#50 Drivers vs. Cyclists

Road Rage is a TAPTS original series.
Part 1: Cyclists vs. Drivers
Part 2: Drivers vs. Cyclists
Part 3: Pedestrians vs. Cyclists/Drivers

I’m not going to say something irrational like, “cyclists suck and we shouldn’t have them on the streets”. Bicycling is a great workout, and for people that want to use bikes as a mode of travel, well, you’re certainly allowing me to breathe cleaner air and buy gas at a cheaper rate. Thanks! But often there are major problems with the whole “Share the Road” campaign.

How many times have you seen the following? Cyclists with NO helmet, NO blinking light, and BLACK clothing riding through town at night. Because keeping your fauxhawk perfectly groomed is much more important than making yourself visible to vehicle traffic. Or how about this? An “intense” bicyclist (Lance Armstrong wannabe) shooting through intersections and screaming “on your left!” to peds. A few more of my favorites are wear-a-skirt-that-is-dangerously-close-to-the-bike-chain girl, fixie-bike-messenger guy ducking and weaving through cars, and mother-with-bike-trailer slooooowly climbing a hill with 20 cars behind her.

It’s not the bicyclists fault that they are so stupid. Oregon law makes it incredibly easy for them to be ignorant. Many people move to Oregon from other states to take advantage of our “bike friendly” culture. But there are few mechanisms, minus a nice instructional accident, to inform newcomers of Oregon’s bicycle laws. In Oregon, bikes are treated as vehicles in the eyes of the law. Fair enough. That’s why bicyclists are required to wear helmets, pass safety tests for licensing purposes and carry insurance. Oh wait. They actually aren’t required to do any of these things.* But yet, they are allowed and encouraged to share the road with motor vehicles. This is so nonsensical. And bikers are obviously not smart enough to realize that they are at a disadvantage in the whole scheme of things.

The reason drivers are required to carry licenses and insurance and conform to certain safety standards is the simple fact that objects moving around in the same area will inevitably bump into each other. Add bicycles to the mix, and it is only a matter of time before a collision. And guess what? Even though drivers/cyclists are about even when it comes to fault, big car will smash small bike every time. I’m pretty sure every driver who has hit and killed a bicyclist, even if it was the bicyclists fault, feels really horrible about it and is traumatized. That is why driver’s get so pissed when a biker pulls a stupid move. The bikers have the same liability, but no conditions to enforce responsibility.

*Exception being helmets required for children under 16. The minute you hit 16 years old, your life is in your own hands! But don’t try to vote or drink.

22 thoughts on “#50 Drivers vs. Cyclists

  1. OMG YES YES YES!!!! Thank you for the LAST paragraph!!!!!!! (and of course, the whole post). Yes, there are a lot of shitty drivers (I scream at them every day). But as a driver, the ignorance of the bicyclists is the bane of my existence. It seems that they take no vested interest in their own lives and have a general “fuck you” attitude toward everyone. And the state lets them continue. You are 300% right – if a driver (if I) were to hit a cyclist even if it was their OWN STUPID FAULT, a greater portion of my life would be ruined. I would be devastated. And it almost feels like this is exactly what these smug, self righteous cyclists want. Otherwise, why would they tempt fate the way they do?

  2. I wear a helmet now because I hit a suddenly-opened car door in Braidley Road, Bournemouth, here in England. I rode too closely to the parked cars. I politely declined the offer of the policeman to prefer charges against the driver.

    By the way, mydigest.wordpress.com is deleted. Its work to change the cosmos was never completed. I, its creator, was defeated. The poor old cosmos felt cheated. The preservationist debate was not even heated. But the folds in the time-space continue tum, caused by the disaster, were neatly pleated.

    That knock on the head, with blood merrily squirting did me the world of good. Sadly, not for long, I have begun another. It is called sumpnando.wordpress.com and it is almost but not entirely better than the one before. It is something to do.

    Google brought me to my old comment above. So here I am following myself up. How long can this thing last? Happy cycling and motoring. Be excellent to pone another. Ciao. So long. I may be some time.

    Cy Quick of sumpnado.wordpress.com

  3. One thing I don’t miss about Portland is the drivers. They are slow and timid, when it comes to other cars. But they are real assholes to bicyclists. I had drivers yell at me and through garbage. It’s stupid also considering that they’re bad drivers. They couldn’t handle NYC traffic. If they had skill, they could save driving time while not being an asshole at the same time.

    I live in Cambridge/Boston and drivers don’t get pissed at bicyclists here. And bicyclists here don’t wait at red lights or stop signs when there is no traffic.

  4. (Reply to Andrew) I think the boxes are a great idea. You obviously dont get the purpose of them. They are there to prevent people from cutting them off and to alert drivers of they’re presence. From what I understand if you stop in them you can get ticketed. And I dont run red lights thanks much.

  5. In response to the bike boxes…worst idea ever. And then to rub you the wrong way further, the city decided to put a sign in that infuriatingly reads ‘NO TURN ON RED – EXCEPT BICYCLES’. They don’t stop for red lights anyway, since when is a no turn on red sign going to stop them?

    Whenever I can, I stop in the middle of those boxes. They don’t obey the rules, why should I help them?

  6. Instead of screeching “On yer left!!!”, cyclists in Sweden ring a bell to warn slower cyclists or pedestrians of their approach. It’s so much nicer!

  7. Laura, if downtown Portland is anything like downtown Toronto, then “kidical mass” is the only time it’s safe enough for children to ride their bikes in the city centre. It’s an attempt to reduce the danger. It is also an excellent way to get children engaged in their city and to get them thinking of it as a place for them too. Instead of concrete, glass, tall buildings and homeless people, downtown becomes the place “where I played last night!”

    As for your concern over the self-importance of these bicycling radicals… I think they feel the need to put on a show because they want to send out a few messages to drivers. Two of these messages immediately come to mind:

    1, cyclists are on the road too, so respect us;
    2, we put on a show to remind you that cars, as we know them, are about to have their show canceled.

    I don’t see how having a mass bike ride after rush hour one Friday a month is egotistical or obnoxious. These people have a legitimate set of concerns and have found a moderate way to express them.

    Egotistical and obnoxious people would have their demonstration at 8 am Monday morning, perhaps more than once a month.

  8. Sally, I’m not really disagreeing but if licensing is just to make a political statement then why bother? Furthermore, we already pay for the painting the bike lanes; it’s called paying our taxes. Income, sales, property, excise, occupational privilege. Why should we have to pay yet another frikken fee?

  9. @ sauer kraut

    I, for one, would love to license and register my bike. That would be a step forward in promotong biking as a viable, serious mode of transportation. As it is, vehicle licensing etc. brings in millions of dollars in funds for the DOT. I think it strengthens the “legitimacy” of a bike as an alternate form of transportation if it could be argued that riders would be directly paying for some of the road upkeep, etc. Bike lanes don’t paint themselves. And some of the funds could go to education and even more bike-centric ideas, such as bike-only streets and more bike/bus cooperation. It would be a hit to my wallet, but still nothing compared to thousands of dollars a year not paying for a car or gas.

  10. Ormond, why can’t Portland families just embrace alternative transportation by simply going about their business on bikes, instead of having to make a huge show of it and tying up traffic? It’s obnoxious, ego-centric and dangerous.

  11. Kidical mass is a pretty interesting phenomenon. It indicates that families are starting to embrace alternative means of transportation. It also suggests this cycling “thing” is becoming a viable alternative to the automobile (at least in urban centres.)

    I wonder if Portland has CRITICAL ASS

    http://www.bikingtoronto.com/events/2008/05/critical-ass-18.html

    I’m personally not a big participant in Critical Mass here in Toronto. I’ve only participated once and I’m not sure if I’d do it again. It was interesting. I’m glad I did it. I’d say there were two classes of people (if I can generalize). Sure there were the young twenty-somethings out to make a radical statement. The vast majority, though, were people in their 30s and 40s. They weren’t radical. We also had a police escort (which I was told is unusual). Another interesting thing was that a lot of people walking or driving asked me what we were doing. No one got angry. Many people said they’d come out for the next ride.

    Perhaps out here in the east and north of the border our cyclists are little more moderate than on the west coast?? I don’t know Portland too well. Speaking only of Canada, I do know that Toronto is much more moderate than Vancouver. Also, the automobile is a little less enshrined in our country (but only a little less).

  12. I’m a Portland area cyclist, and motorist, and I totally agree that cyclists need to behave themselves better. I disdain Critical Mass, I think they serve no purpose except to piss everyone off. I do agree with sauer kraut above that trying to license bikes will only create more bureaucracy. What I’d like to see is a public service campaign, tv spots, billboards, the local news channels could do a weekly (or daily) segment on “biking tips”. We do need cyclist (and driver) education on rules of the road for cyclists. We have so many new cyclists who haven’t biked since they were 12 now hopping on bikes and riding as if they’re still on the quiet street they grew up on. Riding in traffic is a whole ‘nother thing.

  13. Do you guys have “critical mass” in your city? It happens in many major North American cities. On the last Friday of every month, a loosely organized group of cyclists take to the city streets and ride around. If enough cyclists come out, if there is enough “Mass”, then the cyclists clog up the streets and generally make life difficult for drivers. They do this after rush hour… which is pretty fair.

    It’s true that cyclists do break a lot of laws (and pedestrians break even more). I think it’s not just an issue of enforcement–though that’s important too. I think it’s also important to try and develop a “civilized” cycling culture. For example, I think that most of the people who contribute and regular the website below would agree that riding on the sidewalk, riding without lights and other such conduct is stupid, and generally harmful to the cyclist cause.

    http://www.bikingtoronto.com/index.html

  14. Most states require cyclists to follow the same rules of the road as automobiles. Not sure what you hope to accomplish with the licensing of cyclists; seems like the making of yet another government bureaucracy to me. Cyclist without illumination in the dark? Simple solution. See The Laws of Darwin. Make sure you enjoy dents and new hood ornaments before you try that out, tho.

    What would work better than simply ranting is to work with the cycling community to reach out to the scafflaws. Yes, there are plenty of those in both the cycling world and the my-car-is-superior-so-get-the-hell-out-of-my-way world. Whenever it rains here, there are plenty of folks in dark-colored cars who drive around without their headlights on.

  15. I never knew there were rules for cyclistis in the US – here in NYS they cycle in the dark with no lights, with the traffic, against the traffic, on and of the sidewalk and never obey stop signs or traffic signals.

    They seem to get annoyed when they cycle towards my great dane and I wlaing on the sidewalk and we don’t move out their way – thereby forcing them onto the grass – or heaven forbid into the road….. I had thought of training the dane to knock them off as they squeeze past, but fear she would end up with a ticket :-) or worse.

  16. I won’t disagree with you in the slightest. I’ve been an avid and serious bicyclist for nearly thirty years, and I was starting to cheer the motorists by the time I left Portland. To be fair, pedestrians in Portland are just as arrogant and completely ignorant of the laws of physics: how many times a day do you see some hipster who comes strolling out of Powell’s, decides s/he doesn’t want to have to wait for a “WALK” signal, strolls out into traffic, and then just glares at the drivers who frantically screeched to a halt to prevent their going to jail for vehicular manslaughter?

    Either way, it’s all about the entitlement mentality that Portland unfortunately encourages. The only option is for a serious crackdown on the bike couriers who ride up onto sidewalks downtown, screaming “OUT OF THE WAY, PEASANTS!” and the other shitheads who assume that they achieved godhood the moment they got onto a two-wheeled vehicle, but, you know, Portland’s police are too busy cracking down on “gang-related activity”.

  17. As a rider of a two-wheeler, self-powered transport-device in UK since 1946 when I was six, I acknowledge that all you say is valid. I cycled on days trips or YHA holidays around the Vale of York and into the Dales in the 1950s.

    Before my first bike I had a little tricycle for a year. I also owned motorbike 1975-1982, including a spell with a sidecar. I used both A-roads and Motorways from Poole Bay to Central Lowlands of Scotland several times.

    I have co-driven my sibling’s car using an L-plate on vacation. I also copped 156 in the Mensa test -which puts me IN the top class but right at the BOTTOM of it, IQ-wise.

    It is a lack of compulsory laws such as “A bicycle may not be manufactured, distributed or sold unless working lights are fitted and it is painted yellow” that add to the problem of cyclist stupidity and/or fatalism.

    As to colour of clothing, the only yellow stuff is in the bicycle shops and it is not clothing, it is horrible waterproof stuff that makes you sweat even more than you do through just peddalling ordinarily.

    Yes, I ought to wear a helmet because, although it truly would be a great way to go if one could clock out CLEANLY on a ride, MESSY is the usual real-world deal. I copped a conk on the nog for five minutes when my loose chain came off leaving Lyndsy Road at County Gates distributor in Westbourne (see blog).

    When I was a kid, there used to be one car parked in the whole sweep of Bishopthorpe Road from Southlands Chapel to Dalton’s shop at the corner of Queen Victoria Street (about three blocks). But when I visited York again recently, that whole stretch, like all the once empty streets of my childhood years, was packed with parked cars.

    Aye, there’s the rub… too many cheap cars availble to the proletariat… that dratted Henry Ford chap…

    Cheers, Cy Quick at mydigest.wordpress.com

  18. I hate the fact that I have to share the road with cyclists. I lived in Portland for a year and would get so frustrated that they would hold up traffic, or disobey traffic signals, or not pay any attention to anything around them. Everytime I come back to Portland for work, I dread driving, especially in downtown with all those green squares all over the place… wtf is that about?

  19. Amen.

    Look, I like cyclists. But while they want the same rights as drivers, they CLEARLY don’t want to accept most of the same responsibilities.

    My favorite rider is the one you already identify. It’s Mr. “It’s totally dark and raining outside, but I’m going to wear black and make sure my bike has no lights” guy. Not only have I seen this guy several times, but I damn near killed him once. I literally came about 3 feet from running him down at 40 mph because I couldn’t see him.

    And of course, if I had hit him, I would have had to live with that. True, it wouldn’t have really been my fault. But that wouldn’t prevent the emotional hangover. To say nothing of the civil lawsuit that would almost have certainly been thrown my way.

    While I favor sharing the road, I’d like to the PDX police spend about a month doing a MASSIVE crackdown. I mean, everytime a bicyclist even sneezes wrong, it should result in a ticket. That way word will get out that – yes, indeed – bicyclists are also expected to follow the rules of the road, and will be hit in the wallet if they don’t.

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