View Full Version : Crazy Cyclists Giving The Rest Of Us A Bad Name!

Tim Kelley
01-05-2011, 02:57 PM
Greater Greater Washington has an interesting article on why many drivers consider cyclists to be scofflaws (running red lights, riding the wrong way on streets, etc) when drivers are just as prone to breaking the law by speeding or not completely stopping at stop signs.

Here's the link: http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/8731/whats-our-bicycle-social-contract/

It’s a good read that got me thinking a bit. From my experiences here in Arlington, there are many cyclists who obey the laws but there are also some who don't. I’d like to share a story from my morning commute today during which I counted 4 other bikers in my short 2.5 mile ride:

Everyone was well behaved except for one cyclist who, as I was waiting at red light along Fairfax Drive near VA Square, blew past me through the intersection without the least bit of hesitation. A few blocks later he switched sides of the road and was riding the wrong way in the bike lane and had to jump out into head-on traffic to go around a double parked van. At Kirkwood Rd. he turned right into traffic from the wrong side of the road and was nearly hit by a car who honked at him. I lost track of him for a few blocks through Clarendon until I caught up to him around Starbucks/Whole Foods where I saw him cut off a car to make a left turn from the right lane.

With all of these crazy maneuvers he didn’t save any time, could have easily gotten hurt, and gave drivers another reason to think all cyclists are irresponsible. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch, or something like that…

So my question for everyone on this forum is, what is the best way that I, as a individual riding my bike to work, can convince crazy cyclists to be a less crazy? When I caught up to this guy, could I have said something? Used peer pressure? Politely say, “Excuse me, but when you ride like that you give other cyclists a bad name.” and see how they react? Has anyone ever made a suggestion like this to another rider? I'd love to hear your thoughts...

01-05-2011, 04:34 PM
I've wrestled with the same topic for years. I've tried everything from being polite to being really rude and many variations in between. I found a few things don't work well... The holier than thou attitude is one, sarcasm is another. The only thing that has ever seemed to reach some of the more crazy riders was a comment like, "Wow that was some fancy riding. Be careful. That Chevy almost made you his hood ornament." It skirts on the edge of sarcasm, but somehow hasn't been instantly written off by the Evil Knievel in question.

Honestly, if someone doesn't want to listen, there isn't much we can do to reach them.

As for my own observations, the number of cyclists that really obey the spirit of the law and really ride safely are very few and far between. In general I'd say that the cyclists I see are much worse than drivers. We earn our bad reputation.

I'll check out the article when I get home tonight. Happy New Year, Tim. Keep the rubber side down.

01-05-2011, 05:09 PM
I bought my first road bike six months ago and signed up for the Bike League Safety classes. That instruction laid a decent foundation for how I should ride. I spend a lot of time observing other cyclists and pay attention to how they handle themselves in traffic. There are a lot of things I won't do like glide through a stop sign unless I'm riding with a group or it's a very quiet residential street with excellent sight lines. Seeing good hand signals and watching other riders be polite to each other makes an impression on me. But I've learned the hard way that drivers are not to be trusted, either they don't see me, are distracted, or confused about what to do when a cyclist is in a crosswalk (big hint, accelerate is not the answer). For me, watching other cyclists makes a big difference in how I ride especially during this first year.


Joe Chapline
01-05-2011, 05:20 PM
I think the best thing to do is be a good example. When one bicyclist out of five stops at a red light, the ones blowing past you may think there's something wrong with you. If we get it up to three out of five stopping, the old herd instincts might start to work in favor of obeying the law. People do what they see other people do.

Offering unsolicited advice to strangers has seldom worked out well for me, regarding bicycling or anything else. Dirt has some good suggestions on how it could possibly work, though.

01-05-2011, 08:34 PM
I don't buy the "bad apple" argument.

I just heard, from a woman in my apartment, all-chirpy like, that she "hates bicyclists". When I asked why, what she said had nothing to do with the bad behavior of cyclists. What she said boils down to this: The road is for cars and anything else on it confuses her.

Which means regardless of how well cyclists behave, she's going to be hating us for simply being there.

Aside from that, if you buy into the "bad apple argument" then 99.99% of cyclist could obey the laws and bike in only the most meek and submissive manner and there will still be "bad apples", .01%, that motorists could point to, no doubt doing a rolling stop through a stop sign and failing to use their turn signals as they do so.

01-06-2011, 08:04 AM
I think the best thing to do is be a good example.
Amen, Brother Joe. :D

01-06-2011, 08:27 AM
What she said boils down to this: The road is for cars and anything else on it confuses her.

More than anything else, I think that this should terrify all of us.

01-06-2011, 10:34 AM
I agree that trying to be a good example is best. I agree we should all do our part, but it is pretty rich for drivers to be lumping all cyclists together as law breakers. It all comes down to education, for us and for drivers. I am both actually, and now that I cycle in traffic more I feel more prepared to pass cyclists, which I admit has made me feel nervous in the past. But then I am never in a hurry and feeling compelled to buzz anyone.
What alarmed me recently was seeing two riders without lights after dark--not even the little flashing ones! That justifiably makes a driver irate.

01-06-2011, 11:15 AM
I agree, driving home from GMU at night it is amazing how many students bike after dark without lights and without helmets. Perhaps they are on their way to pose for their "Babes on a Bike" photos.:eek:


01-06-2011, 11:24 AM
I've talked about this in other places, not sure if I've said it in this forum before. Sometimes we need to spend a little time in someone else's shoes to understand their perspective. Nothing gives you perspective on how people view cyclists like taking a walk on the W&OD or Mount Vernon trails on a lovely Saturday morning. Cyclists complain about pedestrians and runners all the time, but I don't think many of us realize how obnoxious we, as cyclists are. In a similar way, take a drive on MacArthur BLVD on a nice Saturday morning when there are lots of bicycles out on that route. It gives a whole different view of what it is like to share the road. I make sure to both walk and drive in the presence of cyclists a couple times per year. It does a lot for how I behave as a cyclist.

It doesn't excuse anyone's bad behavior. It does give you a really good understanding of where a lot of attitudes about cyclists come from.

I grew up in what was once a small town. The whole "us versus them" attitude where whole groups of people classify others into groups and have a huge chip on our shoulders in regards to them is somewhat strange to me. It is easy to fall into that... I do it from time to time and need a change of perspective.

It isn't easy to keep a positive attitude with all that goes on out on the roads and trails. I'm sure a lot happier now that I don't ride around with a chip on my shoulder.