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« Padded Under Shorts | Main | How Fast Eddie got his bike back »

The Mob Mentality

Whenever I am engaged in conversation with people who are not cyclists, on learning of my background in the bike business, and my continued interest in riding, they will invariably ask me,

“Why do large groups of cyclists take up the whole damn road? If you give even a friendly toot on the horn to let them know you are passing, you will more often than not get the finger. Why are they so hostile and so rude?”

This is how I try to explain it:

First of all in any random group of people you have a cross-section of society. Some are nice people, and some are assholes. It is the assholes in the group that will give you the finger. Rarely would you get the whole group giving the one finger salute in unison. Just as there are assholes who drive cars, there are assholes who ride bikes.

The other thing is the mob mentality. This is a common human trait that we see in any group of people not just cyclists. When people get together in a group they are less considerate of others outside the group.

Your neighbor is having a party, and as the guests leave late at night, they laugh and talk loudly, slam car doors, and disrupt the sleep of people living several houses away. Usually these people are good neighbors, why would they have such inconsiderate friends we ask ourselves?

How many people have been in a restaurant where there is a large group of say ten or more people? I guarantee that party will be extremely loud, often obnoxious, and will have little regard for anyone else who is unfortunate enough to be seated nearby.  

However, this is what we have come to expect in certain bars and restaurants. There will always be large groups made up of co-workers, family members, celebrating someone’s birthday or something.

Also an important factor, these are just people you can’t stereotype them.

But get a bunch of cyclists on the road, enjoying each other’s company, and are being no more, or no less considerate of others around them than the party in the restaurant.

The big difference is, now you can stereotype them, they are cyclists. Whenever you see a bunch of cyclist together they seem to be behaving badly, therefore all cyclists are lumped together as being bad.

The larger the group the worse the behavior. Take sports fans assembled in their thousands and the mob mentality really takes over. The mob could be angry over their team’s loss, or celebrating their victory, the outcome is the same. Store windows are broken, parked cars are overturned, and even set on fire. Most people would not behave that way individually, or even in a smaller group.

This is how I try to explain why some cyclists behave badly. I don’t condone it. It is one of the reasons I no longer ride with large groups, even though it can be fun. So I ask that people don’t condemn me for riding a bike, just because a few cyclists behave badly.

What is needed is a little more tolerance and understanding on both sides. Cyclists need to be a little more considerate of other road users. Remember Lycra is the different color skin we put on, so we will be stereotyped and others like us will be judged by our behavior.

And the general public needs to realize that these are just a group of friends enjoying each other’s company, and getting some fresh air and exercise while doing so.  And if it is a Sunday, where are you going in such a big fucking hurry anyway?

What are your views, and how do you handle the conversation with non-cyclists?


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Reader Comments (30)

Good one Dave , I must say i'm a lonewolf, I don't ride with a "gang" , fantastic write up though.

May 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterMitch

So-called “Group Mentality” is similar to the formation of corporations: No One Individual is responsible for the behavior of the group, or company. Yet the group, or corporation is treated as an individual. Thus, people can be in the group, or Corp., and get away with things they could not, standing on their own. And never be held accountable.
Both Corporations and “Group Mentality” are excuses, or covers, to protect the guilty, the greedy, or just plain vile people.
There is no hope reforming Corporations, but a group of cyclists can call out individuals that are acting inappropriately, and kick them out.
Those bad cyclists can always head over to a Corporation, where criminals are welcome with open arms!

May 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

I think you have hit on some of the sociological factors behind genuinely bad behavior. Worth mentioning physical factors that non-cyclists may be missing, or misconstruing as "bad"

On our team rides we keep a two-wide paceline on country roads. This shortens the group 50% and gives cars MORE leeway to pass (because we take up fewer car-lengths). Non-cyclists only see the group taking up the "whole" road and get irate. They maybe don't consider that doubling the paceline width halves its length — and because they would need at least 3-5 feet to pass us, they'll need to enter the opposing lane even if we were single file.

Then, when they lean on the horn or shout out the window, they don't realize how loud and disorienting that is to people outside a car. Even when we get "friendly" honks or shouts, they sound angry. There is no subtlety in a car horn, and everything shouted from a car at 30-50mph sounds like gibberish.

May 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterPaul S

Paul S,
You are so right, but experienced cyclists ride shoulder to shoulder, whereas the inexperienced will have one rider in the gutter and another out on the center line. The road space they are taking up is effectively like riding 3 or 4 abreast.
Your comments on car horns and shouting from cars is covered here: http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/blog/2011/12/13/10-useful-tips-for-car-drivers.html
See tip #3 and #7

May 19, 2015 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

I dont see the need to wear the garish uniform and typecast myself.A single colour jersey and baggy shorts or long pants worn over padded lycra bike shorts or andiamos is a good way to disassociate myself from the public perceptions.

May 19, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

In the Bay Area we have mass rides that, for the most part, behave very badly. Fifty or seventy riders will take up entire lanes and happily cruise along blocking every one else.

They'll run stop signs, red lights, you name it. Occasionally the San Mateo County Sheriff will hang out at a particular stop sign in Portola Valley and nail at least a dozen stop sign runners (hint: it's the corner by Robert's new market).

I ride solo - almost exclusively. I don't own a car so the bike is my sole means of transport. I enjoy meeting other riders at our local coffee shops but when it comes to heading out, I'm always by myself.

May 19, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

As you point out, Dave, this group behaviour is common. I've seen this a lot - in many situations, not just in groups of bikers.

Like a few of your readers here, I ride solo. That's partly because I don't like being around groups of cyclists much, as their aims and mine are different. I ride because I like to and because it's fun - I'm not in a race. If I see a lovely stretch of scenery on a ride, I may stop to admire it. If I see a challenging set of hills, I may attack them. I cant be bothered with trying to match speeds with someone else.

Sometimes, I will join a group (with permission) if they're going the same way I am - for a bit. I've had nice conversations with some riders, and had some fun sharing a ride with them for a while. Other times, I've left the group quickly because they pretty much match the worst behaviour you detail here. Since I'm not obligated to stick with them, it's an easy divorce if I find that they're not a bunch of people I want to be around.

I also get a little annoyed that we're all judged by the lowest common denominator in our ranks, but that's another thing that's common - with race, class, nationality, etc. People tend to remember the bad, and not notice the good.

May 20, 2015 | Unregistered Commenteryohann

Personally I use a different explanation to car drivers, I say: "Just imagine all of these people were each in their own car in front of you. You'd basically be stuck in standing traffic, with no chance to pass either. If you'd honk at them in that situation, you'd probably get shown the finger too (but maybe you wouldn't see it, since it would be behind multiple layers of glass and tin.)"

I gave up on one local group ride, because they were too submissive: Whenever a car approached from behind on smaller roads, the marshals would command to go from double file to single file. That way the group gets a much longer length for the car to pass, all while being on a small road, where a single line of ridrs isn't any easier to pass really. It's simply very dangerous. Most car drivers didn't attempt to pass anyway, they saw as well as I did, that there is no sense. Some of those that labourously passed, then took the next turn off.

When I drive a car and I'm "stuck" behind a cyclist (maybe it's just one, but I can't safely pass due to a bend in the road), I just think positive thoughts: "Hey, that's a nice bike! Not bad speed for someone carrying stuff on their rack! That guy's got a nice ride going!" and I hope I'm not annoying them too much. But then I'm a cyclist at heart, I'd rather be in his place than sitting in a car.

May 20, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterbetabug

It's also worth considering that a toot on the horn is universally considered to be a gesture of frustration or anger at someone's behaviour. Perhaps they should give more space and avoid tooting the horn "to let them know they are there" as it may be interpreted as being an annoyance at their existence rather than as a friendly gesture.

May 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSimon

if it is a Sunday, where are you going in such a big fucking hurry anyway?

...uh, to church?

May 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRubeRad

Good points. I usually refuse to talk to co-workers or pretty much anyone who doesn't ride bikes about riding bikes. They are not going to get it until they get out there and give it a try. I just usually re-direct the conversation by saying I'll take responsibility for everything people on bicycles do if they will take responsibility for everything people in cars do. The next topic usually comes fairly quickly. Yes, as a a matter of fact I am a big hit at parties.

May 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterOne eye Jack

Maybe people feel anonymous riding a bike? not like a car that has a lic plate# try discribing a cyclist we tend to all look the same. I personally, would LIKE a toot on the horn, also on the path when I am about to pass someone I RING MY BELL, its also nice, when the party about to pass waves to acknowledge that they have heard my warning. But then, I am also passed, (by superior beens), many times by riders with NO warning at all.

May 20, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

I know a guy whose email sig is "Never underestimate the stupidity of people in large groups.".

Very true, and I have never enjoyed group rides, so ride alone or with one or two others at most. Therefore I have few problems.

Races that aren't races are a problem. It may be a charity ride, an audax, a sportive or some other variation, but give a middle-aged man a number and wheels and all hell breaks loose.

May 20, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteveP

Give a middle-aged man a number and wheels and all hell breaks loose.

I love it.

Plus steroids, and synthetic testosterone, etc. etc. But that's a whole other story.

May 20, 2015 | Registered CommenterDave Moulton

Sunday 7th June is MY 82nd B/D and on that day in Castle Rock Colorado, there is the yearly Elephant Rock, bike ride. 5-7k riders usually enter and I have in the past ridden this ride. I thought that maybe I should ride this year and do 82 miles to celebrate my B/D along with 5-7k others. BUT the past few years there have been many accidents, from just what you are talking about. To many idiots that all think it is the TDF All trying to prove to the others how good a rider they are. So apart from the rise in entry fees, I am NOT going to do the ride. I will instead ride MYSELF 82 miles on my own, in safety (I HOPE) on the local bike paths. Even there I am always amazed at how many riders, blast along with no regard for anyone else.like they pay taxes and they have the right to do as they please.

May 21, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Mister Crump, congrats on reaching 82 and continuing to "go for it." I worked the famed Death Ride in the Sierra Nevada several times (mechanic assist atop Ebbett's Pass) and the sheer number of riders (over 3,000) have turned it into somewhat of a mass "cluster" ride with speeds frequently exceeding 50 mph. Accidents? Fortunately few but they can be major - helicopters are standing by.

I turned 63 this year and continue to push it as much as possible. Riding is beneficial - helping rid oneself of anger and occasionally a few extra pounds too (beer consumption, however, doesn't help the extra pounds - rats). Bicycles have a most positive effect on the climate as we avoid " . . . burning the world's body." (Thank you Wendell Berry).

I keep my dermatologist busy but my cardiologist is afraid that bicycle riders will eventually put him out of business. He's a major bicyclist too, commuting daily, rain or shine, on his Trek.

Señor Crump, keep up the GREAT work.

May 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

This is a symptom of the deteriorating society we live in.
Too many so-called “Rights” have been handed out: to Gays and their many acronym-labeled subspecies, to Cities racing to paint “Sharrows”, Bike Lanes, and signage to give bicyclists “Rights” they already had.
Not many bike advocates even know that bikes can take up a full lane, if it is safer to do so, without having to be in a ‘Sharrow’ lane!
So as a result of this Government largess, respectful, decent people are pissed; and those slobs granted unnecessary Rights are thumbing their noses at what used to be The Common Folk.
Like in Greece, when people had money, everyone was kind. Now, they are spiteful, vindictive, and worse of all, pessimistic.
It is only going to get worse for cyclists, and all of us, because we are forced to be part of a corrupt system that is locked. Unless you are rich and can afford to insulate yourself.

May 21, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

Typical (non-cyclists) comments on article re. enactment of vulnerable user law:

"When bikers ride side by side drivers should just lay on the horn when you get close they will move to the right, it works every time."

"Why is it that cycles are so stupid so that they lock their shoes into the pedals?"

"Most bike riders are liberal scumbags that think they own the road, entitled like Hitllary."

I enjoy talking with other cyclists in group rides but have avoided large group rides for many years.

May 22, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJack

I learned long ago that the best place to be on a large group ride is in the rear. Riding on the front you experience the wrath of the motorists that the people behind you just pissed off.

May 23, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterRick Crow

Hey Steve! Sorry to hear all those "gays" have been demanding rights! Sure hope you can hold the line against them!

May 23, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

I know, ‘ayjaydee’, you may be holding your feelings inside, and want others to stand up for what is right. But do know that there are those that don’t agree with the Politically Correct agenda. And they are willing to speak their mind, because we still have Freedom of Speech. Too bad so many have forgotten that!
You, and I, can’t stop what is happening; and posting on a forum does nothing to change things. In fact, you and I are part of the problem every time we waste our time doing so (isn’t that ironic?). We have to be in the physical, and mental, presence of people; engaging in debate, arguing, discussing, talking. And read books. And maybe sometime, even fight for what we know is right. Don’t be afraid to do so.
That PC world wants you to think that Morals have no place in a Legal System. You decide if that is so. But don’t expect the Internet to have any answers, or solutions.

May 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

well steve, you just get out there and fight the good fight and before we know it you'll have all those uppity gays back in the closet where they belong.

May 25, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

You continue categorizing yourself as part of the problem, AJ! You misrepresent me. But that is my point.
Stop trying to make the Internet what it is not: It is not a replacement for physically present discussions, for knowing a person, no matter how much you want it to be! It will never be a vehicle for Change.
But then, if you do take my advice, you won’t accept that.
Which again, is my point.

May 25, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

youre the one saying too many rights have been given to whining gays!!

May 26, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

No, AJ, that is not what I said.
Try to think before posting next time. What I said is our non-Democracy in the U.S. has busied itself handing out unnecessary "Rights", resulting in anger and frustration.
Government says everyone has a Right to Health Insurance, resulting in skyrocketing premiums and taxes used for subsidies. Great.
What about my right to Water, to Gas, to Food, to Electricity, because I can’t live without those?
And Gays want to change the definition of Marriage, because their agenda says they have a Right to do so. What about pedophiles? Or those into beasts? They use the same argument as Gays that they are born that way, so they have Rights also, right?
And Cyclists, they argue a “Right” to use roads, thus they can take up the whole lane anytime they want!
So Government gives money to cities to mark roads for cyclists, but gives No Money to educate the public about the Rules of the Road!
Apparently many people are so apathetic they say nothing. Or they are so unaware of what is happening they actually prefer to be ignorant. After all, if you don’t know what you don’t know, you aren’t responsible for what happens.
And people are so afraid to say anything, for fear of offending people, or being accused of hate, that they remain silent.
At no time in human history have we had less freedom. Maybe we need to consider the words of Patrick Henry…

May 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

The internet will (hopefully) never be a substitute for face-to-face communication. Today all nations have questions regarding how to take of those with little or nothing versus those who (theoretically) pay for it with their taxes, wealth and profits. Socialism, despite what many Americans might think, is not a dirty word.

According to philosophers it's a question that will, likely, never be answered to anyone's satisfaction. So be it.

Society is a difficult concept at best. Since we moved from tiny hunter-gatherer groups to our current monstrous cities / nations that we "enjoy" today these problems have popped up and will continue to do so.

Solution? Ride fast, take chances and ENJOY your life. It will be over before you know it. Don't worry about old age, it doesn't last long. And thanks for listening.

May 27, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterJames Thurber

Hey Steve, save your vile homophobic rants for your next tea party convention.

May 27, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterayjaydee

People who are used to behaving like scums, would most likely continue to behave like scums. Their profession/race/interest group/age/gender/nationality/social statue/religion do not have direct bearing on how they behave.

As mentioned, being in a group sometimes just provide more opportunities for them to behave in those ways.

It might be better to call them individuals, behaving like scums, who happened to ride bicycles :)

May 28, 2015 | Unregistered Commenterfreeloader

Hi Dave, Some of us work on Sundays. We want to get home too ! I never ride in large groups because of the exact reason (s) you mentioned. But, on occasion I ride with one or two others and ride single file or "way right" if possible. In the PC world there is a lack of COMMON SENSE ! So idiots will ride in a large group and take up the whole road and flip their fingers at everyone else. After all it's ALL ABOUT THEM AND FUCK EVERYONE ELSE ! It's unfortunate but this is the way it is because when YOU RIDE LIKE AN ASSHOLE YOU MAKE ALL CYCLIST'S LOOK LIKE ASSHOLES ! This is the belief of non- cyclist's (everyone else on the road).

May 30, 2015 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

Cycling on UK roads nowadays is a complete gamble. While most drivers are courteous and law abiding, there are always a handful of incidents that occur on almost EVERY ride I take. I think the main problem is that most people, be it in a car, on a bike, walking or just in general live in a bubble. They do not see anything or comprehend anything outside of that bubble, thus making them totally oblivious to the outside world. Sadly, us cyclists are not surrounded by metal and neither do we have the abillity to hit a high speed quickly to get out of possible trouble. It seems to be the way of the world, in most aspects.

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