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The Annoyance Factor

Above is an interesting video showing a birds-eye-view of a New York City intersection. It shows the interaction between cars, bicycles and pedestrians.

Right off the bat you will see a cyclist make a left turn from the extreme right side of the road into a one-way street going the wrong way. Count the number of cyclists riding through red lights and riding against the flow of traffic.

I have watched this video several times and I notice that cars for the most part, stop for red lights; some stop for pedestrians, some are forced to brake for cyclists. Pedestrians for the most part stay in the cross-walk; they also stop for cars and bicycles.

Cyclists, on the other hand, ride anywhere and everywhere and do not stop for any reason. Not for red lights, for cars or pedestrians; rather they keep moving and maneuver their way around any obstruction.

They go where ever that path takes them; if it leads contra the traffic flow, so be it. There is one exception; a cyclist who actually is riding in a proper manner has to stop when he is cut off by a car that is entering a parking space. In the midst of all this chaos a semi does an illegal U-turn.

I often get a lot of flack when I criticize cyclists, and the argument always put forward is that cyclists rarely kill or seriously injure anyone. This is true, the video ends with the statement that four people are killed or seriously injured in New York City every day.

I think I can safely say that cyclists are only responsible for a tiny percentage of those deaths and serious injuries. They are more likely to be victims of those accidents. However, this is not the issue:

"What about the Annoyance Factor. You can’t excuse bad behavior simply because statistically it is not all that dangerous." 

The complaints I hear from New York motorists and pedestrians are justified if this video is anything to go by. At a guess, cyclists are probably less than 10% of the people in this clip, but they are causing 90% of the chaos.

I am sure there are just as many cyclists riding in a proper manner in New York, and they were for the most part edited out of this video.

In fact take the scofflaw cyclists out of this video and it would be pretty boring. Which highlights the problem, no one notices cyclists riding in a proper manner, they just see the annoying ones.


Footnote: You can also view this on Vimeo, and I recommend you view it in full screen mode. Start the video, then click on the four arrows (Bottom right, next to the word "vimeo.") Press your escape key (Esc.) on your keyboard to exit full screen.


Reader Comments (14)

It always agravates me to see blatant law breaking on the part of all users, especially cyclists since it makes me bad because I'm one of them. I did notice some bullish behavior on the part of car drivers towards pedestrians in cross walks.

On my commute I regularly see red light running, stop sign violations by both cars and cyclists. Last night and today I got the added enjoyment of wrong way drivers. If it is easier for me to go that way I don't care if it is wrong. So there!

The laws are there to make things flow. We need to have predictable actions and expectations to make complex situations work and work safely.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRalph

no wonder cyclists are so hated in NYC. I cant imagine myself cycling in NYC. :-0

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterh

The NYC police are ticketing cyclists not riding in bicycle lanes. Apparently that is a bigger issue to them.


June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTodd

I generally agree. A couple of observations, though:

1. Some of the cars were pretty aggressively infringing on pedestrians in the crosswalks. That kind of behavior bugs me.

2. I think there's a danger in lumping all kinds of annoying cyclist behavior together. Running red lights and turning left from the right hand lane are terrible. On the other hand, a lot of motorists find it annoying when cyclists behave in ways that are both legal and safe, such as taking the lane when circumstances demand. To motorists who don't know any better, both are just more examples of how cyclists are annoying.

And then there's misinformation, such as the person in a pickup truck who "helpfully"--and inaccurately--slowed down to tell me that it was illegal to ride two abreast except in sanctioned events. I'm in Massachusetts, where riding two abreast has in fact been legal since 2008 as long as you don't impede traffic, and this was on a 2-lane country road with no oncoming traffic.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterBrian Ogilvie

I agree completely. Most of the cyclists in that video are complete idiots.
As I've said before, I do sometimes skip red lights, but only when it is safe for everybody. At no point would I have skipped a red light at that intersection, as to do so would be a profoundly stupid thing to do.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterWilliamNB

Could it be that cycling chaos in NYC has evolved to be this way to "survive"? Or the lack of attention on planning for cyclists, etc? I have not lived and ridden there so it's hard for me to pass judgement on the whole situation without any firsthand experience.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterjeff simmons

I feel that the proliferation of bike paths and lanes, advanced stop lines etc has legitimized the idea that bikes are 'special', that its not really safe to ride on the road, but if you do your so out there that your are not really subject to the same rules as other vehicles.

June 9, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndy Morris

Cyclist are the latest minority group for bullies to vilify. It is fashionable to be bigoted against cyclists, as we do not possess the "politically correct" aura enjoyed by other groups. Every ignorant sedentary blob behind the wheel of his or her gas-guzzling Earth-destroying stinking box called an auto feels entitled to harass cyclists, and boy oh boy am I well and truly sick of it. I walked to work for 30 years, and I can tell you pedestrians get no respect either, but they are not subject to the outright bigotry and bullying shown to cyclists.

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDoug P

Doug P,
I agree with you and I have used the term Bigotry before and been critisized for it. However, it also doesn't help matters when some cyclists hand them the stick to beat us with.

June 10, 2011 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

There are jerks in every human group. No matter what activity/interest category you build, jerks reside in each of them. It's fair for you to point to our own, Dave, and I do wish they'd get a clue so they didn't tar the rest of us. In our defense - specifically my own - whenever possible, I try to offset the sour taste some jerk cyclist has left in their mouths by being super polite. I try to visibly/ verbally acknowledge every courtesy a driver cares to offer, and to be heads-up and extend the same courtesies to pedestrians. I see no way to prevent the miscreants from being antagonistic, but I can - hopefully - stand a counter-example to compete with the driver or pedestrian's most recent annoying experience.

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered Commenterbystander

I acknowledge being a little off-subject in my last comment. I personally believe bike rides can be a ballet-not a battle. I am polite to motorists, and usually I'm rewarded with a smile and a wave. But- I am sick of hearing that we have no right to be on the road. Anti-cycling tirades usually begin with the universal bigots' disclaimer; "I don't have anything against bikers but" (insert anti-cycling rant here). Being on a bike doesn't entitle anyone to be a jerk, but neither does driving an auto. In the States motorists are aggressive and intimidating all too often, where here in France bikes are simply viewed as another road user without rancor.

June 10, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDoug P

As a cyclist in NYC who regularly rides through that very intersection, I have to note that following all of the traffic laws can be lethal. Stopping for every red light when there are no cars in the intersection just means that you'll be stuck in the middle of a large group of accelerating cars anxious to get somewhere. Better to skip the red light and take advantage of the open road ahead so you have space to maneuver around potholes.

Bike lanes are regularly blocked and the pavement is poorly maintained, very few cars actually signal turns, and *all* pedestrians jaywalk if there is even a moment's gap in the traffic. Add to that the fact that all bike lanes are in the door zone and pedestrians dash from behind cars, not to mention illegally double parked cars both in and out of bike lanes, and pedestrians using the bike lanes as sidewalk extensions, and there's no point in obeying the law. In fact, in a lot of cases obeying many of the traffic laws will put you at serious risk.

In short, most of the "bad behavior" you see from cyclists in NYC is just a survival strategy. Nobody here--pedestrians, cars, or cyclists abides by the law. The difference is that cars kill people. Perhaps law enforcement would be better directed to the 20+ cars (including city buses) that blow the red light near my apartment every hour and have killed at least 1 person a year in the 10 years I've lived here. Instead, the traffic cops sit on street corners chatting on their cell phones and city cops pass out tickets to bicyclists.


June 11, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJRF

hey, stupid cyclists in this video. i agree with all of you.

June 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterRoger@Bike Racks

Nice video and outlining the motorized vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians makes the obvious points. Social consciousness and empathetic behavior are being destroyed. I see the front line of law enforcement every day talking on their cell phone and reviewing their mounted laptops while driving.

Hembrow explains it this way: "What I see is simply a very badly designed junction which almost invites people to behave in the way that they do.

June 13, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterJack

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