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« The Anatomy of a Douchebag | Main | Two Oldies »

A plea for sanity

Checking on cycling related articles this weekend; I came across two that did not show cyclists in a good light, in fact I found them downright embarrassing.

These were “Opinion” type articles that were not the usual anti-cyclist rants; in both cases the writers expressed that they were all for cycling and an active lifestyle.

Rebecca Farrow who lives in the Murfreesboro area of Tennessee, wrote a piece titled “Bicyclists must learn to share the road, too.”

The lady was driving to work when she says she was nearly run off the road by a pack of cyclists riding towards her, four and five abreast. Not only were they taking up the entire opposite lane, but some were over the yellow line and riding in her lane as she approached.

Rebecca estimates there were over 100 riders; even if this is an exaggeration and there were half that number, in my opinion that is too many to be riding in a pack without an official escort. She then stated:

“I was surprised when bicyclists started using hand gestures to tell me to slow down and move over. I was driving 10 mph under the posted speed limit well within my lane and no bicycles were traveling the same direction as I was.

I continued to get hand gestures and dirty looks from bicyclists and started hearing people shouting at me in my vehicle to "slow down," "move over," and remember "three feet." I would have given the bicyclists three feet of clearance had they stayed at least two feet from the center yellow lines.”

I am sorry but I have to take the side of Rebecca Farrow in this instance. If the approaching pack of cyclists were taking only half the lane as they should have done, then traffic within the opposing lane that is driving at a reasonable speed should be of no concern.

It  does not warrant signals to slow down and move over.  WTF, it is the cyclists who should be moving over. It is exactly this type of arrogant attitude, especially towards drivers who are doing nothing wrong, that sours people against all cyclists.

The second article in the Philadelphia Enquirer, by Robert Kelley, tells a story from a pedestrian’s viewpoint. 

As with the previous article the writer is sympathetic to the cyclists plight, having previously ridden bicycles and motorcycles himself; now forced to be a pedestrian because of vision impairment.

Robert’s beef is with cyclists running red lights at a high rate of speed, and he states:

“When it comes to bicyclists or motor vehicles, we're not all able to react as quickly as we'd like. In my case, I lost much of my peripheral vision and all of my depth perception because of a head injury, and I can't drive at night.

When I cross Center City on foot to my night job, I can see cars but must try hard to read the flow of other pedestrians. And I will often miss bicyclists running against the light.”

I urge you to read these two articles (Links are in the text.) and tell me if you agree that these two people are being reasonable and have a legitimate complaint against the cyclist’s behavior.

I make no apologies for always bitching about cyclists’ poor judgment and actions. It is pointless for me to complain about bad driving by operators of automobiles, that is not my reading audience.

However, I am hopeful that I can make an appeal for sanity to a few intelligent thinking cyclists who might happen to read this.

Start sharing the road and maybe others will be willing to do the same



Reader Comments (14)

Hi Dave,

I read the first article by the lady from Tennessee. In my humble opinion and assuming she accurately portrayed the situation, she has every reason to be upset. I'm not sure that non-rude hand gestures indicating too slow down is necessarily a bad thing. Not being there, I don't know if it was a simple acknowledgement that other riders were on the road in her direction of travel or if they were really trying to tell her to slow down. Clearly, rude shouting was not appropriate and the 3' foot law doesn't apply to oncoming traffic as far as I know.

I think the position that SOME cyclists are arrogant and create bad impressions with the general public is correct. As a cyclist, I've seen it myself in the behavior of others. At the same time, I've seen the same arrogant/rude behavior in all kinds of different groups from runners to motorcyclists, to truck drivers, and yes, even to the occasional group of teenagers. :) We seem to get so caught up in the hysteria of letting a small group of people represent everyone within that similarly appearing group that it is often hard to affect perceptional change in those who are already mad at the offending group.

I'm afraid that as the cycling revolution continues, these types of encounters will increase until everyone, or at least the majority, get the message: Share the road - we're both o.k.

I also agree that if we don't find ways to "police" ourselves, we'll end up being "policed" through knee jerk reactionary ordinances. This very concept is why I didn't change the stock exhaust system on my Harley when I purchased my new one. The change has to start somewhere - why not with me?

- Zeke

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZeke

Hi Dave,

I generally agree with Zeke. Yes both of the writers have a real reason to be upset.
But although the culprits of the offending behavior were riding bicycles it i think it counter productive to think of them as cyclists. People are often idiots, often selfish we should be grouping them by the way they behave not the form of transport they use.

I am sometimes a cyclist sometimes a pedestrian and occasionally a motorist, in all of these personas I try to treat all others with respect and courtesy, it is however a fact of life that we cannot expect the same from all other road users.
Its always upsetting to witness bad or selfish cycling but when I do, I try to be happy that person is not in charge of a more dangerous vehicle.


September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJames Hennessy

I am in agreement with James, Zeke and Dave.

As a bike cop, I write many more citations to cyclists than I do motorists. It is not just because I ride patrol on a bicycle, it is because more cyclists are more unsafe. Riding the wrong way on one way streets, blowing pedestrian signals and red lights.

When I ride my Lynskey road bike, I almost always ride alone because I cannot stand the antics of pack riders.

And I am pro cyclist...! Drives me nuts when cyclists ride like crap and then complain about the motorists.

Zeke...I wasn't as disciplined as you. I modified my Harley.

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSarge

Some people are jerks. Some of them drive; some of them ride bikes. Jerks on bikes (and in cars) should be more courteous.

I disagree with your assertion that packs of 50 or more cyclists should have a police escort. Yesterday, with temperatures approaching 100 degrees in Northern California, some 24,000 people got in their cars and drove over Highway 17 to visit the beaches and other recreational attractions in Santa Cruz California. Some of them behaved badly on the road. Should we insist on parade permits for this large gathering of vehicular traffic as well?

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterRichard Masoner

Sarge: It took me riding beside a guy with straight megaphones for pipes along an interstate for several hours and the development of one heck of a headache to push me to the quiet side. I now have a neighbor with straight pipes and he reminds me every night around 11:30 p.m. that I made the right decison... :)

- Zeke

September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterZeke

Hi Dave,
I am a cyclist, mostly a commuter and errand runner, and I am ashamed when I see cyclists ride 4 to 5 abreast on a County road on which "Cyclists Ride Single File" signs are posted. The cyclists appear to be elitists to the drivers behind them. I think that these cyclists do not realize that their actions anger drivers who could take out their frustration on other cyclists. I have also seen a pack of cyclists (certainly greater than 20 take over an entire road and slow traffic - almost like a critical mass. They could ride single file or two abreast in a tight formation, but they choose not to do so, and they do slow down people trying to get work. I wish all these drivers that were slowed down could commute by bike like me, but I realize that some people are not fortunate to be able to live close to their work because of family reasons, etc. I do not think that they should be slowed by a pack of 20 or so riders in the morning. Again, I am a commuter, and I respect cyclists rights. I know that there are many drivers who do not respect our rights, but certainly such actions by cyclists do not serve to further out cause. I agree that some cyclists do need to learn to share the road and respect the rules of the road.


September 27, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJay

Newspapers typically view their audience as auto dependent and are more likely to publish complaints like the one from Rebecca. No doubt auto drivers are occasionally inconvenienced by cyclists, but as a cyclist I'm inconvenienced (breaking the laws)by auto drivers every day. Auto drivers are inconvenienced by other auto drivers everyday... right Rebecca?

In getting friends to take up cycling, one common trait prevails: a preference to ride in large groups as they "feel safer". My preference is for much smaller groups (3-5 bikes) but I have over 50 years on the roads, typically alone. I feel safer this way and find large group rides more dangerous.

Both sides (cyclists and drivers) need to be more civil and cooperative but that is unfortunately not the prevailing trend. In addition, I often see these same cyclists who are "over the line" are placing their bikes on back of their SUVs/pickup trucks and drive away aggressively, alone in their motorized vehicles.

Robert and Rebecca are discussing two different problems. But as Robert concludes: "A little more civility all around would go a long way toward fostering better relations among us non-motorists. It's not like we don't have a common enemy or two out there stalking us on four wheels."

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterJack

Hi Dave,
I agree with you and all the other commentors. Just this morning on the Velo News webpage is an article about police dealing with the pro peloton riders
in Austrailia for the World Championships. It seems the "pros" are just as bad if not worse than the morons we all talk about. Even as an interview was being given, "Professional" riders were blowing the red light behind the people involved in the interview. Many have been suggesting police escorts for the
professional peloton for the event. Others say if you can't stop and obey the laws, then you don't belong there. I agree with that however, if a police escort is used then obviously the riders deserve to flow along. To me I feel we all need to show respect and courtesey for all other road users and pedestrians and they should as well. This is not rocket science ! It's common sense and self respect ! Stay safe everyone !

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I just posted an article on why "Share The Road" STINKS as a marketing concept and as a LEGAL concept. It is wrong, wrong, wrong on both counts. You can read it at
ohiobikelawyer.com/share the road stinks

However, the TN motorist who came across the pack of riders brings up a GREAT point. Cyclists have LEGAL DUTIES as well as legal rights. Too many cyclists forget the duty part... it's sort of like eating your meatloaf in order to get the ice cream for dessert...

In ALL jurisdictions cyclists are required to stop at stop signs and red lights, and do all those boring things we learned about in Driver's Ed.. cyclists are "Vehicle Operators" and must behave as such if they want to be recognized, and eventually ACCEPTED as legitimate users of the public way.

As a trial lawyer whose "niche" law practice is probabyl 75% "bike" cases, I am certainly skewed towards cyclists... but I've got two eyes and can see how we behave sometimes...

Cyclists need to remember that they are officially appointed "Ambassadors of Cycling" every time they leave the driveway. Everything they do is open for public scrutiny and every time we do something "bad" [like running a stop sign or red light] the meter measuring public opinion swings towards the negative side... good stuff [going single file, waving on passing cars, etc] gets the needle moving towards the positive side...

HOpefully we'll reach that point HG Wells called "Utopia" where, as Wells saw it, "...cycle tracks will abound..."

Steve Magas
The Bikelawyer

September 28, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Magas

An exellent article and I hope all who visit here will read it. However, as you point out cyclists must obey the laws, and showing respect for other road users is the only way we are going to have any hope of recieving respect in return.

September 28, 2010 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Hi Dave. Mostly I agree with you. I try really hard to obey the traffic rules AND be courteous ALL the time, whether biking, or on the rare occasions when I drive (basically when I have to transport one of my kids somewhere).

BUT the other day I found myself cycling through downtown Vancouver, blowing through every red light like it wasn't there.

There was a really good reason for this: in my city at the moment there is an UGLY fight going on, because (contrary to your most recent post) sometimes it is not only scum that rises to the top, sometimes good guys make it. Vancouver currently has a mayor who is pursuing a relentless program of making cycling safer - see my post at http://averagejoecyclist.com/?p=105 . In response to this, the anti-cyclists are out in force, aided and abetted by the local pro-motorist media.The last straw for me was when someone posted on Craigs List a rant that exhorted motorists to kill cyclists. I responded to this with a post called "As a matter of fact, we DO own the roads" - http://averagejoecyclist.com/?p=647 - but that wasn't enough.

I was so angry that I decided to go down for the first time to participate in a Critical Mass ride. I know some who advocate good cycling behavior will judge me for this. I might have judged myself. But I was pleasantly shocked at what I saw - documented in my post at http://averagejoecyclist.com/?p=739

So now I have a 90/10 rule - I will obey all of the laws all of the time - EXCEPT when I show solidarity with other cyclists at Critical Mass!

September 29, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterAverageJoeCyclist

Hi Dave, As a cyclist myself and also a runner I had my own experience of an ignorant cyclist today. Early morning still dark, running on the pavement I met a 'commuter cyclist' coming the other way. I was dressed in flourescent yellow from head to foot. He was in dark clothes, no lights, head down and listening to his I-Pod. Despite my shouting warnings for the last 20 yards or so as we closed I don't think he even knew that he forced me into the road in front of traffic coming up from behind which, fortunately, was able (and willing) to drive round me and not over me. That was 2 hours ago and I am still trying to calm down. People need to show common sense and consideration and not believe they own the place!

October 6, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterGeoff Wood

Thanks for the kind words. Your comments on cyclists rights and DUTIES is right on.

I've often written that EACH CYCLIST is officially appointed an "Ambassador for Cycling" every time we hit the roadways. The meter that measures public opinion swings to the positive or negative based upon the "public's" interactions with these appointed Ambassadors. When riders weave in and out through traffic, skip stop signs and red lights or otherwise act as if the traffic laws don't apply to them, the meter swings towards the negative side.... when we make eye contact with motorists, communicate and act like other predictable members of the "Traffic" genus and species, then the meter slides towards the favorable side of the meter...

October 11, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterSteve Magas

With cyclists like these on the road, more drivers will develop hatred even to the careful cyclists like me. Its bad enough that people call us stupid people in Lycra suits but worst when we behave like one.

November 22, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterPedals Cycling

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