Cycling considered harmful

Posted Aug 01, 2007 in Health, Personal, Sport.

Cycling is good for your health. It is also a great sport to participate in, as long as your competitors aren't dosed-up to the eyeballs with banned substances, of course. A nice sport and pastime that is good for your health. I get that. But cyclists are also a menace. A bunch of law-breaking, risk-taking, life-threatening assholes, in fact.

When I was a kid at school, I took something called a Cycling Proficiency Test. At the time, it was something school kids aspired to, because it was a like a major stepping stone on the road to passing a driving test. Passing the Cycling Proficiency test was awesome. The basic rule of thumb for cycling was that the operator of a bicycle was pretty much bound by the same rules and laws used by the operator of a motor vehicle.

Apart from a few maniac cycle couriers in London, the people of Britain are pretty good about following these basic rules (which have now been superseded by more stringent standards). Not so here in the US! In this country, it is apparently normal to:

  • Cycle on the wrong side of the road, against the flow of traffic.
  • Cycle the wrong way down one-way streets.
  • Ignore stop signs and traffic lights.
  • Cycle on the sidewalk, often at high speed, and often across intersections.
  • Cycle in packs, often 3 or 4 abreast.
  • Cycle across the grass in public open spaces.
  • Cut through or across private property to avoid traffic.

I'm not saying that all cyclists do these things - that would be an unfair generalization. I'm just saying that all of the cyclists I have seen since moving to this country do it, the disagreeable tossers. So here's a little message to the cyclists of America: If I happen to mow your ass down in my car because you failed to observe the basic (and fucking easy-to-learn) rules of the road, too fucking bad.


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    Isn't that the god damn truth Simon. I'm scared shitless when driving in the city because kids like to fly out on to the roads without even slowing down and looking. I need a bigger car.

    Perhaps an SUV even.

    Posted by James Henry on Aug 01, 2007.

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    "Cycle across the grass in public open spaces."

    Wait? what?
    How is this a problem.

    Posted by j m on Aug 02, 2007.

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    Maybe you should get out of your car and on to your bike and show them how we do it in the UK. As a regular cyclist (I bike 12 miles a day to work and back and then more later), I have a lot of problem with cars. Several times a year I will face being mowed down not because I am being reckless, not because I can't see or are going to fast - Drivers will see me and pull out even though if I don't break they will run me over. All to knock off about 2 seconds of their arduous journey like a lazy tosser in their car.

    Posted by Mutiny Design on Aug 02, 2007.

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    "How is this a problem?"

    Because such spaces are for pedestrians. Families with little kids use these areas, and having bicycles whizzing around is inherently dangerous. Also, treaded wheels of any kind harm the grass itself. Cyclists should use the designated tracks, or stick with cycle lanes and roads.

    Posted by Simon Jessey on Aug 02, 2007.

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    "Maybe you should get out of your car and on to your bike and show them how we do it in the UK."

    I spent many years riding bicycles, and then motorcycles. Being on a two-wheeled vehicle makes the rider uniquely aware of the dangers of cars and trucks, and also makes the rider extremely observant. Because of my biking experience, I have learned to give two-wheelers extra room and time. The discipline of "OSMPSL" (Observation, Signal, Maneuver, Position, Speed and Look/Lifesaver) that I learned when riding a motorbike has made me a better, more responsible driver.

    Of course, the vulnerability of cyclists does not excuse them from the transgressions I have listed above, and this is particularly evident in the United States.

    Posted by Simon Jessey on Aug 02, 2007.

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    In North America there is lttle culture of cycling, and very few, if any, boards of education including anything near a Cycling Proficiency Test, CAN-BIKE (Canada), or Effective Cycling (USA) in their curriculum. Parents teach kids to ride on the sidewalk, and the kids then continue to ride that way well into adulthood, and teach the same (lack of) skills to their own kids. This is the 'norm' in North America.

    Cycling Education programs, when known, are looked at with a certaim disdain by these errant cyclists. "I already know how to ride" is a common response when informed of such program locally available.

    What they don't realize is that behaviour unfairly reflects on the rest of us -- even though we don't hold motorists to the same high standard. Many motorists also blow stop signs/red lights, speed, perform agressive monoevers, cause billions in property damage and kill tens of thousands each year as a result of this poor behaviour. We call this result "Accidents" when in fact very few of them are; most are a result of driver imparemenet, stupidity, agression, or even worse: carelessness and/or innattention.

    Cyclcists impact, even when behaving poorly, is nowhere near as harmful. But it is the cyclists who have to live to a much higher standard lest we be judged by the likes of you.

    Posted by Anthony on Aug 02, 2007.

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    You had a valid point about cyclists disobeying the rules of the road.

    You then completely invalidated said point by threatening to kill cyclists. As a former cyclist and motorcyclist, I would have hoped that you'd realize just how easy it is for a car to kill a cyclist. Instead, you somehow think that a vigilante death penalty is a reasonable response for someone blowing a traffic light.

    Posted by Scott on Aug 02, 2007.

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    Judged? Ha! Simon is threatening to maim/kill cyclists with his motor vehicle and then BLAME THE VICTIM, claiming that it's the cyclists fault for not doing what he wants them to do!

    Being from the UK, he must know that motorists there have had a long history of doing this, see: Murder most foul for some of this history, pre 1947. But obviously little has changed since then. If you're on a road with motor vehicles and get hit it's your own damn fault. That's the attitude that being expressed here.

    Will your draconian measures be extended to all road users, or do have a particular axe to grind on cyclists alone? Can we also execute you every time you speed, pass too close, drive through a crosswalk with pedestrians, fail to signal, or fail to stop at any stop sign/red light, or any other transgression?

    Posted by Jenny on Aug 02, 2007.

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    Boo hoo! As a cyclist (who obeys all the rules of the road) I am consistently on guard for motorists who are speeding, driving too close to me, change lanes or make right hand turns directly in front of me (without signaling), run red lights, fail to come to a complete stop at stop signs, and open their doors into traffic without looking.

    If I have to deal with it, so do you

    Posted by blah on Aug 02, 2007.

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    Just to clarify a point I made in my post: It is not my intention to go out on a killing spree, mowing down transgressing cyclists whenever I get the chance. The point I was making, with my usual lack of subtlety, is that cyclists must learn to be more respectful of the rules of the road or they may find themselves getting killed.

    IF a cyclist decides to ride the wrong way down a one-way street and they get killed by a car driver who doesn't see them, I'm afraid the cyclist is at fault. The same is true if a cyclist whizzes across an intersection from one sidewalk to the next, and gets hit by a car moving through that intersection. The same is true if some kid walking down a sidewalk gets knocked down by a cyclist who should be on the damn road.

    And just to clarify another point: I am equally pissed-off with certain motorists, particularly those who drive with cellular phones clamped to their ears.

    Posted by Simon Jessey on Aug 02, 2007.

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    Cyclists already have an unfair shake in this country.
    I suggest you take a look at some of the things we are forced to abide by.
    Not to mention motorists such as yourself that have poor attitudes
    against us because you have to pay that small amount more attention to your driving.

    What the fuck? you people are pissed if we ride on sidewalks, and pissed if we ride on the street.

    I admit we commit traffic offenses, everyone does.
    How many times have you sped through a yellow light?
    How many times have you run a stop sign on a side street?
    How many times have you changed lanes without signaling?
    How many times have you parked over a sidewalk?
    How many times have you cut through a gas station parking lot or any lot an any corner for that reason to get past traffic?

    If you said no to any of these you are full of shit!

    How many fatal accidents are a result of poor cycling as apposed to poor driving>?

    Cyclists that ride in packs of three to four take up less space on the road than a vehicle. It only pisses motorists off that they may have to drive slower and be more carefull not to kill some one.

    Posted by Ratt Bones on Aug 02, 2007.

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    I'm not denying that the car is more dangerous than the bicycle, or that the driver is more dangerous than the rider. I'm just saying that the cyclists I have encountered since moving to the US have been poor examples of the species. I LOVE cycling, but I have always done so sensibly and legally.

    Just because I post a rant about problems with cyclists does NOT mean I am anti-cycling. I have ranted about all sorts of things on this blog, and I'm beginning to wonder if my next rant is going to be about the Intolerant Cyclist Lobby of America!

    Posted by Simon Jessey on Aug 02, 2007.

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    " that cyclists must learn to be more respectful of the rules of the road or they may find themselves getting killed."

    Really Simon? What have motorists learned by the numbers of times they kill themselves or others?

    Posted by DS on Aug 02, 2007.

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    "What have motorists learned by the numbers of times they kill themselves or others?"

    For fuck's sake. If I start dissing cellular phones, am I going to get a load of retarded comments about how harmful regular phones are?

    Yes. Cars and drivers are bad too. They're EVIL. Happy now?

    Posted by Simon Jessey on Aug 02, 2007.

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    I'm with you, Simon. Most of it.

    I'll ride on fields or dirt tracks provided they aren't so soft or muddy, and I avoid pedestrian interactions and pedestrians in general if possible. Their bony bits hurt when you hit 'em and a finger in the eye is worth slowing down or stopping to prevent.

    And I hate to startle someone, especially a child or someone elderly.

    But I believe in slow considerate cycling if among pedestrians.
    Or in getting off and walking the bike. It depends on the situation.

    > I admit we commit traffic offenses, everyone does.

    True. Some to a much greater degree and some to a much lesser degree.
    Does this mean these offenses are to be ignored?
    Do you contend it makes no difference?

    If some drivers behave like assholes then it is acceptable to be an asshole too?

    Two wrongs don't make a right.
    When I find myself breaking the rules I remind myself to stop it.
    Eventually my habits change.

    In the case of cyclists, they are at greater risk of harm when they commit such offenses. That's the main reason I stop. And because I believe I'm a hypocrite if I am upset when a driver violates a rule, but except myself from the same standard. I'm just not as much of a threat, but still a hypocrite.

    If you break the law and get killed, your survivors may not be able to claim anything from insurers or from civil suits.

    Sharing the road (a public facility) means sharing the responsibility to operate in a consistent and safe manner. Compromise is a big part of sharing.

    Everybody in this country can drive better than they do.
    Particularly cyclists.
    If they don't, they do so at their own risk, both on the road and in the public perception of what kinds of people they are.
    Why perpetuate negative stereotypes?

    This does not mean that many drivers are not to be held accountable when they are at fault. That is a seperate issue.
    I believe too little traffic enforcement actually takes place.
    it's expensive and dangerous. And drivers don't want increased ticketing.

    Posted by Chonklit Chitty on Aug 02, 2007.

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    > Just to clarify a point I made in my post: It is
    > not my intention to go out on a killing spree,
    > mowing down transgressing cyclists whenever I get
    > the chance. The point I was making, with my usual
    > lack of subtlety, is that cyclists must learn to
    > be more respectful of the rules of the road...

    I suppose that I am somewhat relieved that you don't want to murder cyclists.

    While I agree that cyclists doing many of the things that they do on the road is wrong and does put themselves at increased risk, you will also find that these cyclists never had any safe cycling education of any kind. Not a Cycling Proficiency Test, CAN-BIKE, Effective Cycling, none. Most motorists do take a drivers education program because of the incentive that insurance offers to those that have taken such a program. In fact many high schools offer such a program to students before getting, or as part of the process to get, a driver license. But such is not the case for cyclist's education. So few know about such programs, and fewer still bother taking them.

    > or they may find themselves getting killed.

    I am sure that cyclists are well aware of the risks, they don't have a 2000lb steel cage protecting them. The style of riding that they exhibit on the roads are both learned from other cyclists, and evolved from their own experience. Not having learned more co-operative approaches it all they got.

    I agree that I too don't like seeing these cyclists pulling these maneuvers, but you should be putting your energy into getting cyclists education programs into your local schools. Not blaming the victims for their ignorance, even if much of it is a learned ignorance and apathy.

    I think that advocacy for accessible cycling education would be a more constructive response than blaming the victims.

    Posted by Anthony on Aug 02, 2007.

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    What galls me is that the police don't enforce the existing laws when it comes to riding against the flow of traffic, riding on the sidewalk, etc. It's one thing if the rider is a 2-year old on a tricycle on the sidewalk, but it's quite another when the rider is decked-out in full Tour de France regalia and is doing 25mph - such a rider should know better.

    Posted by Simon Jessey on Aug 03, 2007.

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    Simon-- many police do enforce traffic law with cyclists, depending on where (in what city and state, and in what part of whichever city) you are. I think I've heard of countless cyclists getting ticketed for running either red lights or stop signs.

    That said, please remember that not all states and cities have the same bicycle law, and that in some areas, cyclists may not be permitted to ride in the road.

    I think recent Tour de France and doping coverage has made all cyclists look bad, as it makes us look like a bunch of dumbass morons who don't know how to behave.

    As important and necessary as it is for American cyclists to undergo some kind of road-riding training course, I think it is quite necessary for drivers to be properly taught how to deal with cyclists on the road.

    Posted by Jennifer on Aug 03, 2007.

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    "I think it is quite necessary for drivers to be properly taught how to deal with cyclists on the road."

    Of course, that's another issue. When I took my driving test in the UK, it took almost 40 minutes and involved driving in various traffic conditions. When I took the US driving test some 6 years later, all I had to do was park between 2 cones and drive once around the block - the whole test took exactly 8 minutes. When the examiner had told me I'd passed, I almost said "passed what?" The standard of driving in the US is absolutely appalling, and given the state of testing I am not a bit surprised.

    Posted by Simon Jessey on Aug 03, 2007.

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    I must agree with the bikers statements about riding in the city. I don't dare trust my life with cars around me. I ride on bike paths when I do get out and ride. However, more often do bikers get out infront of me while riding my bike down a street.

    Plus its nicer/peaceful/relaxing just to go on a 5 mile cruise between the Lehigh River and the canal.

    Posted by James Henry on Aug 07, 2007.

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    Driving home I had a group of about 6 bikers riding on the streets. The were about a breast, in groups of 2. When I got to the stop sign they didnt even stop and turned infront of me. I had to turn right as well and I did (the same time they were turning), I put as much distance as I could between the biker and I and all I got from him was a midevil look. I dont mind sharing the road... as long as they arent idiots.

    If your going to ride on the road at least follow the laws of the road. If not, get the hell of the road before you get injured.

    Posted by James Henry on Aug 08, 2007.