Monday, April 28, 2014

An Open Letter To Cyclists. The Traffic Laws: If I, A Fellow Cyclist, Can Follow Them, So Can You.

Photo by Province

When I ride my bicycle, I follow all of the applicable rules of the road, per the State Vehicle Code.  Really, I do.  And, since I am doing my part to be a sane user of our shared roads, I felt it was time to put forth some thoughts on why motorists have the disdain for us cyclists that they do.  In short, IT IS OUR OWN, DAMN FAULT.  So, where do I get such a notion some may ask?  Well, read the following regarding a ride I took the other day, which just compounded what I already suspected.       

Just how bad is the behavior of cyclists?  When I have a pedestrian tell me I am the first “Bike Rider” to stop for them while they are in a cross walk, that is sad.  Sadder still, that was the fourth pedestrian to tell me so within the past six months.  Soon thereafter, I saw a vehicle, which had the green light, stop and wait, and wait, and wait.  Turns out the driver had indeed seen me, and was actually waiting for me (a cyclist) to blow the red light.  This happened when I was descending Glendora Mountain Road, and the driver was a resident of the area.  She explained “Cyclists never stop for the light.”  I discovered this while I was stopped and asked her what she was doing and if she were OK.  You should have seen the driver's shock when I came to a complete stop at that light.  But wait, there’s more.  After that incident, two cyclists blew by me while I was slowing for a stop sign.  They both then ran it.  At least one of them called out “On your left” before they both broke the law.  Shortly thereafter, and just for good measure, another cyclist turned out right in front of me from a side street without even looking.  When I passed that bonehead, you should have seen the look on his face when he realized someone else was there.

And, that was during just one, short training ride.  Sadly, it is getting much worse.  

Truth be told, there will always be motorists that hate cyclists, and they will always be cyclists which hate motorists.  This is a constant of the universe which will not be undone by anyone, anytime soon.  We can have all of the Biking Coalitions and Awareness Programs under the sun, but there will always be assholes, on both two and four wheels (sometime more) that ruin it for everybody else.  Yet, time and again, there are news stories of motorist-on-cyclist violence, or worse yet, a fatal hit-and-run.  This wanton, vehicular behavior needs to stop.  And, additionally, cyclists also need to step up, be responsible citizens, and stop challenging death via irresponsible riding, and finally; JUST QUIT BREAKING THE DAMN LAW, PEOPLE! 

In a previous article (Cycling Dynamics, 04-22-2014) I pointed out that riding had become so much more than just me exercising and enjoying the great outdoors.  The bike has, for better or worse, also become a rolling laboratory of Human Nature - A kind of Human Behavioral Sciences Rolling Laboratory, so to speak.  After watching cyclist, after cyclist break the law, I began to seriously observe the passing scene, which, in turn, led me to the following observations about us cyclists.

  • I don’t hog the lane and force others to swerve to avoid me.  Neither should you.
  • I announce my intentions via hand signals, lane positioning, and call-outs.  So should you.
  • I stop at stop signs, behind the limit line.  So should you.
  • I understand how a traffic light works and what the three colors mean.  So should you. 
  • I don’t talk on my phone or text while I am on the road.  Neither should you
  • I understand what traffic signs and pavement markings mean.  So should you.
  • I don’t antagonize motorists, other cyclists, and pedestrians.  I am aware of, and courteous to, others with whom I share the road.  So should you.
  • I understand I am not the only human on the road at any given time.  So should you.
  • I am always at the ready to offer assistance to anyone in need on the road.  So should you.
  • I am fully capable of operating, and understand the bicycle I am riding.  So should you.
  • I understand there are serious, severe consequences if I misbehave on the road.  So should you.
  • And finally, a question for Law Enforcement: After viewing the Cycling Public for a significant amount of time, it is clear we deserve the scrutiny we are receiving.  And, we need your help.

In summation, we are indeed our own worst enemy.  While there will always be motorists that piss us off, the number of cyclist doing the same is growing significantly. 

The Vehicle Code is the law.  It is not a collection of suggestions.  I do my part.  YOU DO YOURS! 


  1. Great list of lawfully needed cyclist behavior, with one exception, the first one. If the lane is too narrow to safely share with a motor vehicle, I am going to control the lane. It's my right as a legal road user. It's for my safety and the protection of motorists to help prevent them from doing something stupid (attempt a close pass at an unsafe speed) that could result in my injury or death and land them in court and be something they will regret for the rest of their lives. It is not "hogging the lane" and if the motorist is paying attention to their driving, I will not be "forcing others to swerve to avoid me." They will see me in plenty of time to adjust their speed, scan left and back (and ahead for oncoming traffic if only two lanes) and make a lane change to pass me with the skill that is expected of them to have the privilege of driving a motor vehicle.

    Don't marginalize yourself as a road user just because you are driving a bicycle. Get respect by acting as an expected part of normal traffic. Same rights. Same rules.

  2. Agree with the post and with Cyclifist's comment. :o)

    #1 should probably be better clarified. I share the lane when it wide enough for that to be safely done, but when the lane gets substandard narrow, it is much safer to ride in the middle-1/3 of it and force cars coming up behind to slow down and change lane to pass. Alert drivers would hardly lose any time at all by spotting me early and changing lane early. Not so alert drivers have better chance of seeing me before it's too late when I'm somewhere in the middle of the lane than if I'm invisible to the far right of it (else he doesn't see me until he has no reaction time anymore; there is no room to pass, and the passing lane or opposite traffic lane isn't clear... I become a roadkill and he becomes a manslaughter with blood on his windshield). That's a much worse outcome for everyone just to avoid being called a lane-hogger by some people or being honked at by cars.

  3. One cyclist behavior I see a lot is that they get some miles under their belts, make some observations, and become preachy. It's kind of an epidemic. I myself have yet to grow out of it.

    I'm tired of drivers, tired of cyclists, tired of everybody knowing how everybody else should behave.

    1. When we share the road with each other, there needs to be understanding. Without it, we are a danger to each other. Being preachy is one way of pleading for understanding.

  4. Sorry, this is a little preachy. I agree with smellyBacon. Face it, people who ride bikes are disliked by a very small minority of drivers and whether we all follow rules or not, the same small hateful few will still disregard cyclists.

    Your just making excuses for hateful people or your one of them pretending to be a cyclist ("fakelist"). Just because people in cars kill over 30k people per year, I don't look at those that haven't as murderers. That's the flawed logic.

    No matter what I do or how I ride. I'm only one distracted driver away from reality.

    I'm sorry I was even pointed to this horse manure the more I think about it. I don't care how people ride just that they are.

  5. Yes, bicyclists should obey the laws. I do. I generally don't get comments about my obeying the law but I often get accused of breaking the law when I am not (mostly when I'm using the full travel lane). I have had pedestrians refuse to cross a crosswalk as I was approaching and then braking and then waiting. That was weird.

    The thing is, bicyclists are not actually worse about breaking the law than motorists. Every time I'm on the road I see numerous drivers speeding, failing to signal, rolling stop signs, rolling right on red, failing to yield to pedestrians and numerous other violations.

    The reason that people freak out about every single infraction by bicyclists is not that bicyclists are particularly bad. It's because they are looking for an excuse to hate bicyclists.

  6. I am sure Helen Blackman will disagree with you:

    I agree with both points of view:

    Generally, I obey the law when riding my bike - stop at the stop signs and never run red lights, but very often I witness cyclists ignoring these rules. Once I had a near crash with another cyclists just because I stopped on yellow light while he (riding right behind me) expected me to run red.

    Interestingly, when driving my car makes me feel like I always have to race with time, saving precious seconds of my daily commute. This is why I prefer to bike to work instead - it relaxes me. But then I see a whole bunch of cyclists running red light, ignoring stop signs and I ask myself - are they in a mad rush somewhere that they can't stop for a few seconds?

  7. While it is true that many (most, even) cars do roll stop signs and run red lights, I'm afraid red light running cyclists make more of an impression because many of them do it with no hesitation whatsoever. :(

    Just about the only times you see a car running the red light are when they are running from the cops (quite rare occurrence) or when they didn't see the light or just missed the yellow. A lot of times when you see a bicycle run a red light, however, they do it knowing it is red... and many times they do it en masse... I think THAT's what makes the difference in perceptions.

    It does bug me. I cycle everywhere and I always stop for red lights and stop signs and a commute doesn't go by where I wouldn't find myself stopped at a light only to watch at least one other cyclist ride right through as if they don't think that traffic lights apply to them. And the cars that are waiting for the light with me... they don't remember me. They only remember the light runners! :P