Cyclists are safe and courteous, and your disdain for them is grounded in cognitive bias

Jim Saska is a jerky cyclist, something he cheerfully cops to (he also admits that he's a dick when he's driving a car or walking, and explains the overall pattern with a reference to his New Jersey provenance). But he's also in possession of some compelling statistics that suggest that cyclists are, on average, less aggressive and safer than they were in previous years, that the vast majority of cyclists are very safe and cautious, and that drivers who view cycling as synonymous with unsafe behavior have fallen prey to a cognitive bias that isn't supported by empirical research.

The fact is, unlike me, most bicyclists are courteous, safe, law-abiding citizens who are quite willing and able to share the road. The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia studied rider habits on some of Philly’s busier streets, using some rough metrics to measure the assholishness of bikers: counting the number of times they rode on sidewalks or went the wrong way on one-way streets. The citywide averages in 2010 were 13 percent for sidewalks and 1 percent for one-way streets at 12 locations where cyclists were observed, decreasing from 24 percent and 3 percent in 2006. There is no reason to believe that Philly has particularly respectful bicyclists—we’re not a city known for respectfulness, and our disdain for traffic laws is nationally renowned. Perhaps the simplest answer is also the right one: Cyclists are getting less aggressive.

A recent study by researchers at Rutgers and Virginia Tech supports that hypothesis. Data from nine major North American cities showed that, despite the total number of bike trips tripling between 1977 and 2009, fatalities per 10 million bike trips fell by 65 percent. While a number of factors contribute to lower accident rates, including increased helmet usage and more bike lanes, less aggressive bicyclists probably helped, too...

...[Y]our estimate of the number of asshole cyclists and the degree of their assholery is skewed by what behavioral economists like Daniel Kahneman call the affect heuristic, which is a fancy way of saying that people make judgments by consulting their emotions instead of logic.

The affect heuristic explains how our minds take a difficult question (one that would require rigorous logic to answer) and substitutes it for an easier one. When our emotions get involved, we jump to pre-existing conclusions instead of exerting the mental effort to think of a bespoke answer. The affect heuristic helps explain why birthers still exist even though Obama released his birth certificate—it’s a powerful, negative emotional issue about which lots of people have already made up their minds. When it comes to cyclists, once some clown on two wheels almost kills himself with your car, you furiously decide that bicyclists are assholes, and that conclusion will be hard to shake regardless of countervailing facts, stats, or arguments.

Why You Hate Cyclists (via Skepchick)

(Image: Cyclists Sign, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from kecko's photostream)


  1. My own experience here in Montreal is that the cyclists are not especially aggressive, but neither are they particularly concerned with following traffic rules.   Also, 13% on the sidewalks doesn’t seem that low to me.

      1. In some places, it’s legal to use a bike on the sidewalk. In some places, there are very few pedestrians on sidewalks. Some cyclists use the sidewalk when they feel they must, and are careful when there are pedestrians around. And some people who ride on the sidewalk aren’t really cyclists, but are people who just happen to be riding bikes.

        Having said all that largely just to say it’s a big ol’ complicated world out there and not all black and white, I still stay off the sidewalks myself.

        1. Locally in my experience no serious cyclist is on the sidewalk, and by serious I mean commuters and people using bikes as real transportation daily.  In my neighborhood it’s children and older men, in more gentrified areas I’d say yuppies who’s bikes are weekend accessories. 

          I would love to see aggressive policing/ticketing of biking on the sidewalk coupled with education programs to teach children and adults, and most importantly *drivers* that it is illegal, it’s illegal here anyway.

          Education is important because in my neighborhood adults are raising their kids with the notion that they (and everyone on a bike) should always ride on the sidewalk, and these very same adult drivers believe that all cyclists are supposed to be on the sidewalk.  They actually think cycling ON THE ROAD is illegal. Being screamed at to “Get outta the road and get on the f*** on the sidewalk!” is a regular occurrence sadly. As is being threatened.

          1. It’s because of the screaming and threatening drivers that I think some cyclists use the sidewalk. They know they’re supposed to be on the road, but they’re tired of being screamed at, told to get off the road, or just having drivers come up behind them at a red light and lay on the horn for no reason.

            I see quite a bit of that in the area where I work. Of course in that same area I, as a pedestrian, have the joy of being nearly run over at least once a week by a driver who doesn’t think the red light applies to him, or doesn’t understand that pedestrians have the right of way when they have a WALK signal.

          2. That’s my reason for being on the sidewalk. 

            I have a chronic illness, and when I can bike at all, it’s slow. Pedestrian levels of slow. Gone are my days of being able to remotely keep up with traffic. In my area, there is a culture of very anti-bike care driver behavior. Despite doing everything humanly possible to stay out of the cars ways, I have had a soft drink tossed at me, folks scream at me, and been menaced at street lights. You’re not even safe on bike lanes, because some drivers take offense to the existence of bike lanes. This was well and good when I could really ride, and get out of the way, but now that I’m recovering, and so slow, I don’t feel I am fast enough to keep out of harm’s way. Too unsafe, and therefore I just don’t bike really much anymore. 

          3. How would having the police ticket bicyclists on the sidewalk keep drivers from threatening bicyclists on the roads? It would just keep a lot of people from bicycling at all.

            If the roads aren’t safe, why should people use them? If the roads are made safe, then it shouldn’t require such drastic measures to get people to use them.

          4. You need more people riding correctly (strength in numbers) to make the roads safer, but I get your point which is why I said that education is so necessary. Drivers and particularly *police* need to be educated that being aggressive toward cyclists is unacceptable and potentially deadly. 

            So yeah:  Education, infrastructure, enforcement and serious punishment for people that hurt cyclists.

          5. This is how I feel, as well. I don’t think bikes should be on the sidewalks, but there are some areas in my city where the roads are too unsafe to ride. If I didn’t go on the sidewalks, there would be areas of town I can’t access. I think infrastructure safety has to precede punishing cyclists for misusing infrastructure. 

          6. I don’t know where you live, but in a lot of places where its illegal for most people to ride on the sidewalk/footpath it’s still legal for children to. 

            Personally, I want my kids riding bikes as much as possible, but I don’t want them doing it on Melbourne roads where drivers often seem to be oblivious or very aggressive to cyclists.

          7.  The vast majority of bikes I see on sidewalks are kids, like under 12 (so not even teens). I would much prefer them on the sidewalk than in the street. I would love to be able to cycle as transportation but I gave up on it due to abusive drivers. Not aggressive drivers but actually abusive drivers, the type of yell at cyclists, throw things, even deliberately driver closer to pass than needed (by that I mean actually swerving into the bike or parking lane to freak out the cyclist). Sure some cyclists bike aggressively and disobey the law, and that is not okay, but they aren’t driving 2 ton vehicles that can kill a cyclist even at fairly low speeds.

        2. As a rule I don’t ride on sidewalks, with one or two notable exception – and if you were to monitor the one spot where I regularly ride the sidewalk, you’d find almost 100% of cyclists do.

          The one spot I’m thinking of is a favourite spot of the cops for speed traps
          – lots of drivers speed there
          – there’s a great blind spot to hide in, so drivers don’t have time to slow between spotting and passing the radar truck
          – by the same token, the many speeding drivers there wouldn’t have time to slow down between spotting and rear-ending a cyclist

          I would dearly love to have a safe and efficient way through that area that lets me avoid the sidewalks, but there just isn’t one.

      2. I don’t know what the law is in Montreal or Philadelphia, but many places in North America have policies forcing bicyclists off the roads and onto the sidewalks. Sometimes they have laws demanding it. Sometimes they just turn a blind eye to bicyclists’ needs as road users, to bicyclists getting injured or killed on the roads, etc. Either way, don’t blame bicyclists.

        1. Agreed. There are bridges here in DC where the bike lanes feed onto the sidewalks to cross the bridges. They don’t want the cyclists on the lanes of the bridges themselves, and I’ve tried to bike on those lanes in a couple of places and see why. So there, I do ride on the sidewalk on the bridge, but I go a lot slower and try to be careful around the pedestrians I pass. I get dirty looks sometimes, but what are you going to do. Sometimes you just have to accept that you are in a situation others are not going to understand and you’re not going to be approved of.

          1. It’s not about not understanding, it’s about safety. I get it–I don’t ride much, but I have ridden, but there is a reason that pedestrians loathe cyclists on sidewalks. Because they’re dangerous.

          2. I believe you have missed many points. First, there are places where it’s not illegal, and in fact that it is where you are required to go. The I-395 bridge, for example. And I don’t believe that it is dangerous in places where pedestrians rarely use the sidewalk, if it’s done carefully. But that said, I still say it’s better to avoid the sidewalk *if at all possible.*

          3. I don’t loathe cyclists. I didn’t loathe cyclists even before I got a bike. I have near misses with cars though, on a regular basis, and have been hit while crossing the street with the light.

          4. Here’s two scenarios, which is more likely to end in serious injury or death?

            1) A busy 4 lane street with no bike infrastructure. Cars switching lanes, pulling into car parks, etc and traveling fairly fast say 60km/h (about 38m). In the middle of this is a cyclist who can’t travel at nearly the same speed as the nearby cars.

            2) The same cyclist riding on the nearby footpath which is wide, mainly empty and has crossing lights at all intersections.

            Both situations could obviously end in injuries or death, but in the first situation it is far, far more likely to occur. This is when and why I ride on footpaths.

        2. I’ve had a cop slow down to tell me to get off the road and onto the trail.  At that spot, the road was very wide, very lightly used, nice and straight, and (I’m pretty sure) perfectly legal for me to occupy.

          The trail is picturesquely and unnecessarily meandering, and popular with pedestrians, including people walking their dogs, people with strollers, small children wobbling all over the trail on tiny bikes…

    1. In fairness, my experience driving in Montreal is that no one’s particularly concerned with following traffic rules. Driving in that town is insane.

      1. It’s part of the secret plot to get everyone to use public transit.

        You’re right, though, that traffic laws here are generally treated as somewhat optional by all parties, and in this regard, cyclists are not particularly different than drivers and pedestrians.

    2. I am a cyclist–I do not have a driver’s license. I can count on the fingers of one thumb the number of cyclists I see in any given day who are NOT breaking at least three laws at once. How many cyclists do you see using hand signals? How many bikes have sounding devices, or lights at night? How many riders remain in their lane and obey traffic lights and stop signs? How many ride on the $%^&ing sidewalk? (Here’s a hint, people: it’s not called a ‘sideride’. I see this every day even on streets with BIKE LANES. I just want to put a stick in their spokes.  
      There are very few cyclists who treat their bikes as vehicles. For most, they are toys. This is not the case in Europe.

      1.  And how many motor vehicle drivers do you see rolling through stop signs without coming to the legally-required “full and complete stop”? How many drivers do you see tailgating, or passing illegally, or failing to yield the right of way as legally required, or menacing pedestrians in crosswalks, or blocking a bus stop, or double-parking, or…

        I ride legally more of the time than most cyclists I know. Other cyclists, including my husband, roll their eyes when I stop at red lights or choose to ride three extra blocks instead of riding on the sidewalk or going the wrong way up a one-way. I know my state’s vehicle code and can (and do) quote and cite by number the sections that regulate where bicyclists are supposed to ride.

        And within the past month the driver of a motor vehicle physically forced me off the side of the road — pulled up next to me, matched speed, then moved to the right until the side of his car met my handlebars and he could physically push me over into the gutter — as I was riding directly over a sharrow, which indicates that bicyclists are legally supposed to ride there.

        Why is your anger directed at cyclists, most of whom are just trying to make the best of a bad lot? Why aren’t you getting angry at drivers like the one who had spittle flying from his mouth as he screamed “I should run you off the fucking road, you bitch” at me because I wouldn’t run a red light and let him go? Why aren’t you getting angry at drivers like the one who first swerved menacingly at my husband (who was, again, riding in the middle of the lane directly over sharrows) and then in response to an angry “Hey!” pulled over, got out, and got a length of chain out of his trunk which he wrapped around his fist as he stalked towards my husband saying “I’m going to fucking kill you”?

        I get annoyed at how many of my fellow cyclists are knuckleheads, but your focus is way, way misplaced.

        1. I never said anything about motorists, good or bad. Was I supposed to? The topic here is cyclists, and how law abiding they are(n’t).  Agreed, most of the drivers on the road shouldn’t have their licenses as far as I’m concerned. I’ve had many experiences like the ones you’ve detailed. But again, asshole drivers shouldn’t excuse asshole cyclists. And I’m sure you’re just as aware as I am that any contest between a bike and car is no contest at all. Yet a surprising number of cyclists don’t seem cognizant of this.

          1. “But again, asshole drivers shouldn’t excuse asshole cyclists.”

            Dangerous drivers should explain safety-conscious cyclists, and an environment where safety needs may not correspond with traffic laws.

          2.  I normally ride my bike safely and politely.  However, if driver harass me, I’ll opt for safety over politeness, and if they think I’m being an asshole by taking the middle of the lane instead of staying on the right where they might get a chance to pass me, and not only stopping at stop signs but turning around and yelling at them to back off when they honk, well tough for them.  And one of the times I’ve been assaulted while biking I had just done that – the kid in the back seat threw a full cup of soda at me.  I probably should have reported them to the police, but dealing with San Francisco police is at best an effort in futility.  (Other times I’ve been assaulted have been the usual yahoos in a pickup truck throwing beer bottles as they went past (missed), without them even having to slow down behind me.)

        2.  No his focus is not “way, way misplaced”. He is relating his perspective as a bicyclist, that his many of fellow bicyclists are  crap riders. He is not obligated to compare and contrast all other topics that are parallel his subject or are tangential to his point. He wasn’t even particularly angry. Why don’t YOU address the very real concerns he voiced? Your story about getting run of the road by some bonehead doesn’t make the need for bicyclists to signal their turns go away.

    3. I live in Montreal as well.

      the amount of cyclists I almost hit very day that run lights, cut you off, or just decide to ride right in the middle of the road is infuriating.

      I cannot go anywhere in the car without seeing an asshole cyclist.

      no, they are not all like that, but the courteous ones are less noticeable because they lane-split correctly, and follow traffic rules, including stops, lights, etc.

      what I have noticed is that many cyclists here do not follow traffic rules when convenient to them, and only stop at lights if they cannot make it through without getting hit.

      many of these guys behave with a Montreal pedestrian attitude towards cycling

      1. We ride in the middle of the lanes for safety. It means “Don’t pass me inside this lane; it’s not safe.” We’re not doing it to piss you off. If you’re pissed off, you shouldn’t be driving.

  2. This statement falls into being extremist.  Has anyone ever claimed that every cycleist is an overagressive asshole?

    There are however enough very visible idiotic cyclists out there to give everyone a bad name. 

    1.  Every anti-cycling troll that’s about to mob this article will.  It’s already started.

      We even have the requisite concern troll “Cyclists” making their usual appearances.

      1. There are however enough very visible idiots out there to give everyone a bad name.

        FYT. (except, you know, it was Rider’s thing)

      2. The fun thing about coming up with names for everyone against the issue is that we can dismiss any dissenting opinion as trolling.  What fun!

        Some of the “concern trolls” have a point: there are too many cyclists–and I see this even in my own rural neck of the woods–ignore traffic signs and other traffic.  Yes, it’s the job of the motorist to avoid traffic, not vice-versa; at some point, common sense needs to kick in, though.  Now having said all that, I’m not a cyclist, just a person who rides a bike down the road once in a while, and some people in rural areas are like bulls seeing red when they see an adult on a bicycle.

        1.  Yeah, how could I say something so outrageous when we have an epidemic of rural locales being overrun by gangs of cycling scofflaws…..

    1. Last weekend I made a conscious effort to watch motorists at stop signs as I went about my daily meanderings. While I don’t have a total count of motorists I can say that I saw precisely TWO motorists actually stop at stop signs.

    2. I was issued a citation once for not stopping at a stop sign on my bike. The officer invited me to watch the intersection while he wrote up the ticket. Out of a couple dozen cars, I saw exactly one car stop for the stop sign.

      So there.

  3. The same probably holds true for motorcyclists. Most probably obey traffic laws and drive safely, but the ones who blaze past, weaving in and out of cars or along the median are the ones who stick out in memory. 

        1. I may have been a little obtuse about it.  The point was to refute KC Debi’s assertion that “Most probably obey traffic laws…”  Sounds like your experience backs me up.

          1. I think she may have been refering to the bikes commonly refered to as “crotch rockets”.  My experience with riders of those bikes is that they will weave in and out of traffic at speeds that would make Dale Earnhart Jr blush.  The exception is the biker going at posted speed.  BTW, I have no idea if I spelled “Earnhart” correctly.  They drive in circles, I have no interest in watching that.

  4. I both drive a car and ride a bike, and am generally sympathetic to the plight of bicyclists.  But let’s face it: the roads are paid for by the automobile drivers through their highway taxes (gasoline, license tags, title fees, tolls).  Where I live, bicyclists pay nothing and yet demand equal rights to the road.

    If bicyclists want equal rights, they need to be prepared to pay for that right on a par with auto drivers.  I don’t read where they are ready to do that.

    1. A bicycle causes much less wear to a roadway than a motor vehicle.  I wonder what the proportionate allocated cost is.

      1. In what area is cost based solely on “wear and tear”? Generally, cost is figured on total construction costs  and maintenance cost over time. They just replaced a badly root and frost heaved bike path near my house. I’m not sure how you would figure “wear and tear” of bikes on the path into its replacement costs and pay for it with just that.

    2. But let’s face it: the roads are paid for by the automobile drivers through their highway taxes (gasoline, license tags, title fees, tolls).

      If you live in the U.S. they are not.  Driving is ridiculously subsidized, furthermore, your statement about “equal rights” is way off the mark. Bikes and pedestrians cause pretty much no wear on the road, cause no pollution, or damage our quality of life and health like car culture does, and it’s pretty much insane to say that a car should not have to yield to a pedestrian crossing the street or a cyclist because they haven’t purchased gas.

      1.  but those pedestrians and cyclists should wait their turn, it is called right of way. If I’ve got a green, and some asswipe gets in front of me, they will get yelled at because it is my right of way.

        1. Well, it’s not our fault the traffic planners decided to give us [on foot] 10 seconds every 10 minutes to cross the street, and the same 10 seconds for left-hand turns.

    3. While this varies a bit state-to-state, gas taxes account for an relatively insignificant amount. Most roads— especially those cyclists are likely to use— are paid for by local property taxes.

    4.  If bicyclists want equal rights, they need to be prepared to pay for that right on a par with auto drivers

      Sure, they could base the amount of the bicycle tax on the percentage of road wear & tear they cause, and the percentage of other road users they injure or kill. That sounds fair.

        1. “Sure, they could base the amount of the bicycle tax on the percentage of
          road wear & tear they cause, and the percentage of other road users
          they injure or kill. That sounds fair.”

          Very little, and very few, respectively. So the bicycle tax wouldn’t pay for much.

          1. I think that was Beanolini’s point. People always trot out that tired old “If bicyclists want rights, they should pay road taxes” idiocy, and arguing the facts about why this is nonsensical doesn’t seem to get  through. Okay, let’s try a new tactic: accept their premise as stated then show that it’s still nonsensical.

          2.  Not idiocy. Where would bicyclists be if somebody else wasn’t paying for the infrastructure? You can argue most bicyclists own cars as well. You can argue that as a matter of public policy we need to encourage alternate transportation and  should find the tax dollars in another pot that everyone pays into. But to say bicyclists shouldn’t pay road taxes and leave it at that should too much like I want my cake and eat it too.

          3. @Sabeletodo:disqus Yeah, they should make cyclists pay things like  property taxes, or income taxes, or  Value Added / Goods and Services Taxes!

            That’ll teach them to use the infrastructure they don’t contribute to.

    5. Here in the UK, the roads are paid for by funds from general taxation: there’s also a handy statistic that points out that something like 80% of regular cyclists also own a car. So, yeah.

    6. Sorry, but this is completely inaccurate.
      Highway taxes barely scratch the surface of the subsidies required to maintain roadways.

      The US’s system of roads and highways are a huge expenditure for all levels of government, and are paid for by all tax-paying citizens, motorists and non-motorists alike.

      Do some research before you go making claims like this.

    7. It depends where you live. In London, for instance, the roads are paid for by income and local taxation so everybody contributes equally. There is an additional tax for cars but this is based on emissions and so cycles are exempt. (Many drivers seem to have a hard time understanding that part – it’s quite common to find a white van mouthbreather foaming with entitlement over their imagined contribution to the highway system.)

      Further to this point, cycles do not damage the roads in any significant way, unlike motor traffic, so cyclists (and wider society) are actually bearing the cost of road upkeep that should, in a fair world, be borne exclusively by the motorist.

    8. 1) Roads exist for the transportation of people, irrespective of their means of transport. Roads do not exist for cars alone. Roads have existed long before cars, and roads still exist in towns in Europe where cars have been banned.

      2) Bicyclists do not pay nothing, they still pay taxes to their communities, though home ownership and sales and everything else. I’m looking at my town of Cambridge’s 2011 budget right here, and well under than 1% of the income is from licenses and titles, and of course the city gets nothing from gasoline taxes. The city puts a little over 1% of its budget towards roads, so it’s putting in at least twice what people are paying for use of cars, and so it’s mostly paying for this out of the other funds. Cars, of course, represent the vast proportion of the use and also deterioration of the roads.

    9. Depends on the road, and whose jurisdiction it falls under, but gas tax doesn’t come close.  If it’s a freeway, it comes from a number of sources.  If it’s a tollway, it’s paid for by the people paying tolls.  If it’s a state or county road, it could be a combination of income and property taxes.

      I could argue that if gas taxes paid for interstates entirely, it’s not fair for most of us to pay those taxes all the time, as most of us don’t use the interstate system all the time.

      Come to that, my little acre of property has a county road running through it.  I pay taxes on the entire acre.  Because it’s a road, it’s public property.  Does that seem fair?  Perhaps I should set up gates and toll booths, to recoup my losses.

    10. Depends on where you live. In many cases that simply isn’t true. In Portland the majority of road maintenance funding is via property taxes, licensing fees, registration fees etc and not fuel taxes. Given that the majority of cyclists own cars but use much less road and cause much less wear to the road I’d say cyclists pay way more than their fair share. You could almost say cyclists subsidize motorists.

    11.  Roads are largely paid for from general revenue, with transportation and transportation related spending amounting to no less than 5% of GDP, or $2400 per American per year.

    12. This argument comes up in virtually every article about roads/cycling I’ve ever read (as a planning student, focussing on transport I’ve read a lot). Yet as far as I can tell, its not true pretty much anywhere. In the vast majority of cases; not even the majority, let alone the complete costs of roads are paid for through tolls,registration fees or petrol taxes. There is always external subsidisation from land taxes, or income taxes, etc.

  5. I’m an avid cyclist. My bicycle has been my primary means of transportation for over a decade now (as in, I don’t own a car and I’m not a regular driver,) and I’ve got to say that in my experience a healthy percentage of cyclists I’ve encountered are pretty much self-absorbed dicks when it comes to traffic flow. Running stop signs is the most common rule I see violated, (just today I stopped at a stop sign, the car on the perpendicular street who had already stopped began to edge forward, then a cyclist behind me passed me and cut him off.) 

    Passing on the right at intersections, blocking car traffic by riding in the car lane when there’s a perfectly serviceable bike lane right freaking there, (I see this one over and over again and it is beyond me why cyclists do this,) leaping back and forth between the street and the sidewalk at speed to bypass traffic signals, and to be sure, most cyclists I see don’t do these things, these violations are exceptions, not rules, but from my vantage point, there’s enough of this going on regularly all over the U.S. that annoyance at cyclists not just an emotional reaction. You don’t need to consult statistics to determine whether or not that nitwit on a bicycle just cut you off at a stop sign. (Also, the next person I meet coming around a blind curve in the wrong lane on a bike trail I will club to death with my pump.)

    1. “avid cyclist”

      “Passing on the right at intersections”

      This is a classic aggressive driver move in my city and they usually keep driving in the ‘parking’ / biking area of the street once they speed around the parked cars at the light.  It’s incredible dangerous and I’ve almost been killed by drivers doing this more than once. To complain about harmless cyclists doing that, who are certainly trying to get *away* from cars is beyond trivial.

      1.  Yeah, if a cyclist gets killed because they try to pass a car turning right, that’s pretty trivial, I guess. You’re locked into a “cars vs bikes” mentality that’s entirely irrelevant. Passing on the right at an intersection is a terrible idea, period. It doesn’t matter how comparatively ‘harmless’ the vehicle doing it is. A dead cyclist is a dead cyclist.

    2. Dude, you’ve just proven the point of this post.

      Your personal experience does not represent a sound statistical sampling.

      1.  No no, read it again. What I’ve pointed out is just the opposite, that statistics don’t undermine personal experience. It doesn’t matter if nationally, over the last decade, there are statistics suggesting, (not proving, mind you, merely hinting,) that overall cyclists may be getting less aggressive. What matters is what you, personally, experience. So if you encounter ten cyclists a day and one of them is a douche nozzle who refuses to obey traffic rules, that one is your experience and it’s relevant. National statistics don’t somehow erase that relevance. That’s where the attitude comes from, not some emotional refusal to attend national statistics and, as it happens, such intuitive referencing is not invalid.

        1. What if I was robbed by a black guy?

          Is my “intuitive referencing” “not invalid?”

          Added: I’m not trying to go all “not liking cyclists is just as bad as racism” but how does your argument not apply to any group I’ve decided not to like, damn the statistics?

          1. Oh, because I’m not arguing anything like, “cyclists are bad,” or that, “people shouldn’t like cyclists.” My point is that this type of bad behavior occurs often enough that it’s reasonable for those encountering it to be irritated by it, and that it might constitute a problem worth addressing, as opposed to trying to write off as unjustified hostility.

            In that I experience the same kind of annoyance as a cyclist, not a driver, doesn’t make me some kind of uncle tom style self-loathing cyclist. It merely means that it appears to me that a segment of the cycling population is behaving badly enough to warrant notice and comment. 

      2. I think his point is that a minority of bad cyclists is still a problem worth addressing.  We don’t ignore murder just because the overwhelming majority of people in the world never murder anyone.

        It seems to me that the point of the article is that many people have a statistically small number of negative experiences with a demographic, but since those experiences weight more heavily on our minds than non-negative experiences, we tend to assign them more weight until we conclude that many/most members of the demographic are responsible for negative experiences.

        But I think vendorx point is that even if the negative experiences are in the minority, that doesn’t necessarily mean that there isn’t a problem worth addressing.

    3. FYI: In Massachusetts, it’s explicitly legal for bicycles to pass a line of stopped cars at a light, provided there is room to do so. Safe cycling behavior is to pull ahead and to the right of the lead car, along a 45° line, so you’re within the driver’s field of view in case they decide to turn right. You might want to check the laws in your jurisdiction.

      I do use bike lanes when they exist, but there are pretty compelling reasons not to: Grit and trash and bits of glass accumulate at the edges of roads, where the bike lanes usually are; the roads are often less well-maintained at the edges, with potholes and rough asphalt; bike lanes are often within the “dooring” zone for parked cars; dedicated bike paths are often clogged with pedestrians.

      1. In addition to those factors, in DC, the bike lanes are simply where the delivery trucks and taxis park. I can’t imagine it’s much different in cities in Mass.

          1. We have a site for DC too; looks to be part of the same site.


            Really, I don’t even worry about it anymore–what’s the point? Yes, it’s dangerous because it causes bikes to go back into faster-moving traffic, but there’s little to be done about it if the city itself doesn’t care.

      2. Oh, yeah, I have no problem with that. When I say, “passing right at an intersection,” what I’m talking about is when a cyclist attempts to ride through an intersection by passing a car which may be attempting to turn right, on the right. 

    4. Passing on the right at intersections

      In Massachusetts, cyclists have the right to overtake on the right, and cars need to check for the presence of a bike before making a right turn.
      Indeed, they recently amended the laws to include more protection for cyclists on the right, including

      No person operating a vehicle that overtakes and passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall make a right turn at an intersection or driveway unless the turn can be made at a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.

      This all makes complete sense. If you relegate cyclists to the far right and don’t want them in the main road, you have to give them leeway for travelling on the right. You can’t have it both ways.

  6. This logic applies to motor vehicle drivers, too.  I’m not sure what the point of this essay is other than to try to score points off the apparent opposition, meaning other-users-of-the-road-who-are-not-cyclists.   

  7. It’s true. Increasing numbers of cyclists on city roads, and better bike paths and sharrows, has meant that cyclists can afford to be less aggressive toward automobile traffic without risking death. Twenty years ago, my friend Robert Legault used to bicycle in to work at Tor holding his heavy steel bike chain and padlock in his hand as an implicit threat to the cars around him.

  8. I don’t know about Philly, but over here, the roads are not laid out for bicyclists, and some drivers run bicyclists off the road. It’s often impossible to get to the left-turn lane, and if you do, it’s pointless waiting for the lights because they require a car’s weight in the lane. I’ve had drivers pass, too close for comfort, and then shift right as they’re passing. It’s frakking dangerous, and I think it’s the idea.

  9.  Exactly, the less bikes, and less bike-friendly the streets are, the more aggressive you have to be to survive *aggressive* drivers and infrastructure that’s unfriendly to bikes and pedestrians.

  10. We run most of our errands on foot; much of what we need is available within a mile radius.  Our street is a designated bike lane.  I am telling you that bicyclists are pretty aggressive with pedestrians.  Not only are they often riding on the sidewalk but they bechave like they have the right of way on the sidewalk.  

    I think bicycles themselves have a serious design flaw because they are hard to stop and start.  Therefore, bicyclists mostly don’t want to do that.  They’d rather blow through stop signs and make pedestrians get out of their way.

    I think non-car transportation is a great idea.  But bicycles are not a good vehicle to share the “road” with, whether you are on foot or in a car.

    1. I agree. In fact, that design flaw is so severe that it renders bicycles the most energy efficient form of transport we have requiring, as a quick google will reveal, about half the energy per unit distance of walking.

      Not that that should affect your personal bias at all.

    2. There’s no excuse for riding on the sidewalk, especially in an aggressive manner and it should be ticketed.

      Having said that, here’s what we face in our bike lanes, when we even have the luxury to have them at all, my neighborhood isn’t deigned worthy enough to have them yet….:

      That’s just the drivers, not the pedestrians who are endlessly and obliviously stepping into them, often while blindly fiddling with their phones or trying to jaywalk (play frogger) across the street.

      1. I don’t mind at all if bicycles ride on the sidewalk, as long as they don’t force me, as a pedestrian, to make way for them.  And as long as they don’t pass me from behind without any warning.

        And there are some things I like about my street being a bicycle lane.  We get a lot of bike traffic and I feel it makes the street safer from crime (break ins and such).  But I do worry about getting run over by a bicycle while crossing the street.  

      2. Nonsense. I’d be far, FAR happier to have no prohibition of bicycles on sidewalks, and by-laws allowing police to ticket cyclists who endanger other sidewalk users.

        This would preserve all the good aspects of no-sidewalk-cycling laws, and remove the idiotic possibility, for example, of being ticketed for cycling on an empty sidewalk when it’s impractical to ride on the road.

        1. I think it would be more progressive to make it more practical to ride in the road. But yes there are instances when there’s no alternative, but that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about idiot bikers who ride down busy sidewalks when it’s unnecessary. Where I live that’s usually kids and teenagers though..

        1. I was wrong to say there’s *never* an excuse. Sometimes there is when there’s just no other reasonably safe option. Donaleen says there’s a bike lane on her street which of course is about as good as it gets as alternative. Okey dokey?

          I suspect that most complaints about cyclists on sidewalks are in situations where cyclists could safely be in the street.

  11. I commute by bicycle in New York City. I go five miles each way on every good weather day. I will only run a red light or stop sign at an absolutely remote and completely empty intersection. I obey all other rules 100% except I sometimes ride on the sidewalk on the approach to my apartment. 

    I can tell you that I can’t even remember encountering a cyclist that I would call aggressive. When there are closed roads for cycling events, like City Streets, I’m usually going faster than all the people with racing equipment. 

    Despite there being a lack of aggressive behavior, there is a crazy amount of non-aggressive rule breaking. The majority of cyclists run red lights and stop signs. It seems like many people don’t even know that riding on the sidewalk is only permitted for small children. It seems like every day I encounter quite a few people on the wrong side of the road, or going the wrong way on a one way street. And don’t even get me started about the hipsters on fixies with no brakes. And don’t forget the people riding electric bicycles, which, like it or not, are illegal. But even worse are the people riding gas or electric powered bikes and scooters on the pedestrian/bicycle only pathways and bridge crossings. 

    1. If you want to focus on anecdote hows this for lack of aggressive behavior. I also live in New York and travel 100% through walking and public transport.

      Number of cars I’ve been hit by in the last 2 years 0
      Number of bicycles I’ve been hit by in the last 2 years 3

      Until the most aggressive cyclists stop leaving me bleeding on a some what regular basis  I’m reasonably sure I’ll keep treating them the same way I do cabs.

        1. I’d rather not get hit by anything. But with the cars at least I can usually count on them to be where I’d expect them. Besides the most common iteration of getting hit by a car in NYC is getting clocked by one of our fine cabs as they approach an intersection. Usually does about the same amount of damage as a bike, but easier to avoid.

          The point being for every good cyclist story there’s a bad one. As a pedestrian in NYC the bikes are just as much of a terror as the cabbies. The city needs to start enforcing the traffic laws on both groups more often. 

          1. My specific problem with bikes (as opposed to my problem with cars) is that I have no clue where they’re gonna be. I’ve been hit in intersections, on side walks, while sitting outside at restaurants, in the entry ways of apartment buildings. 

            Hell I’ve had guys on bikes deliberately kick me over (though I’m pretty sure out and out douchebaggery is a different issue than unsafe traffic)

          2. “I’ve been hit in intersections, on side walks, while sitting outside at restaurants, in the entry ways of apartment buildings.”

            People get hit by cars in all those places. In the UK stats I mentioned [look at any of the Guardian’s flamewars over this], ‘pavement’ means sidewalk.

          3. And how often is a single person hit in all these places by different cars? I also don’t know how well the stats from an entire country stack up against a single urban area from a different country. Just based on population density your gonna see less activity in suburban and rural areas than urban. Which will bring the national percentages under what a single urban area sees. 

            But if I remember correctly the official numbers out of NYC still put you at less likely to get hit by a bike. And there’s a really good reason for that. I’m not talking about the sort of serious accidents that result in accident or police reports. I’m talking about the sort of low or no injury interactions that are a regular occurrence for many New Yorkers. Even when injury occurs a bike or car taking a corner at less than 10mph usually doesn’t do much damage. People usually don’t call the cops over these sorts of things, and cops are unlikely to file a report. I’ve certainly never tried. 

          4. And we can endlessly go back in forth with: for every time you’ve almost been hit by a bike, a cyclist has had to swerve out of the way into traffic to avoid a pedestrian wrongly in the street and so on..

          5. Sort of my original point before I got distracted. Unsafe behavior is unsafe for everyone. And there are enough cyclist acting in an unsafe manner to make it a problem. As a pedestrian I spend more time dodging or being hit by bikes than anything else. The cyclists I know get hit by other bikes more often than anything else.  The good behavior of other cyclists doesn’t excuse it. The fact that cars are dangerous doesn’t excuse it. That its friendly for the environment doesn’t excuse it. Just like none of this excuses reckless driving. There are assholes out there causing us all a problem to save themselves a few minutes. As far as NYC goes the police typically don’t enforce any of the traffic laws regarding bikes, the ones for their safety and for my safety. They need to crack down on that.

        2. The point is when was the last time you saw a car doing any of the following.

          Driving on the sidewalk honking at people to get out of it’s way.

          Driving on the wrong side of the road.

          Driving the wrong way down a one way street.

          1. It’s a silly and fallacious comparison but I’ll indulge because I HAVE seen:

            Cars go the wrong way down a one way street numerous times, in fact I had to bike out of the way of one doing that recently.

            Wrong side of the road?  Seen that more than once.

            A few others:

            I had to bike into the grass to get out of the way of a SUV that drove off the street onto a park biking/pedestrian path in a city park.

            A few weeks ago while at the lake I saw a cab drive off the street and a long way onto the lakefront trail, this is only for joggers/bikers/families walking with strollers etc.  He then turned back and dangerously sped off for whatever reason which could have easily killed many people.

            The bike on pedestrian angle is ridiculous.  Here’s quick info for NYC as an example:

            Cars are 365 times more dangerous to pedestrians than cyclists, according to City data [pdf]. 60% of fatal pedestrian and bicyclist crashes are caused by illegal driver behavior. 27% of crashes that kill or seriously injure pedestrians involve a driver failing to yield. More pedestrians are struck by vehicles crossing the street with the signal (27%) than without (20%). But bikes, they spoil a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge.



      1. I have never hit anyone on my bike in the three years I’ve been riding here, so it wasn’t me! The worst I’ve done is tap some side mirrors with my handlebars while walking my bike inbetween cars. 

        I can say that the times I have come close to hitting or being hit, it was always a pedestrian and not a car or another cyclist. 100% of those times the pedestrian was crossing a street at a spot other than the crosswalk, or crossing a crosswalk when the red hand was up.

        1. Yeah my sister rode her bike here daily for years, and like yourself she was a sensible human being. Cyclists (and drivers actually) tend to think of this as a bikes vs cars argument over rights to the road, or various political issues. But its an overall safety issue. And for pedestrians in an urban environment the bikes tend to be just as much of a problem as cars, if not more so. A cyclist who follows the rules of the road is likely less dangerous to me than a car. But cyclists who don’t even bother with common courtesy or common sense endanger everyone, especially themselves.

          Practically speaking the number of problem cyclists doesn’t matter to me (or you since you’re probably just as likely to get hit as I am). There are enough of them out there that I need to watch my ass practically everywhere. As I noted above I’ve had foul run ins with bikes practically everywhere its possible to put a bike.

    2. That’s an interesting perspective. I grew up in a rural area, now live in north NJ, and am (with good reason imho) terrified of driving east of the Passaic river, let alone in Manhattan. Driver and cyclists alike seem to be incredibly aggressive compared to what I’m used to, as seen through closer following distances, more use of horns and bells (I can’t remember the last time I used a car horn), more frequent lane changes, illegal left turns in front of oncoming traffic, etc.

      But it does seem to ‘work’, in that everyone is playing by the same rules. 

      I don’t know about non-aggressive rule breaking. That sort of thing really bothers me philosophically because I’d rather have ‘the right laws, rigorously enforced’ than ‘a bunch of laws some good some not, casually enforced.’ 

      I’d rather laws be changed to recognize that cyclists are not the same as drivers, but then enforce the heck out of whatever lawmakers come up with.

      1. I’d rather laws be changed to recognize that cyclists are not the same as drivers, but then enforce the heck out of whatever lawmakers come up with.

        That is a good and important point, and it’s very successfully been argued that in many instances it makes no sense for bikes to treat stop signs like cars do.

  12. As a regular cyclist, motorist and pedestrian I’d like to join in and state, for the record, herp derp, Motorists! Hurr-de-durr, Cyclists! And, last but not least, mmnnnnnnggggghhhhh, Pedestrians!

    Hopefully this’ll save time as now no one else needs to trott out the same tired biases and misconceptions and we can have a discussion.  o/

    Though, as I’m sure we all secretly know and don’t really want to admit, road users of all kinds can be both lovely and awful in equal measure without any one group being able to lay claim to anything resembling the high-ground. The rest is largely what piques us the most.

  13. “…drivers who view cycling as synonymous with unsafe behavior have fallen prey to a cognitive bias that isn’t supported by empirical research.”

    So you’re telling me drivers haven’t even been keeping up with empirical research?!  “Your cognitive bias is showing!” is what I yell at them when they fail to run me over…

  14. I have long ago given up the notion that cars, cyclists, and pedestrians are all going to get along.We are not. Where in this world are there diverse groups with competing interests that get along? As I cyclist I am simply going to be hated or not hated, and I’m going to go on about my business as best I can, attempting to not get run over while being as respectful of others as I can in my human, flawed manner.

    The D. Kohn post above proves my point. There’s nothing you can say in response to that attitude. It’s her right, but it’s absolutely pointless to attempt to engage with it.

    1. It’s all in the training and discipline. 

      Stiffen up the requirements for driver licensing (and training) and implement some kind of licensing requirement for road cyclists and I imagine some level of peace would be found.

      Then implement harsher punishments for driving/cycling like an asshat to fix the problems that training doesn’t solve. 

      Then at the same time implement some kind of requirement for new road construction to include lanes for bikes. Some cities are doing this on their own, but it’s a bit of a patchwork mess. Make it a universal push and you’d get more cyclists, drivers would get more used to cyclists, and I like to think this would help everyone get used to each other.

    2. Cars, cyclists and pedestrians can’t get along in cities where the infrastructure was built for cars and pedestrians, not bicycles.

      Having just returned from a Europe trip where I visited Amsterdam and Vienna, I have seen firsthand (again) how bikes, cars, and pedestrians can coexist: clearly marked, physically separate lanes and signals for each group.  

      Navin and various other commentators will always point out that it is “legal” for bikes to ride in the road, take up a whole lane, and otherwise act as though they have the same status as cars.  However, though it drives cyclists crazy to hear this, the fact that it’s legal doesn’t make it an intelligent choice.

      I carpool to work with my wife in Washington, DC and routinely witness people gamely trying to ride their bikes on Rhode Island Avenue, a major six-lane arterial road where traffic flows around 30 MPH.   I’m sorry, maybe this is legal, and maybe people “should” be able to do it, but its f-ing stupid.  

      In relatively flat cities like DC, a network of actual bike lanes makes a lot of sense.  But right now, we have sort of done it half-way, by marking streets with “sharrows” which must make some contractor a lot of money but have no perceptible effect.  I would love to have clearly marked, physically separate bike lanes – if and when we get them, I’ll start using them.  But until then, a lot of cyclists are trying to prove a point about how they have every right to use the roads as cars do, and unfortunately every year scores of them are injured, and a few are killed.

      1. I’m in DC too, although your point about it being flat is lost on my since I have a cat 5 climb every day on my way home to VA. I understand what you’re saying–there are several roads I just avoid, like the busier parts of New Hampshire Ave. It is a poor patchwork, but it’s getting better. I don’t mind the sharrows–where they are in Arlington I think it helps educate everyone that bikes are allowed on the road. The more cyclists there are out there on those roads, the safer it gets, I think, so I don’t think it’s quite just proving a point, but actually making a change by doing things. But to each his own–I certainly don’t blame anyone for not wanting to bike here.

      2. Navin and various other commentators will always point out that it is “legal” for bikes to ride in the road, take up a whole lane, and otherwise act as though they have the same status as cars.

        I never said *anything* like this.  In my city we ride between the right lane and cars parked on the side of the street. AKA: where bike lanes usually are if we’re lucky enough to have them.  This is legal and how you are supposed to ride *full stop*.  I’m not talking about riding in front of cars. Are you serious?

        I said that many drivers believe we have no right to be on the road at all

    3. Well, isn’t that interesting.  And here I thought I was reporting real experiences.  Maybe you have the attitude.  And, by the way, yesterday when I was walking I moved a shopping cart (not mine) out of the way of a bicyclist on the sidewalk.  So I wouldn’t say I hate them.

      And have I mentioned that I live in Portland, OR, which has a huge bicycle population.

      Now I am a little surprised by this story.  A neighbor had their house broken into and the POLICE told them they are seeing much more crime on streets with bike lanes.  I have a hard time believing that one, and, in fact, chocked it up to police attitude.

      1. Thank you for your kindness toward the cyclist.

        “But bicycles are not a good vehicle to share the “road” with, whether you are on foot or in a car.”

        The attitude that bicycles are not a good vehicle for the road is what I was referencing, without wanting to lengthen my post with that all detail.

        1. Well I was referring to the bicycle, not the bicyclist.  I am referring to the fact that bicycles are hard enough to stop that most bicyclists try to avoid it.  I find that a flaw in the bicycle design that makes it hard to share the road with.

          1.  They’re much easier than cars to stop, but starting from a dead stop is slow which is why many people think it’s ok to carefully ride through a stop sign if it can be easily seen that no cars or pedestrians need to be yielded to. 

  15. I live in a suburb of Dallas, and as a result the only cyclists you see are the full-on-spandex-training-for-a-race guys or people who gear up like that just for a leisure ride.  They aren’t commuting to work or to the store or anything like you might see in NYC or somewhere else.  Which is fine.  Ride a bike for whatever reason you like or need to.

    BUT – there are so many roads around here.  Why do you need to ride in rush hour traffic on a street where the average speed is 45-50 mph?  Its like a slowly moving roadblock and completely impedes traffic.  Be considerate and realize your 12 mph speed is screwing everyone else up and if you were in a car, you would be pulled over for driving that slow.  Its just not safe for anyone to introduce a bicycle into that environment, even if legal to do so.  (No, there are no bike lanes, at least not where I am talking about.)

    1. This is the comment I scrolled down hoping to see. Trying to get where I need to be, behind the wheel or on a bus, I don’t want to be late because cyclists are hogging the street when there are perfectly good sidewalks and bike lanes to use! On bike I feel unsafe blocking streets that are often too narrow for cars to pass by each other, and don’t trust drivers not to run me into the parked cars. Is that really so terrible?

        1. There are quite a few places where it is perfectly legal to ride a bike on the sidewalk, and doing so is often encouraged. 

          1. Clearly you’ve missed the 50-odd comments above where people’s #1 gripe seems to be people biking on sidewalks.

        2. Drivers? I’m not driving my car on the sidewalk; just riding my bike along the streets with no bike lanes. Where it’s safer and perfectly legal in my city. I’d rather risk potentially irking a few pedestrians than certainly pissing off people operating 2 ton machines that could kill me with no effort because I can’t possibly hope to match their speed. But thanks for the condescension.

    2. Why do you need to ride in rush hour traffic on a street where the average speed is 45-50 mph?

      Because they love risking their lives obviously. 

      Or it could be that they have little other option. I’m not into that club riding/racing culture, just urban riding and commuting, but I know people that are, and I can tell you that they look for good safe routes to ride.  Why wouldn’t they?  I can’t even imagine what it must be like in The South where the culture and policy making is even more hostile to biking and walking.

      1. I made some effort to clarify that the people riding in the situation I am talking about are riding for fitness or enjoyment only, and that there are many neighborhoods to pick from where the speed limit is lower, and traffic is a far cry from the main artery roads.  In my area, if you are riding a bicycle on an “artery” road during rush hour, you are doing it on purpose, because these are not safe roads to be doing it on.

        I will admit that the culture and policy making are not friendly to biking or walking, but its a pretty big difference in need.  We can’t even get so called experts to agree on a strategy in Dallas, much less in the suburbs…. 

      2. This is not universally true.  In DC people routinely choose to bike in heavy traffic on Rhode Island Avenue instead of taking the separately marked bike lanes on R Street 1 block to the north.  Based on comments on local DC blogs, a major reason for this is that they are trying to make a point about bikes deserving the same status as cars, cars being evil tree killers, etc.

      3. It’s awful in the south. I moved from Madison WI, which is often listed in the top 10 bike friendly cities, to Atlanta, GA. I don’t even try to ride my bike here. The city just isn’t built for it and the drivers aren’t considerate of it. The speed limits are higher than they should be and everyone breaks them on top of that. Roads are hilly, windy and often don’t connect through like a grid layout would, so taking a less busy side road isn’t usually an option. Atlanta is also notorious for having overgrown or absent sidewalks on top of that, so the risk is even there for foot pedestrians who must also walk on the street. Even the public transit here is well known to be a joke. This is a city for cars and not much else. Efforts at legislation to fix this is often shot down. It’s very sad.

        1. I feel for ya.  It’s no wonderland up here in “bike friendly” Chicago either.  Portland Or. is about the only city in the U.S. that I’ve been to where it seems like they’ve really worked to change their culture and driving habits to demand safety for pedestrians and cyclists.  I know that people there complain though too…lol.

          I hear Minneapolis is pretty good.

          1. I’ve had a bit of experience biking in Chicago and I’d much prefer that. At least with their grid street layout you can take parallel side streets for most of the places you’d want to go.

  16. Just to add my two-cents: my “cognitive bias” doesn’t come from statistics.  It comes from a couple decades’ worth of observation of bicyclists, by-and-large, not being able to decide if they’re vehicle drivers or pedestrians. (For the most part, “Bicyclist” isn’t a valid third category in terms of traffic laws where I live.) Or, more to the point, picking and choosing whichever status suits them at any given moment.  Coming up on a stop sign? Pedestrian. Driving in the middle of the road at 20 MPH less than that of the prevailing traffic? Vehicle. The oncoming lane has less traffic than the lane they’re in? Pedestrian.  Just don’t feel like stopping at a traffic signal and waiting like everyone else, for whatever reason? Jaywalking pedestrian. You get the idea.

    For my part, yes I notice every bike on the road with me, because I’m afraid of killing them when they do something stupid in front of my car – again. (A safe, if stressful, attitude.)  And it’s gotten to the point that those that DO follow basic traffic laws consistently- even for the span of the few minutes I’m watching them share the road with me- are in a vanishingly small minority.

    Personally, I have doubts about anyone operating any kind of vehicle on the road when said vehicle is incapable of matching the speed of the prevailing traffic. (Bike lanes aside.) That creates an unexpected, and thus unsafe, condition. But, well, the law’s on their side there (speed limits vs. minimum speeds, etc), so it’s incumbent on drivers to deal with it- as annoying as it is to get stuck behind them. Annoyance alone isn’t enough reason to vilify them. But when bicyclists insist on the same rights as car drivers on the road, then ignore the traffic laws at will, it’s not doing much to support their cause or image.

    1. For my part, yes I notice every bike on the road with me, because I’m afraid of killing them when they do something stupid in front of my car -again

      Now imagine what it’s like for us.  Not worrying about just one rare and lonesome car killing us, but every one of you.  Constantly.

      Also, it’s not uncommon to be honked at or screamed at while in a turn lane waiting for a green turn light. So we simply can’t even win when we are following traffic rules to the letter. That is why so many cyclists pick and choose how they handle any particular intersection. We’re more concerned with our health than whether you are inconvenienced or annoyed for seconds, which is something btw that other cars do to each other all the time, but is not seen as an annoyance….

    2. Are you certain that you have accurately factored in every cyclist that behaved well in your decades of observation? Do the considerate cyclists stand out in your memory, or only the inconsiderate ones?

      That’s the whole point of the article.

      1. Point made. The trend to me seems to be that the considerate ones stand out more to me now, due to their rarity, but that’s hardly a scientific or rigorously observation.  The inconsiderate bikers are so commonplace that they shape my behavior (caution, fear) toward all bikers, and the considerate ones become pleasant exceptions to that.

        Anyway, yeah, that was the point of the article, and clearly true to some degree in my case.

        1. It’s not that they’re rare – it’s that the considerate ones are not memorable enough for you to remember them 30 seconds after they leave your field of vision.

          You pay attention to all cyclists at the time you’re interacting with them in traffic, but the ones who ride predictably and signal their manoeuvres, you forget the instant your actions don’t immediately affect one another – you’re already busy with the next thing you need to pay attention to.

          Try to remember the first cyclist you encountered on the road in July – you can’t do it.  Try to remember the first notably bad cyclist you encountered in July – maybe you can, because you spent some time thinking about them, after you parted ways.For the same reason, I have a stereotype of automobilists as dangerous, recklessly selfish and inattentive.  I know most aren’t that bad, but the ones I couldn’t stop thinking about while I was pulled over to the side of the road waiting for the adrenaline rush to subside, sure have been.The difference is that I don’t drive a car myself, so I can stereotype motorists without the cognitive dissonance of including myself in the stereotyped category – just as you can probably stereotype all cyclists with less cognitive dissonance than would be involved in stereotyping all motorists.

  17. I witnessed a bike rider do something incredibly stupid yesterday and I thought, what a total cusshole! Then I realized the biker was one of my best friends and I simply didn’t recognize him, and my opinion of the situation completely changed, it was the driver of the car that almost hit him that was a total cusshole!

  18. The problem is not car drivers or bicycle riders (or motorcyclists) behaving badly or failing to follow the letter of the law, it’s stupidity.

    If you can walk across a road or against a traffic light crossing without being hit by a car, and if you can walk along a sidewalk without walking into other pedestrians, and if you can do those things without forcing other people to make way for you, then you should be able to do the same thing on a bicycle.

    1. True. Two wheels can go a lot faster than two shoes, but don’t have to, and can be practical at the same average speed as an especially fast walk or slow run, and sustainable for longer, and with heavier loads. As long as bicyclists are courteous, accept moderate speeds, watch stopping distances, and switch to low speeds when around pedestrians, there’s no *inherent* danger in sharing space. A three-way division between truck space, bike space, and pedestrian space might be an improvement, but given the current lack of infrastructure here, the ability to switch modes is probably the safest option, as long as bicyclists *do* switch modes and don’t try to achieve road-appropriate speeds on sidewalks.

  19. The other problem is that whatever form of transport I’m currently using, people using all the other forms of transport are idiots. As are most of the other people using the same form as me. 

  20. to be completely honest i have an irrational bias against the guys who wear all the branded ‘pro cycling gear’, 

    if i see a guy riding his bike around in street clothes im like ‘ok this guy is trying to get somewhere maybe a job or the store or something, im going to be aware of him and give him space but he’s not going to do anything squirrely on me

    if i see a guy riding around in the idiocracy style branded cycling shirt and the whole ‘pro cyclist’ get up my gut instinct is ‘this guy is a dick and he will do whatever it takes to ruin my day as long as it boosts his inflated sense of false superiority’ 

    im not saying thats right, its just what i feel inside me

  21. It might an affect heuristic, and it might be an availibility (?) heuristic. It is much easier to think of examples where I’ve almost been killed / almost hit someone when I’m biking or driving because those examples are more salient. I don’t notice the hundreds of cars or cyclists I interact with everyday without difficulty. So I’m not surprised this. I would expect is more generalizable. That humans, doing anything, are probably more good and courteous than you think, because you only remember the infractions.

    1. It’s the same effect that causes people to think that coincidences are significant omens or some-such. They don’t factor in the thousands of non-coincidences that occur all around them every day.

  22. Stop sign and safety light compliance is the biggest complaint against cyclists. See DeVeauuse et al., 2010 from the Journal of American College Health for actual data…1.4/100 cyclists complied with stop signs.

      1.  I’m guessing that neither you nor dragonfrog had an opportunity to read the article. The data were partitioned into complete and rolling stops.  Although the data I presented was not specifically when pedestrians are present, another table shows the relative likelihood of compliance specifically when pedestrians are present.  The highest rate of compliance was by university owned vans. Private vehicles were twice as likely to ignore stop signs, whereas cyclists were 66 times as likely to ignore stop signs when a pedestrian was present. And yes, it is specific to a college campus.  But with the disregard of stop signs as one of the major complaints against cyclists, why wasn’t this one of the measures in the study by the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia? I expect it’s because the results would not be as favorable to the ones conducting the study.

    1. What does compliance mean – a complete stop, or slow enough to check for cross traffic and safely stop if there is any?

      I do the latter frequently.

      It’s probably inconsistent self-justification, but I do think that there’s a difference with a car – when the front bumper of a car is at the stop line, the driver could be 8 feet back from there.  When a cyclist is the same distance from the stop line, the front of the bike is quite a ways back from the stop line.  As long as a cyclist at that point is going slowly enough they have time to look for traffic, process what they see, and easily come to a stop before their front wheel crosses the stop line, I consider that safely “complying” with the sign.

  23. My city wasn’t built for cyclists. By the definition of this article I”m “aggressive”, but how can I not be when the NEWEST bike lanes are riddled with globs of asphalt that weren’t flattened, or instead of making the traditional lane on the side of the road, they paint a bicycle in the middle lane!! One of those is just after a freeway off-ramp leading up to the most heavily trafficked street in town, which of course doesn’t have a bike lane itself. I take the quickest, safest path based on my own knowledge of this place I’ve lived most of my life. I ride on sidewalks, in the middle of 2 lanes, against traffic, and run stop signs and lights often because that’s ironically the safer option for me. 

  24. While I buy this as a working theory, I would say my direct observational data from San Francisco as a pedestrian, cyclist, and driver is that there are significant contingents of both conscientious and irresponsible cyclists.  I think it’s just as irresponsible, scientifically speaking, to defer to this article being correct as it is to a cognitive bias that cyclists are hyper aggressive.  I have no data to show either is true, and appeal to authority is just another logical fallacy.

  25. As a pedestrian in every sense of the word, much of the argument between cars and bicyclists resembles a squabble between despots over which dictator executed the greater number of activists.  To be fair, pedestrians often leave the curb to get that jump on the moment that their light turns green — a great way to needlessly endanger your life over a millisecond’s advantage.  Stop doing this and wait patiently, like a true pedestrian.

    To me, the resolution of the problem of bicyclist’s tendency to pick and choose the rules of the road is simple enforcement.  Have you ever seen a police car pull over a bicyclist and give them a ticket?  I did once and it was as glorious as spotting a unicorn resting its head in the lap of a virgin.

    It’s also fun to observe automotive drivers when they enter a 15 mph zone behind a bicyclist travelling a steady 25 mph.  Their thwarted desire to zip through the zone at 40 mph becomes focused entirely on the hated bicyclist and blood pours from their ears.  Bicyclists often serve as a reminder to automobile drivers that there are posted speed limits and it wears on them like a chancre.

    1. “I did once and it was as glorious as spotting a unicorn resting its head in the lap of a virgin.”

      You are making this up. There’s no such thing as virgins anymore!

  26. I try my best to give cyclists respect when I am driving my car. For the most part, I have no problem. The only problem I have is that I live on a street with no stop signs, but the cross-streets have stop signs. In addition to cars not bothering to stop a lot of the time, I see many bicyclist who just go through without even slowing down. 

    Now, while I don’t want to hit a car that blows through the stop sign, I ESPECIALLY do not want to hit a bicyclist who blows through the stop sign. I fear I will do much more damage to the bicyclist than the driver…

  27. I find that cyclists wearing those skin-tight jerseys are far more likely be aggressive and unsafe, whether that be on the road, bike path, or wherever. I think it’s an indication they they intend to be taken super seriously.

    Of course this is likely a comment on people, in general, who take themselves too seriously — people who blatently go over the time limit at open mic nights and D&D players with hand-forged 20-sided copper die should also, IMO, be watched by the government.

    Just saying, if you’re a biker wearing a cycling jersey in Rhode Island, you should be aware that I’ve put you on notice.

    — Sincerely, a guy who bikes, a little creepily, wearing a backpack and BluBlocker sunglasses

    1. Yes, the skin tight jersey contingent is more aggressive.  But they are also more experienced riders.  We get all kinds of riders on our bicycle lane street.  The families with kids are often the least safe.  Not only are the not as competent as riders but the parents are focused on herding their children while trying to ride their own bikes.  We are also on a bit of a hill, which adds to the difficulty.  It can be a little scary to watch (from the safety of my porch).

      Then there are those who ride with dogs… they ride holding the end of the dog’s leash.  That never looks safe to me.

  28. Compliance and reduced aggression might also have another cause: the growing consumer preference for less aggressive bike designs with greater emphasis on utility. And that is a major shift in American cycling culture.

    Think back to past consumer trends in cycling. In the 70s and 80s, it was all about ten-speeds, with their promises of open vistas and touring the country. In the 90s, it was dual-suspension mountain bikes and their resonance with the ‘hardcore’ and ‘extreme’. And then the 2000s saw the rise of single-speeds and fixies, a reflection of our society’s craving for minimalism and cleanliness.

    And yet during this forty-year span, nothing really changed. Each trend, albeit in their own form, championed the same core theme of performance and athleticism. But if the last five years are any indication, a new theme is emerging: transport and utility.

    To me, the fixie has been the canary for all of this. Just ten years ago, every fixie I saw on the street looked it had just escaped from the velodrome: tight wheelbase, >74° geometry, razor-thin tires, deep drops, and a gear ratio that would make your knees quiver. In short, a recipe for insanely aggressive riding.

    But then the fixie started to change. To adapt to street riding, wheelbases got longer. Geometries slackened. Chronically sore shoulders and wrists stoked a revolt for more upright postures. Riders replaced their drops with straight bars. Then riser bars. Nowadays even full 90° sweep bars aren’t uncommon.

    In short, there was a gradual shift to a less aggressive design which elicited a more relaxed and upright posture and thus a more relaxed rider. The result: a cyclist who is more comfortable, more content, and more likely to not ride like a total jackass.

    The ultimate demonstration of this effect is the Dutch roadster, which has a very relaxed geometry of 65°, versus the standard 72°. Not coincidentally, this design has caught wind in every major American city in the past five years and has the stern attention of the entire bicycle industry. If these design trends keep up, the streets are going to be awash with happy, relaxed, and yes, compliant cyclists.

  29. Imo, the explanation for this shift in behavior is quite simple: since bicycling has started becoming a viable way to commute, the average biker age has increased.
    In other words: the proportion of brainless kids doing 20+ on crowded sidewalks has decreased compared to the number of adults just going somewhere.
    p.s. riding on sidewalks should definitely be made legal with a caveat that is, sadly, different to enforce – a speed limit of double the walking speed (10kmh.) That’s perfectly safe for both pedestrians and bikers as long as bikers stay civil and give pedestrians the right of way. I can’t tell you how many startled looks and friendly waves I got by simply saying “thank you” when a pedestrian kindly responded to my bell. A little civility can go a very long way.

  30. I can’t remember the last time I saw a cyclist here (SoCal) actually STOP for a frickin stop sign or red light… that is NOT obeying traffic laws. If you want other people to respect you and obey traffic rules, well guess what, you should to do the same.

    I had a guy the other day blow through the stop sign (he was going downhill so he had plenty of speed) and make a left turn right in front of me, I was already pulling through the intersection and had to stop or he would have slammed into the side of my car. At the speed he was going, he would’ve have been a world or hurt.

    1.  By your reasoning drivers should show no respect for other drivers either because there are plenty of drivers who don’t obey traffic laws.

      1. SOME drivers/cyclists != ALL drivers/cyclists. I don’t respect people who ride or drive poorly, my statement applies equally to a subset of motorists and cyclists.

  31. And as far as the study… “The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia” — yeah, sounds like there’s no cognitive bias in that group either, uh huh…

  32. My problem with cyclists is that: are they cars? or are they people?
    I don’t mind yielding to cars or people. But when they are cycling along with cars and suddenly switched to pedestrians because we have a red light, I don’t know how to react.
    And if they are pedestrians, they are going too fast! A friend of mine bike in front of my condo every day. I’ve been telling him that I almost hit him several times and he does the usual cyclist rant. He goes 20-30mph dressed in all black without helmet at mid-night. If someone hit him, the police is definitely on his side because they are always seen as victims. But in fact, there is no way someone can see him going at that speed with no lights on a curving road at night. Need speed limits for cyclists.
    In Japan, cyclists get off and walk their bikes when they take the pedestrian. This is the way it should be.
    BTW, people on wheelchairs can be jerks too.

    1. I think you’ve touched on another problem. Many cyclists switch between the “I’m a vehicle, no, I’m a pedestrian” mode in order to serve their own needs, meaning getting somewhere as fast as possible. You can’t have it both ways… if you’re on the side walk, WALK the bike, if you’re in traffic on the street, then you need to follow TRAFFIC laws. Don’t ride at 30mph on the sidewalk or blow through stop signs while you’re on the street.

    2. A**holes come from all categories… I once got punched in face for almost running down a motorcyclist in my car.. Before you all go “you deserved it you cad!” consider that he was a small pudgy guy (interesting that it seems that the vast majority of scooter drivers do conform to that description) wearing all black (oooh so cool!) on a black scooter (the coolest) in the night.
      Imo the point of the article is that you remember the traumatic experience rather than mundane. “Roadrage” my ass. The vast majority of other car drivers are nice people driving safely and yet you’ll remember that one a-hole who cut into you lane with an inch to spare.
      Considering that a-holery is pretty much constant along the whole societal spectrum, the real metric should be “what is the possible damage?” when designing the rules of the game. Damage a cyclist can cause to a pedestrian (and vice versa) is much much lower than what a car can do to a cyclist and that is why i advocate responsible sidewalk riding as an option in cities which don’t have a proper bicycle infrastructure. (and i say this as both a cyclist AND a driver)
      In the city that i live in there was a public scandal when cops started pulling cyclists off completely empty sidewalks (in a “projects” kind of neighborhood) and forcing them to take the roadway… which was basically an entrance to state highway with cars doing 100kmh minimum. I believe some newspapers called it “genocide” at one point…

    3.  He should use lights at night.  It’s the law here and actually cyclists have been the biggest proponents of getting fellow cyclists to follow it.  They’ll sometimes hold events here where they’ll stake out a spot in a busy nightlife area and stop all cyclists biking by with no lights and tell them about the law and offer to give them a free headlight.  I think this is great.

  33. I ride a bicycle in traffic in Chicago. I drive a car. I use public transportation. I’m a motorcyclist. And I’m also a pedestrian. I see this issue from all sides. By far the worst offenders are car drivers, especially those who are yacking on their cellphones INSTEAD of driving. Also bad though are bicyclists who ride at night WITHOUT LIGHTS or those who ride on the sidewalk — which is illegal in the city of Chicago. In short, everyone should pay attention, follow the rules, and above all else chill out and be patient. 

  34. It’s the wobbly, apparently oblivious, jackwagons, who insist on riding on the busiest narrow streets they can find, that drive me crazy. And the roadies, who ignore law and convention and ride 2 or more abreast on busy roads.

  35. As a total pedestrian I have to say that I have no use whatsoever for that particular brand of parasite called “the motorist”.  I can’t see that even half of them are in any way qualified to operate anything moving faster than a brisk walk.  Their favourite trick here in Toronto is to buzz at full speed by a streetcar that is opening its doors to let off passengers: even though legally an open streetcar door has the force of a red light.  More than once I’ve had the foot I was extending to step off the streetcar batted aside by some dick in a BMW who has pulled out from directly behind the larger stopped vehicle.  The local, grotesquely over-staffed, police department occasionally have blitzes on this behaviour and when they catch one the whole streetcar gets up and cheers.  It doesn’t change the incidence of the behaviour though.

    The cyclists are a much better bunch but there are enough pinheads to give the rest of them a bad name.  My neighbourhood is a bizarre mixture of many, many kids on bikes tearing down the sidewalk (a lot of Ultra-Orthodox Jewish families nearby and they tend to have huge families) and a lot of senior citizens to whom a collision could mean the death sentence of a broken hip.  There is one bus stop at the bottom of hill here on a narrow sidewalk with telephone poles stuck into it.  If want to poke your head out to see if the bus is coming you first have to check the other direction or you *will* have a bike crawling up your spine.

    I suspect that the reason for the lowering accident rate involving bicyclists is Evolution In Action.  “No Old, Bold Cyclists” and all that.  There was one guy in my old ‘hood who went leaned into corners so hard he was head-butting pedestrians.  We were mounting an effort to try and catch this moron and sit him down for a little chat with some of the local thugs before he killed too many seniors but he head-butted a Mack truck first.

  36. I am glad to hear that the number of cyclist fatalities is down. Although I stopped riding two wheel vehicles many years ago after one too many times flying over the handle bars (all solo accidents), I am always concerned about the safety of cyclists on our roads and try to give them a wide berth. Unlike some other drivers, I am actually okay with riders taking over the center of the lane when they need to. At least then I know where they will be and that they wont suddenly swerve or wobble into my path if I try to pass them. I would be okay if they rode on the sidewalk sometimes too as long as they were careful of pedestrians. I think the vast majority of cyclists are very careful when riding, but the small percentage who are not are vastly more visible. It only takes two or three people flying through stop signs or lights without bothering to stop or check for cross traffic to color your opinion of all riders. And those are what I see most. I know it is a hassle to stop at intersections and then get your momentum up again, but if it is between that and killing yourself, it is worth it.

  37. I don’t think riding on an empty sidewalk is being an asshole.  I hop up on empty sidewalks to avoid being buzzed by assholes in cars.  If I see someone walking on the sidewalk, I typically hop off onto the street or slow down and go around them very slowly.  Seems like smart common sense to me.  Then again, common sense isn’t as common as it could be.

    1.  It’s quite dangerous to ride on sidewalks because motorists apparently can’t see pedestrians or cyclists there — they are focused on the road.  Consequently they may go into a driveway or a side street going pretty fast and hit a cyclist or pedestrian.  A pedestrian may be able to jump out of the way; on a bicycle it’s pretty hard to jump.

      1. I see your point, but I slow down at side streets and look both ways before crossing. I only ride on sidewalks when there’s no bike lane and/or narrow streets that’s packed with cars, so it’s not that I’m on sidewalks that often really.

        Also, being on a sidewalk is far safer (overall) than being a sitting duck on the side of the road with asshole drivers who aren’t paying attention to the road. I’d rather take my chances crossing an alley using my own judgment (and eyes) than depending on assholes in cars, that’s for sure.

        Disclaimer: I also drive a car and walk around.

  38. This one happened to me on the way to work this morning.  Thanks big white van guy:

    9-16-020 (f) Turning right in front of a bicycle –
    When a motor vehicle and a bicycle are traveling in the same direction on any highway, street, or road, the operator of the motor vehicle overtaking such bicycle traveling on the right side of the roadway shall not turn to the right in front of the bicycle at that intersection or at any alley or driveway until such vehicle has overtaken and is safely clear of the bicycle. Added Coun. J. 3-12-08, p. 22783 Other subsections within this section have been omitted, showing only the subsections relevant to bicycling.

    1. Yep, I hate the right hook. Happens to me about once a week. If a car comes past when there is a potential right turn just in front of me, I just assume they are turning. The car slowing is the other clue. Indicators are seldom used in Vancouver due to a lack of drivers’ free hands (Starbucks in one hand, cellphone in the other) so they don’t help with figuring out their intentions. 

      I used to bang the back of the car with my hand, but I’ve settled down now.I am especially bemused by the drivers who overtake, immediately slow up to turn right and then stop, perhaps expecting you to “under”take them (thus inviting a squishing) on the right. I just stop behind them and wait. And wait. And wait. Eventually they realise I’m not coming back past them, and they make the right turn. And off I go in cloud of smugness.

  39. Ah, you must not live in beautiful Portland, OR… the most bike friendly city in the country, where bikers have attitudes, ride on sidewalks, sneer at motorists and never, but never obey the lights or stop signs. I can’t tell you how many times my wife & I have had to scurry out of the way of an out-of-control biker with an attitude. We’ve learned that when bikers are empowered, pedestrians generally suffer. Unless one is in Amsterdam, of course, where they totally got it right and gave bikers their own lanes.

    1. I live in Vancouver, and whilst self-empowered cyclists are common (I am one), I have never had to “scurry” whilst being a pedestrian. Really. We cyclists know that hitting things like people and subsequently crashing is going to hurt. So we really try not to do it. Car drivers kill and injure vastly more pedestrians than cyclists, in spite of not (usually) driving on the side-walk. It doesn’t hurt them a bit. That might explain it.

  40. After biking my commute since 2007, here’s a rough outline of my bicycling “rules of the road,” in descending order of priority… 1. My Safety First2. Promote Good Road Relations3. Obey the LawThere are far too many circumstances where obeying the law narrowly will both piss off other road users and get me killed. I’ll readily admit to treating some stop signs like yields, slow-riding a counterflow block on a sidewalk (yielding to pedestrians) if it cuts out 3-sides of a heavily trafficked square, using a 4-way intersection pedestrian green to get ahead of vehicles in the fastest lane for my subsequent left turn (yielding to pedestrians or passing behind them), or yielding my right to proceed at a 4-way when a vectoring car driver is clearly distracted and won’t make eye contact.

    I cannot condone law-breaking, nor can I universally condemn it – experience shows reality isn’t binary.  I have as little patience for the “scorcher” cyclist darting in front of a left-lane vehicle, forcing all intersection traffic to abruptly stop for their hard left turn as I do for the non-signaling truck drifting into the right-most bike lane for an unscheduled parking stop. Thankfully the “growing pains” of these road sharing conflicts are decreasing as infrastructure and experience improve for everyone.

  41. Ask yourself this question: how often do you see cars driving the wrong way down the street. I know it happens sometimes, but how often have you seen it yourself? Now, how many times have you seen cyclists riding the wrong way down the street? Now considering that there are many, many more cars than cyclists, it seems to me that the percentage of cars who drive the wrong way is much, much lower than the percentage of cyclists who ride the wrong way.

    1.  It’s pretty hard to drive a car the wrong way on a street very far, unless you’re a cop with your light and siren going.  That may contribute to the difference you have noticed.

  42. I don’t hate cyclists but I wish that the law that there supposed to use headlights at night was taken more seriously.  Here where I live I see two or three every night that are riding bikes that don’t have headlights and are really asking for an accident because of how hard they are to see. They think that because they can see the drivers that the drivers can see them.. Idiots.

  43. In my own experience, I find that commuter cyclists are very courteous and create virtually no problems. It’s the hardcore road bike cyclists who dress up in the full regalia that either ride the bicycle lane marker forcing cars to swerve around or ride side-by-side in a group creating the same problem.

    I don’t ever want to hit a cyclist.  You’d think more of them would feel the same way about being hit.  

  44. What is with all these people who get claim to get hassled by aggressive cyclists? I walk around the city all the time (and have done for years). I see plenty of cyclists on side-walks, running lights and stop signs etc. It kind of pisses me off, but I can honestly say I’ve never had a “close call” or felt my safety threatened by a cyclist. I try to be a little aware of how others are moving around me and adjust my speed and trajectory accordingly. It isn’t that hard. Live and let live.

    I’m also a commuting cyclist. Here in Vancouver, NO cars stop at stop signs unless it is to avoid an actual collision (or because a cop is parked nearby). None. Zero. The Null Set. Nicht. Nada. I have been riding the same route to/from work for years and look at every stop sign I come to (about 12 each way on my commute) for evidence to the contrary. I am yet to see my first car come to a complete stop (unless due to circumstances noted above). I’ll let you know if it ever happens. Interesting (to me) is that everyone I mention this to assures me that they, themselves DO come to a complete stop. Weird how I only meet people that I never see driving.

  45. I think a major issue here is how the author interprets public perception of cyclists. Perception of safe or unsafe cycling is not going to be based on absolute percentages of cyclist behavior. Rather, it seems to me that it is largely going to be based on how often one sees or experiences unsafe behavior. 

    For example, in driving or walking to work, I’ll usually see several dozen bicycles. Of those, the vast majority will be riding safely. But if only 1 in 10 bicyclists exhibit some unsafe behavior, it’s quite likely that I’ll be confronted with unsafe cycling *every time I go to work*. If only one in a hundred bicyclists is unsafe enough to almost cause an accident, I’ll probably see at least a few of those near-misses a month. People who have longer commutes will probably see even more of this. And people will tend to remember bad situations: I don’t remember any details of the thousands of cyclists I’ve passed, because they didn’t affect me much, but I do quite remember the guy on a bicycle who almost hit me while riding the wrong way mid-lane on a busy street without a helmet and with no hands on the handle bars. He’s probably a one-in-ten-thousand case at most, but that sort of experience is memorable, and since people are trying to avoid accidents throughout their entire lives, not just limiting them to once every few weeks, those sorts of cases are important.

    And after all, suggesting that the public think a *majority* of cyclists ride very unsafely would seem odd. If 70% of cyclists exhibited very unsafe behavior, for example, we’d expect to be constantly confronted with accidents and have people insisting on changes to laws and enforcement. The percentages being noted seem in line with a public that perceives cyclists as often being jerks, but not being bad enough to warrant major action on their part.

    The same applies to driving, actually. The vast majority of drivers on a freeway in California drive decently; otherwise driving would be impossibly dangerous. I expect statistics also show that driving behavior has improved over time. But interacting with a few thousand cars on a drive, even 1% or 0.1% of drivers can be enough to influence perception, and, to some extent, influence one’s safety. This leads to the public perception that drivers in LA, for example, are jerks, despite the vast majority of them driving reasonably. 

    TL,DR: That most cyclists, or most drivers, are courteous and safe doesn’t matter as much as the small percentage of those who aren’t, as they are the ones who cause accidents and most influence public perception. Reducing that small percentage is important, and should be the goal of laws and public outreach.

  46. I empathize with cyclists, I really do.  It must be terrifying to ride one of those things.  And there are a non-negligible number of great cyclists.  Pretty much anytime I see a commuter, or even just a cyclist wearing a helmet, I know I can count on them being a reasonably good partner on the road.  As good or better than the average car.  And I actually enjoy riding along on the road with them.

    The issue is that when cyclists break the law, which I see very often, the break it in ways that are fucking dangerous as hell, and are doing things that car drivers would never dream of doing.  I mean not stopping or even slowing down at a SINGLE red light or stop sign?  Are you out of your mind?  In a major city like where I live, for a car driver to do that they would literally have to have a death wish.  Yes, the car may not come to a complete stop, but no car in a major city is going to just blow through every light. Never seen it in my life. And when was the last time you saw a car go the WRONG WAY on a street?  Maybe once in your lifetime?  And yet I see cyclists do this kind of stuff every single day.  Most of them without helmets!  I don’t get angry at them, I just get terrified that I’m about to watch someone die.

  47. I wish “some” bikers understood this simple analogy: cars are to bikes as bikes are to pedestrians.  Cyclists who expect cars to share the road with you (as they should), should also be willing to share the path with walkers and runners. I run five times a week on a shared bike-pedestrian path. The path is covered with signs and pavement markings indicating that it’s a shared path with a 10 mph bike speed limit. There’s also a bike path on the adjacent road. Still, I’ve been hit once by a biker and had countless close calls. I’ve also been yelled and gestured at repeatedly by bikers. I estimate that 1 in 20 bikers gives a heads up that they’re passing you (just a simple “on your left”), and fewer still will ever yield to let you cross the path. In other word bikers are exhibiting the exact same behavior towards runners that they complain about drivers doing to them. Do my personal experiences with bikers influence my opinion of them? Yup.

  48. Vancouver has been building bike lanes and setting aside bike routes for years now.  Councils have fallen over it, and there is endless bitching on the talk radio stations about it.  I rode a bike (no car) in the city for 12 years, got hit once (but not hurt).  There are some aggressive cyclists, but I have been cut off, honked, screamed at, run off the road etc. more times than I can count.  And I make a point of always riding on side streets, avoiding the busy roads, and rarely ride downtown at all (excepting early Sunday mornings or the like). 

    Number of drivers killed by moron cyclists in a typical year one.

    I am usually more afraid of inattentive drivers talking on their phones or texting than I am of the shouting assholes – at least they can see me and know I am there.  My biggest fear as a cyclist is to be mowed over while some knucklehead is looking at their handheld..

  49. In Davis Square in Somerville, MA this weekend a bicyclist slapped my car in anger with his hand because both of us were trying to occupy the same spot, except I was going 20 mph and had no stop sign, and he had a stop sign that he wanted to ignore. This is going to stick in my brain for years because was really livid, and I don’t know if he was an asshole or just clueless about the laws of the road.

  50. Just two hours ago, I watched a cyclist run a red light in front of oncoming traffic. He held up his hand to assert his right to cross in front of people who had the green.

    And no, the light had not just turned. It had been red for a while.

    If that’s my cognitive bias, it is having a remarkable impact on the movement of objects through real space.

  51. Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if I hit someone riding their bike on a sidewalk someday.  I’m a careful driver, and always try to give special attention to bikes, but when making a turn, a bike travelling in the same direction as a car is almost invisible until they cross the road and end up under your tires.  Scary

  52. Have to admit I yelled at some cyclists about 10 days ago while driving.

    Was waiting at a red light. A crowd (a dozen or more) cyclists – lycra shorts, jerseys, helmets – in other words, serious cyclists – came up behind me. OK, no problem, right?

    Wrong. One of them decided that it was time to go, despite the red, yelled something about “let’s go” and this swarm of bikes passed me – on both sides – and proceeded to cross then turn right on a frontage road. As about half of them got in front of me, the light changed.

    So I’m stuck with cyclists everywhere, trying to not run any of them over and yet still make it across the intersection before the extremely short light changed back to red. So i rolled down my window and yelled at them, something about either being proper vehicles or not.

    I’m always very careful of these guys. On one of the routes I take a few times a week, there are always at least one or two around somewhere. No idea why, but there are. All I ask is that they use some sense, some courtesy, and follow the damn traffic laws.

  53. I think on the whole drivers are more dangerous than cyclists ever were, or are. I’m a defensive and well seasoned cyclist (of both urban and touring), I also drive, and the sh*t I see motorists pull in cities is mind boggling, and ridiculous. And don’t even get me started on cabbies…they are the absolute worse arses on the road. 

  54. In Davis, Ca — birthplace of the bike lane — bicyclists just don’t like to stop at stop signs.  Granted the vast majority are inexperienced students.  They aren’t particularly aggressive.  But running redlights and stop signs is certainly dangerous.

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