I waited until I got home and had a beer in me before reading it. The headline kinda says it all: Why You Hate Cyclists. I mean – with a title like that how couldn’t I expect something, um… inspiring. I’m an opinionated guy, thus I’m always on the lookout for fellow opinionatedees. And this was going to tell me why I hate cyclists. Clearly I don’t hate cyclists, so right off of the bat I’m assuming the article is targeted towards motorists. Yea. This is gonna be good… But then I read it. And reread it. And it actually wasn’t terrible, nor terrific. In fact, I’m still not sure what I think about it, or its author. According to his bio he’s an attorney and a writer. Oh yea – and according to his own article he’s a cyclist. And kind of a jerk. While the article was definitely quite a bit tongue-in-cheek, he made some reasonably good points about the psychology of people’s reactions. All in all I was a little bit let down – having anticipated finding something to get all outraged about by reading the title. But the intertubez were not to fail me. For anytime an article about cycling is posted there is an almost pre-ordained script that will be played out in the public comments. Let’s review our cast of characters that seem to always show up in these threads:
- Country Truck Driver: This guy (always seems to be a guy) references the numerous times he’s encountered a cyclist on some unnamed country rode, holding up all the traffic. It seems it is always precisely 10 cars that are held up. And this cyclist is generally cited as going 5 MPH up some hill, and forcing (yes – forcing) our poor country truck driver to illegally pass on a dangerous corner.
- Grizzled bicycle advocate: You can recognize comments from the grizzled bicycle advocate. While their arguments are generally low-key, carefully stated and non-inflammatory, they are nonetheless filled with a bewildering array of citations of state and local ordinances (generally by number, with hyperlinked references where available.) These folks generally do not post comments directly about the article, but rather reply to the comments of others, providing their counter-points.
- The Lance-Armstrong-wannabe-wannabe: These folks always make statements about “the Lance Armstrong wannabes,” with references to their “racing suites” or sometimes even “obscene clothing.” Their primary concerns appear to be centered around what the cyclists look like and not so much what the cyclists are doing. It is also unclear if any of them are aware of the fact that no one actually wants to be Lance Armstrong right now.
- Sidewalk bicycle advocate: These folks generally “commuted to work for several month some years ago” but are no longer active cyclists. In their hardened experience, they learned that riding exclusively on the sidewalks was the only safe bet, and therefore all current cyclists – regardless of where they ride – belong on the sidewalks only and not in traffic. To ride a bicycle on the roadways with cars is, in their opinion gained through experience, irresponsible and reckless. The more extreme among these will go so far as to suggest or even state outright that cyclists killed in traffic are getting what they deserve for wandering off of the safety of the sidewalks.
- The tax advisors: Paramount to these commenters is the implication that their enhanced contribution to tax funds (enhanced compared to the cyclists, presumably) gives their opinions elevated value. These folks will talk about how “their tax dollars paid for the bike lanes” therefore cyclists are obligated to use them no matter what. Apparently opening car doors and left hand turns are not even valid excuses to “invade the traffic lane.” They also seem to operate under the beliefe that are roads are built up solely with tax revenue derived directly from the gas pumps. It is unclear if this beliefe implies that a driver of a Prius also has less rights to the road, while a blown 1969 Mustang would presumably have more rights. Also inherent in this position is the idea that somehow us cyclists live charmed, tax-free lives.
- The “I know you are but what am I” cyclist: These folks will counter the complaints that motorists make in general about cyclists (blowing stop signs and lights especially) by pointing out all the laws that motorists break, thereby attempting to negate the motorist’s argument. This emotional argument can be summed up in the single phrase “Oh yea – well I’ve got it waaaaaay worse than you!”
- The “I know you are but what am I” motorist: In contrast, these folks will generally take the stance that they are not required to give cyclists any legal rights on the road until cyclists follow all rules of the road, to the letter, 100% of the time. Catch phrase: “I’ll share the road with them when they stop blowing through intersections endangering themselves and others”
- The victim of the law: This used to be predominately a persona of cyclists, but an interesting trend has developed and motorists are taking this stance. The argument generally goes along the lines that, no matter what accident may happen, the motorist is always (legally) to blame, therefore it is the responsibility of the cyclist to ensure that the motorist is not put in a situation where they inadvertently injure a cyclist and are therefore bankrupted by this legal liability that has been placed upon motorists.
To be honest – it is this last one that has really started to chap my hide. Believe me, as a cyclist, I would like just a bit of legal protection out there on the roads. But the truth is the roads of america are about the only place in the country where you can actually kill someone and not even face a misdemeanor. On the road ways a vehicle accident is considered just that – an accident – until someone can prove negligence or other criminal liability. To put it in very real-world terms, you could run me over on my bike and end my life and probably not get much more than a point on your license, if that. So you see, oh debaters of the internet post, in almost all cases bicycles actually have more restrictions placed upon them than motor vehicles, with absolutely no additional protections. Yup, in many states I’m forced to ride in a skinny patch of pavement painted on the road, but if your SUV drifts into that space I’m required by law to be in it is simply an “accident.” In some jurisdictions I can get a ticket for swerving out of the bike lane as I see someone making a motion that looks like they are about to open their driver’s side door into my path, but if I hadn’t swerved and they do open their door in front of me it is just an “accident.”
I’ve adapted my behaviors on the road to motorists do. Maybe motorists could do the same the few times when one of us on a bike actually does cause you as much trouble as you like to think we do.
In other words, I’ve got it waaaaaay worse than you!