Bicyclists should obey traffic laws

Hey, kids: get off my lawn!!!

That’s to prepare you for this curmudgeonly post.

In the past two weeks I’ve nearly been hit twice by bicyclists in Hyde Park (the area in Chicago around the university). One, going through a stop sign, almost ran me down at high speed when I was crossing the street—legally, in the crosswalk. She was also carrying a large cake in a plastic container in one hand, so only one of her hands was on the handlebars.

But here in Chicago, as in most places, bicyclists simply ignore stop signs, stop lights, and zip through intersections.

Yesterday I was almost run down again by an adult riding her bike on the sidewalk, again at high speed—and again an act that’s illegal.

This has happened repeatedly over the years, and it’s dangerous for everyone. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve seen a bike run straight through a stop sign, making oncoming cars brake quickly. And woe betide you if, when stopping, you’re too close to the curb, for a bicyclist behind you, ignoring the sign, is likely to hit you.

In Chicago, bicycles are required to obey traffic laws. They don’t, and they should be ticketed when they do.  I’ve lived here 26 years, and have seen innumerable cars ticketed for traffic violations, but not a single bike.

Enforcement is, in fact, the policy in Davis, California, where I lived for three years. It’s a town famous for its bicycle commuters, has tons of bike lanes, and the cops enforce the traffic laws. If a bicyclist runs a stop sign, or doesn’t use a light at night, he gets a ticket (I know, because I got one for the latter).

The result is that everyone obeys the traffic laws, and the clash between bikes, cars, and pedestrians is largely avoided.

If you ride a bicycle, and flout traffic laws, you are a bad person. What makes you think you’re entitled to violate the law? Stop at stop signs and stoplights, use a light at night, don’t ride on the sidewalks, and, for your own safety, wear a helmet.

In fact, I’m curmudgeonly enough to call the University police and make an inquiry. I’ll report back later.

326 Comments

  1. gbjames
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    They don’t, and they should be ticketed when they do.

    When the don’t?

    • gbjames
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

      oh… and sub.

    • Nicky
      Posted August 16, 2013 at 12:23 am | Permalink

      I find cyclists the worst by far. Hopping onto a pavement to run a red light, going at stupid speeds on a footpath, ignoring pedestrian crossings etc. Due to health issues a clash with a bike (or car) could very easily be the end of me. Why should I wear a sign to say take care around me when I am doing what I’m supposed to.

      • craigp
        Posted August 16, 2013 at 4:21 am | Permalink

        Oh, for goodness sake please give it a rest, people. We get it; you hate cyclists. Any other sweeping generalisations you’d like to make against any other outgroups before we finally close this thread, the awful indictment to the human species’ tribalism and lack of empathy or compassion for their fellow man that it is?

        Sorry I have to be so blunt but this thread really does us all a disservice and IMO does not belong on this site. Some of the comments made would shame most strident, intolerant right-wing evangelicals and are just about the most irrational and unscientific I’ve seen in the couple of years that I’ve been reading, and until now, enjoying, this site. I’m embarrassed and ashamed to admit that I was part of it.

        • Posted August 16, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

          Except, of course, that some — nay, I suspect, many — of us are cyclists ourselves. And not just “oh, I’ve got a beach cruiser in the garage” cyclists, either. I’ve been telecommuting for the past few years, but before that I commuted by bike. I’ve been severely injured and nearly killed by drivers; the first time by a hit-and-run driver, and the second required months of rehabilitation and surgery to put me back together. And, even more to the point, I’m on the Tempe Transportation Commission, and I’m known as the guy who’s always demanding better bike facilities. It’s to the point that city staff especially knows that they need to have explanations in advanced for any proposed road layout for how drivers are supposed to maintain a three-foot separation from cyclists.

          So, when somebody such as me tells you that it’s not cool to ride fast on sidewalks or ignore traffic devices, you would be very wise to listen, and very foolish to dismiss me as somebody who hates cyclists.

          b&

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 16, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

            Yeah me too. I stopped riding my bike because it was dangerous. My dad was hit by a guy in a truck and knocked off his bike. A witness helped him but he didn’t ride his bike again after that. This is why I want physically separated lanes.

            • Posted August 16, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

              Physical separation creates problems, too…generally, the cyclist gets funneled into a channel you can’t escape from, either to avoid hazards or make turns or the like.

              On smaller streets, the answer is 20 MPH speed limits (and other devices that engineers are very familiar with to keep speeds in that range) and the bikes and cars sharing the same space.

              On larger streets, the answer is painted 5′ bike lanes (with the lanes free and clear from all hazards, including the open doors of parked cars) with a 3′ painted, striped buffer lane — essentially, devoting the outermost vehicular lane to exclusive bicycle use. And, of course, make vehicular use of the bike lane at least as serious an offense as drunk driving and give paycheck bonuses to cops who write those tickets.

              Of course, neither option is particularly popular in our car-centric “mustn’t delay commuters by even a fraction of a minute” culture. The sad thing is, what I just proposed is merely the use of paint and signs to mark what most vehicular laws already dictate as required behavior.

              b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 16, 2013 at 8:58 am | Permalink

                I’m thinking actual concrete barriers. I know they have these in Europe. It means everyone has less to look out for and the bikes are protected somewhat from cars having mishaps or the bike having a mishap. I have a fear of either a cyclist falling in front of me or me reacting to trying to avoid another car and smacking into a cyclist in the process. It’s why I try to give them a wide berth & why I don’t like them getting close to me at a light etc.

              • Posted August 16, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

                Yeah, I know what you’re describing.

                Imagine you’re riding a bike in that barricaded lane and a cyclist in front of you goes down. You, as a cyclist, have no opportunity to avoid a wreck.

                But now imagine the street configuration as I described it: a five-feet-wide marked lane, stripes on either side, clear of all hazards (including the open doors of on-street parked cars). To your left is another three-foot-wide painted no-go zone. This time, if a cyclist goes down in front of you, you’ve got not only that extra no-go zone that’ll probably be plenty for you to use to maneuver around, if there’s a gap in traffic, you’ve also got the whole rest of the road to work with.

                Also, imaging you’re wanting to make a left-hand turn — hardly an unusual situation. With a three-foot-high concrete barrier, you’ve got no option. With properly-designed bike lanes, traffic permitting, you’re free to merge and turn just like any other vehicle.

                And then there’s the question of passing. What if you’re an experienced commuter who cruises a bit above 20 MPH, and some novice on a mountain bike is working hard to hold 13 MPH? In a barricaded lane, you’re stuck. With properly-designed bike lanes, passing is like anywhere else: wait for a gap in traffic, merge left and back right, and you’re on your way again.

                b&

  2. freemansfarm77
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:26 am | Permalink

    Absolutely correct!

  3. Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Hear, hear!

  4. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:30 am | Permalink

    This isn’t a curmudgeonly post! I completely agree.

    I’ve had all kinds of incidents with bicycles as a driver and as a pedestrian. I had two when I was in my car with bicyclists riding on the sidewalk and going against the light (the hand was up) so they were violating two laws! Both times I was about to turn right and stopped for the light, looked both ways, saw no one but when I was about to go, out of nowhere a bike comes dashing in front of me. Both times the cyclists stopped to lip me off when they were wrong! One time it was a young girl who told me to f-off and the other time it was an old man. With the old man I had had it (after the girl incident) and I remember calmly saying, “dude (yeah I called him dude), you’re on the sidewalk and the hand is up”. Instead of yelling at me, they should be happy that I had the reflexes to stop my car!!

    When I was a student, I had a cyclist rear end my car when I was driving into the university parking lot….nice.

    I also was almost hit while walking in Toronto when a cyclist was driving at break neck speed….had to be about +30 kph on the sidewalk and zipping amongst pedestrians!!

    I’m all for us all getting along. That’s why there are rules. I also firmly believe that there should be separate bike lanes with concrete barricades that separate cyclists from cars so there are fewer mishaps and both drivers can concentrate better.

    I understand it can be frustrating as a bicyclist but bicyclists have to understand that drivers are looking for a lot of things (cars, pedestrians, errant children) and one mistake of a bicyclist can end badly! I don’t want to live with having killed someone and I don’t want to be killed or injured either! Obey the rules and be respectful of one another!

  5. Austin Drews
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    I have to agree. Cyclists constantly complain about drivers who ignore bike lanes, etc, but as a runner, my biggest problem is cyclists who are just as inconsiderate. I don’t know how many times I’ve nearly been hit by a cyclist on my favorite running trail, only for the cyclist to react as if it were my fault. I imagine it’s because I run on the left side of the path, and they aren’t paying attention to the “PEDESTRIAN ONLY” markings on it every few meters.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

      Bikes on trails are the worst! On many substrates you can’t hear them coming at all, and path twists and vegetation obscure sight lines. Suddenly bikers are right on top of you going 800 MPH.

      • Dave
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

        Did you happen to notice what kind of bike they had? I want one! :-)

        • Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

          With bicycles, the frame doesn’t matter nearly so much as the engine….

          b&

          • Dave
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

            Got to be the bike – there’s not that big a standard deviation in engines!

            • Dave
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

              Excepting the USPS team, of course.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

          lol!

      • Dave
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        OK, I agree with the complaints about cyclists – I am a fairly avid one and the abuses I see (all the time) bugs me too. However, when it comes to trails, I have a counter complaint which is pedestrians on designated BIKE trails who first deafen themselves with the ipod, or whatever, and then proceed to wander all over the trail. How many times have I come up behind one having to shout several times to get by while making sure not to hit them. And I always warn when I’m approaching from behind (and sometimes when from in front, for the real idiots!).

        • Dave
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

          Make that “bug me too.”

        • gbjames
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

          Yes. This, too.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

          I hear ya!

          I think there’s a common culprit we’re talking about, no matter what the mode of conveyance.

          • Dave
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

            Inconsiderate slobs?

    • Gareth Price
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I agree 100%. When I run, it is cyclists who have come close to flattening me, not cars.

      Many cyclists see no reason why they should not run a red light. I watch cyclists in downtown Portland run red lights and weave between pedestrians crossing the street. It is common for cyclists to deliberately run red lights; it is rare for a car to deliberately do so. But if a car driver did decide to slow up slightly, glance both ways and run a red light and then hit a cyclist, the cycling community would be justifiably furious.

  6. Angie
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Of course, this occurs all the time in Hyde Park, but as a former grad student at U of C and a law abiding bike rider, the cars aren’t much better! The last straw for me was when someone had parallel parked and opened their car door without looking first and hit me. I was thrown into the street. Luckily the car driving behind me was far enough away to stop. But after that, I decided to go back to walking!!

    I agree though, enforcement of biking laws would make things safer for everyone!

    • John Taylor
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      A bicyclist was killed in Ottawa somewhat recently in the same scenario.

    • Nick Evans
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      Oh, people are much worse when they drive cars than when they ride bikes. They break traffic laws more frequently (particularly speeding, careless driving and running lights), and when they make mistakes they are several hundred times more likely to kill or seriously injure those around.

      • Gareth Price
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

        Do car drivers really run red lights more than cyclists?

        One thing that you will virtually never see is a car approach a red light, slow up slightly as the driver looks around and then run straight through the red light. And you will never, ever see a car driver do the above and weave through pedestrians crossing the street. But you will see cyclists do that.

        I agree that careless driving is a big problem and, of course, the damage you do with a car is much more than you do with a bike. But the problem with cyclists is not careless cycling – it is a deliberate disregard for the rules.

        • craigp
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

          “But the problem with cyclists is not careless cycling – it is a deliberate disregard for the rules.”

          Is it not also a deliberate disregard of the rules when motorists break the law? For example, when people break the speed limit in their car it’s just as deliberate. That doesn’t make it more or less OK than the example you gave. Can’t we just agree that breaking the law is breaking the law and it’s always wrong?

          • Gareth Price
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

            I agree. It is wrong for motorists to deliberately disregard the law as well. And that is exactly what they do when they are speeding.

            Specifically regarding cyclists – running red lights is my bugbear. They appear to do it intentionally; and the ones I have stopped and questioned see no reason why they should stop at the light.

            • Henry Fitzgerald
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

              I agree that people should obey the law, and this applies to cyclists too.
              But one of the things going on here is that laws against cyclists in many jurisdictions tend to be draconian – essentially, someone traveling in a responsive, light, relatively safe vehicle at 20kmph is subject to the same set of laws that apply to and were designed for people hurtling a tonne of steel through the streets at lethal speeds.
              It is not at all obvious to me, for instance, that cyclists SHOULD be required to treat red lights the same way motorists should required to. Motorists should certainly be required to stop unconditionally. But it makes more sense to ask cyclists to treat the red light similarly to the way a car would treat a “give way” sign; to slow down, but cross anyway if it is safe to do so. Yes, we’re obliged to obey the law as it stands; but it’s the kind of law that should change.
              And laws requiring me to wear a helmet (in force where I live but not in most foreign cities I’ve been to) are if anything even more ridiculous: high cost to all relative to the tiny probability that any one person will benefit.

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

                Most cities have some sort of a citizen board or commission or the like devoted to transportation and traffic matters and the like. Generally, all it takes to get on it is to submit an application and wait for an opening. Once on it, you can work to make those changes. From a logistical perspective in your particular case, all it would take is signs saying that bikes may proceed on red after a full stop, just like the more familiar turn on red after stop signs.

                Whether it’s politically feasible is another matter. First you’d have to convince your fellow commissioners that it’s a good idea, and to recommend it to the city council. But if you can make it that far, councils generally (but certainly not always) go along with recommendations from citizen commissions if they’re well-researched and argued and the rest, and most commissions won’t make recommendations unless they rise to that bar.

                …and you can always run for city council, yourself, on a platform of traffic safety reform….

                But all that’s a long-winded way of stating that your current situation is likely the result of other citizens using that sort of process to decide the best way to organize traffic. It might be that they haven’t thought of your ideas. It might be that they have thought of your ideas but rejected them for various reasons — and those reasons for rejection may or may not be valid.

                But, regardless, if you really feel passionate about it, you actually really truly honestly can have a say in changing things, and it’s not all that terribly hard to do. Assuming your ideas actually have merit, of course….

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Brujo Feo
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

                What is it about otherwise reasonable people that they understand the expression “an ounce of history is worth a pound of theory,” but then they want to reïnvent the wheel? Like listening to people argue about the insane War on Some Drugs without even being familiar with the Portuguese experience.

                What do you mean: “It is not at all obvious to me, for instance, that cyclists SHOULD be required to treat red lights the same way motorists should required to”? Why are you still speculating? How many times must it be said? Idaho. IDAHO!!!

                Idaho Vehicle Code 49-720. STOPPING — TURN AND STOP SIGNALS.

                (1) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the
                intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on
                another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of
                highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through
                the intersection without stopping.
                (2) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a steady red traffic-control signal shall stop before entering the intersection,
                except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn without stopping or
                may cautiously make a left-hand turn onto a one-way highway without stopping.

                **********

                So, the question is: DOES IT WORK?

                Read this: http://www.ecf.com/wp-content/uploads/Meggs-J-Stops-as-yields.pdf.

                Especially the letter excerpts that start at p.75.

                Many may say: “Wow, that’s counter-intuitive!,” when what they really mean is: “Wow! My intuition SUCKS! Maybe we shouldn’t base public policy on my intuition, especially since the data strongly suggest that my intuition will get lots of people dead.”

              • jeremyp
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:02 am | Permalink

                It’s pretty obvious to me that cyclists should obey red lights the same as anybody else. Why not? The whole point is to give one stream of traffic complete control of the shared road space for a bit. I don’t see why anybody should be exempt no matter what kind of vehicle they are in/on.

        • Dave
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

          “One thing that you will virtually never see ” Maybe not but you will definitely see that at stop signs. I have one outside my house and it is a favorite police haunt for exactly that reason. But not favorite enough!

          • Posted August 13, 2013 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

            What amazes me about that sort of behavior is that there’s even a legal maneuver that’s perfectly legitimate and safe in most cases where people are tempted to do such a thing. Make a right turn on the red light, assuming such is legal. Then, make a U-turn a short distance later — again, assuming it’s legal. Finally, make another right turn. There you go, hey-presto, you’ve crossed the signal, it’s been red the whole time, and you haven’t violated any laws or put anybody’s life in jeopardy.

            b&

  7. Linda Grilli Calhoun
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Bravo!!

    I HATE them. On weekends, the city cyclists come out to “the country” in droves, and ride several abreast, and refuse to get out of the way if you want to pass them. It never occurs to them that the people who live out here have better things to do with their weekends than dink along behind a bunch of bicycles.

    The worst episode was one morning when I was trying to get an injured animal to the vet, on a particularly hilly and hard to see piece of road, and they wouldn’t move over so I could safely pass.

    I have a fantasy that I find out where one of them lives, and some weekday when they’re in a hurry to get to work, pull out in front of them and drive five miles an hour in such a way that they can’t get around me.

    The idea that they should look at life from someone else’s viewpoint never occurs to them. L

    • frank43
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      I’m sure you have the same reaction to a farmer’s driving his tractor at the same rate of speed.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

        Typically tractor drivers pull to the side of the road and let you pass. I live in the country and this has been my experience.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:19 am | Permalink

        In addition to Diana’s point, the size of the tractor may leave little room for the farmer to let you pass regardless of how polite he might be. Not true for the bikers riding several abreast and refusing to make way for faster traffic. That is merely rude and selfish.

        Just to clarify, I know not all cyclists are rude and selfish like that, and I also know that there are plenty of farmers, truckers, car drivers, motorcyclists and whatever that are rude and selfish. Just pointing out the large flaw in your response.

    • Justin Payne
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      It never occurs to them that the people who live out here have better things to do with their weekends than dink along behind a bunch of bicycles.

      If you won’t have them on the sidewalks, and you won’t have them on the roads, then where the hell are they supposed to ride?

      This is why cyclists don’t follow laws meant for cars and pedestrians – they’re neither cars nor pedestrians, and as a result there’s literally nobody looking out for our safety as riders except ourselves. “Following the rules” and just assuming that others will do the same is suicide, especially given the fact that people in cars will simply try to murder you for no other reason than you’re riding a bicycle near their car.

      Sorry, I’ll break any law I have to in order to avoid being killed by a car.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:11 am | Permalink

        This particular incident was talking about country roads. There are no sidewalks. However, the issue was the cyclists riding abreast and taking over the whole country road – a very dangerous thing indeed where speed limits are much higher and there is farm equipment moving about. I don’t think the remark said anything about not wanting cyclists on the road at all.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

        Your response is a long winded non sequitur. Maybe you should read the comment you are responding to again.

        The rude, selfish and oblivious cyclists in question were increasing the danger to themselves, significantly, by what they were doing. Not only were they rude and selfish, they were being stupid too. Darwin award stupid.

      • James
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        This. Absolutely this. I do my best to follow traffic laws, but the laws don’t account for the reality of the road.

        Many traffic lights don’t change for bicycles. If those lights don’t have crosswalk buttons, we’re forced to run them.

        Many bike lanes are placed on the left side of parallel parking zones, forcing cyclists to ride dangerously close to car doors. In those situations, it is much safer to ride in the car lane than to risk being doored by an unaware motorist.

        I’ve had motorists do all kinds of crazy things at stop signs. As a cyclist, it is much safer to treat stop signs as yield signs than to risk the ire of an impatient motorist.

        Also, the consequences are often very light for motorists than kill or injure cyclists. Cyclists are forced to look after themselves. Law and justice are not on our side.

        • Gareth Price
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

          Cyclists should be looking out for pedestrians as well as themselves.

          • craigp
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

            And of course they generally do. If a cyclist hits a pedestrian they are just as likely to be hurt as the pedestrian.

            • Gareth Price
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

              By “looking out for pedestrians” I mean “considering them”.

              Every time a cyclist runs a red light at a pedestrian crossing, they are failing to consider the safety of pedestrians. I once stood at red light in downtown Portland watching cyclists and about 1/3 of those who came to a red light ran through it.

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

                There’s really one and only one situation in which it’s kosher for a cyclist to cross an intersection on a red light: when the signal is malfunctioning — which, incidentally, is the only time vehicles are permitted to do so, as well.

                Some signals only turn green when a sensor is tripped. Sometimes those sensors don’t get tripped at all or by bicycles. If there’s a button for a pedestrian to push, if you’re riding a bike, you gotta press the button, even if it’s annoying for you to get off your bike to do so.

                But, when none of that will make the light cycle, it is permissible to treat the red light as a stop sign. In many jurisdictions, an extended wait of a minute or more is required, even when you’re familiar with the signal and know it’s not going to trip.

                And you should still be prepared to defend your actions in traffic court if a cop sees you doing it. So, if it’s a regular annoyance on your commute, work with the city’s traffic engineering department to get it fixed (and they’ll likely be delighted to work with somebody in the public who takes the time to recognize their existence). In the mean time, be extra vigilant, even to the point of using your cell phone’s video camera to record your wait each and every time so you can show the judge that, yes, you really did wait the full minute (or whatever your jurisdiction requires).

                This is only particularly relevant in this discussion because the sensors are more likely to fail to detect a bicycle than a car.

                (Of course, if your jurisdiction permits right-on-red, that’s kosher. But you still have to come to a full stop, same as with stop signs.)

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Brujo Feo
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Permalink

                “There’s really one and only one situation in which it’s kosher for a cyclist to cross an intersection on a red light: when the signal is malfunctioning…”

                So the people in Idaho are what…? Stupid? Or did you just mean in the absence of such a statute? In which case it’s not a safety issue.

                “Some signals only turn green when a sensor is tripped. Sometimes those sensors don’t get tripped at all or by bicycles.”

                True dat. The light at Victoria and Foothill here in Ventura…trips reliably for my Gold Wing, sometimes for my Blackbird, and rarely for my daughter’s Ninja 250. The traffic engineers fuss with it periodically, but it doesn’t seem to “stay fixed.” The bicycle, I don’t care, because if there are no cars anywhere to be seen, I just ignore the light, like a rational human being.

                The law here in California is Vehicle Code §21800(d)(1): “The driver of any vehicle approaching an intersection which has official traffic control signals that are inoperative shall stop at the intersection, and may proceed with caution when it is safe to do so.”

                I once discussed §21800 in the context of the non-tripping-for-motorcycles issue with a CHP officer (which requires a college degree, mind you): and he said this: “The light isn’t defective; it just won’t turn FOR YOU.” I wish I could say that my experience with traffic officers makes this an unusual kind of shit-for-brains statement, but…

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

                As I noted, if you choose to cross a malfunctioning signal, you should be prepared to prove your case to a judge. Cops are notorious for being ignorant of the law, but that’s never stopped them from citing and / or arresting (or even killing) people for doing things that are perfectly legal. It’s up to you to decide if doing something legal that has a high chance of you having to explain yourself before a judge is worth it.

                But, one thing is clear: if the signal is functioning properly, you have no business ignoring it, even if you’re on a bike, even if nobody else is near, even if it’s the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere.

                I have no sympathy for cyclists who run red lights (or pedestrians who jaywalk), and only the utmost contempt for operators of motor vehicles who do.

                b&

      • Filippo
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

        “This is why cyclists don’t follow laws meant for cars and pedestrians . . . .”

        Does that include running stop signs?

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

      I cycle and drive. Someone else driving slowly doesn’t bother me – in a car or on a bicycle. If you have to wait to safely pass, then you have to wait to safely pass. The roads are intended for ALL road users and bicyclists are just as entitled to use the road as car drivers.

      Having a little patience wouldn’t hurt.

      • Linda Grilli Calhoun
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        “Having a little patience wouldn’t hurt.”

        I had AN INJURED ANIMAL in my pickup. I was trying to get him to the vet.

        Wow. I’m so glad you’re entitled. L

        • Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

          How is a road user ahead of you supposed to know why you’re using the road? Your complaint was firstly and primarily about having to ‘dink’ along behind them. The injured animal part was just one example.

          If it’s a country road, it’s probably a narrow one. Two cyclists abreast are easier to pass than two cyclists one in front of the other in the lane – in front of the other makes for a longer pass.

          • Linda Grilli Calhoun
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

            They’re not “supposed to know”.

            They could just stop being rude, ya think?

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

              + 1

            • craigp
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

              Physician heal thyself…

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:29 pm | Permalink

              + 1 too

          • Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

            Unless you’ve got a police escort (such as for a race or a parade or the like), cyclists riding together on the open road should be riding a paceline, not any sort of mass group. And it should be a single-file paceline unless conditions permit a double-file paceline (which is rare). And, yes — riding in a paceline is challenging on many fronts. But if you can’t ride a paceline, you shouldn’t be riding in any other type of a group, either; instead, you should be maintaining proper lane position and proper safe separation — as in, the two-second rule or more.

            A paceline on a country road should typically be no more of an inconvenience than any other vehicle going slower than you: trail behind them for a quarter mile or so for a clear passing opportunity, pass them, and all is said and done. And if traffic starts piling up behind a paceline, even if just one or two vehicles, the paceline has as much of a duty to pull over in the next safe spot as any other vehicle.

            Also note that a paceline is useless below about 20 mph, and speeds upward of 30 mph are common in pacelines.

            It should be quite clear that that’s not what the mob of cyclists were doing when they kept Linda’s sick goat from getting to the vet. Instead, they were being as irresponsible as if they were just walking down the middle of the road.

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

              +1

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:38 am | Permalink

      Bikers not only have the same legal obligations as cars, they also have the same legal rights (in many places). This means they can ride in the car lane, and this is often safer than riding on the edge of the road.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:48 am | Permalink

        Don’t do that in Ontario as the Highway Traffic Act clearly states how far from the curb a bicycle is permitted to ride.

        • Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

          In Arizona, cyclists are required to remain as far to the right as practicable except in a number of well-defined scenarios, especially including when there is insufficient space for side-by-side operation of bicycles and motor vehicles. And the minimum safe separation is defined in Arizona’s own three-foot law. If any of the exceptions apply, then the entire lane belongs to the cyclist.

          I obviously don’t know the situation in Canada, but my experience is that most jurisdictions with three-foot laws (which is probably the norm but certainly not yet the rule in North America) work out much the same way in practice: if there isn’t enough room for cars to safely pass bikes, then that lane is effectively a shared-use lane for bikes and cars.

          If there’s anybody in Maricopa County who cares, especially if you’ve been cited for not riding in the gutter, there’s established appellate case law with my name on it affirming the fact….

          Cheers,

          b&

        • benjdm
          Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

          It doesn’t – you’re making up laws. Here are the relevant laws:

          http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/pubs/cycling-guide/section5.0.shtml

          Cyclists are only required to travel in the right hand lane:

          “HTA 147 – Slow moving traffic travel on right side

          any vehicle moving slower than the normal traffic speed should drive in the right-hand lane, or as close as practicable to the right edge of the road except when preparing to turn left or when passing another vehicle. “

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:44 am | Permalink

            Um no I’m not as you say “making up laws”. If I could do that, I would make laws relevant to me like “you must obey Diana’s wishes, never question her authority and provide ample amounts of sweets and money on given days”.

            The law states that bikes must be no further than 1 meter from the curb. They are not allowed to ride down the middle of the road (some cyclists actually believe this).

            • Posted August 14, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

              That’s actually basically identical to the law in Arizona.

              And, specifically, it permits (and practically demands) cyclists to take the lane when it’s too narrow for safe side-by-side sharing, and defines one meter (three feet) as the minimum safe passing distance.

              You’ll find that, once you add up the space required for a cyclist to be a safe distance from the curb (given as one meter in the Canadian law) plus the width of a cyclist (especially when signaling; typically close to two meters, especially with “cruiser” types of bikes) plus one meter / three feet plus the 80th percentile (not minimum) width of vehicles (generally over two meters), there’s almost never enough room left for the vehicle to actually remain in the lane while maintaining the required minimum separation. Indeed, add it all up and you’re generally looking at at least five meters of well-paved road clear of debris and hazards (including the opened doors of parked cars).

              As a practical result, the law is telling cyclists that they should always be taking the lane save on the rare instances of especially wide streets. Unfortunately, it’s generally worded with the assumption that unusually wide streets are the norm, not the exception; this creates the perception that cyclists should rarely be taking the lane, when the opposite is in fact the case.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • benjdm
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:18 am | Permalink

                Exactly.

                “However, they can use any part of the lane if necessary for safety, such as to:

                avoid obstacles, debris, potholes and sewer grates;
                cross railway or streetcar tracks at a 90° angle; and
                discourage passing where the lane is too narrow to be shared safely”

                Except for exceptionally wide lanes that can accommodate a car, a bike, and a 1 meter buffer between the 2,a law abiding cyclist will be in the lane to discourage unsafe, close passes.

  8. Gordon Hill
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    As a former semi-serious cyclist–my Sunday ride was forty miles (that’s serious) to a diner run by a retired Navy cook for a plate of SOS with home fries and eggs over medium (that’s the semi part)–the good ones do. There is a Sunday ride here with thirty to fifty riders. They obey traffic signals, use the bike lane when there is one, “own their lane” when there isn’t a bike lane, and all have rear view mirrors so they can see if some idiot is closing on them.

    Then there are the others, inviting a collision by riding the curb, stopping only when they must and writing letters to the editor about how they get no respect.

  9. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    Nothing curmudgeonly about this post at all.

    I live in NYC, which is becoming more bicycle-friendly, and I think that’s great (not so for Dorothy Rabinowitz at the WSJ who thinks Bloomberg’s bike policies are “fascistic”).

    As for your post, “If you ride a bicycle, and flout traffic laws, you are a bad person.” Agreed.

    • Justin Payne
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      You know, it’s funny you should mention NYC – I rode there a couple weekends ago, and found that it was utterly impossible to comply with traffic laws there.

      One-way bike lanes? That’s all very well and good, but there aren’t bike lanes on every street, so how far and in which direction do I need to ride in order to find the bike lane that goes in the right direction? There’s no way to know. That’s the kind of thing that makes sense for a car, but I’m not in a car, I’m on a bike. So you can bet your ass I rode the wrong way on that bike lane – sorry, my safety is more important than complying with your traffic laws.

      And that’s assuming that some city vehicle hasn’t turned the bike lane into a parking space. I wish you could ticket cops.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      “As for your post, “If you ride a bicycle, and flout traffic laws, you are a bad person.” Agreed.”

      I am not sure exactly how Jerry or you mean that, but if you mean it literally I don’t agree at all. A cyclist breaking the law is doing something bad (probably but not necessarily), but that by itself is no where near enough for me to feel justified in labeling them a bad person.

      • Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        It’s clearly a joke (or so I thought it was!)

        • darrelle
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

          Gotcha, I suspected as much in your OP but wasn’t sure about the comment I was responding to.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

            ….and a rhetorical device (hyperbole) for the humour. Hyperbole is my favourite rhetorical device.

        • Filippo
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

          Am reminded of two old saws with which mothers have traditionally berated their children: “If you want to BE good, DO good.” “If you want a friend, BE a friend.”

  10. Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:36 am | Permalink

    It’s not curmudgeonly at all. The North East is no better. Bunch of guys in full racing gear constantly weaving around traffic at stop signs, with cars having to stop in the intersection because these people have no regard for their own, let alone anyone else’s safety.

  11. Rachel
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    As a cyclist, I agree with you. I’ve had a few near-collisions with fellow cyclists who were going the wrong way. I think we’d all be a lot safer (drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians) if everyone followed the rules.

  12. frank43
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    As a (mature) cyclist, I heartily agree with the point of the post. A couple of things that would ameliorate the situation:

    1. Paradoxically, more cyclists. Davis can enforce traffic laws because there are so many bicycles that enforcing the law becomes routine expectation rather than completely random event.

    2. Vigorous enforcement of traffic laws regarding cars’ respect for bicyclists’ right of way. This would reduce the incentive for people to ride on the sidewalks (which, paradoxically, is less safe than riding on the street). I still marvel at the behavior of the Mercedes in Berlin, which blasted past our bikes with right signal blinking, then stopped dead to wait for us to pass before making the right turn. (In Germany, a slower vehicle on the right has absolute priority).

    3. More separation of cars and bicycles, through one-side parking, bicycle lanes and bikeways, etc. This is particularly calming for bike-newbies like your sidewalk-rider.

  13. sciros
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I actually think that cyclists should be allowed on the sidewalk when there isn’t a decent bike path or a big wide bike lane. I find that cyclists are in far greater danger of being seriously injured/killed by motorists when sharing the road with them than pedestrians are when sharing a sidewalk with cyclists.

    If bike traffic is very high and the sidewalks really become quite dangerous then that means there should be bike paths.

    I’ve never liked the law that puts bicycles on the same field as 4000 lb moving metal things. When I’m a pedestrian I feel far safer sharing my path with cyclists than I feel as a cyclist sharing a car lane with cars/trucks/buses.

    Different cities have different dynamics as far as how well drivers handle themselves around bicycles, and how cyclists handle themselves in various situations, but ultimately I’ve never been convinced that it makes more sense for bicycles to share their way with multi-ton vehicles than it does for them to share paths with pedestrians. Ideally there would be bike paths and wide bike lanes, but when there are none, I wish the law made more sense than it does.

    I agree that cyclists on the road should obey the rules of the road. That should go without saying.

    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

      In at least some countries in continental Europe, mopeds are allowed on the pavement (sidewalk). I’m not sure whether this is restricted or limited in any way, though.

  14. sciros
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    I actually think that cyclists should be allowed on the sidewalk when there isn’t a decent bike path or a big wide bike lane. I find that cyclists are in far greater danger of being seriously injured/killed by motorists when sharing the road with them than pedestrians are when sharing a sidewalk with cyclists.

    If bike traffic is very high and the sidewalks really become quite dangerous then that means there should be bike paths.

    I’ve never liked the law that puts bicycles on the same field as 4000 lb moving metal things. When I’m a pedestrian I feel far safer sharing my path with cyclists than I feel as a cyclist sharing a car lane with cars/trucks/buses.

    Different cities have different dynamics as far as how well drivers handle themselves around bicycles, and how cyclists handle themselves in various situations, but ultimately I’ve never been convinced that it makes more sense for bicycles to share their way with multi-ton vehicles than it does for them to share paths with pedestrians. Ideally there would be bike paths and wide bike lanes, but when there are none, I wish the law made more sense than it does.

    I agree that cyclists on the road should obey the rules of the road. That should go without saying.

    • denniskeane
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:52 am | Permalink

      If you are on a bicycle going 20+ miles an hour, that is a lot of force when you hit a pedestrian. The key to riding with traffic to make sure you own the lane and are visible. I tend to use two flashing lights in the day, just for shaded areas and general safety.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      This is why I want physically separated bike lanes. I don’t care how much it costs – this way everyone is safer and happier.

      • gbjames
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        +1

      • Alext T
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:58 am | Permalink

        Enthusiastically agreed. They reduce conflicts between pedestrians & cyclists, and more importantly between cyclists & cars. That promotes more cycling and it allows cyclists to use roads responsibly without endangering their life.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Often physically impossible, I should think. In many grids there’s simply no place to carve them out.

  15. Athel Cornish-Bowde
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Absolutely right, and it’s not just in Chicago. It’s just as bad in Marseilles, where I live. A couple of months ago a woman was injured close to where I live, badly enough to need to need hospital treatment for a broken collarbone, after a cyclist (who refused to give his name) failed to stop at a pedestrian light. The injured woman posted a notice asking for witnesses, but I don’t know if she found any.

    One of my daughters lived in Davis for three years, and was once fined for speeding on a bicycle. As you say, they enforce the law in Davis.

  16. Athel Cornish-Bowden
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    (I left the n off the end of my name: don’t bother to leave this comment up, but if you could add the n to the previous one I’d appreciate it.)

  17. Justin Payne
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Cyclists should obey the laws that are meant for bicycles. Obeying laws designed for cars – whose momentum is not the precious result of a great deal of labor – makes no sense at all. Come on.

    Spoken like a driver, Jerry.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Are you saying that because riding a bike takes more physical effort that wherever you choose to ride your bike all the motor vehicles should be required to yield to you no matter what you decide to do?

      Because you sweat more? That is one of the funniest things I’ve heard this week so far.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      Wow if that last sentence wasn’t an “us” vs “them” statement….

      There are clear laws. Jerry is saying they should be obeyed by everyone and that includes drivers of all types of vehicles.

    • craigp
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Is there a difference? If there is I don’t think there should be. One law for all is the only fair system. Now if only we could get everybody to start obeying those laws… ;-)

  18. Alext T
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Let’s have some perspective.

    (1) People cycle on the sidewalks when streets are too dangerous. Yes, it creates conflict with pedestrians and no one on a bike wants to mess with pedestrians (they’re too slow), but who are you to say that they should be risking their lives?

    (2) Collisions with bikes & pedestrians are relatively rare and injuries rarer. Collisions with bikes & cars (and pedestrians and cars) are frequent and they result in death. No one attacks drivers because it’s taken as a given that cars are necessary while bikes are a frill, but is that the way it should be?

    (3) When cycling levels are high, virtually all cyclists obey the laws. You can see this time and time again. When levels are low, only the reckless will cycle and they’re the most likely to break the law. This again comes down to having roads that are hostile to bikes, not something flawed with people who cycle.

    And not a specific point, but I find it very disturbing that so many people will spend so much energy to hate on cyclists. They’re generally a tiny minority of road users, but they are reducing the pollution and congestion that everyone has to deal with, yet they get no credit. They’re the source of very few actual injuries, yet they’re all tarred as scofflaws. Where is the outrage for speeders, who actually kill people? I suspect it’s because we think of ourselves as drivers and so excuse their deplorable and genuinely dangerous behaviour, while cyclists are “other”.

    Yes, I understand how it feels to deal with bikes on pedestrian spaces. But frankly the dog-pile on the cyclists as if this is an issue with people who use bikes, as opposed to a structural issue, and as if they’re a significant issue relative to drivers is not helpful.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:00 am | Permalink

      Well said. My own comments below…

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      I agree; perspective! To be clear, like any subset of people, some cyclists can be obnoxious a**hats. If my riding puts someone in danger, I am one of those a**hats. But if I ride recklessly (which I don’t) and hit a pedestrian, the most likely outcome is injury. If a car drives recklessly and hits me, a very likely outcome is death. The consequences of reckless biking are far milder than the consequences of reckless driving, and there are, by numbers, far, far more reckless drivers out there than reckless bikers. The roads are currently viewed as “owned” by the drivers, and few who complain about bikers on roads show a desire to invest in the infrastructure necessary to allow bikers to stay off the roads. If there is not a wide shoulder of bike lane, then the cyclist has no recourse but to either ride on the sidewalk (which is in fact legal in many places) or to ride two-abreast, which is sometimes the much safer way to cycle (on congested or high speed streets, riding two-abreast forces cars to pass fully rather than trying to squeeze by). Better to delay someone by a few seconds than to risk one’s life. So, indeed, get angry with the scofflaw cyclists who almost hit you, but save some of that anger for jacka** in the car next to you sending a text while he drives.

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Well said.

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:04 am | Permalink

        Nicely stated.

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      +1

    • Kevin Henderson
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Well said. There are complex reasons why the mix of pedestrians/cyclists/motorists can be a constraint to the mix of commuting lives.

      Until society endorses comprehensive engineering controls that help partition the road, cyclists should always assume personal responsibility for their actions, and pedestrians should basically be extra vigilant and not naive.

  19. Dianne Leonard
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    The same thing happens in Berkeley (California), and not just around the University. It’s a red letter day when I actually see a bicyclist stop for a stop light or stop sign. It may be better at Davis, but I got put in the hospital by a hit-and-run bicyclist there when I was a grad student at the UC campus. California law says that bicycles must obey traffic laws, but my experience in Berkeley, Davis, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, and Oakland (all places where I’ve lived) show otherwise. I do believe that traffic laws should be enforced for bicyclists as well as for automobile drivers. It seems the only people who think otherwise are bicyclists.

  20. AD
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    Agree with everything said but if I was forced to wear a helmet then I would probably never ride my bike.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

      I would request that you be forced to wear one. There are social costs for failing to be safe.

      (I say that as someone who, years ago, didn’t and was hit by a drunk driver.)

      • Justin Payne
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

        “Failing to be safe” is what the person who hits you on your bike is guilty of. Helmets aren’t necessary when appropriate infrastructure protects cyclists from cars.

        Nobody wears helmets in Holland, for instance, yet they don’t have nearly the rates of cycle injuries we have, despite vastly more cycles ridden.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:09 am | Permalink

          I have a personal friend who was involved in bicycle accidents involving another cycle. On a bike path. Ended up in surgery.

          Failing to wear a helmet is as irresponsible as refusing to wear a seat belt in an auto.

          • Alext T
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

            The debate with bike helments isn’t just about whether they protect against injuries, it’s about whether this is appropriate, and whether the cost is worth the benefits.

            Bike injuries tend to fall into two camps: low velocity impacts where bike helmets are of some small benefit, but which occur rarely; and high velocity impacts with cars where the helmets offer no benefit. If we wish to protect cyclists against the common injuries, they’d need to wear motorbike helmets. The current state is only helpful for kids who are likely to fall over on their own.

            As for the cost-benefit, mandatory helmets creates an impression that cycling is dangerous, and it discourages cycling (esp if you have to carry the helmet around everywhere). There are real health benefits, so we should be careful that what is saved from the helmets aren’t lost by lower use.

            Plus, we know that helmets would help save pedestrians and joggers if they tripped or were hit by a car. Does it make any more sense to compel cyclists to wear helmets than runners?

            • gbjames
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:36 am | Permalink

              mandatory helmets creates an impression that cycling is dangerous

              Just like seat belts.

              • Alext T
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

                Driving actually is dangerous. And you don’t need to carry seatbelts around with you all day, just in case you need to drive.

                Do you support mandatory helmets when you jog since the risks are similar?

              • gbjames
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:56 am | Permalink

                Suggesting that the hazards are similar is, well… just silly.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

                The rest of Alex T’s post is just silly too. I never carry a seat belt around with me. I’ve always found they come ready attached to cars.

            • Dick Veldkamp
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

              The Dutch Cyclists’ Union (yes, there is such a thing) is against mandatory helmets. The reason is that benefits are limited, and it discourages people from cycling. If you some it all up, the negative health effects because of people not cycling are larger than the positive health effects of wearing a helmet.

              Of course the situation is Holland is different from the US. Bike ownership is about 1 per person here, biking is very common, there are cycle lanes everywhere, and full traffic separation in many places.

      • craigp
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

        I hope you were wearing your helmet when that drunk driver hit you. If not then perhaps you should be forced to…

        • gbjames
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:41 am | Permalink

          I wasn’t. And I wish I helmets had been mandatory.

          So, yes.

          • gbjames
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:42 am | Permalink

            Damn. Forgive the failure to edit.

            • craigp
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

              Apologies, I didn’t realise you meant you were hit by a drunk driver while cycling. I incorrectly assumed you were walking or driving.

              Just to be clear, I’m not anti-helmet. I wear one myself when cycling almost all the time. I’m just pointing out that despite what we may think, no evidence has been found that of a link between compulsory helmet use with a reduction in the rate of hospital admissions for cycling related head injuries.

              There are many examples of studies but here’s a recent one:

              http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2674

      • Nick Evans
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        There are also social costs in discouraging people from exercising. As mandatory bike helmet laws do.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

          If that is what limits your willingness to exercise, you have more problems than a bike helmet. I know that my level of exercise has never been governed by a bicycle helmet.

          • Nick Evans
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

            Bully for you. The level of obesity in a lot of countries suggests your attitude isn’t that widely shared, and studies in countries that have introduced mandatory helmet laws suggest that they make matters worse.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

              Please provide the evidence that helmet laws are implicated in obesity.

              • Posted August 14, 2013 at 5:45 am | Permalink

                Well, of course it’s not a case of “helmet laws make you fat”, anymore than not wearing a helmet is akin to a death sentence. But helmet laws do discourage the use of bicycles, which in turn reduces the opportunities of exercising, which in turn can lead to a gain in weight.

                http://ipa.org.au/publications/2019/australia's-helmet-law-disaster

                …and all for a very small gain in safety.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 6:16 am | Permalink

                That seems to be an opinion piece by an advocacy group’s representative (and former investment banker!). We have similar organizations that have resulted in our state removing the requirement for wearing motorcycle helmets.

                I was thinking more of actual evidence as opposed to more assertions.

              • Brujo Feo
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

                gbjames: now you’re just being lazy. True, the article cited wasn’t footnoted. Too bad we don’t have a search tool…we could call it “google” if only someone would invent it! …that would let you put in the name “Dorothy Robinson” and immediately find this: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/4/3/170.full, and this: http://www.cycle-helmets.com/robinson-bmj.pdf.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 7:16 am | Permalink

                Actually, not lazy. My psychic powers are limited and wasn’t aware of the need to search for “Dorothy Robinson”. I had been directed to an opinion piece by Luke Turner (the former investment banker).

              • Brujo Feo
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 7:42 am | Permalink

                Well, I’m not psychic either, but I did READ the article, which clearly referenced the Robinson monograph as well as another by Rissel, and others by unnamed authors, but also not that difficult to find.

                I’m not vouching for the accuracy of any of that evidence, the lack of which you complained of–just pointing out that it wasn’t withheld from you.

        • teacupoftheapocalypse
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

          Please explain how mandatory bike helmet laws discourage people from cycling. Is it because wearing a helmet would make you feel silly or out the ordinary? If every cyclist was mandated to wear a helmet, they would be the norm.

          In all cycling events in the Olympics and road races such as the Tour De France, helmets are mandatory because they improve safety.

          I wear a helmet when I cycle and I don’t feel silly – I feel a little bit safer.

          • craigp
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

            I suspect you’re being facetious with the “make you feel silly” comment but I lived in Australia when the compulsory helmet law was passed. It was heralded as a great success when the number of hospital admissions dropped after helmets were made mandatory. However that corresponded with an equivalent drop in the number of cyclists on the road.

            There’s no evidence that I’m aware of to show that helmet compulsion results in a reduction in hospital admissions. It’s a complicated issue but the link I provided above can explain some of it (here: http://www.bmj.com/content/346/bmj.f2674). Ben Goldacre also had an article only a few months ago which I’m sure would be easy to find if you wanted to search for it.

            If you want to wear a helmet that’s fine. I wear one too, nearly always. However I don’t believe they should be made compulsory for several reasons:

            Firstly they do discourage cycling as I said above.

            Secondly they give people a false sense of security. Bicycle helmets are not designed to protect the rider in a collision with a motor vehicle. They are designed to pass a test (Snell test in the US?) which roughly simulates a lone rider falling and hitting their head on the road at approximately 15 mph. Any additional protection they give you in a collision with a motor vehicle is purely incidental.

            Thirdly there’s not evidence to suggest that compulsion works (see above). There are far more effective ways to reduce deaths and injuries.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

              Secondly they give people a false sense of security.

              I don’t think that you even believe this yourself or you wouldn’t wear one, nearly always.

              Just because seat belts don’t protect you much if your car is hit by a falling plane doesn’t mean they give a false sense of security. They provide real security, but not against all hazards.

              • craigp
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

                Actually I do believe it. Not because it’s intuitive but simply because that’s what the data says.

                Falling planes?

              • gbjames
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

                Yeah, falling planes.

                http://www.ww2aircraft.net/forum/off-topic-misc/now-close-5858.html

                So I can’t help but wonder why you wear your helmet, considering that it provides nothing but false security.

              • craigp
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:00 pm | Permalink

                Sorry, this is descending into farce. I should have known better than to enter into a helmet debate. It’s like debating religion! ;-)

            • teacupoftheapocalypse
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

              Actually, it wasn’t a facetious comment. When I have asked friends who don’t wear helmets while cycling, the most common response has been “because I would feel silly” or “because I don’t want to stand out”, even among those who have kids and make sure that their offspring wear helmets. Another, even more stupid, response has been “because it makes it difficult to use my ‘phone / MP3 player”.

              I’ve worn a helmet ever since they became available, and needed no encouragement, as I once came off my motorbike some years ago and the only damage done was a cracked helmet where it had hit a kerbstone. I don’t feel safe while wearing it, just safer.

              I really would like to know why mandatory helmet-wearing discourages pushbike use.

          • Nick Evans
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:03 am | Permalink

            The reason why doesn’t seem as important as the fact that, each time you impose an additional requirement before a person can take part in an activity, the less likely it becomes that they will take part. As can be seen from experience in Australia and elsewhere. And this is my point: I’m not denying that helmet use increases the safety of the user (I normally wear one myself), but injuries to cyclists aren’t the only social cost involved; discouraging physical activity also carries a social cost.

            I don’t think the rules of professional sport are especially relevant here. F1 and Nascar require drivers to wear helmets too, but this doesn’t mean it’s necessary to do so when commuting.

  21. Jiten
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    It is not obvious that the wearing of helmets is good for your safety. The issue is much more complex than what you’d think without thinking about all the factors at play.

    • Dominic
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      There is evidence that where cyclists do NOT wear a helmet, drivers are more cautious.

      • gbjames
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        And some that cyclists without helmets are more likely to be deadish.

      • Filippo
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:51 pm | Permalink

        The thought would enter my mind that I have to be that much more cautious around that rider in an attempt to compensate.

  22. Andrew Hughes
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    As an avid helmet wearing cyclist I couldn’t agree more.

  23. mcirvin14
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:57 am | Permalink

    I feel like I must dissent to a degree. Like Jerry, I live in Chicago. I commute to work approximately 7 miles each way from the North Side to the Loop almost every day. First off, I agree with Jerry that things like people riding on the sidewalk should be ticketed. Also, when cyclists fail to yield when there is another vehicle or pedestrian who has the obvious right of way, they ought to be sanctioned. However cars and bikes are not the same, anyone that thinks they are is on something. Cyclists in an urban setting often must ride aggressively, not defensively. Riding a bike daily in traffic gives you a clear picture of how much distracted driving is happening – some days on my commute nearly a quarter of all drivers that I get to observe closely are texting, reading email, talking on or otherwise involved with their phones. These are the real dangers. Along with my nearly daily run ins with people opening their car doors into traffic, I am forced to ride offensively. It makes no sense to ticket a cyclist (except from a revenue standpoint) for not stopping at a stop sign when there are is no pedestrian or vehicular cross-traffic. Or crossing against a red light under similar circumstances. I understand some people’s frustration with cyclists in my city – there are some abhorrent riders – I see them every day, talking on the phones while riding, or blocking out their surroundings with headphones on. That’s dangerous. This idea that cars and cyclists are the same is still preposterous. Any good pro-cycling initiative is always geared at protecting bikes from cars. This (and the numbers of cyclists hurt and killed by cars) should immediately convince you that the two are not the same and ought not to be treated the same. In fact, this is starting to be recognized more here in Chicago with the passage of a new city ordinance in June that explicitly gives cyclists the right to ride between the lane of traffic and parked cars (once illegal) and increased penalties for drivers that ‘door’ riders and open car doors into traffic.

    Please, it’s a matter of degrees – the vast, vast, vast, majority of accidents involving cyclists are due to cars and result in riders being killed and injured. Can’t recall the last time I heard about a driver being injured by a cyclist…

    Some perspective pls.

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      I should have added that of course drivers must be aware at all times of cyclists on the road, and I am very careful of them, slowing down to let them break the law at stop signs, and always looking behind when I open the driver’s-side door. There is no statement in my post that cars and cyclists are equally dangers, and your implication that I said that is simply wrong. Clearly cars cause far more carnage. But both cars and cyclists should, equally, obey the law.

      Drivers may not be injured by cyclists, but we’ve seen several stories already about pedestrians who were. Surely you’re not suggesting that cyclists should be allowed to break the law?!

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

        ….and no driver (at least the ones that are not psychopaths) want to hurt a cyclist even if the cyclist is at fault. I would feel so awful if that happened. It’s why we all need to obey the rules.

        • Kevin Henderson
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          Most drivers are annoyed by or simply dislike cyclists and if they hit one they would mostly feel terrible, but if a stranger hits a cyclist, most drivers feel little or no compassion.

          And…

          Most drivers are annoyed by or simply dislike other drivers and if they hit one they would mostly feel terrible, but if a stranger hits another driver, most drivers feel little or no compassion.

      • mcirvin14
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:29 am | Permalink

        I don’t suggest cyclist break the law – I do suggest that there should be separate laws for cyclist – as my point about the new Chicago ordinance suggests. I do agree – like I said – that bikes shouldn’t be on the sidewalk. But citing cyclists for rolling through a stop sign where there is not cross-traffic smacks of both futility and a blatant double standard. I see it every day, cars rarely (and I do drive a car too – I’m not being myopic) actually ‘stop’ at a stop sign – in fact so many times cars slow down to a speed roughly equal to my cycling and go through the intersection.

        Cars and bikes should obey the law – different and appropriate laws.

        • Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:17 am | Permalink

          I agree, right now at most places laws are based on cars. But for instance right turns on intersections (when the light is red), or going straight when only pedestrian signs are green but those of the main road are red, should be allowed (I somehow encounter those situations a lot, and they just don’t apply to bicycles the way they do for cars).

    • DrBrydon
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      Perhaps bikes are inappropriate for an urban setting? It seems to me to be a self-indulgence in a city with public transportation. I used to work in the Loop, six-miles from home, and I’d walk a mile to the ‘L’ every day.

      • mcirvin14
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

        This is absurd. Bikes are the most beneficial in a densely populated urban area. They are affordable, clean, promote health, etc. They reduce congestion and save more money, the damage the infrastructure less… I could go on and on. American cities are getting better too – we just need to have appropriate rules for cars and bikes.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

          This is true. But it is not exclusive with Jerry’s point that cyclists need to be less of a hazard to pedestrians than currently is often the case.

          • mcirvin14
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

            Often? I would like to see something to support that claim. Bicycles are often put at risk by cars – nobody claims that’s not true.

            Well I better get on my bike and head to work – it’s getting late – I’ll be on the lookout for pedestrians.

        • Gary W
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

          Most American urban areas are designed for travel primarily by car and are not conducive to bikes. We can do a few things to make them a bit more bike-friendly — bike lanes, etc. — but absent a radical urban redesign and much higher densities, bikes are never going to be a very attractive way to get around most American cities.

          • Hank
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:54 am | Permalink

            I think that is partially right – but combined with appropriate regulation, and motorist awareness, things like bike lanes and dedicated bike traffic signals can go a long way. I was just in Montreal for the first time recently and I was impressed by the city center’s bike infrastructure and by how orderly everyone seemed to use the roads together.

            The other thing is hopefully some positive feedback – more cyclists = less cars = less conflicts.

          • Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:21 am | Permalink

            Respectfully: bullshit.

            All it would take to instantly turn every major American city into a bicycle paradise would be to dedicate the current existing outermost full lanes to the exclusive use of bicycles. For two-lane streets, set the speed limit to 25 MPH and give cyclists the right-of-way.

            Is there the political will to do such a thing? No. But, logistically, it’d be trivial.

            b&

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:23 am | Permalink

              Agreed!

          • Gary W
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

            Even ignoring the fact your proposal is a complete fantasy politically, dedicating road lanes to exclusive use by bikes would not make cities any more compact. The average one-way commute in the U.S. is over 10 miles. Few people would be willing to bike 20 miles a day to work and back, even with dedicated bike lanes all the way. Bikes are also highly unattractive for trips that involve a significant amount of shopping or other cargo, or that involve traveling with others, especially parents traveling with their children. Another factor that makes bikes particularly unattractive in the U.S. is climate. Many American cities have very hot and humid summers and/or bitterly cold winters. There’s a reason virtually all cars have heating and air conditioning.

          • Karst
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

            “…bikes are never going to be a very attractive way to get around most American cities.”

            Of course, as gas prices eventually skyrocket, cycling will become more of a necessity for many people. Keep in mind that gas prices in the U.S. are relatively low compared to, say, prices in Europe.

          • Gary W
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

            Gas prices may continue to rise, but it’s unlikely they’ll skyrocket. And new technologies that increase fuel efficiency or allow cars to use other fuels can offset rising gas prices. Hybrids can get twice the fuel efficiency of conventional autos. Plugin hybrids, three to four times the efficiency.

            • Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:12 pm | Permalink

              Your libertarian navet is just so cute!

              Sadly, here in the real world, oil isn’t an infinite resource. Not only have we used up half of what was in the ground before we started pumping it out, we — duh! — used up the cheap, good stuff. What’s left is the low-grade, hard-to-reach stuff that wasn’t worth the waste of time to get to it. But now that the rest is gone, that’s all that’s left. Long gone are the days when you had to be careful with a shovel in Texas lest you set off a gusher; today’s wellheads are a mile beneath the ocean waves with the deposits themselves several miles beneath solid bedrock. And even those well are running dry, and we’re seriously talking about oil shale and tar sands. Tar sands! They hardly even have a positive EROEI.

              And you think it’s magically going to somehow be only marginally more expensive to extract it, and that it’ll last longer than we’ve been extracting it.

              Still not too clear on the whole “exponential growth curve” concept, I see….

              b&

              • Gary W
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:18 pm | Permalink

                Oil production is booming. Production in the U.S. has been growing since 2008. And cars are getting more fuel efficient. And electrification is diversifying automobile fuel sources. Still not too clear on the whole “efficiency and new technology” concept, I see.

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

                Here’s your reference to ignore:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hubbert_peak_theory

                and your entertainment to not watch:

                https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o0ghHia-M54

                …aaaaaand, with that, it’s time to wave something sniny for Baihu to chase….

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

                I have no idea how you think either of your links in any way addresses what I wrote about production, efficiency and new technology.

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:30 pm | Permalink

                Of course you don’t. Because it’s an hour-long movie and it’s been far less than an hour since I posted it. And because you’ve previously demonstrated truly abysmal innumeracy, especially with respect to exponentiation.

                Modest linear efficiency gains with hard physical limits less than a single doubling away don’t even amount to a rounding error compared to exponential growth.

                b&

              • Gary W
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:48 pm | Permalink

                What “hard physical limits less than a single doubling away?” There are already prototype cars that are ten times as fuel efficient as the average car today, and the technology keeps improving. And despite my having mentioned it three times now, you also keep ignoring the growing diversification of automobile energy sources. Electric and plugin hybrid cars can run on any fuel that can be used to generate electricity.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      It makes no sense to ticket a cyclist (except from a revenue standpoint) for not stopping at a stop sign when there are is no pedestrian or vehicular cross-traffic. Or crossing against a red light under similar circumstances.

      Why should bicycles be treated any differently than cars and pedestrians in those situations?

      Laws aren’t perfect. There’s no sense in going 30mph in deserted neighborhoods in the dead of night. It shouldn’t matter which lane one turns from if there’s no traffic…

      Yeah, let’s start enforcing the law situationally (well, more than it already is) and see how that works out for us.

      • Alext T
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:26 am | Permalink

        In many parts of Europe and some places here in Vancouver, there are streets which are designated for cycling and the speed limit is 30 *kph*, not 30 mph.

  24. Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    My mother was hit by a bike messenger in NYC in the 80s. It knocked her down and broke her arm. For some insane reason she didn’t sue and the company only paid medical expenses.
    Bike enforcement can go too far. When I was at U of Arizona a prof was hit by a student on a bike. ( I forgot the details but he might have been killed..not sure) The campus cops then started ticketing everyone for everything. I got a ticket for WALKING across the street on a red light.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Any major intersection on a large U.S. university campus prior to 3 p.m. on a weekday provides ample opportunity to observe collegiate pedestrian hubris and sense of entitlement. No matter how generously and fairly pedestrian crossing opportunities are afforded by traffic engineers, certain Entitled Ones will be sure to cross against the light and stop/slow/delay traffic.

  25. Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Not all bicyclist behave that way. I ride every where and don’t want to have an accident or cause one. Drivers also need to keep watch for people on bikes, they are not free of blame. Believe me.

  26. Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:08 am | Permalink

    You saw how evolution works in human mobility with your own eyes … ;-)
    Somehow the mobility in the Netherlands is expanding to the USA ; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XuBdf9jYj7o

  27. Hempenstein
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:17 am | Permalink

    Once long ago in Williamsburg VA, when riding my bicycle on a very short section of the street at night, without a light, in-between two routes on the campus, a city cop told me he’d impound my bike if he saw me do that again. I didn’t think he could do that so I went down to the station a few days later and sure enough, they showed me the section.

    But here in Pittsburgh, there’s Death Wish III without lights on far busier streets (vs. Wmsbg) at night all the time. So what does the thimblewit legislature, having no sense of dimension, do? They pass a law that the motorized must give bicyclists a FOUR FOOT berth when passing them. Meanwhile, bicyclists here commit all the above infractions with impunity.

    • Hempenstein
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

      But no sooner does jac post on this and I carp about Pittsburgh, than this on ticketing bicycles appears in the local paper. (Homestead is an outlying boro just east of Pgh.)

      • Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

        You know…there are such things as “yield” signs instead of stop signs. And if it’s safe for cyclists to do a rolling stop, it’s just as safe for drivers, and said stop sign could and should be replaced with a yield sign for all.

        b&

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          Or round-a-bouts which I love but it’s more expensive. Keeps traffic moving though!

          • Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

            Gah…I hate those things. Never can figure out how to get into or out of ‘em, which exit I want — and neither can anybody else…nothing but mass chaos. Especially those multi-lane ones, with cars jockeying back and forth between the lanes. Give me a clean, simple four-way intersection any day.

            b&

            • Diana MacPherson
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

              It’s easy – the guys in the circle have the right of way and you signal your exit. In Ontario no one friggin’ taught anybody this before they put the things in so people get confused and signal that they are in the stupid circle (yeah great, I already know that) or don’t signal to leave it which makes me wonder if I can get in the circle. I learned when driving in New Zealand so I was all smug and knowing when they put them in in Canada.

              Also, it is fun when you’re in the circle and you can say “weeeeeeeee” going around!

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

                I imagine they probably make sense for somebody who grew up with them, but they’re as rare as hen’s teeth here in the States.

                And saying, “wheeeeee!” gets old after about the fourth orbit….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

                I didn’t grow up with them. I was middle aged when they came here but the weeeee factor never wears off for me. I especially like when I go through 4 on the way to work. Those are the fun days!

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                Remind me to take the bus next time I’m in Canada….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

                You’ll be fine. They aren’t in every city. I happen to work where they are really common.

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

                Yeah…but your signs are all in Russian or Polish or some other Commie Pinko language, and speed limits and mileages are in killerwats and littleturds and who-knows-what. I’d be lucky to survive as far as the roundabout!

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

                Well that’s true.

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

                And I bet they even take your precious bodily fluids!

                Oh…wait…that’s American “sobriety” checkpoints…nevermind….

                b&

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

                Shhhhh these things have a way of catching on!

              • Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

                Yeah…sometime — oftentimes — I really wish the flow of ideas went the other way. Can we please have your universal healthcare and lack of an NSA and lack of a War on Some Drugs? Pretty please? With extra sugar on top?

                b&

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:22 am | Permalink

                Yeah roundabouts are quite enjoyable. And WAY better in light traffic than sitting on bl**dy red lights forever while the wretched things show long green phases to empty roads.

                But if you want to see the world’s most awesome roundabout, navigate your way on Googlemaps to the Arc de Triomphe (that’s in Paris). Six lanes of traffic, twelve intersecting roads, and not a lane marking in sight and the Paris traffic just weaves. And none of it seems to collide. (No way could they do that in New Zealand, any NZ traffic engineer worth his salt would fubar it with paint and ghastly yellow traffic signs and cause total gridlock).

                By the way, French cyclists in Paris seem to be a lot saner and more considerate than the ones here in NZ, where the bastards just go blasting past everybody with six inches clearance like they were in a cycle race…

            • Hempenstein
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

              Trying to figure which Reply to hit to mention the Marquis de LaFayette and roundabouts is about like being in a roundabout.

        • Filippo
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

          That seems reasonable. All (sober, reasonable, alert) drivers would be forced to more closely look out for one another.

  28. Brujo Feo
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:21 am | Permalink

    I’m speaking as a bicyclist, pedestrian, motorcyclist and “cager” with 42 years on my license. I agree that the two cyclists in the incidents described were in the wrong, but let’s stop with the “obey the law” crap.

    Unless you agree that YOU should be cited every time you drive 56 mph in a 55, it’s not about obeying laws, it’s about not being a dick. EVERYONE is a scofflaw; they just like to imagine that the laws that they disrespect DON’T make them a “bad person,” but that the ones that YOU break, do. Example: I argued (and editorialized in the local paper) against these stupid “hands-free” laws, and yet now that we have them, I appear to be the only person in the state of California who actually bought and uses a bluetooth device.

    Example: here in Ventura, there is a place near my house where I not only have to ride on the sidewalk, I have to cross the street and ride on the sidewalk the wrong way. Is it illegal? 1) Yes; and 2) I don’t give a shit. The alternative is to ride on a 2-lane with ZERO shoulder on one side, where cars regularly drive 60-65, and where I once caught an underripe avocado in the kidney, that was traveling 60-65 PLUS whatever the drunken teen who was screaming obscenities at me as he threw it could muster with his arm. When I do ride that narrow sidewalk, OF COURSE I yield to pedestrians. But not because the law requires it; I’m already breaking the law. Because I’m trying not to be a dick.

    And please note that in some places (Idaho, for example–see: http://www.sfbike.org/?idaho, cyclists can treat red lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs. AND IT WORKS. So if your state hasn’t caught up to Idaho, should you be cited if you carefully proceed through a red light on your bicycle, after stopping? OF COURSE you should. For the same reasons that you need to be cited every time you drive 56 in a 55.

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      So presumably you don’t think that penalties should be imposed on bikers who run stop signs, but cars should? Or should we only ticket those people who are “being a dick” (an infraction that, as far as I can see, isn’t in the lawbooks)?

      • Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:33 am | Permalink
      • Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:34 am | Permalink

        (applause)

      • Alext T
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:35 am | Permalink

        I think the point is that speeding kills people, yet it’s treated very casually as if it wasn’t merely a fact of nature but a benign and harmless part of society.

        Meanwhile cyclists trying to avoid being killed get attacked as scofflaws.

        There’s a brutal blindness there.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:38 am | Permalink

          That is a perfectly illogical comment. The fact that speeding is hazardous does not mean that hazardous cycling isn’t.

          • Alext T
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

            Bike-pedestrian collisions are rare and injuries tend to be minor. Speeds are never high and masses are low. Car-bike and car-pedestrian collisions frequently end in death.

            I’m not saying that bikes shouldn’t be in control and follow road rules. I am saying that singling out cyclists for their bad behaviour without discussing the bigger context is harmful, disingenuous.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:47 am | Permalink

              Maybe we shouldn’t talk about car/cycle safety either. After all, leaking nuclear power waste at Fukushima is far more dangerous in the long run.

              • Diana MacPherson
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:50 am | Permalink

                I blame the socialists for all this. :D

            • Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

              Do you know what “disingenuous” means, Alex? If not, look it up and then apologize. I was singling out one problem hear, not taking on the world’s ills.

              • Alext T
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:13 am | Permalink

                Jerry – I do think that the problems you’re seeing with cyclists are a direct result of a car-centric city design which puts bike riders in the position of following the letter of the law and endangering their lives, or being forced into breaking the law to protect themselves. The real increased risk means that only the most aggressive people (young men, usually) are willing to cycle, leading to poor interactions with pedestrians.

                I think cyclists (and the many millions of people that would cycle if they could do so safely) are victims on many levels. No, that doesn’t mean that the should not be held accountable for their actions. But I do think that blaming them to the point of having a long rant without even a single hint of the causes which force bikes onto sidewalks, you are being blind, perhaps because of your recent bad interactions.

                So yes, I’ll withdraw the ‘disingenuous’. I do not think you are are malicious, insincere, or intentionally dishonest. I do think that you can and should recognize that the things you listed do not occur in a vacuum, but since they just happened to you, I should have read it as you venting steam and not as a position paper.

      • Alext T
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        Sorry, to add – in general, yes bikes should follow the laws. But in many places it isn’t safe. Roads are designed for cars, not bikes. If someone cycles and follows all the laws, in many places they’re endangering their lives.

        This is taken as a given, but it is not.

        It’s also taken as a given that cars rule, that they kill people, that drivers can’t control their speed limit, and we should just not care. Instead many people reserve their rage for cyclists, tarring them as scofflaws. In reality, drivers break the laws daily and when they break the laws, they endanger others. When cyclists break the laws, they are often doing so to save lives.

        I’m not saying that’s “right”, but being blind to the reasons and attacking cyclists (who are far more likely to be killed by others than they are to injure someone) is not right either.

        • Filippo
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          “It’s also taken as a given that cars rule, that they kill people, that drivers can’t control their speed limit, and we should just not care.”

          I gather that the above position is taken by that fraction of car drives who are of the mindset described above, not by all car drivers.

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        I didn’t think that my comments were that impenetrable, Jerry. By all means, until your state catches up with Idaho, ticket away. But several commenters here have described situations where obeying the laws is, peculiarly for cyclists, very dangerous. My example was places where there are no bike lanes and no shoulders and no sidewalk in the direction of travel, forcing the cyclist onto the opposing sidewalk (one used by few pedestrians, BTW)for a distance of a mile. For me to ride that distance, no matter how carefully and deferentially to pedestrians, is clearly illegal. But it is my opinion that an officer would have to be a dick to cite me for it.

        And yes, you are correct: being a dick isn’t illegal. But it would certainly provide a better guide for interaction between the various forms of transportation than all of the Vehicle Code. In 53 years of cycling, I’ve broken a pile of laws and never injured anyone.

        • Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:08 am | Permalink

          My example was places where there are no bike lanes and no shoulders and no sidewalk in the direction of travel

          If the speed limit is 30 mph or lower, that would be my favorite kind of cycling. You just take the lane, in accordance with the law.

          (In Illinois, that is 625 Sec. 11-1505)

          http://tinyurl.com/krq4ly5

  29. Dominic
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I get VERY ANGRY about bloody cyclists on the pavement in central London. Last summer I walked out of the hospital where our library is & a cyclist on the pavement [sidewalk] hit me!!!

    I wish those who do this flat tires in their hour of need. Stick to the roads & cycle tracks, & cycle at least 3 feet from the kerb where you are more visible. I passed my Cycling Proficiency Test 40+ years ago – I suspect many of these cyclists are ignorant of how to behave in a civil society.

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      but you give us climate change :-)

      • Dominic
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 3:08 am | Permalink

        Not I – well not AS much as others… I cannot drive & have not flown for some years, so I cycle ON THE ROAD – & walk!!! If I can do that I don’t see why others cannot.

  30. Stephen Barnard
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:25 am | Permalink

    Many bicyclists obey only one law: The Law of Conservation of Momentum.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:08 am | Permalink

      Which is precisely the motivation for the second half of “treat red lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs” laws. Giving a time advantage back to the cyclist applies to both parts.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:18 am | Permalink

        Should motorcycles do the same? It’s way more of a pain in the leg to hold up a heavy bike when you stop for stop signs & stop lights.

        • Brujo Feo
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:09 am | Permalink

          Diana, I have to ask: have you ever actually ridden a motorcycle? One of my current stable is a ’97 Gold Wing, over 1,000 lbs., and it balances itself just fine between my legs at stops. From ’87 to ’92, I had an earlier Wing, pulling a 1,200 lb. trailer, when I was bumming around Europe for 5 years (doing law school by correspondence). I had some touchy moments on steel ferry ramps in Britain, snowy roads in Czechoslovakia, and muddy goat tracks and river crossings in Turkey and Russia, but holding it up at stops wasn’t an issue.

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:15 am | Permalink

            Yes I have but I’m much shorter than you I assume. Nothing balances for me when at 5’2″ with unreasonably short legs to boot it’s a hassle. Even chick bikes are a hassle.

  31. Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    They are the same way here in Nova Scotia, they complain that we motorists don’t give them the rights that they “deserve,” but refuse to obey traffic laws. They will not pull off the road onto the gravel in more rural settings, and sometimes those roads are very twisty, sometimes you can’t always see if there is oncoming traffic so that you can pull out around them.
    Yes, I agree that traffic laws should be enforced on all manners of travel. Not just us motorists that pay for our license, registration and insurance.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      In some cases simple human consideration is all that is needed.

      I’m often driving rather slowly down country roads, looking for likely places to bird; when I notice a car behind me that would like to go faster and can’t get around, I pull over to let it pass, and we’re both happier.

      Obviously no passee, whatever the vehicle, would want to be doing so continuously if traffic were heavy; but very many times that’s not the case.

  32. Dominic
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Hang on – “University Police”??? What is that???

    • microraptor
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      Campus security.

  33. Rick M
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    How does ticketing work if bike riders aren’t required to carry an ID or register their bikes? How would the police enforce payment? I suppose the police could impound a bike and force payment that way.

    I live in bike-happy Cambridge MA and gave up my car a couple of years ago and bike year round 100+ miles a week for work commute, shopping, etc. I obey many of the traffic rules, avoid sidewalks mostly, but never ride through crowds and pedal at a walker’s pace on shared bike/pedestrian trails when passing walkers. There are lots of very arrogant or clueless bike riders taking needless risks to themselves and pedestrians. Your anger and frustration are understandable but name calling and policing aren’t solutions.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      If pointing out the miscreants (a.k.a. “name calling”) and holding them accountable (a.k.a. “policing”) are not solutions, what is your alternative?

      • Rick M
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:52 am | Permalink

        Calling someone a “bad person” seems a bit weak vs. calling them a scofflaw or miscreant (like that one!). And maybe policing would work but I don’t see how if they don’t have some certain punishment as an enforcer – but what? I dunno.

        I can offer no solution. But I do my best as a rider. The solution may be to realize that bikers are in a anarchic netherworld, not motorist or pedestrian and be aware of the danger. Encourage commonsense and courtesy and hope it catches on, that’s my solution to all the frustration my fellow humans heap on me day after day.

        • gbjames
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:55 am | Permalink

          The solution I’d suggest is good laws, enforced fairly.

          Not sure why that idea is so controversial.

          • Rick M
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:09 am | Permalink

            Again, how do you ticket and get payment from a rider with no ID or registration? Maybe just the hassle of being postponed while a cop writes you up would be enough. It would be interesting to see the results of a concentrated effort of ticketing. Just to throw in one other thought, not all traffic laws for motorized vehicles are applicable to bikers. Got to be 16 to ride a bike? I’d rather have 9 year olds on the sidewalk than in the street. It is a complicated problem with controversial possible solutions.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:35 am | Permalink

              The same way you ticket such a person for other minor infractions, say… noise nuisance violations or urinating in public. Why is this sort of situation different?

              • Rick M
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

                By all means, ticketing. /sarcasm

                I’d like to see a study comparing the cost benefit of increased law enforcement via ticketing vs. a PR campaign advocating common sense and courtesy.

              • gbjames
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:10 am | Permalink

                @Rich M: I assume you are opposed to all sorts of ticketing, not just for bicycle infractions?

                Ticketing can be quite an effective form of PR.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

          but scofflaw or miscreant are not hyperboles and a hyperbole like “bad person” is funny.

          • Rick M
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:31 am | Permalink

            you’re right, point appreciated.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:36 am | Permalink

          Regarding your last sentence, I couldn’t agree more, Rick M.

  34. Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    THANK YOU. I lived in Davis for 2 years and now in Louisiana, and even though Davis has much denser bike traffic, I feel more likely to be hit by a bike here than there. A lot of my friends won’t commute by bike in Baton Rouge because they fear the motorists (which in my experience are generally patient and courteous on campus and in the immediate surrounding areas), but I swear the bikes at LSU fly out of nowhere. They’re on sidewalks, they’re salmoning up the road at you, they suddenly appear in crosswalks. Not to mention the countless people I’ve nearly killed while driving at night because they’re riding a bike the wrong way on the road, swerving around and with no lights.

    I always obey the traffic laws on my bike. The one exception is at certain traffic lights that I haven’t been able to trip and the city refuses to fix for bikes. This is mainly for my own and others’ safety, and because LSU campus police have said (after quite a few crashes) that they will start ticketing cyclist violations, but also because I have much more positive experiences with motorists when I’m being predictable and following the law.

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      To add, since many of my friends get very angry when I tell them that sidewalk riding is not safe: I’ve almost hit many a bike while making a right turn in my car. Motorists are not looking for or expecting fast moving vehicles to enter a crosswalk in front of them; they glance for slow moving pedestrians.

      Not to mention that the sidewalks, at least around Baton Rouge, are sporadic, often lead to nowhere, end suddenly, and are not well maintained. Not suitable for my road bike, even if it were legal and safe. Around here, cyclists have to ride defensively AND aggressively. I always take my entire lane and ride in the middle; otherwise, cars will attempt to squeeze by in the same lane without leaving the 3ft of space required by local law. Sure, it requires motorists to slow down and wait to pass if there’s traffic, but I feel much safer. Sorry for the rant(s); I have very strong feelings about this, obviously.

      • RFW
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        At one time (say, 20-30 years ago) you saw some cyclists here (Victoria, BC) riding with a little flag sticking out from the left rear hub of their bikes, on a pole 2-3′ long. This did a good job of making sure motorists didn’t crowd you trying to squeeze by: they don’t want their precious cars to be scratched, never mind that they might own a beater on its last legs.

        Haven’t seen one in years now, however.

        I’m sure you can still buy these flags – I see them on some mobility scooters.

        • teacupoftheapocalypse
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:44 am | Permalink

          My wife wanted one for her bike. but they proved impossible to source in the UK or Austria.

  35. darrelle
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    I cycle quite a bit and agree that cyclists should generally follow the law. I don’t agree with the bad person remark.

    Cycling enthusiasts, like most any type of enthusiast have all kinds of really bad arguments to justify criticized behaviors. There are some examples in the comments here. The cycling culture, like any such culture has all kinds of myths and just so rationalizations that are swapped back and forth. This is why I don’t ride with groups. A couple of friends, maybe.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:39 am | Permalink

      Good point. Human nature in a microcosm.

  36. Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    I agree cyclists should obey the law. However, living in Berlin as a Dutchman, I am amazed how often (nearly daily) I would hit a pedestrian or an automobile for them ignoring the bike-lane (mostly pedestrians not looking when crossing and motorvehicles taking a left turn when I’m going straight). I never hit them, because I adapted to their common behavioral flaws. This morning it happened to me twice. I think rules must be inforced for all traffic AND awareness of cyclists should be a required part of a driver license test.

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

      - meant right turn obviously, and the fact that I am taking a cyclist point of view :-) -

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      I’m starting to think people just don’t have a strong sense of danger anymore. When I drive, bike, walk I’m like a frightened woodland creature – always looking every which way. I think this is a good way to live!

      • Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:24 am | Permalink

        I think here in Berlin the problem is that it is just not in their system yet. Cycling is on the rise, but motorvehicles clearly dominate. I wish they were more like you :-)
        More fines for cars nearly hitting a bicycle when the cyclist was right would also help. Not against the law, but should be (because nearly hitting is too close to actually hitting).

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:07 am | Permalink

        I am wary of overly cautious drivers…the ones who seem to favor Volvo wagons. They’re unpredictable, and they make other drivers behave unpredictably.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:13 am | Permalink

          I didn’t say I was overly cautions – I said I looked every which way. Drivers need to pay attention and look at their surroundings because it doesn’t matter who is at fault when someone dies or gets hurt (well it does legally but you all feel bad). I’ve had bikes squish between me and the curb and luckily I saw it or I could have hit them when I turned right because I can’t easily see or hear them. I’ve seen pedestrians lolly gag and not look when crossing the road – you may have the right of way but you’ll die if someone hits you anyway – I ALWAYS look even if I’m crossing at a light!! AND I always look when I’m on a bike!

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

        I’m starting to think people just don’t have a strong sense of danger anymore. When I drive, bike, walk I’m like a frightened woodland creature – always looking every which way. I think this is a good way to live!

        This.

        So many operate as if they have an invisible force field protecting them.

        By nature I automatically give bicyclists a wide berth when passing, a good lead when following, etc. How can one not be aware of the physics of what can happen in an instant should something go wrong?

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:49 am | Permalink

          Exactly! When I see a bike on a country road I immediately slow down and then go waaaaay around because I have this horrible feeling they will fall in front of my car – why? Because there is roadkill, pot holes and who knows what on a country road AND the shoulder is full of sharp gravel.

  37. Carl
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    As a avid cyclist I couldn’t agree more I have seen a lot traffic violations by bicyclists here in Minnesota. I always stop at lights or signs and obey all traffic laws just the same as motorists. I was hit by a vehicle last year the guy failed to yield at a stop sign. I was not hurt badly just bruised and a bent back wheel. He paid for the damage. So both driver and bicyclists need to heed all traffic laws.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:34 am | Permalink

      “[H]eed all traffic laws.”

      So–should every driver who does 46 in a 45 (and every cyclist who does 25 in a 25) be cited? Completely mechanically, no discretion? Or is there SOME room for common sense?

  38. teacupoftheapocalypse
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    I am lucky enough to be able to divide my time between Oxford and Vienna, and cycle in both, but also drive and take public transport. I hope that I follow the rules of the road and have a decent perspective of other road needs and difficulties. I’ve had one rear end shunt in a car and had the same happen to me. I have twice been knocked of my bike by motorists in Oxford, but never in Vienna. The first time, the driver realised his error and apologised, no real injury, no problem. The second time I was left in a bit of a torn and bloody heap and the motorist sped off. The police later informed me that she was a doctor of medicine!

    The thing that alarms me the most about other cyclists in Oxford and Vienna is a recently developed bad habit: the use of mobile (cell) ‘phones and MP3 players while cycling. Both seem to be an increasingly common bad habit. How such people can possibly think that they have good control of their bikes, or a healthy awareness of what other road users around them are doing, beats me.

    I drive, I cycle. I also have a mobile ‘phone and an much-cherished iPod. I just don’t see any sense in their combined use.

    • JBlilie
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:56 am | Permalink

      “The thing that alarms me the most about other cyclists in Oxford and Vienna is a recently developed bad habit: the use of mobile (cell) ‘phones and MP3 players while cycling. Both seem to be an increasingly common bad habit. How such people can possibly think that they have good control of their bikes, or a healthy awareness of what other road users around them are doing, beats me.”

      Right on!

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      Hear, hear!

      Applies to drivers and even, to some extent, pedestrians as well. (The latter have been known to walk into streetlight poles or step into holes when too oblivious.)

  39. Todd
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Agreed .. It’s a sideWALK not a sideRIDE .. bikes belong in the street.

  40. Gary W
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    In 20 years, cars will drive themselves and the roads will be much safer for everyone — car occupants, bicyclists and pedestrians.

    • teacupoftheapocalypse
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:17 am | Permalink

      They said that 20 years ago, and 40 years ago, and…

  41. ridelo
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    When cyclists ride on the sidewalk they should ride at walking speed when there is a chance of collision with other users. But separate bike lanes certainly is better. In my country Belgium many one direction streets are two direction for bikers. That makes automobile users much more careful. But we have also many bikes only lanes separated from car lanes. Take e.g. a look at Hasselt on Google earth and Street View.
    But it could still be better, of course.

    • craigp
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      I use the same philosophy, except I ride at jogging pace since that’s a common speed for people on the footpath. It’s important to be aware that my speed feels much faster to a pedestrian than it does to me.

  42. Pliny the in Between
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    My friends and I (all of who cycle to work obeying the rules) have coined a term for a certain class of rider who exhibits an attitude of great self-importance, always in full riding gear – ‘Spandicks’

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:27 am | Permalink

      Awesome! The best portmanteau ever!

      • Pliny the in Between
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        Just posted some of our selection criteria

    • darrelle
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:12 am | Permalink

      That is awesome, thank you. Some friends and I once coined a term for the equivalent motorcycle rider, “Scootertrash.”

      Yours is much better.

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, but I’m very dubious that you invented that phrase (or word, if you delete the space). “Scooter trash” has been common parlance for a LONG time–at least since the ’60s. And the kind of behavior described isn’t very “scooter trash-ish” Riders we call “squids” would come closer, except for the “full riding gear” part, which they’re the very antithesis of. Google “ATGATT” and you’ll see what I mean.

        • darrelle
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          Re inventing Scootertrash, yes. But, part of the inside joke is that we repurposed the term to apply to people with shiny new bikes, shiny new riding gear, a superior attitude and limited knowledge and skills.

          Re squid. A squid is quite different. A squid is a “young punk” whose testosterone is overpowering his undeveloped frontal lobes and has delusions of X Games grandeur. About the only thing in common between the two is the typical lack of skills. Squids typically don’t have shiny new bikes or gear. At least not for long.

          You can often tell a squid at a single glance. If they are riding their sport bike with their heels on the foot pegs, and they are using the bars to support their weight, with locked elbows, they are very likely a squid.

          • Pliny the in Between
            Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

            Based on your icon image, it appears that you have more than a passing knowledge of motorcycles – my question to you is this: what do you think of California’s law allowing motorcycles to pass down the center of the highway between lanes? I’ve seen some pretty close calls with lane changes in traffic.

            • Erik Verbruggen
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

              as a general comment (not a motorcyclist myself): this rule is common in Europe, and the most important thing is just for car drivers to be aware of the possibility. It would be really silly to change it in response to driver’s ignorance, right?

              • Pliny the in Between
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

                I have to disagree.Driving is already an intense and dangerous environment requiring situational awareness to a far greater degree than any other situation for 90% of the population. Having motorcycles zipping along 20-30 mph faster than traffic in a car’s blind spots seems problematic.

            • darrelle
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

              I am a bit divided on that one. If the average competency of riders and car drivers were considerably higher I wouldn’t have any reservations.

              Something that seems a problem to me is the agressive attitude some drivers have towards motorcylists when it comes to passing of any sort. It is not uncommon at all in my experience for people to be offended by me passing them on a motorcycle, and acting on it. I’ve had people run me off the road, cause me to speed excessively to get away from them, and even follow me home to yell at me, and in one case with intent to beat me up, for passing them in reasonable and lawful situations. It seems to be a machismo thing, like you made them look bad or counted coup on them or something. I have to wonder if lane sharing/splitting leads to more motorcycle related road rage incidents in California compared to other states where it is illegal.

              I have to admit that lane sharing/splitting can be quite fun, but that is of course not relevant.

              • Pliny the in Between
                Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

                Interesting question on the road rage stats. Sorry you have to deal with so many macho dirtbags during your rides. It’s part of the reason I’ve stayed off the things in recent years.

            • Brujo Feo
              Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Permalink

              OK…since I live and ride daily in Southern California, let me take a crack at this one. I first started living in Ventura (and making court appearances in L.A.) about 20 years ago. Even then, the congestion was such that I HAD TO split lanes to get to court; the alternative would have been to leave the house at 6:30 a.m. (or earlier) for an 8:30 appearance.

              Now it’s gotten so bad that I never drive down the morning of; I go down at 11 p.m. or so the night before to some cheap-ass fleabag motel close to the courthouse. But returning to Ventura at mid-morning, let alone lunch or quitting time, it’s back to splitting lanes. Through the San Fernando Valley when it’s 108 degrees sometimes…

              I’ve done it for thousands of miles. It’s better on my Gold Wing; although 44″ wide at the mirrors, when I put on the high beams and the 4-way flashers, people pull out of my way, thinking I’m a cop. The CBR1100XX Super Blackbird is more problematical. Considerably narrower at 35″, it’s more top-heavy, with less leverage at the bars–a skittish handful at crawling speeds. And no flashers.

              I don’t spend a lot of time fussing about the safety issues. LOTS of bikers in the lane get rear-ended in stop-and-go; less of an issue when you’re moving faster than traffic. I watch tires and mirrors (for eye contact)and cover the brakes, ready for that ONE clown who caught me in bed with his daughter last night. (All joking aside–I don’t ride like “they don’t see me”; I ride like they do, and WANT to kill me.)

              Yes, it’s exhausting, but not particularly unsafe. So sayeth the CHP: http://www.chp.ca.gov/programs/lanesplitguide.html and http://www.chp.ca.gov/programs/motorcycle.html.

  43. craigp
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Thank you for warning us of the “curmudgeonly” post, Jerry. Much appreciated :-)

    It annoys the heck out of me too when cyclists do stupid things because it gives the rest of us a bad name. But most of all I hate seeing cyclists do stupid things because some people use that to later justify treating me like dirt, or even putting my life in danger without any provocation from me. It’s also not pleasant browsing through these comments implying that my life (or the life of any other person, cyclist or not) is worth so little that somebody else’s minor traffic infringement somehow justifies my injury or death. Way to boost my faith in humanity people! ;-)

    Nobody is suggesting that cyclists should be above the law. Nobody should be above the law. But let’s be honest folks, until everybody – and I mean everybody – starts to obey a few of the laws of the road then nobody has earned the right to preach to others, and they certainly haven’t earned the right to administer “justice” as some of the comments seem to imply. Sorry about the religious reference, but “let he who is without sin cast the first stone” seems very appropriate. Lead by example.

    I don’t know what the climate is like in the US regarding this kind of debate but judging by these comments I’m guessing that cyclists not held in very high regard. No doubt they make up a very small proportion of road users in the country known around the world as the land where the car is king! But they’re also, along with pedestrians and motorcyclists, one of the most vulnerable road users. You must remember that a collision between a cyclist and a pedestrian is going to be bad for both parties so there’s a big incentive for both parties to avoid a collision. It might not seem like they’re trying very hard sometimes! This is not the case at all in a collision between a car and a cyclist (or motorcyclist or pedestrian). I wonder if people would be so blase if drivers of large trucks started behaving aggressively towards car drivers. Something tells me this would be a very big problem.

    Please try to be nice to each other, people. Or at least be grudgingly civilised. :-)

    • gbjames
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      Actually, I think many of the stronger comments (in support of following the law, etc.) come from cyclists and fans of cycling. Cyclists are also pedestrians.

      • craigp
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:50 am | Permalink

        You may be right. Perhaps I’ve been reading too selectively.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:27 am | Permalink

          Yes, I think many of us were echoing what you said – that everyone should obey the law, that it is horrible to hurt someone or be hurt.

          And to comment on your large truck and car thing, yes that does happen. In the summer I drive a little roadster and there are a-holes in trucks that hate me for it and will tail gate me or cut me off. A-holes are everywhere who don’t understand the consequences of their actions. I assume that many on this site aren’t like that because from what I see, they are a thoughtful bunch. :)

    • JBlilie
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Well said.

      I also can’t stand the cyclists who refuse to ride in line and feel the need to ride spread over the road width. Not only is this rude and not playing by the rules, it’s a foolhardy risk of your life.

      As to how cyclists are held, it varies all over the map. Generally not great, because our system revolves about the automobile.

  44. RFW
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    IMO, the number one error made by bicyclists is going too fast. Bikes have really lousy brakes and if you need to suddenly stop on a dime (when, say, the car you’re trailing suddenly turns right), you won’t be able to do it without going ass over elbows.

    In earlier comments, note the number of accounts of pedestrians being run down and injured (even killed) by cyclists; this too is a result of riding too fast for conditions. A crowded trail with a mixture of pedestrians and cyclists is no place to show how fast you can go.

    • JBlilie
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      “riding too fast for conditions”

      Bullseye.

  45. Diane Langworthy
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Loved this post! Only thing missing was a hearty “for crying out loud!” Dr. Coyne, you are a good person.

  46. JBlilie
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    As an inveterate cyclist, walker, pedestrian, and motorist: I agree.

    It is completely ridiculous for cyclists to break the rules when other traffic (including pedestrians) are in the zone. I do not do this and never have.

    I used to commute to work normally on a bike and rode in traffic when needed (very fast — I was young and very fit). However, I never assumed the cars SAW me and I always followed the rules. I had a few very near misses but was never hit (well, once in Johore Bahru, Malaysia, just a few cuts and bruises luckily).

    I know several fellow cyclists hit by cars who (the cars) simply didn’t see them. All were severly injured. I have also witnessed bike-pedestrian collisions (on a university campus — where else?!) and the pedestrian definitely came out the worse.

    All this said: I do not come to a full stop and place both feet on the ground at a stop sign — when there’s no one else around. I do come to a full stop (don’t always put a foot down) when there is any traffic at all. I use arm signals for turns. If I ride when it’s not full daylight, I have lights and reflective clothing (rare).

    And I will leave a red light a tad early to make my start-up quicker/safer and easier on the cars (only if I can see clearly that there is nothing coming at all). In fact, I was pulled over in Canberra, Australia for doing just that! I got a warning. Still do it, when it’s safe to do so.

    However: I am always fully engaged while driving or cycling. I am on full alert. I do not text, phone, etc. (I recently saw a teen-aged young woman riding her bike down the bike path, hands off the handlebars, texting (not looking up at all) and with ear buds in listening to music. As we used to say in my climbing days — there’s a rescue wating to happen, let’s go the other way!)

    I’ve also ridden a bicycle around the world, self-contained.

    My advise? (it’s free, so take it for what it’s worth :) )
    Follow the rules
    Always pay attention
    Were brightly colored clothes (they can’t see you! …)
    Wear your helmet!

    • darrelle
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      Excellent comment, riding habits, riding attitude, riding skills and advice.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      Jblilie, thanks for reïnforcing my point…you say: “It is completely ridiculous for cyclists to break the rules…” and then give two examples of rules that you routinely break, which you then justify by stating that you are “always fully engaged.”

      In other words, you’re not concerned with what’s a rule and what isn’t; you’re concerned with using common sense. Yes?

      • JBlilie
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:35 am | Permalink

        Yes, common sense. But it’s in short supply.

        I agree that breaking the rules is acceptable in some circumstances (obviously). (As in, when the cyclist runs the stops sign and Dr. C. is not around (nor anyone else) it’s OK by me — and him too, since he won’t know about it.)

        Unfortunately, many, many cyclists behave really badly.

  47. Posted August 13, 2013 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    I find it amazing that Jerry writes a post which basically says, “Cyclists shouldn’t run red lights and stop signs” and the cyclists commenting here respond with, “we HAVE TO break the law for our own safety.” Anyone trying to defend cyclists here should begin his/her comment with, “Of course I agree that cyclists shouldn’t run red lights and stop signs, but…” And then make your point. There is absolutely no excuse for a cyclist to speed through a red light light or stop sign into an intersection.

    • Nick Evans
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:58 am | Permalink

      Apart from the motor vehicle speeding behind them which looks unlikely to stop.

      • darrelle
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

        Two things.

        1) That is hardly the norm. The large majority of the time a cyclist stops at a stop sign they are not in immediate danger of being run over by a vehicle behind them running the stop sign. I would certainly agree, though, that any biker should be alert for just that type of situation developing when they approach a stop.

        2) If you decide that this particular concern justifies you running stop signs as a matter of course, does it also justify you causing an accident? Because if you decide to make this SOP that is much more likely to happen.

        If you are talking about a response (deciding to run a stop sign) to a specific incident, then I think your comment is off target. I am pretty sure that most people here offering criticism about bikers breaking the law is targeted at bikers that, for example, run stop signs as SOP. That is dangerous for themselves and others. I find it hard to believe anyone really has a problem with that position. If you do I think you are a danger to yourself and others around you.

        • kazdragon
          Posted August 21, 2013 at 5:36 am | Permalink

          I had a situation once where I was going down a hill on my bike at speed. A car ahead was signalling and had stopped to turn into a junction across traffic.

          I moved to undertake the car stood still and indicating (this is allowed by traffic laws in the UK, where I was at the time).

          The car behind me was so busy trying to overtake me that they failed to notice the stopped car and ended up slamming on the brakes and skidding to a halt.

          This is a frighteningly common behaviour in places where the infrastructure does not support bicycles properly. I figure it’s something in the hind brain that says, “I’m faster than that vehicle ahead, therefore I should be ahead of that vehicle ahead,” without actually considering what’s ahead.

    • craigp
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

      I haven’t seen anybody here claim to “speed through a red light”. If you read your post I think you might find yourself guilty of what you’re accusing others of. Sorry to be negative but I don’t think cultivating a tribal us vs them environment is helpful.

  48. darrelle
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    As I said in another comment, I have some cycling experience. I have much more experience motocycling. I have noted many parallels between the two. One very obvious parallel is that there are a significant number of riders, bicycle and motorcycle, that deserve all the complaints and insults they get.

    As a motorcyclist I view 4 wheeled vehicles as extremely dangerous and have no expectations that they will do the right thing in any given situation. And I view the typical driver of such vehicles as being so clueless that they are a danger to themselves and everyone around them. I am not singling out cagers here, I think that of everyone until evidence to the contrary. This kind of view is typical of both motorcyclist and bicyclists. And I think it is a valid point of view as far as it goes, particularly in the context of survival.

    And I agree with the point of view that many cyclists on this thread have expounded on. I have no problem breaking traffic laws if I judge my safety to be unduly impacted by a situation, within reason and without endangering, or even inconveniencing others if at all possible. But, that is clearly not the category of law breaking that Jerry is complaining about.

    But, in my experience the majority of people who ride motorcycles and bicycles on the road, shouldn’t. By that I don’t necessarily mean they should be legally prevented from doing so. I simply mean it would be better for everyone if they didn’t. Most riders don’t have a clue how their machine operates, but just try telling them that they don’t. They believe all kinds of wrong ideas that permeate the culture and which are often dead wrong. A classic is that you shouldn’t use the front brake on a motorcycle because it’s dangerous, when in reality, depending on the design of the motorcycle, the front brake accounts for 75% to 95% of your braking ability.

    And many riders make really poor decisions on how to operate their machine based on these inaccurate pearls of wisdom that the culture circulates, or due to mere ignorance. And their skills at operating their machine, and at analyzing what is going on around them, predicting problems and repsonses to those problems, are inadequate at best. And many riders just have the wrong attitude. As if they are owed something. In a sense, of course they are, everyone should be. But as far as informing how you ride, what will that matter when you are creamed by a 7000 lb pick-up truck? Or you cream the young woman walking down the sidewalk with a bag of groceries?

    The same applies to operators of any kind of vehicle. In short, most don’t know how to operate their vehicle, and most are not competent to make good decisions about what to do in any given situation. Especially whether or not it is prudent to break a particular law in a given situation.

    My take away? For my own survival, whether biking, motorcycling, driving, do not ever willingly let myself get caught in a situation where I have to depend on other vehicle operators to do the right thing. Or more accurately, to minimize the number and extent of such situations. And to a large degree that means not doing things that cause other people to have to react to what you are doing in order to prevent a situation, namely a collision. Which has the side benefit of also being polite. Unlike the bikers in the bike incidents described in the OP.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      +1

    • JBlilie
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:40 am | Permalink

      “I view 4 wheeled vehicles as extremely dangerous and have no expectations that they will do the right thing in any given situation. And I view the typical driver of such vehicles as being so clueless that they are a danger to themselves and everyone around them”

      This is a good general safety policy. I felt the same way when I rode a motorbike. And still do when on a bicycle or walking.

    • JBlilie
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      “most don’t know how to operate their vehicle, and most are not competent to make good decisions about what to do in any given situation. Especially whether or not it is prudent to break a particular law in a given situation.”

      This is absolutely true in the US. Knowing this in your bones is part of proper situational awareness.

    • JBlilie
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      For my own survival, whether biking, motorcycling, driving, do not ever willingly let myself get caught in a situation where I have to depend on other vehicle operators to do the right thing. Or more accurately, to minimize the number and extent of such situations. And to a large degree that means not doing things that cause other people to have to react to what you are doing in order to prevent a situation, namely a collision. Which has the side benefit of also being polite.

      This should pretty much be the Golden Rule of the road.

      Think of the stupid things it precludes, if followed.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        It’s only common sense! Which is very uncommon these days.

        Drive defensively, pedal defensively, walk defensively. It’s a jungle out there.

    • Kevin Henderson
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      Well said. As soon as we put on our commuting hats we need to pay attention and avoid one another. Assume everyone else is not paying attention. Try to minimize the surprises to others and to yourself that could lead to harmful events.

  49. Ken Eck
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    As a teenager and college student, I rode my bicycle extensively in Chicago where I was born and raised. I travled from the far northwest corner of the city down to the heart of the loop on many occasions and peddled between my location in the city and some of the nearby suburbs as well. I was well aware of the status of bikes as vehicles and obeyed the traffic laws in almost all cases. The one exception was when I needed to make a left turn at a busy city intersection. In those cases I would often dismount and become a pedestrian to make the necessary crossing rather than getting in front of cars using the left turn lane. I never had an accident and never intruded on pedestrians on the sidewalks. It all seemed to work well, but is so many years ago now I wonder if it would be different in current conditions. When I’m in Chicago, the intensity of the drivers in city traffic and the craziness of those on bikes seems to represent a whole different environment. I wonder how that happened? It isn’t like the city was devoid of traffic in the 60’s and 70’s. Perhaps an evolutionary process has occurred and made the whole thing a mess.

  50. Kevin Henderson
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Few people here have pointed out what motivates cyclists to not follow some traffic laws: metabolism and the evolutionary need to move. (This does not justify anyone’s actions.)

    Drivers can be aggressive and have personalities that can cause them to drive badly, i.e., road rage. Ironically most of the rage would dissolve if we gave aggressive drivers mandatory PE class.

    Most of us are evolved to want to move (although one would think Americans are evolving away from this). This desire could also be manufactured by an athletic motivation or health. But I speak of cyclists who are most likely to cause pedestrians and drivers problems, and they frequently disobey the law, not because of their intentions, but their metabolism forces them.

    Society has mixed a physical activity with a form of transportation. I myself wake up every morning with a heart rate below 37 bpm. I try to swim it off but I still have too much energy. I commute everyday, for the last fifteen years, mostly racing vehicles to every light and I do stop at lights. Why do I race? I have to. The world seems so slow if I do not. This fact is frequently overlooked when considering the motivation of some cyclists to unintentionally behave badly.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

      … I speak of cyclists who are most likely to cause pedestrians and drivers problems, and they frequently disobey the law, not because of their intentions, but their metabolism forces them … mostly racing vehicles to every light and I do stop at lights. Why do I race? I have to. The world seems so slow if I do not. This fact is frequently overlooked when considering the motivation of some cyclists to unintentionally behave badly.”

      Well, I think that perhaps I will cultivate a certain “unintentionality,” so as to be able to rationalize any bad behavior on my part.

      Re: the world seeming so slow to you: perhaps you can rejoice that you live in the 21st and not the 19th century, although – a la Abe Lincoln – splitting rails all day would surely use up that excess energy.

      Do you ever – are you able to – sit still and read a book, as Abe Lincoln sought to do (at the annoyance of his Philistine father) whenever he wasn’t splitting rails? Or learn to play a musical instrument? Or are those “too slow” activities?

      • Kevin Henderson
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        It is too painful to read books…dyslexic. Instruments…mandolin, banjo, guitar, bass…can learn anything by ear…Scruggs to Randy Rhodes…reading music is impossible.

        If I was Abe’s dad he would have loved me…I would do all his chores for him so that he could sit and do productive thinking…I know this is true…I do anything for my sons so that they may actually read books and ponder the universe.

  51. drew
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5kOJ-DTD5c

  52. NoJoy
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    We’d all be a lot better off with laws that reflect the fact that bikes are neither cars nor pedestrians, and a spirit of cooperation and mutual consideration among drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

    I commute on my bike about three days a week, sometimes on roads with dedicated bike lanes, sometimes on roads with “sharrows” indicating explicit sharing of the lane, and sometimes on roads with no markings for cyclists.

    Here’s a typical experience for me on a road with no markings. If I “own the lane”, there is a sizable minority of drivers who don’t believe I have a right to be on the road. A vocal minority of those may honk or tell me to get on the sidewalk. If I ride along the curb in a “virtual bike lane”, there is a sizeable minority of drivers who think that sharing the lane means it is OK to crowd me and squeeze past at 40 mph, but who then yell at me if I squeeze past the line of cars waiting at the next light. If I ride on the sidewalk, which is legal in most places in my city, I have to deal with the sizable minority of drivers pulling in and out of driveways and parking lots without looking for cyclists and pedestrians, plus the sizeable minority of pedestrians who don’t think I should be on the sidewalk. There is no place I can ride such that everyone is happy, so I decide situationally which seems safest.

    Incidentally, I encourage people not to fall into the xkcd “girls suck at science” generalization fallacy when it comes to the behavior of individual drivers, cyclists, or pedestrians.

  53. Graham Martin-Royle
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Consider yourself lucky, here in the UK it’s cars on the pavements (sidewalks) that are the problem and the police don’t give a damn.

    • gbjames
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Permalink

      Well, to be fair, that’s pretty much because your streets are so narrow that there’s little choice.

      • teacupoftheapocalypse
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

        Actually, it’s usually because the car driver concerned is too damned lazy to park where it’s safe and walk an extra 50 yards to wherever they are going.

    • Gary W
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

      I remember a news item about parking from when I was in the UK last year. There was a big outcry at the trend of homeowners paving over their “front gardens” to use them as parking space. A lot of houses there don’t even have a driveway, and street parking in residential areas is in short supply. Not surprising given how densely-populated the country is.

      • craigp
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

        Another problem here is that garages are so small that it’s barely possible to fit a medium-sized car in them. Most people use their garages for storage rooms so the car lives outside.

  54. BillyJoe
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I’m a weekend cyclist. I cycle through the local hills on Sunday mornings and I can report that, no matter how strictly you abide by road laws and etiquette, car drivers are out to get you either through negligence or bloody mindedness.

    And, here, we don’t take out our frustrations on pedestrians. We just accept our lot and get on with enjoying the ride. I suggest you pedestrians do the same and quit yer complainin’

    We even donate to charity.
    This is my friend’s effort:

    http://ml13.conquercancer.org.au/site/TR/Events/Melbourne2013?px=1324360&pg=personal&fr_id=1111

    In case you are confused by the avatar, Chris is short for Christine.

  55. ikinone
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    This is quite a rant.

    The cyclists who are annoying you are the ones who are not only breaking traffic laws, but also cycling poorly [one hand on bars, carrying stuff, nearly hitting pedestrians].

    The problem is not that they break traffic laws, but that they cycle badly. The laws are completely irrelevant to the problem.

  56. Posted August 13, 2013 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    We share the same sentiment. I live in Vancouver and the cyclists here all bike as if they’re entitled to break the law. It’s ironic that they’re also demanding more bike lanes in the city too…

  57. mecwordpress
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

    I saw this post while at work and could not comment on it until now. I figured by now the haters would have chimed in. I see I’m right. Anyway, I commute by bicycle and obey traffic laws except where they risk my life. While waiting at a light on my way home to make this comment 14 of 18 cars at the stop sign adjacent did not stop.

    Apropos

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      I dunno, “haters” might be a bit strong. People usually have strong opinions and some confirmation bias with topics like these but I don’t think there were haters here. You should see how people behave in public forums like news stories. Those commenters deserve the “hater” moniker!

  58. mat'iibn
    Posted August 13, 2013 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

    I am what you hate and I see it this way:

    If I on my bicycle collide with a pedestrian for whatever reason we will likely both survive, a few bumps and bruises maybe, perhaps an occasional serious injury. If I collide with a motor vehicle I am certain to be injured, possibly seriously or be dead. The same incidentally goes for you, the pedestrian.

    It makes sense for both of us therefore to stay as far away as possible from motor vehicles of all types. However you, the pedestrian, has available to you all manner of physical protection, sidewalks and curbs, paths, that you would deny me, the cyclist. I apparently have to stay on the road with behemoths that outweigh my bicycle and I by an order of magnitude or two, are capable of speeds far in excess of what I can do on a good day, and I have to like it or park it.

    I don’t and I won’t. I have as much right as you to move safely to my destination whether or not I choose to do so on a bicycle or not. Pretending that a bicycle is the same as a bus and has to operate by the same rules is a non-starter. If you want to talk about new rules I’m all ears.

    Until then on those occasions when we have to share a sidewalk I will do my best to do you no harm.

    • Brujo Feo
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

      +1

      Oh, stop making sense!

    • Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

      If you want to ride amongst pedestrians, you need to match their speed. Something tells me you don’t.

      And that makes you a serious hazard to pedestrians. All to save yourself a bit of convenience. You’re clearly not ashamed of yourself, though you damned well should be.

      b&

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted August 13, 2013 at 8:18 pm | Permalink

        “If you want to ride amongst pedestrians, you need to match their speed.”

        Define “match.” If you really mean that, then the answer is: “no, you don’t.” Any more than all cars on the freeway need to match speed, or all pedestrians on a sidewalk need to walk at the same speed. In both cases, the correct answer is that the speed differential should neither startle the slower nor overwhelm the reflexes of the faster when the unexpected arises. Verbal communication helps too, as does eye contact.

        • Posted August 14, 2013 at 9:03 am | Permalink

          It should be obvious. On a sparsely populated sidewalk or other pedestrian or shared-use path, your speed should be no more than 10-12 MPH — a good running pace. (Remember: 15 MPH is a four-minute mile, a speed that only a select few elite athletes can sustain for any rate of time.) That speed should decrease with pedestrian volume, and you should dismount and walk your bike when the average distance between pedestrians is on the order of ten feet or less.

          And, yes. I know. Most amateur cyclists like to cruise at speeds almost twice as fast as that. Some commuters will cruise well over twice as fast, and sprint three times as fast. And those on the racing circuit are faster still.

          Tough shit. If you want to ride that fast, do it on the street or in a bike lane or on a dedicated bike path. Don’t do it where grandmothers are taking their grandkids for a walk, or where soccer moms are walking from the store with an arm full of groceries and yakking on the phone. They’re the ones who’ve got the right-of-way on sidewalks and park paths; you’re the invader in their space.

          b&

          • Brujo Feo
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:57 am | Permalink

            “It should be obvious. On a sparsely populated sidewalk or other pedestrian or shared-use path, your speed should be no more than 10-12 MPH — a good running pace. (Remember: 15 MPH is a four-minute mile, a speed that only a select few elite athletes can sustain for any rate of time.) That speed should decrease with pedestrian volume, and you should dismount and walk your bike when the average distance between pedestrians is on the order of ten feet or less.”

            Yes, Ben, this IS obvious. As obvious as your misuse of the word “match,” as explained in my post to which you are responding.

            “And, yes. I know. Most amateur cyclists like to cruise at speeds almost twice as fast as that. Some commuters will cruise well over twice as fast, and sprint three times as fast. And those on the racing circuit are faster still.”

            This is just off the deep end. No, cyclists are NOT that fast (even assuming that we limit ourselves to the “10-12,” and not the “15.” Read about it here: http://www.bicycling.com/news/2011-tour-de-france/tour-features/you-versus-peloton.

            It makes me wonder if you’ve ever even ridden a bicycle. But to suggest (as you are clearly doing) that these baby-eating monsters are riding these speeds on the sidewalk, knocking over pedestrians like bowling pins, is way beyond a “straw-man” argument. It’s ludicrous, and you know it.

            My response to your third paragraph I’ll leave to my response to your next.

            • Posted August 14, 2013 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

              You’re not very good at math, are you?

              I wrote, “most amateur cyclists like to cruise a speeds almost twice as fast (as 10-12 MPH).” Twice as fast as 10-12 MPH is 20-24 MPH; your link (reasonably) gives a typical amateur cruising speed as 17-18 MPH, which is about 85% of 20-24 MPH, practically the textbook definition of “almost.”

              And, when I was in shape, I would regularly sprint to over 30 MPH, which is three times 10 MPH. There are hills in the area (especially South Mountain Park) where you have to ride the breaks to stay below 40 MPH or else you’ll fly off a cliff. On certain extended downhill stretches (such as the back side of Pinnacle Peak) where I’ve maxed out at over 50 MPH.

              So, yeah. I’ll stand by everything I wrote. Especially the bit that, if you’re biking on a walkway as fast as a world-class sprinter (15 MPH), you’re recklessly endangering people on foot. And anything over that should probably get you felony endangerment charges.

              Cheers,

              b&

      • mat'iibn
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 5:28 am | Permalink

        Ben,

        Perhaps I should reiterate

        “…when we have to share a sidewalk
        I will do my best to do you no harm.”

        I say that because I truly feel that pedestrians and cyclists share a commonality in that both groups are not cars. Facilities that serve pedestrians can safely serve cyclists and visa versa.

        The outlier in the current conflict between transportation modes is the motor vehicle and because of size and speed not to mention infrastructure costs which incidentally outpace pedestrian and cycling facilities by more than a couple of orders of magnitude. I once mentioned to a civil engineering acquaintance that I had heard that seven kilometres of freeway costs as much as a high school. He assured me that it was more like three. Would that we could have that level of funding for walking or cycling. Sharing those sidewalks would be a lot easier.

        Until then I’ll not be a sidewalk bully if you’ll not be a tree with attitude.

        • Posted August 14, 2013 at 9:10 am | Permalink

          If by, “do your best to do no harm,” you mean never riding more than a jogging pace, slowing down as it gets more crowded, and dismounting and walking when people are about ten feet apart, then that’s cool. But, again, I really doubt that that’s what you do.

          Just because city planners have designed the roads in such a way that cyclists are endangered through too-close contact with motor vehicles doesn’t mean that you’ve got any sort of right to similarly endanger pedestrians.

          Pedestrians meander, stop without warning, all that sort of stuff. And the right and proper place for them to do that is on the sidewalk. It’s where they’ve been since time immemorial. You have no more right to recklessly operate a bicycle in a pedestrian space because it’s convenient for you to do so than you do to recklessly operate any other vehicle in a pedestrian space.

          The one thing you have is that you can operate your bicycle in a pedestrian-like manner. And if you do so when you’re amongst pedestrians, fine. But you’re still in their space and subject to their rules. Deal with it or get the fuck away.

          And don’t you dare suggest that pedestrians need to stop behaving like pedestrians just so you can have the convenience of riding too fast in their midst.

          b&

          • mat'iibn
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:41 am | Permalink

            Ben,

            I have apparently misled you into thinking that I seek out opportunities to speed recklessly through crowds of pedestrians. I do not.

            • Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:52 am | Permalink

              It’s your comments like this:

              Until then I’ll not be a sidewalk bully if you’ll not be a tree with attitude.

              that have given me that impression.

              Pedestrians are “trees with attitude.” That’s practically the very definition of a pedestrian, and the whole point of being a pedestrian.

              If you’re annoyed by pedestrians being pedestrians, especially to the point that you deliberately endanger them, then you have no business going near pedestrians.

              If you want to ride your bike in the walkway, that means riding your bike like a pedestrian: slowly, not in a straight line, with lots of stops and starts. If you don’t want to ride your bike like a pedestrian, stay away from the walkways. You’ve got roadways where you’re welcome to ride fast in a straight line — but even there you still have to obey traffic regulations and you probably shouldn’t do so unless you can at least come close to keeping up with the flow of traffic. If you’re feeling lazy and don’t want to ride that hard, then it’s back to the walkway — at that far more sedate pace. Or maybe you’re lucky and there’s a nearby bikeway, but you’ve got to add a mile to your route to get onto and off of it.

              It’s that simple.

              Part of being an adult is understanding that you can’t have it all, that you have to accept inconveniences, that nothing is perfect. I really don’t think you’ve learned that lesson yet — and that’s based on your most recent posts.

              b&

        • gbjames
          Posted August 14, 2013 at 9:14 am | Permalink

          I say that because I truly feel that pedestrians and cyclists share a commonality in that both groups are not cars.

          Do you feel the same way about motorcycles? How about a Harley with a sidecar attached? They aren’t cars, either.

          • mat'iibn
            Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:05 am | Permalink

            gb,

            Neither are buses cars nor are semis or dump trucks. The point here is that when you and your bicycle are substantially outweighed by something that can move substantially faster than you simple physics would indicate that it is not a heaven made match. Yet we find that in most jurisdictions bicycles must conform to regulations written for motorized vehicles.

            • gbjames
              Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:17 am | Permalink

              Actually, I think the point is that you are lumping bicycle riders with pedestrians because it is convenient for you as a biker to impose on the walkers.

              Your “if you’ll not be a tree with attitude” demand gives you away, suggesting that it is unreasonable for pedestrians to stop on a sidewalk because it imposes on your ride. But you’re the one imposing on people who have no reason to change their walking habits just because you don’t like to ride on the street.

            • Posted August 14, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

              Bicycles operated on roadways are vehicles required to act as such. Pedestrians aren’t permitted on roadways except in specific narrowly-constrained circumstances. If you want to ride your bike on a roadway, you must do so as a vehicle, not as a pedestrian.

              Similarly, if you want to ride your bike on a walkway, you must do so as a pedestrian, not a vehicle.

              What would be ideal but is, sadly, rare, would be a space as dedicated to bicycles as roadways are to vehicles and walkways are to pedestrians. You can actually do quite a lot to bring such facilities to your municipality, but it takes politics and time and taxpayer money.

              Without such facilities, your choices are to operate your bicycle as a vehicle on a roadway or as a pedestrian on a walkway. Anything else is illegal, dangerous, idiotic, selfish, and generally uncivilized.

              b&

    • Hempenstein
      Posted August 13, 2013 at 7:26 pm | Permalink

      Thank you. When I was @ the U of Richmond for a short while, I’d ride my bike across a fairly long bridge over the James River. There was a prominent sign, No Bicycles on Sidewalk. But there were never any pedestrians on the sidewalk. Guess where I rode?

      Also when I was a kid, I rode increasingly long distances on the edges of roads or shoulders, as appropriate to the conditions & traffic (in places where there were no sidewalks, and always looked out for my own ass. It worked out fine. Now the attitude of many cyclists seems to be, “You (the motorist) better watch out for my ass, since I don’t think I should have to.”

  59. Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

    And, yet, Jerry’s post that kicked this all off, has this line in it:

    Yesterday I was almost run down again by an adult riding her bike on the sidewalk, again at high speedand again an act thats illegal.

    And other posters on this thread have all but admitted to similar behavior — riding bicycles at high speed through crowded pedestrian areas.

    Are you seriously suggesting that Jerry is lying about what happened to him yesterday, or that it’s not a common occurrence?

    b&

  60. Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

    amen, Dr. Coyne. I am so sick of hearing bicyclists insist that they are vehicles and be treated as such and then watch them flout every traffic law. Out of the hundreds of bicyclist I have encountered, the vast minority are those who have earned my respect by acting responsible.

    Does this excuse idiot motorists? No, idiocy on both sides of the road doesn’t excuse either.

  61. Brujo Feo
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

    “And other posters on this thread have all but admitted to similar behavior — riding bicycles at high speed through crowded pedestrian areas.”

    I’ve been following this thread since the beginning. I’ve seen nothing to even suggest such an “all but” admission. Here in California, there are plenty of paths where there is a clearly-marked pedestrian lane right next to an undivided bike lane. But cyclists still have to be wary of wandering pedestrians–and they do.

    “Are you seriously suggesting that Jerry is lying about what happened to him yesterday, or that it’s not a common occurrence?”

    In my very post, I accepted Jerry’s account, and I would have no factual basis to dispute it, let alone accuse him of “lying.”

    Note that the first incident did not involve a sidewalk. As to the second, I am absolutely suggesting that it isn’t a “common occurrence.” Maybe people in Chicago are maniacs. Maybe it’s a college campus issue. I have no knowledge about that. What I do know is that I’ve lived and cycled all over the world, and cyclists knocking over pedestrians is something that I’ve seen as a “common occurrence”–or even “at all”–only on television. In any case, consider the content AND tone of your recent posts. Your hostility against these miscreants is carrying over into heated accusations against those of us who have been following the rules that you yourself suggested. Take a deep breath and take it down a notch.

    • Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Permalink

      Your experiences would seem to be atypical, as evidenced by the general bad reputation cyclists suffer.

      And it’s the cyclists such as those on this thread who refer to pedestrians as “trees with attitude” who’re happy to do whatever it takes to minimize their own inconveniences at the cost to everybody else who give those of us who ride responsibly a bad name.

      Assholes like that deserve to get slapped down, and the only hope for cyclists to regain a good reputation is for the policing to come from within the cycling community.

      Which is exactly what I’m attempting to do here.

      Pedestrians need protection from cyclists as much as cyclists need protection from motorists. Until cyclists as a whole get that on an instinctual, visceral level, we’re going to be reviled — and rightly so.

      b&

      • Brujo Feo
        Posted August 14, 2013 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

        I don’t disagree with you about this last post…but I have to tell you that as a lawyer, a libertarian, an atheist, a skeptic, a “radical evolutionist,” and a biker (as opposed to cyclist), I’m not exactly sure what the words “good reputation” mean.

        Nor do I expect to find out any time soon…

  62. gbjames
    Posted August 14, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Permalink

    I can’t wait until Jerry posts about skateboarders!

  63. kazdragon
    Posted August 21, 2013 at 5:53 am | Permalink

    Bicyclists should indeed obey traffic laws. However, traffic laws should also be adapted to cyclists. The problem is not social; it’s infrastructural.

    As an cyclist (I don’t own a driver’s licence) and an Englishman who moved to the Netherlands last year, I have had had experience with two distinctly different schools of thought over how cyclists should be treated.

    In the UK, where 8/10 cyclists fear for their life when on the road (rightly so!), London and Cambridge excepted, there is little to no provision for cyclists. If there is, it usually involves a puddle-soaked pothole-and-drain-filled mess of leaves and trash on angled, drooping concrete they call a bicycle lane. These are habitually ignored by all drivers, who consider it a normal part of the road. Except for the ones that use it as a parking space, that is. Drivers *are* vindictive towards cyclists. Searching for the recent Twitter “#bloodycyclists” controversy should show that.

    Now, in the Netherlands, cycle lanes are only part of the road in low-speed areas (under 30kph/18mph — speeds at which even car-cycle collisions are not fatal), and are strictly segregated in higher speed areas. Cycle lanes are nearly everywhere. I cycled from Hilversum to Arnhem (~80km) last weekend and had less than two kilometers on the road. There are also pro-cycle traffic measures. For example, many of the roundabouts here have outer-ring cycle lanes which have priority over other traffic.

    Having experienced both, I can quite confidently say that the Dutch model is better. Not just for cyclists, but for *everyone*. Every cyclist on the road (or cycle lane, for that matter) is one less car on the road. And that is good for other car drivers too.

    • kazdragon
      Posted August 21, 2013 at 6:04 am | Permalink

      Just as support for what I mean about how the UK treats cyclists, here is a Street View of a road down which I used to cycle:

      http://tinyurl.com/m9bq5t2

      Note the arrangement of the cars: the two nearest are driving with their wing mirrors in the cycle lane. This is because they are swinging left in order to allow oncoming traffic to pass by the cards parked in the in-road parking bay. It’s an instinctive maneuver, because you can actually see from the snapshot that the nearest oncoming traffic is quite a distance away.

      It gets a little worse later on, because anyone turning across traffic into Avondale Road will nearly always swing fully into the cycle lane and sit there waiting for traffic to abate. Given that this particular road has a slight decline, it’s quite easy to keep up with the pace of the traffic. Having a car swerve into your lane when indicating the opposite direction is most perturbing, I can tell you.

      Now, I could be a bit annoying and say, “cars shouldn’t be in cycle lanes, and drivers should follow the law!” but that doesn’t get us anywhere in this obviously infrastructural issue: there is more than enough room to cut away some pavement near those shops and have the parking bays off-road, just as there is more than enough room to cut away and increase the width of the cycle lane — or to segregate it completely — on the other side.

      Incidentally, one thing I used to enjoy about travelling the opposite direction down this section of road was how the cycle lane suddendly vanishes just before the parking bays and reappears the other side, as if bicycles are completely immaterial and can pass straight through ordinary matter.

    • kazdragon
      Posted November 11, 2013 at 8:45 am | Permalink

      That first link is disgraceful. Ride on the roads, get shouted at to get on the bike paths. Ride on the bike paths, get assaulted by pedestrians.

      The second link, however, I actually support. Having lights on your bike in the UK (where “darkness” starts at about 3pm in winter) is absolutely important, and those £50 fixed penalties (which are post-fact avoidable if you go and get yourself some lights instead) may well save lives.


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