at an intersection instead of guessing? I defer to bikes on the road. I don't want a bicyclist to get hurt. But where I live they always seem to have the right of way.
posted by futz at 3:39 PM on July 24, 2013


Seriously, half of this thread is "...but cars are worse!"

Could be because the other half is "Bikes are bad!"
posted by Panjandrum at 3:41 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's a thread about a bicyclist that killed someone due to reckless driving.
posted by maryr at 3:44 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


But where I live they always seem to have the right of way.

And they should--you can cream them, as in reduce them to meaty cream, and it's not symmetrical that way.

Same goes for Cyclists > Pedestrians.

I say that as someone who, most days, gives asshole cyclists the stink eye from my bike because I really do think that we should adhere to traffic laws.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 3:45 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I would expect a bike to do the same.

Most people on bikes aren't going to hang out in the middle of the intersection. Hell, it's hard enough getting a lot of people on bikes to use left turn lanes if they exist at all. Fighting the "I'm scared of riding in the street" thought process is really difficult, and is a lot of why cyclists are often so unpredictable. A lot of the weird behavior stems from fear, some justified, some not. Things like weaving rather than maintaining a straight line, or certain kinds of sidewalk riding (the "oh my goodness there's a car nearby I must get away from it now" hop, ugh).

Safe bicycle riding should be part of driver education, in order to spread the knowledge of how to do it right among both cyclists (yeah, the vast majority of us do have driver's licenses) and among auto drivers so that they know what to expect (it'd really help not to be honked at when I'm doing it right. Or, y'know, just 'cause.)
posted by asperity at 3:46 PM on July 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


But this is absolutely not what is the case here.

Yes, I know, and said so above. But other people are continuing to talk about stop signs instead.

As for "follow the law", cyclists are constantly being told by cops to disobey the law and do what they say instead. See here, where a motorcycle cop is seen ignoring SUVs running red lights right next to him while he shouts at a cyclist riding legally in a sharrow lane to move further right, or here, where a group of cyclists riding perfectly legally is pulled over and harassed for no reason (on their way to City Hall in protest of a fatal cyclist hit-and-run, ironically), or here, where two cyclists riding legally were pulled over and arrested and spent the night in jail, or here, where a cyclist riding legally in the bike is pulled over (cop car parked in the bike lane, natch) and ticketed for speeding (in a 30 zone, which she wasn't anywhere near), or...
posted by Fnarf at 3:52 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Just to be clear. I always give the right of way to someone who is on a bike. I live in farm country on a road that is a training circuit for hard core bicyclists. I do not pass them unless the road is straight and clear. I give a wide berth and drive slowly while passing. I can drive for miles respectfully behind them only for them to blow through a an intersection that may have been my only chance to pass them for another few miles.
posted by futz at 3:56 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I just realized exactly what drivers' "evil bikes run amok" anecdotes remind me of. They have the precise ring of White Dude Persecution Tales. You know, like "why can't I say the N-word if they can?" or "press 1 for English?? This is AMERICA". It's the class with all the privilege and safety rhetorically turning a markedly more vulnerable class into an outsized threat.

I'm not accusing people who tell these anecdotes of participating in poor faith, but I think they are unwittingly playing directly with this rhetorical inversion.
posted by threeants at 3:57 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Um, what?
posted by futz at 3:58 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Yes, please expand more on how drivers are like Privileged White Dudes. I have one more bingo square and you are almost there!
posted by Big_B at 3:59 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


This thread is about the first time a vehicular manslaughter charge has been applied to a cyclist in California. For reference, in the first state I could find statistics for, Connecticut, had 191 convictions for vehicular manslaughter from January 2001 to October 2010.

So yes, I think saying that the danger cyclists present is being exaggerated here is a fair comment on the thread.
posted by ambrosen at 3:59 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Which part is unclear? "It's the class with all the privilege and safety rhetorically turning a markedly more vulnerable class into an outsized threat" is a pretty precise working definition of the phenomenon I am noting.
posted by threeants at 4:00 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


Does the persecution complex help you maintain momentum?
posted by bleep-blop at 4:02 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


[For the love of all that you like about MetaFilter - please consider trying to tone down the rhetoric and not amp it up. These are tricky topics under the best of circumstances.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:02 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't think pedestrians are a particularly privileged bunch.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:03 PM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


Pedestrians/mass transit riders like me are clearly subhuman.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:04 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't know you lesbiassparrow, but I walk like I own it! Like I own everything. Recognize! /s

(and I have pointy elbows)
posted by futz at 4:09 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Definite apologies, jessamyn and mods, if my White Dudes Persecution Complex post came off as flamebaity. I do though want to make clear that I am drawing (or intending to draw) in good faith what I see as an interesting, literal one-to-one rhetorical parallel; not simply pulling in a whole nother Fighty Issue just for the sake of it.

lesbiassparrow-- when I mentioned "evil bikers run amok anecdotes" I was referring to the thread's "every day in my car I see bikers running stop signs grar!" tales, not the sad story featured in the OP. I agree with you wholeheartedly. :)
posted by threeants at 4:09 PM on July 24, 2013


The danger they present may be exaggerated but I am still tired of having dodge all the goddamn bike commuters drifting through the red when I am crossing in a crosswalk with the light on Market Street in San Francisco. And yes they shouldn't be harassed by cars or cops when riding legally. When we're in the car we are always mindful of bikes. I would like to see them return the favor for pedestrians.
posted by oneear at 4:10 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I guess the fact that he was riding with no brakes on his bike was well-covered in the previous thread.

This link earlier that claimed a video showed that he didn't lay it down, he didn't slow down, and the crosswalk only had about 4 people in it. He was hunched over his bike going 35 mph, and he ran a person down.
posted by moira at 4:14 PM on July 24, 2013


(Also, I was attempting to note the interesting formal similarities between the two different contexts of privilege/persection rhetoric, not [to make this very clear] trying to draw a generalized guilt by association [i.e. "car drivers are racists"!!])
posted by threeants at 4:15 PM on July 24, 2013


No bother threeants. It's just that when you're a pedestrian you do generally feel like you're the lowest on the totem pole in terms of consideration given. Well, that's because you usually are...
*plans to get pointier elbows a la futz*
posted by lesbiassparrow at 4:17 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


You know this isn't an issue about bombing hills and not being able to stop. The hill stopped and there was about 150 feet of flat intersection before he plowed through the crosswalk at killing speeds. He could have simply come to a stop just before the crosswalk and would not even have to worry about blocking cars or anything.
posted by thetruthisjustalie at 4:17 PM on July 24, 2013


It's the class with all the privilege and safety rhetorically turning a markedly more vulnerable class into an outsized threat.

Where I live the vulnerable 'bike riding class' that tend to not stop at red lights are riding bikes that cost more than I make in half a year.
posted by colie at 4:17 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


No bother threeants. It's just that when you're a pedestrian you do generally feel like you're the lowest on the totem pole in terms of consideration given. Well, that's because you usually are...
*plans to get pointier elbows a la futz*


I'm actually most frequently a pedestrian too! If I'm counting without cheating, my bike currently sees action maaaaybe four or five times a month, max. It takes a whole lot of infrastructure to coax me out there on two wheels.
posted by threeants at 4:21 PM on July 24, 2013


Here in Western Canada, nobody drives the legal speed limit. It seems to work alright, actually. Until a law-abiding driver gets out there and drives 50km/h, meaning everyone has to blow around them to the left (assuming the law-abider didn't set up in the left lane, which would be even worse). Where I am from, it can be less safe to drive the speed limit. Better to keep with the flow of traffic, at 10-20% faster.

I'm not sure what it's like where you're from, but I've never seen a place where drivers don't regularly break the laws of the road. Often, it's understandable. Sometimes it's actually safer to break the rule. Once in a while it's rude. Much less often, but still far too often, people end up dead.

Why do I bring this up? Because there is a lot of bike hate happening in this thread, ostensibly based on some balderdash about breaking traffic rules being a terrible thing.

Here's a sampling of surprisingly popular comments, condensed for your convenience:

It's hard to see how I should support cyclists when the vast majority of them don't follow any of the rules of the road....

And this is why cyclists can't get any respect: because they act like lunatics. You are expected to stop at every stop sign, the same as a car. You are expected to stop at every stop light. You do not get a free pass because you are on a bike.

Take a little bit of responsibility and follow the rules.
posted by ged at 2:42 PM on July 24 [9 favorites +] [!]

It doesn't make sense, if you are a selfish prick. I'd love to not have to follow the traffic laws, but I do because that's how society works. You don't just get to pick the ones that you like because you are A Bicyclist.

What about scooters and mopeds? Do they get to break some of the rules of the road too?
posted by gjc at 2:45 PM on July 24 [6 favorites +] [!]


If you want to ride continuously and not have to worry about being inconvenienced by the traffic flow control systems that you are LEGALLY REQUIRED TO FOLLOW, then please find a nice paved bike trail somewhere.
posted by destructive cactus at 2:49 PM on July 24 [3 favorites +] [!]

Seriously, half of this thread is "...but cars are worse!"
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:35 PM on July 24 [1 favorite +] [!]



Biking is how some of us get around. The fact that we don't follow some of the rules does not mean you get to call us lunatics, or pricks. It does not mean that you get to buzz us, or honk at us or yell at us or attack us from your cars. I'm not saying that you personally do that, but I want you to recognize that people do those things to cyclists on a regular basis. They happen to me and they scare the crap out of me.

Perhaps most importantly, it does not mean you get to throw out all rules of logic and sense. One poster claims that most cyclists never follow any rules of the road. How is it possible for a cyclist not to obey, "any" of the rules of the road? Does he simultaneously break every single rule? That sounds like an extreme feat of memorization and athleticism. Mind and body both.

Or take the poster who claims to follow all of the rules of the road. Every one. Should he break one, I presume, he will lose all rights to further use of an automobile, or roads. Even on foot. Because he broke a rule that you were "LEGALLY REQUIRED TO FOLLOW."

Point is, drivers also break the rules a lot. That doesn't make them bad people, but maybe it means that cyclists who break some rules are better than "lunatics" and "pricks."

Violating minor traffic laws (eg, rolling through stops) is not such a big deal, in any mode of transportation. If it was, we wouldn't all do it....

So please, stop yelling at me. In person and on the internet.
posted by the thing about it at 4:23 PM on July 24, 2013 [24 favorites]


colie, if you're in London, you'll be pleased to know that some of those eejits on £2,000 bikes get their comeuppance. Feel very sorry for the lady waiting to cross, but even the bloke who went over his bars looked alright.
posted by ambrosen at 4:26 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm the one who mentioned in all caps about following the rules that you are legally obliged to follow. I do so on foot, on my bike (that I ride to and from work, and also for fun), and in my car (on longer trips). I have, of course, broken these rules sometimes, and been punished for doing so.

Never did I say, to anyone, "these rules should not apply to me as they were not designed with me in mind, therefore I shall break them at a potential safety risk to all".

The problem is that drivers do not have a proper way to predict what a bicyclist will do, as they (bicyclists) often do not follow the rules which are (partially) set up to ensure predictability.

Don't assume that just because I think that bicyclists should follow the law, that I am not a bicyclist.
posted by destructive cactus at 4:28 PM on July 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


We need cyclist bingo cards for threads like this. Here's some starting squares:

1. Claim that cars break rules too, so how can it be so bad?
2. Try and justify why a cyclist breaking the rules is perfectly within their rights.
3. Claim that not all cyclists are privileged pricks, even though they feel that they should not follow the rules.
4. That because they feel scared on a bike they should be applauded for bombing through stop lights.
5. Blame car culture for their own actions.
posted by ged at 4:32 PM on July 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


[back off the asshole talk, seriously, come on.]
posted by jessamyn at 4:35 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


A bike is much closer to a pedestrian in weight, and, importantly, in vulnerability.

Irrelevant. F=MA. Force equals mass times acceleration. I have been telling people for years, a fast bike hits a pedestrian with the same force as a heavy car at lower speed. So I will do the calculations here and now, and you can verify them yourself.

I will use the online Force Equation Formula Calculator. You may want to use an online MPH to Feet per Second converter, since it won't accept MPH, just FPS.

A 200 pound bicyclist going 35 MPH (51.3FPS) will exert a force of 1418 Newtons.
A 2000 pound car going 3.5mph (5.25fps) will exert about 1520 Newtons.

There are other issues of energy transfer. I recently saw a little kid about 4 years old get hit by a car, just feet in front of me. I am still traumatized, he was close enough for me to instinctively reach out to grab him, but too far away to reach him in time. The car slowed radically and was going under 5mph. It was a brand new Toyota, which has a front end designed to reduce pedestrian impact injury, it kicks your legs out from under you, and you roll into the curved bumper instead of going splat and bouncing off. The child got a good conk on the head and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. I heard later he was not seriously injured, just a concussion, but it could have been much worse if he hadn't been a young, flexible kid.

But if a cyclist hits you, he's going to hit you face to face, full upright body impact against yours. Almost all the energy will hit you without deflection.
posted by charlie don't surf at 4:54 PM on July 24, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't really think your calculations make as strong a point as you seem to think. 3.5mph? Really? That's a brisk trot. I walked into the bumper of a stationary car and probably sustained more damage than I would from one going 3.5mph. And how is the point you were responding to irrelevant? It's certainly no more irrelevant than yours. How often are cars going 3.5mph? How often do cyclists get up to 35? I've been biking for decades and I have to tuck in while going down a hill to hit that kind of speed.

Your comments on energy transfer are much more compelling, if more qualitative. You should have left off the physics whiz-bangery entirely.
posted by valrus at 5:05 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Where I live the vulnerable 'bike riding class' that tend to not stop at red lights are riding bikes that cost more than I make in half a year.

Someone driving an expensive roadster is going to lose if they pick a fight with a semi. "Vulnerable" here does not have to mean "poor." But I suspect you knew that.

The thing about these posts is that it gives everyone the opportunity to bitch and moan about cyclists not stopping at stop signs. Not stopping at stop signs is not always reckless, just like driving your car at 70 mph in a 65 zone is not always reckless just like crossing against a light is not always reckless.

On my 30-mile commute home just now (almost all freeway), I lost count of the number of drivers I saw disobeying traffic laws. Some did so recklessly and some not. The worst offender was the guy going exactly the speed limit in the far left lane. Speed of traffic was five to ten miles faster.

It would be really nice if we could focus on reckless behavior rather than law-breaking that is not necessarily reckless. But I'm not going to hold my breath.
posted by rtha at 5:13 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


When law-breaking behavior ceases to annoy/scare/shake up/concern those you share the road with, you won't hear about it anymore.

I understand why you want to segregate the discussion between law-breaking and recklessness, but I feel that one is sort of a gateway to another, since the laws are often there to prevent recklessness.
posted by destructive cactus at 5:18 PM on July 24, 2013


The worst offender was the guy going exactly the speed limit in the far left lane. Speed of traffic was five to ten miles faster.

Stopping distance is exponentially related to speed. All these constant claims that "everyone drives over the speed limit and it's safe because everyone is doing it" are bullshit. Driving 50 miles an hour, your total reaction stopping distance is 174ft. Driving 60mph instead, it's 239ft. 20% increase in speed = 40% increase in stopping distance.

Similarly, doubling the speed of a car from 20mph to 40mph, changes the chance of pedestrian death, if hit, from 5% to 85%.

Local cultures where everyone drives 10-15mph over the speed limit are doing themselves no favours.

On top of that, I shouldn't have to suffer derision and abuse from other drivers for obeying the law and driving at the speed limit. Other drivers don't have the right to tell me I should break the law to be in line with local "norms".
posted by Jimbob at 5:25 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


So, I paid extra-special attention to the matter on the ride home today while I stopped at a lot of stop signs. From what I can tell, nobody stops at stop signs unless they absolutely have to. It's at most a slight pause, not the stop-and-wait-a-beat (or more) I learned in driver's ed. I think the process most drivers use to decide whether they need to come to a complete stop is as follows:

1) If I were to come to a complete stop at this intersection, would I have the right of way?
2) Is there anyone in sight who looks like they might put me in danger if I don't come to a complete stop?

If the answers are yes and no, it's a rolling stop. It's harder to see this when you're also in a car (you don't have as wide a viewing angle, and can't see the wheels of other cars easily) and I suspect the effect is lessened when there are pedestrians nearby (at least, it ought to be), but it becomes pretty clear when you're on a bike.

This is not to say that I didn't get passed at a stop sign by another cyclist as I stopped. And then there was another guy I had to yell at for riding the wrong way on the street -- plenty of room to avoid, but then there's no indication which way he might have veered, so that was kinda scary.

Seriously, y'all. We can all do better than this.
posted by asperity at 5:28 PM on July 24, 2013


but I feel that one is sort of a gateway to another, since the laws are often there to prevent recklessness.

Sure. But there's always what seems to me to be disproportionate amount of WHAT AN ASSHOLE aimed at anyone on a bike who doesn't obey exactly every traffic law, and that this is not something that happens in discussion when the accident involves only motor vehicles. I'll go poke around in the archives, but I'm not remembering any where people use a terrible car accident as an excuse to yell about the time they saw a car not come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

Stopping distance is exponentially related to speed. All these constant claims that "everyone drives over the speed limit and it's safe because everyone is doing it" are bullshit.

You are supposed to enter the fast lane to pass and then get the fuck out of it*. This guy thought he was special. Also? He was - hello! - disrupting peoples' expectations. Just like cyclists all apparently do.

* It doesn't help that he entered the lane about two car lengths in front of me; there were no cars in front of him for maybe a quarter mile. He did not seem to take into account the fact that I was going faster, and he did not try to speed up when he entered the lane.
posted by rtha at 5:31 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Local cultures where everyone drives 10-15mph over the speed limit are doing themselves no favours.

Different people are willing to take different amounts of risk, and to take different kinds of risk. This is inevitable, and across a whole society it is actually a good thing.
posted by Mars Saxman at 5:34 PM on July 24, 2013


Where I live the vulnerable 'bike riding class' that tend to not stop at red lights are riding bikes that cost more than I make in half a year.

Be that as it may, your community appears not to be particularly representative, according to this Virginia Tech analysis of National Highway Travel Surveys, which found "a somewhat higher bike mode share in the lowest income quartile (1.3%) than in the top two income quartiles (1.1%) [...] Although cycling rates do not vary much by income[.]" (see page 5)
posted by threeants at 5:44 PM on July 24, 2013


Oops, I apologize. I incorrectly assumed you were in the US but you appear to be in London; ass notedly made of u and me.
posted by threeants at 5:46 PM on July 24, 2013


Ah, my dumb assumption aside, the situation seems to be similar in London. The figure on page 30 of this Transport for London report shows that among frequent cyclists, middle-income people are ever so slightly over-represented, while high- and low-income people come out in essentially equal proportions.
posted by threeants at 5:53 PM on July 24, 2013


Local cultures where everyone drives 10-15 MPH over the speed limit are designed that way. Drivers -- shitty drivers, great drivers, any kind of drivers -- adapt to the conditions around them in a way that feels comfortable. Your typical big American street, with six fourteen-foot lanes and forever-long blocks, encourages faster driving just by the way it's laid out. And its design also discourages pedestrians (and bikes) -- and an absence pedestrians also encourages speed. Feedback loop of doom.

The safest streets are not ones with low speed limits; they're ones where fast driving is impossible. The safest streets in the world are ones that don't even have sidewalks, but are so narrow and convoluted and congested -- with pedestrians too -- that speeding is impossible.

The quickest way to slow traffic and increase safety is to find ways to fill the streets with pedestrians, and bicycles.
posted by Fnarf at 5:56 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


It is taking all of my willpower and the depth of my love for Metafilter to not just scream fuck all y'all over and over again in this thread. The guy in question is a complete and utter douchebag and is in no way representative of me as a cyclist and I resent the hell out of being lumped in the same category with him. So, deep breath, let's do this.

My points, which no one will listen to, are as follows:

1. Everyone talks past each other, bringing in different experiences from different circumstances and different transportation networks and we're not even talking about the same thing so we never get anywhere.
2. The mere division of people into groups ("cyclists" vs "drivers" vs "pedestrians") fosters an Us vs. Them mindset in which transgressions by Us are forgiven but transgressions by Them are evidence of pure evil and/or stupidity. This is basic social psychology in action.
3. The default status on US transportation networks is that of car/driver. This makes cyclists feel extra defensive and makes drivers feel extra entitled.
4. All this talk is cheap. It gets us nowhere. It fuels real life, dangerous behavior and attitudes that can actually harm people and it sucks.
5. What would really make everything better for everyone is if we all took this despair and anger and vitriol towards each other and turn that energy towards advocating for complete streets that are designed for the safety of all users, not just the convenience of the car.

(And, self link here, I talk about all of these points in much greater detail and nuance in this post on my blog if you are interested in reading like 2000 additional words on the topic of car vs bike vitriol; a post that was fueled by another Metafilter thread, by the way.)
posted by misskaz at 6:04 PM on July 24, 2013 [13 favorites]


Please go city commute 10 or more miles a day on a bike before you grar about breaking laws designed to control motorized vehicles. Otherwise, you're opinion is really, totally, completely misinformed.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:14 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I was going to write a thing about the culture of piloting and sense of entitlement.

But I just got off a bus by my house, took off my headphones, looked both ways, started to cross the street (no crosswalk, no stoplight), and got buzzed by a speeding car, a guy on a bike and a goddamn skateboarder riding in the middle of the road, so right now I have absolutely no desire to finish the post and all the desire to sit in the basement and hate everyone.
posted by mephron at 6:26 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


All the "cyclists should obey all the rules of the road, just like cars do!" stuff makes me roll my eyes. I'm not a cyclist, and I'm not sure I've taken one car trip in the past ten years where I haven't broken one law or another. People adapt their behavior to conditions all the time, no matter what; let's not primly pretend that cyclists have a greater duty to uphold the law than drivers do.
posted by KathrynT at 6:27 PM on July 24, 2013 [7 favorites]


ALSO OBVIOUSLY this guy is a horrible boil on the ass of humanity who deserved to be swiftly and vigorously prosecuted for his crime. His actions are 100% indefensible.
posted by KathrynT at 6:28 PM on July 24, 2013 [5 favorites]


Meanwhile in Japan...
posted by GoingToShopping at 7:02 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I don't really think your calculations make as strong a point as you seem to think. 3.5mph? Really? That's a brisk trot. I walked into the bumper of a stationary car and probably sustained more damage than I would from one going 3.5mph.

That is not how the physics works. A 200 pound man walking into a 2000 pound car at 3.5mph is carrying very little kinetic energy compared to the 2000 pound car hitting a 200 pound person at 3.5mph. Did you not read my story about seeing a kid hit by a car going less than 5mph?

But you don't have to believe me. You could empirically test this by walking into a car at 3.5mph, and then stand still while a vehicle hits you at 3.5mph, and compare the results. If that idea does not appeal to you, I think that speaks for itself.

And how is the point you were responding to irrelevant? It's certainly no more irrelevant than yours. How often are cars going 3.5mph? How often do cyclists get up to 35? I've been biking for decades and I have to tuck in while going down a hill to hit that kind of speed.

My point is that the relative exposure of a bicyclist is irrelevant once the collision is happening. The results are the same.

The bicyclist who was convicted of manslaughter was reported to be going nearly 35mph, downhill. That is a lot of kinetic energy. In any collision, if you have less kinetic energy, you are the bug and they are the windshield. Feel free to run the calculations yourself, at different speeds, that's why I linked to the calculator. I tested several different speeds and weights, but I just picked two roughly comparable data points, with the weight and speed inversely proportional by factor of 10.
posted by charlie don't surf at 7:21 PM on July 24, 2013


Everyone here is falsely equating the actions of this guy with the actions of others. This guy was very obviously "bombing" a hill. That means going down the hill as fast you can, no stops. Has anyone here ever done that, whether on a longboard, skateboard, or anything else? Usually when I've done it on a deliberately scary hill where shit could go wrong I have had someone at the bottom to signal to me whether I am okay to go or not, especially if at the bottom of the hill there is a stop sign. Otherwise I stop and obey the law, because I can't know what is going to happen at the bottom of that hill and when you're pushing wattage like that it's hard to stop. This guy is a total idiot.

If I am going down a flat road where there's a four-way stop and as I approach the stop I see nobody then I slow down enough to stop in the event that I need to. Otherwise I'll slowly roll pass the stop sign and get up to speed again, because it's a gigantic hassle to clip out, put my foot down, come to a complete stop, sit there for a second without anyone in view, then push off again and try to get my foot clipped back into my pedal. What's the point? It seems so paranoid to me, as if SOMEWHERE there is someone just waiting to judge me and call me an asshole or a prick (like some have done here) because I very slowly rolled through a four-way blinking red light or a two-way stop sign where I could easily and visibly see that no one was near, especially people walking! I don't think that is strange at all. I also don't think cars should be compared to bikes at all, even if try are considered "vehicles" I don't think that makes them equal. When you're on a bike you have so much visibility compared to a car.

If you're deliberately bombing down a hill in traffic and are obviously aiming to brake laws just for your Strava score then you shouldn't be on the road. That's not what typical cyclists do and I think everyone here must know that.
posted by gucci mane at 7:22 PM on July 24, 2013


Man, these threads really make me feel contempt for the human race. I have seen the asshole and the asshole is we. Nonetheless, here are some ideas that are easy to disregard:

Take responsibility for your safety and the safety of others.

Be courteous and learn to respect others.

Cut other people some slack, even if they're different than you.

Be careful of wishing for draconian enforcement of the letter of the law -- you might just get it.

Try not to be a judgmental asshole.

Ah, but who am I kidding. This is entirely too much to expect of a petty, small-minded, selfish little species.
posted by nowhere man at 7:23 PM on July 24, 2013 [3 favorites]


I don't have driver's license, and other than ten driving lessons and one unsuccessful driving test, I've not been behind the steering wheel of a car. My primary mode of transportation in my teens and twenties was by bike, in my thirties and this first part of my forties, I spend most of my travel time as a pedestrian. Bottom of the transportation food chain, for sure.

I live on a busy block with a narrow street (one lane in each direction, plus parking on one side, an bus stops on both sides). My block is at the top of a 750m hill that starts out steep, then rolls on nicely, and happens to connect two very heavily used bike paths. Coming from the east, cyclists leave the bike path, travel a couple hundred metres on a campus, then go straight through an intersection with traffic lights, across my 65m block to a 3-way stop, then down the hill to the river-side bike paths. Cars coming from the east are almost always going to have made a right or left turn onto our street, unless they are coming from that part of the campus which has a medical building with a 20 car parking lot.

Nobody comes to a complete stop at the stop sign. Cars, though, at least do a rolling stop. And, generally speaking, even when it's more roll than stop, they're moving pretty slowly, having made a turn onto the block with only 65 m to accelerate before the stop sign.

Cyclists, on the other hand, blow off the traffic lights on the west corner when they can and then FLY through the 3-way stop, without breaking stride. At least once a day, and often more than once, I have a close call with a cyclist at that stop sign. I can look left all I want before I stop off the curb, they come hurtling along at such a clip that it doesn't matter. It's just as bad crossing in the opposite direction, where I'll step into an empty intersection (because bikes coming up the hill move at a considerably slower pace, especially since about 25% of them are getting walked up) but by the time I'm reaching my side of the road, a bike or two has appeared and rather than slow down (because there's that great big awesome hill coming, whee!) they'll swerve around me, often uncomfortably close. Particularly harrowing is when a cyclists swerves around a car that has stopped to let me cross and right into my path. So, what Bucchere did is egregious and extreme, but honestly, I see behaviour almost exactly like it every single day. Last year someone hit a curb (the street has bulb-outs) coming down the hill and died from the brain trauma and I worry that it's just a matter of time before a pedestrian gets knocked down.

Of course, I regularly tangle with drivers, too. I find drivers are more likely to be aggressive and/or to see me but just not give me the right of way. And there is a particular bag of shitty tricks that drivers tend to pull that you can be on the look out for. The problem with cyclists, as has been mentioned above, is that they are totally unpredictable and/or don't seem to see me at all. Possibly that's because there isn't the critical mass of cyclists that would allow me to learn what their bad habits are, or possibly it's because there just more ways for cyclists to misbehave on the road.

I don't stop at every stop sign when I'm on my bike, either. Idaho stops, for sure, even when I'm out riding with my kid. And I agree that the real problem is that the infrastructure is such that the car is King and everyone else is put at risk. (The bulb-outs are a good example of this, actually, because they are meant to keep pedestrians safe from cars but make the street less safe for bikes.) But I am still totally mystified by what looks like total recklessness to me from cyclists. Especially since the people most likely to be hurt by it is the cyclists themselves.
posted by looli at 7:27 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh, and I totally see pedestrians doing stupid unpredictable shit all the time, too. Especially now that everyone is live tweeting every intersection they walk through. Which is an equally mystifying recklessness, one that makes me shake my head even when I'm the boob being reckless.
posted by looli at 7:32 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


Here's the part where I recommend everyone read Risk by John Adams, which actually lays out a lovely conceptual framework for thinking about these sorts of things.

As you were.
posted by Coda at 7:46 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


I can tell I am in the minority but...

I live in Philadelphia, and I ride a bicycle. I stop at every stop sign, and every stop light.

I would like it if I could get places a little faster by not doing these things.

I don't give in to that temptation because almost everyone I know that rides a bicycle has been hit by a car. And all of those people do not stop at stop signs and they roll through red lights.

I do not. I have not been hit by a car. I'm not going to scream causation, but there does seem to be something to it.

I also don't ride on the sidewalks. That actually is annoying as shit when I'm walking.
posted by lazaruslong at 7:56 PM on July 24, 2013 [6 favorites]


Sure. But there's always what seems to me to be disproportionate amount of WHAT AN ASSHOLE aimed at anyone on a bike who doesn't obey exactly every traffic law, and that this is not something that happens in discussion when the accident involves only motor vehicles. I'll go poke around in the archives, but I'm not remembering any where people use a terrible car accident as an excuse to yell about the time they saw a car not come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

False dichotomy. There's a difference between fucking something up and deliberately flouting some form of vehicle-pedestrian duality to take whatever right of way they want whenever they hell they feel like it.
posted by Talez at 8:29 PM on July 24, 2013


One poster claims that most cyclists never follow any rules of the road. How is it possible for a cyclist not to obey, "any" of the rules of the road? Does he simultaneously break every single rule? That sounds like an extreme feat of memorization and athleticism. Mind and body both.

See, I live in a laid-back southwestern city and regularly volunteer with my local cycling advocacy organization. I never understood this kind of intense vitriol on, of all places, Metafilter. I chalked it up to people who'd never been peds or cyclists for long and had developed some kind of incredibly skewed view of cycling totally divorced from reality.

Then I visited New York.

Holy crap on a cracker I literally saw, in the first hour I was there from the vantage point of my Megabus in Manhattan, more disrespectful, aggressive, dangerous cycling behavior than I'd seen in the last year in my home city. Cyclists weaving in and out of dense traffic, cyclists on sidwalks thick with pedestrians, cyclists ignoring every traffic signal there was, and most shocking of all, cyclists going the wrong way on one-way streets against the flow of cars. It's not exaggerating to say they were breaking every single rule of the road.

It was such an eye-opening experience because it made me realize that a major thing that confounds this debate on the internet is the fact that cycling culture diverges widely from city to city in the US. So, people in New York, San Francisco, Boston, etc. take our word for it that it's not like that everywhere. And people in smaller areas with respectful cyclists, trust me, you don't know how good you have it.

Also, Bucchere was riding a bike that didn't have any damn brakes. I'm still shocked that this is legal in dense urban areas.
posted by Ndwright at 9:17 PM on July 24, 2013 [12 favorites]


Here in Edmonton, pedestrians have the right of way at all intersections - in fact, for the most part, drivers will stop for pedestrians crossing a road at any point. Drivers also tend to show similar respect to cyclists. As a cyclist, I feel a similar responsibility to give pedestrians the right of way and always pass with a wide berth. I'm okay with this hierarchy, which puts the most vulnerable at the top. At the end of the day, it is all about everyone getting where they want to go as safely as possible. (Of course I break the rules everynow and again, but if there is traffic around, I respect the hierarchy.)
posted by piyushnz at 9:23 PM on July 24, 2013 [1 favorite]


The complaints about cyclists being unpredictable in Mefi threads about cycling is always amusing, given how predictable the complaints about cyclists are in threads about cycling. At least we are predictably unpredictable. And you know, drivers can be pretty predictably unpredictable as well - like you're never really sure if it's going to be this parked car that doors you, or this driver that cuts you of to make a turn, or if it's this car that's full of jackasses that are going to throw things at you as they drive past. But you know that eventually it will be one of them.

But since we're all giving out our personal anecdotes, was waiting at an intersection yesterday on a give-way sign (I assume equivalent to your North American Yield) when a driver stopped and motioned me to cross. When I didn't he got all huffy, honked at me and made some gestures which translated basically as 'god damn cyclists'. He didn't seem to consider that:

a) He had the right of way, and the drivers behind him were probably not expecting him to just stop for no good reason. Lucky he didn't get rear ended.

b) The traffic coming the other way sure wasn't stopping. Yes, stop and wave me through an intersection into oncoming traffic, serious physical injury, and possible death. And then yell at me. Good show.

Sometimes, even when you are acting predictably, and following the rules, you'll still piss drivers off. And yes, there are too many idiots on bikes doing things that they shouldn't be doing, it annoys the hell out of me as well.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 10:00 PM on July 24, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't give in to that temptation because almost everyone I know that rides a bicycle has been hit by a car. And all of those people do not stop at stop signs and they roll through red lights.

I do not. I have not been hit by a car. I'm not going to scream causation, but there does seem to be something to it.


I have been and I don't do those things either. Driver was totally at fault, and to be fair was 100% open about it. Luckily went over the bonnet rather than under the wheels.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 10:03 PM on July 24, 2013


Has anyone in this thread any experience of cycling in France?

In France traffic behaves as though there is exactly one kind of vehicle, whether it's a bike, a farm tractor, a heavy truck or a motorcycle. Bikes ride to the right, because that is courteous, and people line up sometimes to pass the bike because that is how it is done. There are signs everywhere that say 1m50 (just about five feet) clearance for bikes when passing.

In France cyclists make no attempt to filter through the traffic at a (rare) stop light which, of course, would necessitate the motor traffic having to overtake them again. Round-abouts are much more common than signals, and the cyclists take their turns in the round-abouts just like everybody else.

The French roads are in many cases designed for wagons pulled by donkeys and they are going to stay that way. French roads have a lot of hard obstacles (walls, concrete pylons, metal barriers) and a lot of intersections that are confusing and unmarked and a lot of passages that require you to get along with the rest of the traffic. Yes, cyclists are slower and that gap you see when you're waiting behind a bike would have been fine for you but the cyclist is slower and you are going to miss it and that's the way it goes. When I'm riding on a D-road, 90 kph limit and it's a lane and a half wide, the people will line up behind me sometimes until they can pass, then they go around leaving at least a meter between them and me. This is how it is done when all the vehicles are obeying the same rules. Cyclists don't try to take advantage of pedestrian rights of way; an articulated truck will yield for a cyclist in a round-about; the cyclist will yield to the truck if it's in the round-about and not go veering all over the place in order to prevent his momentum from being diminished. The cyclist will slow to 50 or 30 kph in towns just like everyone else and cede the right of way to a pedestrian. If there is a stop sign the cyclist will invariably observe it.

tl;dr: fewer rules and fewer cases, not more; and if you want attitude adjustment you are not going to get it by demanding someone else adjust theirs.
posted by jet_silver at 1:43 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Stopping distance is exponentially related to speed. All these constant claims that "everyone drives over the speed limit and it's safe because everyone is doing it" are bullshit. Driving 50 miles an hour, your total reaction stopping distance is 174ft. Driving 60mph instead, it's 239ft. 20% increase in speed = 40% increase in stopping distance.

Similarly, doubling the speed of a car from 20mph to 40mph, changes the chance of pedestrian death, if hit, from 5% to 85%.

Local cultures where everyone drives 10-15mph over the speed limit are doing themselves no favours.

On top of that, I shouldn't have to suffer derision and abuse from other drivers for obeying the law and driving at the speed limit. Other drivers don't have the right to tell me I should break the law to be in line with local "norms".


You have the right to drive however you want, within the confines of the law. You do not have the right to play air traffic controller for other drivers. Many states have laws requiring slower traffic to move to the right (or left as the case may be) to allow other vehicles to pass, and that is common courtesy in all driving cultures I know of. If the traffic to the right of you is moving slower, you are in the clear. If it is moving at the same speed, you should be in that lane, keeping the faster lanes open for lawbreakers and emergency vehicles.

Traffic safety isn't just about speed; psychology has a big part to play as well. People get crazy when other people behave selfishly and take more than they have a right to. (And that's in a perfect world- people often get crazy just because other people are in their way, regardless of whether those people are using their fair share or not.)
posted by gjc at 5:04 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


Please go city commute 10 or more miles a day on a bike before you grar about breaking laws designed to control motorized vehicles. Otherwise, you're opinion is really, totally, completely misinformed.

The laws are NOT designed to control motorized vehicles, they are designed to control traffic of all kinds. 18 wheels, 4 wheels, 2 wheels and feet. Everyone has to follow the rules so we all get where we are trying to go safely and as quickly as possible.

If people only broke the rules when it didn't affect anyone else, nobody would ever see it to be able to complain about it. But that's not the case at all. The vast majority of drivers are scared to death of smashing a pedestrian or bicyclist. Not because we believe the road belongs to us motorized people, and the people powered are in the way, but because experience (and physics) says that bicycles and pedestrians can change direction and cross into the larger vehicles' paths more quickly. And there is nothing a driver can do when that happens at the wrong time. That is nearly every driver's nightmare.
posted by gjc at 5:21 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The laws are NOT designed to control motorized vehicles, they are designed to control traffic of all kinds. 18 wheels, 4 wheels, 2 wheels and feet.

WRONG. There are very different laws that govern these different modes of transportation.

The vast majority of drivers are scared to death of smashing a pedestrian or bicyclist.

That may be in your estimation, but it doesn't fit my daily experience.

NYC would be a much healthier, quieter, more beautiful place with many, many fewer cars. I wish people could understand that. It's time we figured out how to get around without out needing to be in a two ton hunk of metal that belches toxic fumes. At the very least in urban areas.

It won't be an easy transition, but it's gonna have to happen. And we'll all be better off for it.
posted by nowhere man at 6:07 AM on July 25, 2013


Yelling "RESPONSIBILITY!!!!" isn't going to make cyclists, who see that stop signs are implemented in a way that works for cars, suddenly start making their commutes suck so you feel better.

There isn't some inalienable right to a fast/nonsucky commute that cyclists get just because they're not polluting, any more than drivers get one because they're in a metal box. I'm incredibly irritated by the way this thread keeps devolving into a cyclists vs. cars debate, when this event shows the incredible vulnerability of pedestrians, who apparently should stand by and admire all the vehicles that whip by them, celebrating each one - car, moped, bike, whathaveyou - as it nearly kills them. When I step out with a cross signal I don't expect a car or a bike to smash through the light because it would inconvenience them for 10 seconds to wait at a light or a stop sign. When I walk on a pavement I expect it to be for pedestrians, not a motorized vehicle or someone on a bike using it so they don't have to wait.

In this particular case, I think some of the stupidity might be because just as car drivers often think that they drive so well they can break speed limits whenever they want, some cyclists have an inflated idea of their ability to avoid pedestrians in cross walks as they shoot through the light.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 6:13 AM on July 25, 2013 [7 favorites]


most shocking of all, cyclists going the wrong way on one-way streets against the flow of cars.

I feel like I was taught as a child that you should bike against the flow of traffic, so oncoming cars can see you and you can see them. Having recently started biking around NYC (thanks, CitiBike), I can see the appeal of biking against traffic. Much nicer to see everything coming up ahead of you instead of having to hear/anticipate it from behind. I do generally ride with the flow of traffice, though, unless I need to take a shortcut.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:30 AM on July 25, 2013


I feel like I was taught as a child that you should bike against the flow of traffic, so oncoming cars can see you and you can see them.

You walk against traffic and bike with traffic. Thank you 'Officer Safety' or whatever cheesy name the policeman who came to first grade pretended to have. Basically, if you're on a bike in the road, you're effectively a car. If you're on a sidewalk, you're effectively a pedestrian.
posted by hoyland at 6:58 AM on July 25, 2013


Why do I bring this up? Because there is a lot of bike hate happening in this thread, ostensibly based on some balderdash about breaking traffic rules being a terrible thing.

I am a pedestrian/driver. I don't bike (although I would love to have the balls to ride a bike in my town), and what I find bewildering about bikers as a group is this bouncing between

"We are proper traffic, respect us accordingly!"

and

"How can you expect us to behave like normal traffic? Bikes aren't like cars at all!"

And this comes with no snark at all, I agree that we need to figure out a way to make it work, but jumping from one position to the other and getting mad that everyone who isn't willing to bend some rules and respect ohers (which ones? and how do we know?) is not going to make drivers or pedestrians sympathetic to the biker's plight.

The other issue is that it seems we need uniformity in what bikers should and shouldn't do. Is there an official rulebook for bikers? Are all bikers in the street expected to have read and respect these rules? It seems to me that there is a lot of disagreement among bikers themselves when it comes to when it's okay to do what and when it's not. Drivers have to pass an exam and get a license. If bikers want to use the road, then some sort of licensing should be required, IMO. It would benefit bikers and everyone else. I would start riding a bike to work, even. (I do think they should beef up this subject in the licensing process for drivers, too).

And before you say it, I don't think pedestrians should have to get a walking license because walking is the default method of transportation, nobody can get killed when a walker bumps into them, and walkers do not use the road, they use the sidewalk and predetermined crossings.
posted by Tarumba at 7:14 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I too was taught to ride against traffic as a youth. I tried it once. The most terrifying thing in the world.

I think the wisdom has changed.
posted by gjc at 7:16 AM on July 25, 2013


Jesus Christ, you know, this was one asshole on a bike who did something stupid and dangerous and awful. So let's attack all cyclists while the daily automotive carnage continues unabated. Let's ban bikes! Because of this one guy!

This is exactly the same mentality I encounter every day riding my bike to work. There are 50 million cars in Philadelphia, and very few bikes, but assholes decide to single us out - "Get out of my way," they yell, or "Get off the road." Not all of them, of course, it would be preposterous to suggest such a thing. But they focus on the one bike on the road as the source of their troubles, not the million cars that clog the streets.
posted by Mister_A at 7:17 AM on July 25, 2013 [6 favorites]


It's not an issue of traffic laws being inadequate for cyclists. It's a street design problem. Support complete streets policies. Make noise at your streets department so that they take topology into account where applicable (because, yes, it completely sucks stopping and starting on extreme slopes). Having phoned a whole hell of a lot of municipal streets departments at a past job, I can tell you they're not hard to get in touch with. Talk to them, and try to improve the streets near you.

For questions of what direction to ride and what part of the street you should be on, I recommend bicyclesafe.com. Useful for people who have no intention of riding a bicycle as well -- have a look and see what you need to watch for. Also useful for people who haven't seen text in a dozen different colors on one page lately and really feel the lack.
posted by asperity at 7:29 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there an official rulebook for bikers?

I checked: in my state, this information is in the official state driver's handbook. It's more detailed than I remember from the last time I checked a driver's handbook, but not really sufficient. Interestingly, I don't think even the automobile content is sufficient without the innumerable existing examples that every aspiring driver sees everywhere. I didn't spot a definition of "complete stop," and there aren't diagrams for precisely where in the lane an automobile should be. If we get more people out there riding bicycles, providing examples, we'll all be a lot safer.

FWIW, the vast majority of adults riding bicycles do have driver's licenses. Unless they've gone out of their way to learn about bicycle traffic safety (and reading material a bike shop provides kinda counts there -- how many people actually read car owner's manuals?) they know about as much as the average auto-only driver. Which is to say: not much, and probably based on half-remembered instruction given to small children.
posted by asperity at 7:44 AM on July 25, 2013


Having dashed off a terse comment at 2 a.m.......

I used to drive a big car (a Crown Victoria, the classic taxi/police car everyone has seen or seen in movies) in SF. Lotta car for narrow, crowded streets, but by some measure the biggest headaches and concerns came from unsafe bicyclists. The thought of hitting a bicyclist, regardless of who's at fault, is stomach-turning.

Relative to people in cars and trucks, on motorcycles and feet, no question in my mind that the cyclists there easily have the biggest percentage of rude/unsafe people.

Do I think all cyclists are assholes? Of course not; I used to ride a bike responsibly (complete with riding a cheap Raleigh across Florida in a day), know lots of people who do.

And I've seen an SF cop cite a bicyclist in for running a red light when the rider was going slowly through a pedestrian intersection and there was nobody within 10 feet of him; it struck me as a ludicrous ticket.

Obviously I've seen my share of f'dupness from people in cars, while on the Record Ace and otherwise, too.

The "and otherwise" includes while being on a motorcycle -- and that crowd has some cretins, people I knew who were cretins and died because of it -- after having lots of safety courses, all of which vehemently related the need to ride defensively.

Why no small measure of bicyclists, who are less visible and protected than most motorcyclists, choose to ignore the defensive-driving mindset is unclear, unfortunate and tiresome.
posted by ambient2 at 8:18 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


stats on bicycle / pedestrian accidents from Boston:

http://www.cityofboston.gov/bikes/statistics.asp

(5% of all bike reported bike crashes involved a pedestrian, vs 37% involving a car).

The bigger question for me is what happened in the remaining 58% of crashes: horse? aircraft? solo crash?
posted by grubby at 8:26 AM on July 25, 2013


Wow, what a stinking clot. Part of me is perversely glad that he was doing this on a bike, because he sounds like the sort of guy who would plough a sportscar through pedestrians while trying to drift if he had access to one.

I don't drive or cycle, but I do walk around London and weirdly bicycles are by far the biggest red dots on my radar. In a crowded town they're practically faster than cars, but they barely make any noise and are very low visibility even in broad daylight.
posted by lucidium at 8:38 AM on July 25, 2013


If bikers want to use the road, then some sort of licensing should be required, IMO. It would benefit bikers and everyone else. I would start riding a bike to work, even. (I do think they should beef up this subject in the licensing process for drivers, too).

I completely agree with this (I bike and walk, I do not drive) as long as it doesn't mean that unlicensed bike riders will be on the sidewalk. Keep bikes off the sidewalk. I have definitely been hit by bikes on the sidewalk swerving like crazy, biking at street speed, and/or generally not watching where they're going.
posted by troika at 8:55 AM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The bigger question for me is what happened in the remaining 58% of crashes: horse? aircraft? solo crash?

Solo crashes are very common (so far that's the only kind I've had, and mercifully nothing major.) Uneven pavement's a lot more dangerous for bicycles than it is for cars or motorcycles or even, say, recumbent trikes. This is one of several reasons why it's very dangerous for bicyclists to hug the edge of the road too closely -- you both reduce your ability to avoid road hazards safely, and increase your exposure to them. This even applies on trails where motorists aren't allowed -- allow your wheel to slip off the edge of the pavement, and down you go. Safe cycling's not just about how you interact with motorists.

If you're driving an automobile near a bicyclist, pay attention to the road surface -- if it's a mess, give them even more space than you would otherwise. Nobody wants to be the person who hits somebody after they go down, even if the reason they fell isn't your fault.
posted by asperity at 9:11 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


The bigger question for me is what happened in the remaining 58% of crashes: horse? aircraft? solo crash?

Yeah, solo crash. In Toronto they are often caused by streetcar tracks. Accidentally go parallel-ish to them, slip your wheel in, and boom.

Although I personally have hit a dead turtle before and went down. Riding on the shoulder of the secondary highway near Kingston, coming down a hill towards a bog, lots of cars passing me so I couldn't swerve...goddamn turtle.
posted by Lemurrhea at 9:19 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


It can be hard to realize how your actions affect the rest of the users of the road when you're safe inside of a 2,000 pound car.

I can't tell you how many times I've had to deal with a vehicle making an unsignaled right turn into/ahead of me in a bike lane. Or with drivers opening their doors without looking back. Or with drivers who accelerate from a stop through a gap in traffic to make a left turn on a green as I'm crossing the intersection in the other direction. Or with cars that have been sitting parked, motionless for as long as I've been able to see them suddenly pulling into traffic from the curb as I am nearing/passing them on the left. Or with a driver behind me drifting too far over and swiping me with her right side view mirror. I could honestly keep listing crazy things I've seen/felt cars do.

Having done a daily 30 mile round trip commute from Bucktown, Chicago to the western suburbs for three years, I learned that the best way to protect myself was to take full responsibility for my own safety and pretty much not rely on the assumption that drivers are going to follow the rules. Because even if most drivers are predictable, the worst outcomes come from mistakenly trusting a car to behave safely and predictably.

Even if 99% of drivers are generally predictable, and won't do something like turn right without signaling, it just makes the last 1% of unpredictable drivers more dangerous. So I learned to read the road - when a car starts drifting ever so slightly to the right, it means the driver is probably going to try to make a right turn soon. I *always* try to spot drivers sitting in cars parked on the side of the road and give those cars wide berths, since that driver side door could come flying open at any second.

Anyway, my point is, I've learned that the rate of bad/unpredictable drivers is too high for me to just hope that the "rules of the road" will keep me safe. I've been hit by a car three times, none of which were remotely my fault (swiped from behind in the bike lane, broadsided by a right turning car as I went through an intersection on green, hit by a car making a left through a gap in traffic as I progressed on the right), and have had more near misses than I could ever recount.

I think that people complaining about bikers aren't necessarily wrong, but they're misguided. I don't have a great justification for the behavior of cyclists all the time, and obviously in extreme cases like this one we can flat out call the cyclist's behavior irresponsible and harmful. Just like we would if some driver hit a pedestrian while illegally drag racing. But I'd bet a lot that I've experienced a lot more harm and near harm from reckless, unpredictable drivers than anyone in this thread has experienced from reckless unpredictable bikers. And I don't think I'm an exceptional case or anything. In fact I consider myself lucky to have never had a serious collision with a car that required hospitalization or other care.

To conclude: I don't think I'd be justified in complaining about "crazy drivers" who break all of the rules and are a menace to civilization, but I do think I have more justification for saying so than those of you making the same generalization about cyclists.
posted by Hello, Revelers! I am Captain Lavender! at 9:28 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


Although I personally have hit a dead turtle before and went down. Riding on the shoulder of the secondary highway near Kingston, coming down a hill towards a bog, lots of cars passing me so I couldn't swerve...goddamn turtle.

My urban Toronto version of this? A 1990s style landline phone, complete with handset joined to the body by a coiled wire. There was a strong enough wind that day to blow it into my path (or maybe a car knocked it over), because all of a sudden it was THERE. I couldn't brake fast enough to avoid it, and I started tipping over to the left on impact. Luckily, there was a car right next to me instead of just behind me, so I just got some bruises instead of getting flattened.

That pretty much cured me of being a gutter bunny, I'll tell you.
posted by maudlin at 9:44 AM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


I actually tallied illegal and unsafe manoeuvres by various modes of transport on my to campus this morning. In three miles or so (all but five blocks with bike lanes or sharrows) of decidedly non-rush hour traffic the tally was:

Red lights run by cars (without slowing): 1
Red lights run by cyclists (starting from a complete stop): 2
Pedestrians jaywalking or standing around having conversations in the road: 2
Cars parked in the bike lane: 1.5 (both taxis--the second was parked at the exact end of the bike lane, partway round a corner, so it was an idiotic place to park bike lane or no, though it may have been legal)
Cars trying to turn in front of me without seeing me: 2 (One saw me with plenty of time, the other didn't and resulting in some panicked braking on my part.)
Traffic laws broken by me: I think zero

Summary: Finding road users not following the rules is not hard.
posted by hoyland at 10:08 AM on July 25, 2013 [4 favorites]


FWIW, the vast majority of adults riding bicycles do have driver's licenses.

I meant a sort of biker's license. If the DMV took bikes seriously, created a biking license and actually taught drivers how to share the road with bikes then a biker could ride theirs and

a) not be blamed for stuff that isn't their fault
b) have legal back up for all of their biking decisions
c) have the knowledge and training to ride a bike the right way
d) not be attacked, insulted or intimidated by asshole drivers
e) not be attacked, insulted or intimidated by nervous drivers who have no clue what to do
f) enjoy a possible reduction in biking accidents (caused by them or others) - biking accidents are not nearly as frequent as motor accidents, but if you consider the proportion of cars vs. bikes in a given town, then the number of bike incidents becomes more significant. This is why people are more strict towards bikers. They stand out in the usual traffic.

Licensing is not a new idea. Motorbikers have to get a special license and they are considered an "official" portion of traffic. I think standardizing the use of bikes would benefit bikers first and the rest of us second. Like I said, the only reason why I don't bike is because I feel it's like the wild west and nobody knows the rules (particularly drivers) so everyone gets agressive.
posted by Tarumba at 10:59 AM on July 25, 2013


I meant a sort of biker's license. If the DMV took bikes seriously, created a biking license and actually taught drivers how to share the road with bikes then a biker could ride theirs and (...)
c) have the knowledge and training to ride a bike the right way


Nobody routinely runs stop signs due to lack of "knowledge and training", any more than drivers' licenses prevent drivers from routinely speeding.

The problem is that many traffic laws don't consider bikes, and many bikers choose to disregard the laws in response. I'm not arguing about whether this is a right or wrong response, just as I'm not going to argue about whether routinely speeding is right or wrong, but the problem is certainly not that bikers or motorists are unaware of the laws.

Having a mandatory license will absolutely drive people away from cycling, but it will not change the proportion of cyclists who are reckless, because those people are already aware that they're breaking the law.
posted by randomnity at 11:26 AM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


If the DMV took bikes seriously, created a biking license and actually taught drivers how to share the road with bikes then a biker could ride theirs and

a) not be blamed for stuff that isn't their fault


I don't think a license would really change this though. Would the DMV would even have the ability to control bikers on bike paths, streets temporarily closed to cars, or bike paths crossing streets? I suspect you'd also run into huge problems with children, visitors, international travelers, and other huge constituencies of bikers.
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:58 AM on July 25, 2013


I suspect you'd also run into huge problems with children, visitors, international travelers, and other huge constituencies of bikers.

That doesn't seem insurmountable to me. Licenses required for bikers once they turn 16/18, visitors/those that ride bikes infrequently have to take an, I dunno, one-hour basic class to be issued a short term permit.
posted by troika at 12:03 PM on July 25, 2013


I'm originally from Idaho, and I've never heard of an "Idaho stop."

When I was a commuting cyclist (19000 miles over 4 years) in the Silicon Valley, I stopped at every red light (including the T junction on Foothill Expressway at San Antonio in Los Altos, CA), put my foot down at every stop sign. Riding correctly, safely, and predictably didn't stop me from getting hit by four cars in four years -- all in cities with high ratings from the League of American Bicyclists.

If you want people to ride bicycles, the solution isn't making up some bullshit excuses for why bicyclists don't have to follow the same rules of the road as the drivers of cars. The solution is teaching people the rules of the road and holding all violators to account, whether they're the asshole in the BMW 525i convertible making a right turn from the left lane with no signal other than an upraised middle finger or the idiot bicyclist who blows through stop signs and pulls the right-turn-u-turn-right-turn maneuver on crowded expressways to keep from stopping. I guess that's not a very popular approach as the outrage when SFPD officers ticket bicyclists for blowing through red lights and stop signs reaches a fevered pitch.

Bicycling like that has minimal consequences, though. If I run a red light and get tagged by a camera in my car, the fine is $480 and my car insurance goes up $50 - 70/month for 3 years (making that total cost $2300 - 3000). The fine for a bike is about a third of that with no insurance hit. The rules of the road in California for bicyclists aren't a mystery. A little education goes a long way. We have these laws in place for everyone's safety.
posted by phoebus at 12:09 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


Licenses required for bikers once they turn 16/18, visitors/those that ride bikes infrequently have to take an, I dunno, one-hour basic class to be issued a short term permit.

Honestly, this just seems really unworkable. I can't even imagine the cost of implementing something like this, let alone changing public opinion to make it even take hold. Few DMVs are even accessible by public transit, let alone by visitors who just want a quick ride around the major sites (or busboys who work two jobs and aren't legal residents anyway.) And I don't think it would have helped the person killed by this guy, who clearly knew that he was breaking the law and did it anyway. Maybe there should be stronger laws protecting pedestrians as a disincentive, or maybe there are better ways of incorporating bike safety into the set up of newer intersections/light timing/signage on streets.
posted by jetlagaddict at 12:22 PM on July 25, 2013


I think standardizing the use of bikes would benefit bikers first and the rest of us second.

It sounds like you put yourself in the second category -- I'd recommend putting a few more miles down on two wheels while you think this one over a bit longer.

Even assuming the benefits are all as you say, I think you underestimate exactly how much of a hassle instituting a new licensing regime would be. Many people who rely on their bicycles for transportation don't have extra hours to go wait around at the DMV. IIRC, at least one city that implemented a local bicycle licensing program revoked it because the enforcement was mostly being used to hassle riders in a discriminatory way. Some info about other bike licensing proposals here and here (the latter's a Word document, unfortunately, but has good info).

If you want driver's licensing, which already covers most bicyclists (just like our auto insurance frequently also covers us while bicycling), to give the general public more of an idea how we should behave on the roads: require people to retake an up-to-date written test that includes this info when they renew their licenses. That one doesn't require the degree of infrastructure change that a bicyclist licensing regime would. Heck, it could even be done online (too lazy to check on how many, but I know a lot of states don't even require drivers to make an office visit to renew valid licenses nowadays.)

I would say the argument boils down to this: driver's licensing is mostly there to give us something to revoke so that we can try to keep dangerously bad drivers off the roads. Barring awful, tragic, and very unusual cases like the one we're tangentially discussing here, there's much less likelihood that requiring proof of licensure for bicyclists would do much to improve public safety.

Also: eight-year-olds ride bikes, too, y'know. Are we going to require them to pay annual fees? Or, more to the point, hassle kids from poor families who didn't?
posted by asperity at 1:21 PM on July 25, 2013


Needing a license doesn't stop drivers from acting like assholes and breaking the law constantly, so I'm sure your typical problematic cyclist who remembers to stop for stop signs for the duration of his bike license test will go back to picking and choosing which rules of the road to follow based on personal whim as soon as he's riding on his own again.

I think peer pressure needs to be brought out to curb poor cycling behaviour. A pedestrian who yells at a cyclist to get off the sidewalk is just a noisy obstacle but another cyclist making fun of the guy who's riding on the sidewalk is going to have an impact. Ditto stop signs / traffic lights.
posted by Space Coyote at 1:47 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The funny thing about all this debate is that most of the time it all works -- people get along and get to their destinations and don't get killed. It has been this way for quite some time.

I'm not saying it isn't worth thinking about these issues and trying to improve the situation, but I don't think we need the government to require everyone to have a class A license and full body armor in order to be "safe" when walking, driving or cycling. I don't think such measures would be effective, and, in the case of cycling or walking, such bureaucracy would be an erosion of a simple, long-standing civil liberty: the right of people to get around by their own power without the government telling them how to do it.

Let's not forget, this thread was started about one truly egregious incident. I think we would do well not to put too much emphasis on any one incident or anecdata, and to not blow it out of proportion.

Having said that, one hard stat I'd be interested to see is the number of auto accidents vs. cycling accidents in urban areas. I'd be willing to bet the former is much higher, and that the severity of the accidents are much greater on average.
posted by nowhere man at 2:26 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


The problem is a matter of "cyclist entitlement." I run plenty of stop signs when there's no traffic but am always pissed off by fellow cyclists who cruise through the same at the detriment of other traffic because they feel that they'll be given a pass. I see laws as a tool of safety and civil society: I don't see much purpose of performing a pro forma stop at a sign placed largely to impede the otherwise unchecked acceleration of automobile traffic as many are in my cycling environment. How is this horrible for society?

The guys riding too fast, too close, without concern for others: yes, they deserve scorn and in-community heckling. I'm just a fat guy who doesn't want to have to stop every three blocks when I can keep a bit of momentum through a uncontested piece of ground on my commute.

Not that in-community hecking is an entirely safe practice as entitled cyclists don't like to be told otherwise.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:31 PM on July 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are a whooooole lot of undocumented folks who cycle for transportation, often precisely because getting a driver's license is difficult or impossible. Mandating bike licensing just pushes the problem further down the pipeline.

Worth noting is that the reason cars require licensing is because they are massive, heavy machinery. (I think. I don't know the specific historical precedent leading up to car licensing; if anyone does I'd be very interested to hear it.) The reason cars are licensed is not just because they're "on the street". That idea sounds sort of facially sensible but doesn't really hold up to a short think. I'm sure we could each imagine setting any number of different potential thresholds for the ideal point of risk potential at which a machine crosses over into "requires licensing" territory. With that in mind, I nonetheless suspect we can all agree that wherever the threshold be set, cars and bikes are machines with significantly different levels of risk attached. However, I would be curious to know what risk threshold those people would like to see set who believe that bikes should require licensing, and whether they envision a licensing mandate for other types of machinery suddenly falling on the wrong side of that threshold.
posted by threeants at 6:47 PM on July 25, 2013 [3 favorites]


(I certainly wouldn't argue that bicycles are never dangerous. However, as a society we tend to be accepting of some potential for risk from most objects or machines, whether they be bicycles, footballs, peanuts, headphones, electric mixers-- or whatever. Cars, however, hold risk potential of unusual magnitude. Seriously; automobile accidents are more deadly than diabetes. That remarkable level of risk introduced by cars into the public realm is why we require licenses for them.)
posted by threeants at 6:57 PM on July 25, 2013 [2 favorites]


(I think. I don't know the specific historical precedent leading up to car licensing; if anyone does I'd be very interested to hear it.)

Wikipedia believes it was because cars were a menace, basically, in terms of noise, smell and physical safety. This article in German is the main source for the Wiki article and puts a lot of emphasis on the fact licensing became widespread because driving was quite dangerous and people kept dying (proportionally far more than today). I'm not sure if the fatalities were mostly people travelling in cars or if they were killing people using other modes of transport. However, the very early driving tests in Prussia were mostly about whether you knew how to get going again when you inevitably broke down, rather than whether you were a menace on the roads.
posted by hoyland at 7:07 PM on July 25, 2013


If I'm punctilious about stopping at lights (as opposed to yielding) it adds enough time to my bike commute (and enough work) that it's no longer sensible for me. (I get paid by the hour).

I got a ticket for running a red light on my bike. Fair enough, although I question whether these tickets should be for the same dollar amount as running a red light with a car. Now I don't commute by bike any more. Fair enough.

I guess my point is that if cities actually want to increase bike commuting, they need to make it a practical alternative. Otherwise, all the messages about a healthy body, a healthy environment, etc (I love in NYC), feel kind of mocking and hypocritical.

I think that in an ideal world, lights would be timed and designed for bicyclists. But in this world, a practical compromise would be requiring bikes to yield at lights, permit 'rolling stops' and save the cracking down for when bicyclists drive negligently or recklessly, but in those cases crack down consistently.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:37 AM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I'm punctilious about stopping at lights (as opposed to yielding) it adds enough time to my bike commute (and enough work) that it's no longer sensible for me. (I get paid by the hour).

Sorry... again, how do you think this works for drivers? It adds time to the commute in cars too. I know it's different going uphill and such, I'm not trying to discount that, but lights aren't always timed well for drivers either.
posted by maryr at 9:15 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sorry... again, how do you think this works for drivers? It adds time to the commute in cars too. I know it's different going uphill and such, I'm not trying to discount that, but lights aren't always timed well for drivers either.

Lights generally are timed reasonably well for cars, especially at rush hour. When you just miss a light on a bike, you're usually alone waiting because the cars got through. When I just miss eight lights in a row (which is possible at certain times of day), a car will have made it through some of them (perhaps not all, but they won't have to stop every block). There's a place on my ride home where, at rush hour, you can see the next five blocks or so turn green in rapid succession. A car can get through that run of lights. I can't. Now, because there are fewer cyclists, if I'm in a bike lane, I'm the first or second bike into an intersection when the light turns green, which is a noticeable jump on car four or five. Car four or five will overtake me, but it's possible the lights aren't timed to their advantage to the extent they were for car one or two.

All that said, I find it slightly hard to believe Salamandrous's commute is such that time spent at lights is the thing that pushes cycling into not worthwhile territory.
posted by hoyland at 6:21 AM on July 29, 2013 [1 favorite]


You should try some lights as a pedestrian. There is one in Los Angeles on Sunset and Hillhurst where to make it across to a Ralph's from one corner it takes you 15 minutes (a friend once timed it at 17, but I never had to wait that long). This is where I once blew a gasket at a cyclist running a light and then stopping and deciding to cycle on the sidewalk. After waiting 15 minutes to get across to buy a transit pass you're not the most understanding of people.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 7:02 AM on July 29, 2013


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