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Dumb and Dumber

Out riding with my wife this morning on our local bike path, I encountered a couple of guys I see all the time riding the same path.

At a guess they are both fifty something and ride in street clothes, on fairly decent hybrid bikes with upright handlebars and skinny tires.

The path is about 12 feet wide and one thing I notice is that one rides on one edge of the path and the other on the opposite side, then hold a loud conversation across this gap as they ride.

This makes it difficult to pass; and I have to call out several times to get their attention over their loud exchange.

It occurred to me that this is exactly how many cyclists ride on the road, and I wondered why that is. My wife and I ride side by side and take up half the path, leaving the other half for other walkers and cyclists.

Is it inexperience, and they don’t feel comfortable riding at close quarters, or is it like when two guys go to the movies together, and they leave an empty seat between them as a “We’re not gay” statement.

The bike trail follows a canal and there are two places where the path crosses a street. In both cases the path switches from one side of the canal to the other, meaning that you have to turn onto the road, ride across a bridge, then turn back on to the path on the opposite side.

This morning we caught these two guys as we approached one of these street crossings. I could hear cars coming but the two in front did not slow but just continued at their same steady pace across the road and made a left turn in front of three approaching cars.

All three cars had to brake and slow to follow these two, still riding two abreast across the bridge before they made a right back on the path again.

Would it have hurt them to stop, and wait for the traffic to pass first before crossing, rather that suddenly appearing on the road from a bike path? Surely this would seem the sensible approach.

I imagine both these guys own cars and I wondered, why it is when a person gets on a bike, they behave in a completely different manner than when they drive. I doubt either would pull out from a side road ahead of close approaching traffic; most drivers would and wait until the road is clear.

Is it that as teens they rode a bike and were never taught how to ride in traffic? As a result when they get back on a bike later in life they don’t see themselves as a vehicle, they can’t seem to grasp that there are rules and protocol to be followed.

How often do we see a young kid on a BMX bike ride diagonally across a busy street dodging cars in both directions? They are young enough, sharp and agile enough that in most cases they get away with it.

Plus people tend to cut some slack when it comes to a juvenile; no one wants to hit a kid. But when a person continues riding in this manner as an adult, and it is only a matter of time before it will catch up with them.

As I said at the beginning, these two guys are regulars on the path; I even spoke with them on one occasion. They seem like intelligent people and it is a mystery to me, why some seem to lose all common sense, the moment they throw their leg over a bike.

I’m trying to figure out how to tactfully ask them that question the next time I see them



Reader Comments (23)

Normally I'd say trying to educate people on the road or trail is a waste of time, there is just too much idiotic behavior, and folks are resistant to change or advice. But in this case, where you see the same riders on a regular basis, an attempt to give friendly advice might be accepted. Good luck with that!

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDoug P

Just because people ride bikes, doesn't cure them of being morons. The only thing that cures them of being morons is their own actions. Usually it involves them turning in front of cars, once too often.

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGrump

GET A BLOODY BELL DAVE! Its amazing how people do NOT respond to the voice, " You talkin to ME?" BUT I have found over the years that a BELL( I have several old LUCAS ones) try Ebay, that do give a LOUD DING DONG people do hear that and usually look around. Also I have found on a bike path and we DO have miles of them, that people of all ages think they are ONE WAY the way they are going and THEY have the right to hog the whole path, I have talked to the Parker City works about lining the whole path like a road so people get the clue that it is TWO ways.but Parker says its to expensive to do, SO LOOK OUT PEASANTS. DING DONG! get out the bloody way,

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Crump

I think there are a couple of problems.

first, basically, it's an identity issue. people who self-identify as cyclists are much more likely to follow rules because that's what cyclists do. we have to fit in with the group, and we don't want Dave to blog that we were riding like assholes when he passed us on the bike path.

second, the rules of the road were developed for cars, with masses 100 or more times greater than the mass of a cyclist. intuitively, everyone who rides realizes that the exact same rules shouldn't apply. e.g., the rolling stop at stop signs. stop lights would probably be unnecessary for almost any density of human powered traffic.

what took me a long time to realize is that eventually getting respect on the road really means everyone obeying the rules, even when they don't make sense for a bicycle. in the short term, that means that the pedestrian who crosses when I stop at a stop sign may be the cop who rolls up to my car crash the next day.

October 14, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterIra

How do these guys behave when someone is riding/walking/boarding/skating coming at them from the other direction, I wonder. Do they squeeze together? Or, does one fall back to go single file?

When I ride towards folks like that, I tend to occupy the full space for my direction of travel. You can often see their eyes widen a bit when they realize you aren't going to afford them more than their half of the bike path. If it's a pair whose bike handling skills don't seem very high - as I observe them coming toward me - I cut those folks a little more slack and squeeze right. But, if they seem steady on their bikes, one or both of them will have to make a decision to move. I've trained more than one pair of habitual riders that way.

As for bells coming up behind riders, I think I'd do better with an air horn. Lots of folks where I am don't seem to recognize what it means. I'm better off calling out with a generic "bike behind." No point in calling "on your left." It just seems to confuse people. An awful lot of pedestrians will move to the left, and some pairs just split one to each side.

Pays to be heads up all the time. Paved multi-use trails are nice, but I've come to prefer the road.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

Tact is the ability to tell someone to go to hell and make them feel good about going there. Experience is the comb we are given after we have lost all our hair. The relationship between autos,pedestrians and cyclist is as unique as the bicycle itself. Quite often I am pleased that cycling is such a seemingly small perscentage of the transportation picture and curiosly wonder what it would be like if the majority of traffic were cyclist. Would it be chaos or something else?

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterTom Knoblauch

Great blog, just discovered it.
Those two habitual "bicycle drivers" are behaving the way they do in their oversized cars, with disrespect for themselves and others.
I like Bystander's approach, teach them (firmly) that the road does not roll out in front of them or roll up behind them.
A very loud air horn at close range could cause them to foul their street clothes and remember to keep left (oops, right, wrong continent) in future.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohann Rissik

Must agree with the comments by Doug, Ira and Johann. Here's my oversimplified explanation: Cycling differently than driving is a function of the perspective that "bikes are toys" and should not be considered anything more than a recreational device. These types of problems are quite difficult to correct as morons typically refuse to change old, self destructive habits and who can easily ignore the fallout on others.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Anytime you venture on a bike path, the first thing you need to do is lower your standards. People will let small children play on the path, dogs run free, people lollygagging and crossing the path without looking. Get used to it. It is no use talking to these people. You know that Dave.

The only thing I tell myself is that it must be nice to be oblivious to the rest of the world.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAnonymous

Those folks who ride improperly on the bike path are really pissed off when I write them a traffic citation...! And Ira is right. It is amazing how many people I recognize when I respond, as a cop, to their crash or police problem.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

Can a traffic citation be made for being on the wrong side of a bike path? In which states?

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I can appreciate the sentiment. Riding skill and discipline are in short supply. Down in LA this past weekend, we had an 'open the streets' to peds/bikes event (CicLAvia) that was a reminder of how hospitable our city can be. But it also showed that some adults newly back in the saddle poorly equipped to hold their own. Weaving, blind and abrupt turns, precipitous slowdowns, all were in plain display. Some rider education is called for, as is driver education. We're still the wild west in this regard. (See more of my take here.)

I also want to say how much I enjoyed the gallery. Especially those custom jobs (chrome with painted tubes) that are so fine. I ride a mid-1980s Scapin (cable-in-tube, chrome forks/stays, beautiful lugwork) and I'll never give up a vintage steel for one of these character-less fiber jobbies. I love lookin' at them, and love riding them. Thanks, Dave!

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPlebisPower

I've noticed on 4 lane highways that when there are 2 motorcycles now days more often then not there is one in each lane riding next to each other even when there is traffic behind them. This leads me to believe we are just becoming a lazy non-attentive society. I think most have an idea what is correct but just don't give a s#!t about others and only care about how they feel at the moment.

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered Commenter3cross

I use an "Air Zound" air horn which is pretty loud when riding. It really helps to give inattentive (clueless, carefree, DGAF) pedestrians, cyclists, and motor vehicles a surprise blast, so that they ultimately realize (Duh !) that they are not the only ones out on the roads. It has helped me avoid quite a few collisions with these idiots !

October 15, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterLouiegoat

Def standards are lower on trails and paths. I have a path type trail here which follows a canal. Always have a bell when I go on it. The quality of roadmanship is not good nowadays at all.
Don't get me started on handsignals

October 16, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterDaz h

Save your breath Dave. I see clowns like this all the time. They can be described as pretty. Pretty clueless and pretty apt to stay that way! You would have better luck lecturing a plump head of cabbage.

October 18, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip

Dave, I use a police whistle. just a couple "Cheep-cheeps" about 100 yards back usually gets their heads to turn. I'll blow it again at 50 yards if they didn't hear me.

I find this is a more non-violent means of communication than yelling out something they might not understand. What if they don't speak english? People always get immediately defensive at the sound of a human voice from behind. .

I have never had someone get riled at the sound of the whistle. I don't blast it. Just keep tooting it until they turn their head.

Keep in mind, though that the elderly might not hear a bell or a whistle, so a low-pitched cokneyed " Hallo" ! might work if all else fails.

The cops down in NY gave me a real police whistle. the thing is LOUD. Nice stainless steel too. They're probably expensive . The ones in the sporting goods stores will work, but are just not durable.

I think the sound of a whistle carries farther than a bell in quicker time.

I also use a white strobe in daytime if I have to ride on paths.

An air horn is a no-no. It will scare the shit out of pedestrians.

Consider ringing the bell after you say "thank you" when they move over. It could be a Pavlov thing.

Beware of those with dogs on those extendo-leashes. Thje dog often bolts across the path if he doesn't hear you coming. You might run over the leash and break the dogs neck .

The owner often cannot hit the retractable hand brake fast enough, as they're always on the fucking phone.

Sounds like those two guys are douchebags. Or maybe they're closet douchebags, who only engage in douchiness when on the trails.

I find that it doesn't do me any good telling people how to ride . Do they ever say;

"wow , thanks so much for pointing out my ignorance and stupidity!"...... ?

Forester writes an entire chapter on the adult regression into childhood psychology
with bicycles. Psychologists call this "transference". They unknowingly and semi-consciously "transfer" old repressed memories onto others. I am not a Forester-zombie, but this stuff was an entertaining read.

I think this is why the police whistle works so well. It reminds them of the refferee in their 5th grade soccer game, calling a "foul" or "time out".

I've stopped jaywalkers cold with it. You know, the guy who suddenly appears from behind the van? Because he's ON HIS PHONE!!!! ?

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

a cyclist recently collided with an old woman in Dallas, causing a fatality. This happened on a bike path.

I can't post the link . Looks like Dallasnews.com removed the page>

November 2, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves


This poster was pretty funny:

" and we don't want Dave to blog that we were riding like assholes when he passed us on the bike path".


I stopped riding the path to Whole Foods Market because there's this really mean looking lesbian couple (nothing wrong with being lesbian, disclaimer) with these two chihuahuas. And theyr'e on those retractable leashes. I hate that.

Ok I have to share this triumph, even though it's vehicular. Today I was going maybe 20 MPH on a fast two laner. An old guy in a fast looking sedan zoomed up to the stop sign. Keep in mind this is a school zone. Often here, cars roll through stop signs especially at right turns. This guy just looked ready to blow right through....

The guy was looking BEHIND me for vehicles. This was one of those instances where they "Look right through you". He tried to blow through the stop sign but I was ready with the police whistle, it was clenched in my teeth because I knew this was a dangerous area. I always have it in my mouth on descents. Yeah I know it's dorky.

I stopped this Mofo cold with a loud blast. He would have hit me. He skidded to a halt.

We are blessed here with cops patrolling on mountain bikes. So if I'm riding a lot in the city that day I wear a blue shirt or in today's case, a blue windbreaker. Guess what? I almost never get harassed. Vehicles will often trail behind me, afraid to pass.

People often ask me if I'm a cop, so I started adopting cop body language . Cop hand signals.

I don't have anything that says "police" so I can't get accused of impersonating a cop. I even talked to the traffic sgt about it, he thought it was pretty funny.

I also mounted a white strobe on my helmet which some people have asked "Is that a video camera?" Ponder that one for a sec. But I almost never get left crossed with it . I use two headlights, even in daytime. I swear it works. Ask any Motorcycle guy.

Blue is obviously not the best color but if you have headlamps it washes.

So if you have cycle-cops in your town, try this, it's not only great fun, but will give you insight into human behavior/ actions vs. consequences.

The funny thing is I'm riding a battered vintage 10 speed most of the time, people don't clue into that, the cops here all ride those Fuji "police" Mountain bikes, with a blackburn on the back with a black bag.

And they don't ride them in the winter :)

So if you whistle at those two guys and wear blue they might get out of the way.

I mean whistle like a cop, not like you're gay...oh never mind...

November 19, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

Good one Robert!

Somewhere on this intraweb thingy I once spotted a high viz vest marked "POLITE" , to confuse the morons.

Something like this......

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohann Rissik



The world is yours.

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJohann Rissik

Johnathan, That's awesome! Another idea I once saw was "OFFICIAL" .

There;s gotta be a supply co. that has the actual jerseys they use, you could probably order one without the lettering . The jacket I wear is just ab Old Navy windbreaker. It's a shade or two lighter than the real McCoy, but close enough.

I tell you, it's great fun, pretty women smile and wave at me, people call me "sir"...

I don't do this every day, just on days where I'm in city traffic, doing errands . On the long training rides like today's 48 miler , it's the orange vest and spandex.

Note; to pull off the cop thing in the summer you must have cop-shorts. I'm working on a good pair of cargo shorts.

November 20, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRobert Graves

Well, they are not real cyclists for sure because if they are, they should know how to ride properly. I don't know how to do it tactfully Dave because if I were in your shoes, I would have lectured them the first time I've bumped into them. But I do agree on the bell thing.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPedals Cycling

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