This is not the typical "bike vs. car" blog post you might be used to seeing on the internet. This is not a "rah rah go bikes go" article in which I debate all the reasons why drivers are stupid and cyclists deserve to do whatever we want. Nope, this post will argue the opposite. Not because I believe bikes and cyclists should stay at home; in fact, I am a professional bike racer and I love bikes more than a young woman loves binge watching the Mindy Project. Cyclists have every right to be on the road but, more specifically, we have a right to share the road with other traffic. At the moment, we aren't doing the sharing part very well and we are developing a bad reputation because of it.
Cyclists are assholes on the road. Not all of us of course. Some of us are decent and respectful and use a hand signal every once and a while. However, a lot of cyclists aren't and, in the public's eye, we would would score a 100% on the Asshole Rating Exam. Remember, no offence, I'm a cyclist too.
We get this shameful reputation because, more or less, we go where we want to, when we want to, and how we want to when on the road or pathways. Unfortunately, in fighting for our right to be on the road, we have developed a sense of entitlement to it. Pedestrians on the pathway: are in my way. Cars on the road: get in my way. Stop signs and red lights: just slow me down. If we want cars to respect us on the road, we need to act like we actually belong on the road.
Now, I'm not some cycling-etiquette prophet, sent down from the heavens to smite cyclists who careen through stop signs. It is possible that I am just a guilty as the worst of us for acting in this way. I go out on my bike everyday trying to be better. It seems like the only way to stop this car vs. bike feud, is to change ourselves.
I believe that most pro-cycling articles do a very good job at fueling our entitlement to be on the road. They always list the reasons why cyclists can, and should, be on the road and make sound arguments to backup their beliefs. It's just that, after reading, we all head out with a newly inflamed ego, ready to tell someone off when they question our rights, as if we can do no wrong. Understanding your right to be on the road is a good thing. Walking away from these articles with the idea that everybody had better listen up and get on the program, is not.
For example, the Idaho "stop as yield" law is very efficient for us cyclists. It is a law, practiced in some states, that allows cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs. Of course, cycling bloggers everywhere are pumping it up and lobbying for it. It is in essence a law that allows us to do whatever we want.
Some argue this law for safety, stating that it is safer for a cyclist to roll stop signs and red lights, than to stick to the side of the road. To me, that is like saying to it is safer to swim out into the deep ocean when a shark is in the water, because shark attacks happen in the shallows. There is no way it is safer to ride into the intersection, when others don't expect you to, then to sit on the curb and wait.
Most cyclists practice the Idaho Stop without it actually being a law in their city or country. Going to the extent of arguing that since cyclists don't follow the rules of the road, maybe we should just change them. Yes world, change yourself in order to conform with us. That is what assholes expect of society.
Cyclists aren't just assholes, we are hypocritical assholes. When we ride off the road and onto the city pathways, where bikes are now the fast moving vehicles, we literally use the exact same arguments against our walking companions that we despise drivers for using against us. It can be no easier for me to outline this than with the chart below.
Drivers Opinion of Bikes on the Road
- Slow me down, have to wait to get around you, when I'm trying to get home
Constant argument is that we only cause a driver to loose 3 second of there day to not kill us
- Erratic and make sudden lane changes and turns
- Don't obey stop signs or red lights or intersections
- Ride 2 abreast and clog the whole lane
Riders Opinion of Pedestrians on the Paths
- Get in my way when I'm trying to ride zone 1
In reality... we would only loose 3 seconds if we did actually try to slow down (we don't)
- Walkers always erratically drifting left and right.
- Don't pay attention to the yellow line. Runners on the wrong side of the road and cross lanes with no notice
- Pedestrians always taking up both lanes of the path while getting their walk on
"Sooo, how about you stop calling us assholes and give us a solution," you might be saying. It all starts with a little R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Giving respect is the only way to get some down the road.
Show drivers that you are willing to share and cooperate on the road. Every time you blaze an intersection, you just reinforced the asshole-cyclist persona. The only way to prevent this is to stop and smile and be patient. Maybe, just maybe, wave a car through a stop sign before going on your way. Don't be the asshole. We can't turn every cyclist into an ex-asshole, but we can change the way others see us by showing them respect first.
Ways to help re-brand cyclists as the good guys we are:
- Be patient and wait and stop lights (especially if other people are watching)
- Stop at stop signs and wave a driver through
- Single out on busy roads to give a driver more space to make a safe pass
- If riding double file, intentionally single out just to let a driver pass (I had a school teacher who performed an experiment. If drivers saw him intentionally single out or move over to give space, they in return gave more space when passing)
- Use a bell on the bike paths
- Wait behind pedestrians for a safe passing opportunity on bike paths
- If somebody buzzes you on a narrow road, make a heart with your hands and blow him soft, sweet kisses
- If someone calls you a faggot, respond with, "why yes, I do believe in gay marriage thanks for noticing." Then proceed with the same gesture as in #7
If you made it this far in reading this post, you are one of the people who can change things around. The others, who closed the tab after being called an asshole for the first time, are a lost cause. So share this article and tell people your thoughts.
Now go out and ride. Be the nice guy. Show the world that we belong on the road.