Those darned self-entitled cyclists

A parking lot for bicycles in Niigata, Niigata, Japan
A parking lot for bicycles in Niigata, Niigata, Japan

We hear it all the time. “Those damned self-entitled cyclists!” We hear the word privilege thrown around too. Terms generally used to refer to socio-economic issues. They are often invoked in discussions about running through stop signs and stop lights. I’ve always found it frustrating, as I suspect that many of the people that are saying it are using it as a slur without really understanding what it means.

So what is the term “self-entitled” even supposed to mean, if anything? I think we can all agree to the context there. It implies that some people believe that cyclists believe they have a right to ignore certain traffic laws. Yes – I know that was confusing, some people believe that cyclists believe… I’ve always tried to be very pragmatic about stop sign and stop light running. We all know it is illegal in most places. Many are working to change that, but until then I couldn’t imagine any cyclist honestly believing that running through stop lights was their “right.”

Damn I’m naive… 

For a short time I participated in an online community called ‘NextDoor.’ NextDoor is intended as a way for members of neighborhoods to communicate with each other. They have a few different ways they try and validate that you actually live in a particular neighborhood, and limit your viewing of comments to only those posted by your neighbors. A great idea, that ends up being a horrible idea. But that was where I came across a bonafide self-entitled cyclist.

I can’t recall the exact discussion but it involved cycling in the neighborhood. My neighborhood has a four lane divided road through the center that serves as the primary bike route. It is frequented by neighbors heading to work, as well as commuters heading into our out of the city. It has a nice gentle slope to it for several blocks that allow for a really easy ride in the downhill direction. Couple that with the fact that all of the intersections have lights that are default green for those on the street, triggered only when there is cross traffic, and you can really bomb down the road without much effort.

But there are red lights. And they do get triggered. And that is where Mr. self-entitled cyclist comes in:

The cops gave me a ticket for running a red light on my bike. Don’t they have something better to do? I’m just not going to ride my bike anymore.

Random self-entitled cyclist (paraphrased from memory)

Wait… what the hell? I don’t think anyone is under the illusion that it is legal to run a red light on your bike in most places. Folks that do decide to roll red lights and stop lights at least understand that they are, in fact, breaking the law. No matter how much some may argue for a modification to the law, stop lights are stop lights. So Mr self-entitled cyclist is upset because he got a ticket for doing something illegal. OK. Tickets suck. Vent a bit.

But then he drops the “I’m just not going to ride my bike anymore.” Is he trying to punish all of us by not putting the effort in to ride his bike unless he is allowed to do something illegal? If there is an example of “self-entitled” – this is it.

Unless I get something special, I’m just not going to do it at all. So there…

You know what Mr. self-entitled cyclist: that’s just fine. I’m constantly trying to encourage more and more people to ride bikes, but in your case I’ll make an exception. Cycling gets enough bad press as it is. I don’t think this guy is hurting anyone’s feelings by not throwing a leg over the top tube and making us all look bad out there.