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Tell Cyclists To Follow The Rules 57

CargoBike

“Cargo Bike” – Photo by Mario Jahn / RateMyVelo.com

It was bound to happen. A newspaper column politely asking drivers to share the road and accept cyclists as fellow travellers rather than adversaries, published in a newspaper with a readership of ~1 million people, was bound to stir up some controversy.

As expected, I woke up to an email from a Toronto Star reader who says, “When cyclists stop breaking the rules, then I’ll start supporting cyclists”.

This is a classic argument used to argue against building proper bike infrastructure, and a classic excuse for drivers to justify driving aggressively near cyclists. In June, I videotaped a 30-minute commute to show that the vast majority of cyclists are respectful of others and generally obey most rules.

However, I wanted to point out to the reader that obeying all rules on a bicycle to the letter of the law can be dangerous for cyclists, and I also wanted to question why this reader held cyclists to a higher standard than drivers. So I responded to his email.

Here is the correspondence:

From: R
To: contact@isharetheroad.com
Sent: Saturday, November 12, 2011 7:53:59 AM
Subject: Tell cyclist to follow the rules

I’m not against cyclists. However, I am tired of cyclist breaking the rules of the road. We’d all get along a lot better if cyclists did not feel they owned the space.

Cyclist ride on the sidewalk. They are “side walks,” not side rides.

There is 4 way stop in my neighbourhood. Cyclists consistently do not stop even when there are cars and people with kids in the crosswalks.

When cyclists stop breaking the rules, then I’ll start supporting cyclists.

R

*** My response:

From: James Schwartz <james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com>
To: R
Sent: Saturday, November 12, 2011 9:55:54 AM
Subject: Re: Tell cyclist to follow the rules

Hi R,

Thanks for the email. I do understand your concern and it is frustrating when people don’t follow the rules (be it drivers or cyclists). However, one of the issues with our current road system and laws is that they were designed primarily with cars in mind. Following the rules to the letter of the law on a bicycle is sometimes dangerous.

The 38-year-old woman who was 5-months pregnant when she was run over by a truck earlier this week was following the rules of the road when she was killed. She would probably be alive right now if she rode her bike on the sidewalk (I am not condoning riding on the sidewalk, but cyclists who get dangerously squeezed by cars sometimes feel the need to move off the road to stay safe).

Another woman who was run down by an angry driver this week was making a legal left turn. The driver apparently didn’t appreciate her obeying the law while making a left-hand turn (and I have seen this happen many times when drivers get angry for cyclists making a legal turn because they feel the cyclist is holding them up).

I am confident that we’d have less cyclists breaking the rules if we had better infrastructure that makes it less dangerous for cyclists to use our streets.

Having said all that, why is it that you hold cyclists to a higher standard than drivers? How many drivers never exceed the maximum posted speed limit? Judging by what I see when I drive on the highway, I would say you would probably have a very hard time finding a driver who never exceeds the speed limit. I also see drivers dangerously turning right on red lights without coming to a complete stop (as a pedestrian I’ve been almost hit many times over), and I have a four-way stop close to my home where you would be hard pressed to find a motorist who doesn’t do a rolling stop (and yes it’s true that most cyclists also do a rolling stop at this intersection too).

I should also point out that the Ontario Provincial Police handed out 9,533 impaired driving tickets last year; and out of 69,218 vehicle collisions last year almost 2,000 were alcohol-related. Furthermore, police in Ontario handed out 7,560 charges to motorists over three days during the Canada Day weekend.

Given these statistics and knowing that the vast majority of drivers don’t obey all the rules of the road, why is it that I am willing to share the road with drivers, but you aren’t willing to share the road with cyclists?

Best,

James Schwartz, The Urban Country

When the topic comes up, I always tell people that I would rather drivers/cyclists be courteous to each other than to blindly obey the law. A driver can obey the law but put me in danger by passing me too closely. Similarly, he can break the law by rolling slowly through an empty four-way stop sign while being courteous, aware and safe.

Let’s put more emphasis on being courteous than blindly obeying laws that were created without bicyclists in mind.

James D. Schwartz is a Transportation Pragmatist and the Editor of The Urban Country. You can contact James at james.schwartz@theurbancountry.com or follow him on Twitter.

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  • Daniel

    I’m a cyclist who commutes to work every day and I don’t follow the rules.

    Fixating on rules is the result of a mindset that has not progressed past the level of conventional morality often seen in children.

    It also reflects the naive assumption that if we all followed the rules then everyone would be safe—a variant of the ‘just world’ hypothesis.

    Why should I as a cyclist, scrupulously follow rules that sometimes create unsafe conditions for cyclists?

    Why should I follow rules designed to protect pedestrians from 2 ton steel projectiles when on my bike the force multiplier is 100x reduced and I am more manoeuvrable?

    Stopping at a stop sign on a bicycle when no one else is around is just empty piety.

    Lets not forget that the rules of the road, and enforcement of jaywalking laws is the result of powerful pressure from automotive lobbies that want to keep roads, public roads that the public maintains, the exclusive ‘property’ of motor vehicles.

    There is one rule that I always do my best to follow, that is the golden rule.

    I break every traffic rule on the book, I ride on sidewalks, run stops and red lights, ride the wrong way down the road but I make it a point to never inconvenience or startle any other user of the road, and I strive to be courteous to everyone I meet on my daily commute.

    • http://twitter.com/pburka Peter Burka

      Cyclists should obey (most) traffic rules even when there’s no other traffic for the same reason that drivers should: it’s safer for everyone to develops defensive road-use habits. Things like signaling and stopping at stop signs need to become ingrained habits so that you do them even when you’re distracted. Try an experiment: obey the traffic code for a week. I changed my habits and found that it doesn’t slow me down much, it eases tension with other road users and it makes me safer.

      • Daniel

        Good points, however to clarify.

        I didn’t say I never follow the rules.

        I go out of my way to ease tension with other user of the road.

        I’m hyper aware at every intersection I encounter, so I’m not sure that I need to introduce the ritual of stopping at a deserted 4-way stop to maintain my alertness.

        Also, my post was overlong already, so I didn’t mention that most of the time when I break a rule such as riding on the sidewalk, I do so for my own safety.

        There are locations where structural factors make it so unsafe that statistically I am almost guaranteed to be in a serious accident if I try to follow the rules every single day I commute.

        In those locations I ride on the sidewalk. If there are pedestrians I ride at walking speed. If there are tottering unsteady pedestrians like old ladies or families with toddlers that I might startle, I get off and walk.

        I think that people who complain about cyclists not following the rules don’t realise that they don’t have a cyclist problem or a rules problem, they have an asshole problem, and assholes often drive cars too.

        • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

          Here’s a recent example of a situation where I “broke the law” out of necessity:

          On Thursday I rode 16km to a client meeting (in a suit). The ride was generally pleasant, except there was one particular road where cars were driving over 80km/h and there was no bike lane or path. In that case, I rode on the sidewalk because the sidewalk was completely empty (as expected in the suburbs), and I don’t feel comfortable with cars driving passing me closely at more than 80km/h.

          Sure, I was breaking the law, but I was safer, and I would have been courteous if I encountered a pedestrian.

          I would have gladly taken a side street, but sometimes we have no choice but to take arterial roads (in this example I had to get over a valley and this road was my only option).

          I agree with Daniel on his “golden rule”. I would much rather drivers and cyclists act courteously towards others than to blindly obey the laws. A driver can obey the law and still put me in danger. Similarly, he can break the law and be courteous towards me and drive safely.

          • Daniel

            What you describe is pretty much the same thing I’m doing.

            Let’s not forget that following the rules on an arterial road actually puts the drivers in a tougher situation than necessary and exposes them to the risk of injuring or killing a person for no good reason.

            All it would take is a moment of inattention, or even being part of a chain reaction collision with other cars for a driver to accidentally kill a cyclist.

            I’m not saying that I never break the rules for pure convenience or even enjoyment mind you, but when I do I try to make sure not to bother anyone else.

          • KingstonBiker

            Accidentally! There are no accidents on the road, only negligence. The whole “Accident” mentality needs to be rethought. The problem is too many people gamble on the road, cyclists themselves are gambling that the car drivers behind them don’t lose any bets around them. Take a driver and put him on an empty road about to pass you, they will go wide into the other lane and congratulate themselves for being such safe, considerate drivers. Now take the same situation with another car coming in the other direction with a 3 point convergence. Same guy who gave you the wide berth will now bet your life he can pass between the two of you. At better than 80Kmh. Clearly, are worth only so many seconds to people who have not had any training on how to share the road. MTO should be putting radio ads out there as well as TV ads to better promote awareness of the inequities involved in such gambling.

            Really, I feel kinship to road kill sometimes.

          • KingstonBiker

            Well, as mentioned above, everyone has options- much like the car driver has the option to slow down or stop until it is safe to pass, a cyclist has the option to get off their bike and walk on the sidewalk. Just as safe and totally legal.

            I commute by bike 20km daily myself, some good, some bad, 50% of my attention is in my rearview mirror at all times.

          • Tallycyclist

            All the more reason to go in favor of good segregated cycling facilities on major arterial roads. I’ve gotten off my bike, onto the sidewalk before either because I wanted to get into the left lane (lane splits ‘Y’ into straight and left-turn) and didn’t feel safe sitting on the curb waiting for the endless stream of cars to pass or because I suddenly felt unsafe due to car speeds and the narrowing of the lane I was riding in. These are options, but that doesn’t make it a good option. The fact that I needed to do that just illustrates the deficiency in the infrastructure to accommodate other road users.

            When possible I use smaller side streets; the main street (Tennessee St) is just not reasonable for cycling with it’s 6 narrow lanes (barely wide enough for large SUV’s and pick-ups) and high speed and heavy traffic. Unfortunately these side streets are only a little better and/or allows you to encounter one less dangerous intersection at best most of the time.

      • dr2chase

        It’s far, far safer for everyone if we minimize unnecessary car use. Reduces my tension, too. Cyclists, in the US, kill about 1 pedestrian per year; motorists kill about 3100. Perfect behavior by cyclists will only save one pedestrian life — that’s not much. The health benefits of getting people out of automobiles are huge; more early deaths avoided than all the pedestrian, bicycle, and auto crashes that we have today.

        I obeyed the traffic code scrupulously for about 30 years. I had all my worst accidents during those 30 years. I’ve become much less obsessive about traffic rituals in the last 5 years, and I find THAT eases my tension, and it also saves me time. In particular, every time I commute to work, I do an illegal left turn (there is no turn at all — I cut across incoming lanes and hop a curb, as soon as there is a gap in the traffic), and in doing so, I avoid waiting at a signal that fails to trigger with a 65lb cargo bike, and I avoid mixing in traffic exiting from an interstate and turning right into a mall. What also reduces tension for me, is also taking for granted that cars will do incredibly stupid, illegal, and dangerous things — running a red light (the signal, for the crosswalk I would like to use), passing unsafely (in a lawn service truck, hauling a trailer, crossing a double yellow in the face of oncoming traffic, as I move left to get around a parked car), turning right on red even when it is prohibited and cyclists and pedestrians are depending on the no-rights to get across the road safely). If I expect the worst, I can prepare for it, and when it occurs, I get to be satisfied at my accurate powers of prediction.

        Some people are have a great deal of respect for rules and rituals, and will engage in contorted (and counterfactual) “reasoning” to attempt to justify the rules. Bikes are safe, right now. The statistics all say so. Cars are dangerous, right now. The statistics say that, too. If you’re unhappy about cyclists disobeying the rules, you should be incandescent with rage that people drive cars they way that they do. The social harm is orders of magnitude larger.

        • Daniel

          Rules aside though I think that cyclists should endeavour to learn how to handle their bikes better.

          I see some cyclists that are so unsteady on their rides in mixed traffic that they look like an accident waiting to happen, and that endangers me even when I’m driving my car. Rules or no, I don’t want to end up killing a guy who can’t stay upright on his bike who decided to go riding in traffic.

          You mention hopping a curb, and I think that a lot of cyclists would be doing themselves a favour getting comfortable with that as well as getting used to ‘threshold breaking’, seeing how fast they can stop using the front brake without going over the bars.

          So many inexperienced cyclists don’t even use the front brake out of fear of going over the bars, with the end result that they triple their stopping distance.

          • dr2chase

            I half agree. I’ve seen a few very wobbly bikes out there. But they don’t endanger you in your car at all.

            Not only are you well-protected by the car and its roll cage and airbags (do you wear a helmet?), you will find that with practice, you can trackstand a car, and actually stop dead still until the danger in front of you clears. Skilled drivers can stop in one place for minutes at a time.

            Yes, I am being sarcastic, but I think a main problem for car safety (to others) is that drivers forget that slowing down or stopping the car actually is an option; it’s utterly legal, if you don’t feel it is safe to proceed. Instead, people treat the need to slow down as an imposition.

            Not all curbs are equal. In places with modern infrastructure, curbs are dead simple to hop. In New England, curbs are variable in height (some are quite tall) and are sometimes constructed from extremely sharp-edged granite. I’ve seen someone parking their car cut their tire so badly that the tire is flat in under a minute. Some people think they look lovely, I think they look like a future compound fracture. So “curb-hopping” is actually an infrastructure issue up here — you can’t take it for granted, you have to look first, and know the territory.

          • Daniel

            I’m not saying the wobbly riders endanger me physically in my car, but they do put me in moral peril when I’m forced to drive near them.

            What if I hit one of these half assed riders, riding while holding a coffee cup while holding a shopping bag and steering with the other hand?

            What if they cross up their front wheel just as I’m passing them in my car?

          • dr2chase

            When I come upon people like that on the local MUP, I wait till it is safe for me to pass. Is that not possible in a car? (My car is capable of this.) You’re talking as if you just landed in this situation, without making any choices of your own, and that you have no choice but to pass them. (Yes, I know that it is social norms that compel us to pass when we’re not sure that it would be safe. What’s more important to you?)

            How do you feel about the proposition that choosing to drive the car, when you could use some other means of transport instead (for a particular trip) puts you in moral peril? Statistics show that you are something like 10-30 times more likely to kill a pedestrian driving a car, than riding a bicycle.

          • Daniel

            That’s true, we make choices.

            I commute by bike to work every day.

            I do drive sometimes too however.

            My earlier post demonstrates, I think, that I agree with your statement that driving a car creates a greater burden of care for the motorist so I’m not sure what we’re disagreeing about :-)

  • Daniel

    I’m a cyclist who commutes to work every day and I don’t follow the rules.

    Fixating on rules is the result of a mindset that has not progressed past the level of conventional morality often seen in children.

    It also reflects the naive assumption that if we all followed the rules then everyone would be safe—a variant of the ‘just world’ hypothesis.

    Why should I as a cyclist, scrupulously follow rules that sometimes create unsafe conditions for cyclists?

    Why should I follow rules designed to protect pedestrians from 2 ton steel projectiles when on my bike the force multiplier is 100x reduced and I am more manoeuvrable?

    Stopping at a stop sign on a bicycle when no one else is around is just empty piety.

    Lets not forget that the rules of the road, and enforcement of jaywalking laws is the result of powerful pressure from automotive lobbies that want to keep roads, public roads that the public maintains, the exclusive ‘property’ of motor vehicles.

    There is one rule that I always do my best to follow, that is the golden rule.

    I break every traffic rule on the book, I ride on sidewalks, run stops and red lights, ride the wrong way down the road but I make it a point to never inconvenience or startle any other user of the road, and I strive to be courteous to everyone I meet on my daily commute.

  • http://twitter.com/pburka Peter Burka

    Cyclists should obey (most) traffic rules even when there’s no other traffic for the same reason that drivers should: it’s safer for everyone to develops defensive road-use habits. Things like signaling and stopping at stop signs need to become ingrained habits so that you do them even when you’re distracted. Try an experiment: obey the traffic code for a week. I changed my habits and found that it doesn’t slow me down much, it eases tension with other road users and it makes me safer.

  • Daniel

    Good points, however to clarify.

    I didn’t say I never follow the rules.

    I go out of my way to ease tension with other user of the road.

    I’m hyper aware at every intersection I encounter, so I’m not sure that I need to introduce the ritual of stopping at a deserted 4-way stop to maintain my alertness.

    Also, my post was overlong already, so I didn’t mention that most of the time when I break a rule such as riding on the sidewalk, I do so for my own safety.

    There are locations where structural factors make it so unsafe that statistically I am almost guaranteed to be in a serious accident if I try to follow the rules every single day I commute.

    In those locations I ride on the sidewalk. If there are pedestrians I ride at walking speed. If there are tottering unsteady pedestrians like old ladies or families with toddlers that I might startle, I get off and walk.

    I think that people who complain about cyclists not following the rules don’t realise that they don’t have a cyclist problem or a rules problem, they have an asshole problem, and assholes often drive cars too.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Here’s a recent example of a situation where I “broke the law” out of necessity:

    On Thursday I rode 16km to a client meeting (in a suit). The ride was generally pleasant, except there was one particular road where cars were driving over 80km/h and there was no bike lane or path. In that case, I rode on the sidewalk because the sidewalk was completely empty (as expected in the suburbs), and I don’t feel comfortable with cars driving passing me closely at more than 80km/h.

    Sure, I was breaking the law, but I was safer, and I would have been courteous if I encountered a pedestrian.

    I would have gladly taken a side street, but sometimes we have no choice but to take arterial roads (in this example I had to get over a valley and this road was my only option).

    I agree with Daniel on his “golden rule”. I would much rather drivers and cyclists act courteously towards others than to blindly obey the laws. A driver can obey the law and still put me in danger. Similarly, he can break the law and be courteous towards me and drive safely.

  • calbike

    I commute by bike, daily, year-round and I do follow the rules. I don’t filter, I don’t run red lights, I signal lane changes and turns, and I don’t ride on the sidewalk. I do assert my right to be on the road and I do actively ensure my safety and the safety of others around me.

    So often you hear, “If cyclists would … then I would … “. But no, trust me, doing all of that does not “earn the respect” of motorists. I still get a full measure abuse: passing too close, yelling, honking, insults, throwing things, etc.

    So I’ll call BS on anyone who starts a sentence with “When cyclists … “

    • http://www.cyclelicio.us/ Cyclelicious

      Filtering, FWIW, is legal in California.

  • calbike

    I commute by bike, daily, year-round and I do follow the rules. I don’t filter, I don’t run red lights, I signal lane changes and turns, and I don’t ride on the sidewalk. I do assert my right to be on the road and I do actively ensure my safety and the safety of others around me.

    So often you hear, “If cyclists would … then I would … “. But no, trust me, doing all of that does not “earn the respect” of motorists. I still get a full measure abuse: passing too close, yelling, honking, insults, throwing things, etc.

    So I’ll call BS on anyone who starts a sentence with “When cyclists … “

  • Daniel

    What you describe is pretty much the same thing I’m doing.

    Let’s not forget that following the rules on an arterial road actually puts the drivers in a tougher situation than necessary and exposes them to the risk of injuring or killing a person for no good reason.

    All it would take is a moment of inattention, or even being part of a chain reaction collision with other cars for a driver to accidentally kill a cyclist.

    I’m not saying that I never break the rules for pure convenience or even enjoyment mind you, but when I do I try to make sure not to bother anyone else.

  • Kevin

    WOW! Whenever I hear a motorist complain about cyclists breaking the rules my first question are they completely blind to the transgressions of their fellow motorists? As a cyclist and motorist I see it every day.

    Not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign is hardly the sole domain of the cyclist. A casual observer in my neighborhood, watching automobiles roll through stop signs and 4-way stop intersections could conclude that the stop sign is merely a suggestion. I am far more concerned with the giant SUV that barely brakes at a signed intersection than I am about a cyclist.

    Stand at any stoplight in the city and count how many cars deliberately speed up when the light turns yellow when they could have easily and safely come to a stop.

    In my mind the bigger, more powerful and lethal the vehicle is, the more rules are necessary. Likewise size, power and the potential for damage carries greater responsibility.

    I agree with Daniel that rules are not as important as just not being a considerate of others.

    KC

  • Kevin

    WOW! Whenever I hear a motorist complain about cyclists breaking the rules my first question are they completely blind to the transgressions of their fellow motorists? As a cyclist and motorist I see it every day.

    Not coming to a complete stop at a stop sign is hardly the sole domain of the cyclist. A casual observer in my neighborhood, watching automobiles roll through stop signs and 4-way stop intersections could conclude that the stop sign is merely a suggestion. I am far more concerned with the giant SUV that barely brakes at a signed intersection than I am about a cyclist.

    Stand at any stoplight in the city and count how many cars deliberately speed up when the light turns yellow when they could have easily and safely come to a stop.

    In my mind the bigger, more powerful and lethal the vehicle is, the more rules are necessary. Likewise size, power and the potential for damage carries greater responsibility.

    I agree with Daniel that rules are not as important as just not being a considerate of others.

    KC

  • dr2chase

    It’s far, far safer for everyone if we minimize unnecessary car use. Reduces my tension, too. Cyclists, in the US, kill about 1 pedestrian per year; motorists kill about 3100. Perfect behavior by cyclists will only save one pedestrian life — that’s not much. The health benefits of getting people out of automobiles are huge; more early deaths avoided than all the pedestrian, bicycle, and auto crashes that we have today.

    I obeyed the traffic code scrupulously for about 30 years. I had all my worst accidents during those 30 years. I’ve become much less obsessive about traffic rituals in the last 5 years, and I find THAT eases my tension, and it also saves me time. In particular, every time I commute to work, I do an illegal left turn (there is no turn at all — I cut across incoming lanes and hop a curb, as soon as there is a gap in the traffic), and in doing so, I avoid waiting at a signal that fails to trigger with a 65lb cargo bike, and I avoid mixing in traffic exiting from an interstate and turning right into a mall. What also reduces tension for me, is also taking for granted that cars will do incredibly stupid, illegal, and dangerous things — running a red light (the signal, for the crosswalk I would like to use), passing unsafely (in a lawn service truck, hauling a trailer, crossing a double yellow in the face of oncoming traffic, as I move left to get around a parked car), turning right on red even when it is prohibited and cyclists and pedestrians are depending on the no-rights to get across the road safely). If I expect the worst, I can prepare for it, and when it occurs, I get to be satisfied at my accurate powers of prediction.

    Some people are have a great deal of respect for rules and rituals, and will engage in contorted (and counterfactual) “reasoning” to attempt to justify the rules. Bikes are safe, right now. The statistics all say so. Cars are dangerous, right now. The statistics say that, too. If you’re unhappy about cyclists disobeying the rules, you should be incandescent with rage that people drive cars they way that they do. The social harm is orders of magnitude larger.

  • Daniel

    Rules aside though I think that cyclists should endeavour to learn how to handle their bikes better.

    I see some cyclists that are so unsteady on their rides in mixed traffic that they look like an accident waiting to happen, and that endangers me even when I’m driving my car. Rules or no, I don’t want to end up killing a guy who can’t stay upright on his bike who decided to go riding in traffic.

    You mention hopping a curb, and I think that a lot of cyclists would be doing themselves a favour getting comfortable with that as well as getting used to ‘threshold breaking’, seeing how fast they can stop using the front brake without going over the bars.

    So many inexperienced cyclists don’t even use the front brake out of fear of going over the bars, with the end result that they triple their stopping distance.

  • Gclarke

    The Dutch require their children take a course in cycling safety and learn the rules of the road. As these children become adults and motorists they are more aware of the actions a cyclists may take and are better able to perdict what a cyclist will do in certain situations. Well grounded cyclists who become motorists are better able to blend between transportation modes.

    Canada and the US have no national cycling safety programs and most driver education programs pay scant attention to cyclists expect to say; “cyclists are dangerous, don’t hit them”. Since the majority of motorists don’t know what the cyclists rules of the road are, they get stressed around cyclists and/or they get agressive.

    I believe “R” who wrote the response above is trying to say that as cyclists become more “predictable” in their actions and motorists get used to having cyclists on the roadways, tensions will decrease.

    Here’s an example. How many cyclists do you see at night riding without lights and cars swerving to aviod them? Bike lights at night seem like a no brainer but I run into to these people more often than not. Bikes lights increase predictability and reduce tensions.

    Riding on sidewalks is another example. Pedestrians feel this is their domain and they hate dodging speeding bikes or getting frightened when a speeding bike comes up from behind. Biking on a sidewalk gives cyclists a bad name and increase tensions.

    Cyclists can’t control the actions of motorists. They can control their actions and try to be as predictable as possible. The vast majority of motorists are courteous and behave properly as long as they know what you’re going to do next.

    • KingstonBiker

      In Kingston, commuting traffic is pretty consistent. Meaning it’s not a big town and its the same people on the same commute every day. For my own part, as the days get darker, I see all my fellow bike commuters lit up like Xmas trees and that’s pretty good. Its the same people every day, and the same car drivers passing them. However, day in and day out, you can’t take your eyes off the drivers behind you for a second. I’m talking about large city trucks that create a vacuum when driving too close and people who treat you like a lamp post that is no longer moving after they get by you. In the end, you might have done everything you can to survive and it’s never going to be enough to defend yourself from the ignorance of the one person who hits you with their vehicle.

      I agree, dealing with cyclists needs to be a fundamental thing for car drivers, it should be in the drivers handbook (or is it already?) and on the written and driving tests. I have seen a few driving school cars sticking back behind me until it was safe to pass which is encouraging, at least!

  • Gclarke

    The Dutch require their children take a course in cycling safety and learn the rules of the road. As these children become adults and motorists they are more aware of the actions a cyclists may take and are better able to perdict what a cyclist will do in certain situations. Well grounded cyclists who become motorists are better able to blend between transportation modes.

    Canada and the US have no national cycling safety programs and most driver education programs pay scant attention to cyclists expect to say; “cyclists are dangerous, don’t hit them”. Since the majority of motorists don’t know what the cyclists rules of the road are, they get stressed around cyclists and/or they get agressive.

    I believe “R” who wrote the response above is trying to say that as cyclists become more “predictable” in their actions and motorists get used to having cyclists on the roadways, tensions will decrease.

    Here’s an example. How many cyclists do you see at night riding without lights and cars swerving to aviod them? Bike lights at night seem like a no brainer but I run into to these people more often than not. Bikes lights increase predictability and reduce tensions.

    Riding on sidewalks is another example. Pedestrians feel this is their domain and they hate dodging speeding bikes or getting frightened when a speeding bike comes up from behind. Biking on a sidewalk gives cyclists a bad name and increase tensions.

    Cyclists can’t control the actions of motorists. They can control their actions and try to be as predictable as possible. The vast majority of motorists are courteous and behave properly as long as they know what you’re going to do next.

  • dr2chase

    I half agree. I’ve seen a few very wobbly bikes out there. But they don’t endanger you in your car at all.

    Not only are you well-protected by the car and its roll cage and airbags (do you wear a helmet?), you will find that with practice, you can trackstand a car, and actually stop dead still until the danger in front of you clears. Skilled drivers can stop in one place for minutes at a time.

    Yes, I am being sarcastic, but I think a main problem for car safety (to others) is that drivers forget that slowing down or stopping the car actually is an option; it’s utterly legal, if you don’t feel it is safe to proceed. Instead, people treat the need to slow down as an imposition.

    Not all curbs are equal. In places with modern infrastructure, curbs are dead simple to hop. In New England, curbs are variable in height (some are quite tall) and are sometimes constructed from extremely sharp-edged granite. I’ve seen someone parking their car cut their tire so badly that the tire is flat in under a minute. Some people think they look lovely, I think they look like a future compound fracture. So “curb-hopping” is actually an infrastructure issue up here — you can’t take it for granted, you have to look first, and know the territory.

  • Daniel

    I’m not saying the wobbly riders endanger me physically in my car, but they do put me in moral peril when I’m forced to drive near them.

    What if I hit one of these half assed riders, riding while holding a coffee cup while holding a shopping bag and steering with the other hand?

    What if they cross up their front wheel just as I’m passing them in my car?

  • dr2chase

    When I come upon people like that on the local MUP, I wait till it is safe for me to pass. Is that not possible in a car? (My car is capable of this.) You’re talking as if you just landed in this situation, without making any choices of your own, and that you have no choice but to pass them. (Yes, I know that it is social norms that compel us to pass when we’re not sure that it would be safe. What’s more important to you?)

    How do you feel about the proposition that choosing to drive the car, when you could use some other means of transport instead (for a particular trip) puts you in moral peril? Statistics show that you are something like 10-30 times more likely to kill a pedestrian driving a car, than riding a bicycle.

  • Daniel

    That’s true, we make choices.

    I commute by bike to work every day.

    I do drive sometimes too however.

    My earlier post demonstrates, I think, that I agree with your statement that driving a car creates a greater burden of care for the motorist so I’m not sure what we’re disagreeing about :-)

  • Severin

    haha, awesome response! Wish we could see what they respond to that– that is, unless you left them speechless because then there’d be nothing to see!

  • Severin

    haha, awesome response! Wish we could see what they respond to that– that is, unless you left them speechless because then there’d be nothing to see!

  • KingstonBiker

    Well, as mentioned above, everyone has options- much like the car driver has the option to slow down or stop until it is safe to pass, a cyclist has the option to get off their bike and walk on the sidewalk. Just as safe and totally legal.

    I commute by bike 20km daily myself, some good, some bad, 50% of my attention is in my rearview mirror at all times.

  • KingstonBiker

    In Kingston, commuting traffic is pretty consistent. Meaning it’s not a big town and its the same people on the same commute every day. For my own part, as the days get darker, I see all my fellow bike commuters lit up like Xmas trees and that’s pretty good. Its the same people every day, and the same car drivers passing them. However, day in and day out, you can’t take your eyes off the drivers behind you for a second. I’m talking about large city trucks that create a vacuum when driving too close and people who treat you like a lamp post that is no longer moving after they get by you. In the end, you might have done everything you can to survive and it’s never going to be enough to defend yourself from the ignorance of the one person who hits you with their vehicle.

    I agree, dealing with cyclists needs to be a fundamental thing for car drivers, it should be in the drivers handbook (or is it already?) and on the written and driving tests. I have seen a few driving school cars sticking back behind me until it was safe to pass which is encouraging, at least!

  • http://bicyclestc.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    There is a stop sign in the front of my house, leading onto a busier road. Whenever I watch cars approaching the stop sign, nearly everyone goes right through it. The ONLY time I have ever seen a car stop completely is when another car is coming in the other direction.

    I do believe the speed limit on Ontario highways is 100kph, yet motorists proudly admit to going 120kph, all in the name of safety.

    In one of the plaza’s I go to often, there is a stop sign for a cross walk. When I stopped (for both the sign and a pedestrian crossing), the car behind me laid his horn on. Was I suppose to go through a stop sign and potentially hit the pedestrian?

    As for sidewalk cycling? I don’t personally do it, but that’s because most of the streets in St. Catharines are wide enough and there isn’t a speed limit about 50kph…In other cities (Kitchener for example) some CITY roads have 70kph speed limits, you bet I’m on the sidewalk then.

    This is the worst excuse a motorist could ever use. I’m not saying all cyclists are angels or all motorists are horrible, but if we shouldn’t invest in cycling infrastructure because some don’t obey they law, then we should put an end ASAP to all car infrastructure.

  • http://thecitycyclist.blogspot.com/ Ryan

    There is a stop sign in the front of my house, leading onto a busier road. Whenever I watch cars approaching the stop sign, nearly everyone goes right through it. The ONLY time I have ever seen a car stop completely is when another car is coming in the other direction.

    I do believe the speed limit on Ontario highways is 100kph, yet motorists proudly admit to going 120kph, all in the name of safety.

    In one of the plaza’s I go to often, there is a stop sign for a cross walk. When I stopped (for both the sign and a pedestrian crossing), the car behind me laid his horn on. Was I suppose to go through a stop sign and potentially hit the pedestrian?

    As for sidewalk cycling? I don’t personally do it, but that’s because most of the streets in St. Catharines are wide enough and there isn’t a speed limit about 50kph…In other cities (Kitchener for example) some CITY roads have 70kph speed limits, you bet I’m on the sidewalk then.

    This is the worst excuse a motorist could ever use. I’m not saying all cyclists are angels or all motorists are horrible, but if we shouldn’t invest in cycling infrastructure because some don’t obey they law, then we should put an end ASAP to all car infrastructure.

  • Guest

    Poor Uncle Tom the cyclist, he’ll never get out of his cabin because he is an uncivilized scofflaw who lacks the higher standing of road etiquette that is the birth right of us motorists. I’m not a bad person, i’d really like to support Tom, but he needs to shape up first. For example, just the other day i saw one of them cyclist folk break a rule. Anyways – Hopefully one day we can support Uncle Tom as an equal.

  • Guest

    Poor Uncle Tom the cyclist, he’ll never get out of his cabin because he is an uncivilized scofflaw who lacks the higher standing of road etiquette that is the birth right of us motorists. I’m not a bad person, i’d really like to support Tom, but he needs to shape up first. For example, just the other day i saw one of them cyclist folk break a rule. Anyways – Hopefully one day we can support Uncle Tom as an equal.

  • KingstonBiker

    Accidentally! There are no accidents on the road, only negligence. The whole “Accident” mentality needs to be rethought. The problem is too many people gamble on the road, cyclists themselves are gambling that the car drivers behind them don’t lose any bets around them. Take a driver and put him on an empty road about to pass you, they will go wide into the other lane and congratulate themselves for being such safe, considerate drivers. Now take the same situation with another car coming in the other direction with a 3 point convergence. Same guy who gave you the wide berth will now bet your life he can pass between the two of you. At better than 80Kmh. Clearly, are worth only so many seconds to people who have not had any training on how to share the road. MTO should be putting radio ads out there as well as TV ads to better promote awareness of the inequities involved in such gambling.

    Really, I feel kinship to road kill sometimes.

  • http://www.cyclelicio.us/ Cyclelicious

    Filtering, FWIW, is legal in California.

  • http://www.joyofbicyclecommuting.com Micheal Blue

    I agree with Daniel. I do my best to follow the guiding principle “do no harm”.
    These days I wait for the green light and don’t blow stop signs (most of the time), because I don’t feel like paying over 200 bucks should a cop see me.
    When I feel the safest way to ride is on a sidewalk, I do so. When I get close to a pedestrian, I slow down to a snail pace – slow walking pace and give the pedestrian as much room as possible. Cars being so big, heavy, and cumbersome, the drivers don’t have as much wiggle room for “breaking the rules” as cyclists do.

  • http://www.joyofbicyclecommuting.com/ Micheal Blue

    I agree with Daniel. I do my best to follow the guiding principle “do no harm”.
    These days I wait for the green light and don’t blow stop signs (most of the time), because I don’t feel like paying over 200 bucks should a cop see me.
    When I feel the safest way to ride is on a sidewalk, I do so. When I get close to a pedestrian, I slow down to a snail pace – slow walking pace and give the pedestrian as much room as possible. Cars being so big, heavy, and cumbersome, the drivers don’t have as much wiggle room for “breaking the rules” as cyclists do.

  • Tallycyclist

    All the more reason to go in favor of good segregated cycling facilities on major arterial roads. I’ve gotten off my bike, onto the sidewalk before either because I wanted to get into the left lane (lane splits ‘Y’ into straight and left-turn) and didn’t feel safe sitting on the curb waiting for the endless stream of cars to pass or because I suddenly felt unsafe due to car speeds and the narrowing of the lane I was riding in. These are options, but that doesn’t make it a good option. The fact that I needed to do that just illustrates the deficiency in the infrastructure to accommodate other road users.

    When possible I use smaller side streets; the main street (Tennessee St) is just not reasonable for cycling with it’s 6 narrow lanes (barely wide enough for large SUV’s and pick-ups) and high speed and heavy traffic. Unfortunately these side streets are only a little better and/or allows you to encounter one less dangerous intersection at best most of the time.

  • John McDonald

    I live on a bike in Kodiak, Alaska. Drivers are divers. They move fast and only need a moment of distraction or carelessness to become lethal.

    I am planning a trip of 6,000 miles from Kodiak, Alaska to Key West, Florida. I have to admit my greatest fear is sharing the road with motorists.

    Please visit my blog- http://johnsamericabiketour.blogspot.com

    I want to hear what others say.

  • John McDonald

    I live on a bike in Kodiak, Alaska. Drivers are divers. They move fast and only need a moment of distraction or carelessness to become lethal.

    I am planning a trip of 6,000 miles from Kodiak, Alaska to Key West, Florida. I have to admit my greatest fear is sharing the road with motorists.

    Please visit my blog- http://johnsamericabiketour.blogspot.com

    I want to hear what others say.

  • why_me

    following the rules isn’t going to get the society we deserve.
    respecting other users makes more sense.

    i live downtown europe and in a french speaking place – we use the pavements and cycle against the 1-way signs – guess what: the city council painted signs on the road to allow it because they realize there is less pollution AND shorter car jouney times IF there are more cycles

    i leave my merc in the garage ‘cos its faster in town by bike.

    rules ! huh! did we get gay rights that way? did women get rights that way?

    break rules not people !

  • why_me

    following the rules isn’t going to get the society we deserve.
    respecting other users makes more sense.

    i live downtown europe and in a french speaking place – we use the pavements and cycle against the 1-way signs – guess what: the city council painted signs on the road to allow it because they realize there is less pollution AND shorter car jouney times IF there are more cycles

    i leave my merc in the garage ‘cos its faster in town by bike.

    rules ! huh! did we get gay rights that way? did women get rights that way?

    break rules not people !

  • norahedward

    Start of a good series… I like your point about not automatically increasing every year or whatever. Also knowing you provide value and being able to demonstrate that really helps.
    Computer repair in Baltimore

  • norahedward

    Start of a good series… I like your point about not automatically increasing every year or whatever. Also knowing you provide value and being able to demonstrate that really helps.
    Computer repair in Baltimore

  • T L Hobbs

    Hello, I live in Alberta Canada. I am trying to find a cargo box bike for me and my two young children. We used a carrier for a year, but now the kids are weigh more than the 100 lbs limit and i still desire this form of transportation (when mother nature will let us) but i can not find anyone that sells/ships these type of box-cycles in/to Alberta… Do you think you could do me the honor of helping a mother of two out? I would like to teach my children that there is nothing wrong or weird about finding different ways to get from a-b with just will power and a creative contraption :)
    Thanks a bunch, Alberta Mom.

    • http://www.theurbancountry.com James Schwartz

      Hello, I’m not sure how close you are to Calgary, but you definitely need to check out BikeBike in Calgary. They carry a couple different brands of Dutch-style cargo bikes (including the model that I recently purchased to transport my daughter around the city).

      If you aren’t near Calgary, you can talk them about getting a bike shipped/delivered to you.

      Ask for Sean and tell them James from The Urban Country sent you. Here is their website: http://www.bikebike.ca/

      The address is:
      1501a 17 Ave SW
      Calgary, AB T2T 0E2

      Phone number is: 403-457-2453

  • T L Hobbs

    Hello, I live in Alberta Canada. I am trying to find a cargo box bike for me and my two young children. We used a carrier for a year, but now the kids are weigh more than the 100 lbs limit and i still desire this form of transportation (when mother nature will let us) but i can not find anyone that sells/ships these type of box-cycles in/to Alberta… Do you think you could do me the honor of helping a mother of two out? I would like to teach my children that there is nothing wrong or weird about finding different ways to get from a-b with just will power and a creative contraption :)
    Thanks a bunch, Alberta Mom.

  • http://www.theurbancountry.com/ James Schwartz

    Hello, I’m not sure how close you are to Calgary, but you definitely need to check out BikeBike in Calgary. They carry a couple different brands of Dutch-style cargo bikes (including the model that I recently purchased to transport my daughter around the city).

    If you aren’t near Calgary, you can talk them about getting a bike shipped/delivered to you.

    Ask for Sean and tell them James from The Urban Country sent you. Here is their website: http://www.bikebike.ca/

    The address is:
    1501a 17 Ave SW
    Calgary, AB T2T 0E2

    Phone number is: 403-457-2453

  • Stew McGregor

    The problem with most metropolitan cities, especially here in LA, is that most roads are not bike-friendly. I had to file a case with my wrongful death attorney los angeles every time mishaps would happen and most of the time, they favor the car drivers. So sad.