Bicycles and the mob mentality

Bicyclists

Long-time readers know that I’m hostile to bicyclists.  In 2007, I devoted an entire post to mob bicyclists.  Although I didn’t blog about bikes after my trip to Amsterdam, one of the things I just hated about the city was the bicyclists.  Collectively, the bicyclists make up a brutish mob that controls the streets.  Woe betide the unlucky pedestrian or car that tries to cross an intersection when any bicyclists are near.  Indeed, even a single cyclist, without the comfort of the mob at his street will take aim at any pedestrian foolish enough to try to cross when a bicyclist is near.  They are terrifying in their arrogance and entitlement.

I live near a scenic street that, every weekend throughout the year, and every week day when the sun is shining, is a bike route.  There is no bike lane, so the bikes just ride down the middle of the road.  The road is extremely curvy so, as I round every curve, I recite to myself “Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle,” so that I don’t get careless and run one down.  The speed limit on the road is between 20-25 MPH, depending on how curvy the road is.  The speed limit is irrelevant.  We drivers go bike speed:  5-10 MPH.

In other parts of Marin, bikes run red lights and stop signs, dart into traffic, block roads, and move in large packs.  A few months ago, a bicyclist almost hit my car.  I don’t know why.  I was in my lane, on a multi-lane road, driving along at the speed limit, and he just swerved into me.

Lucky for the bicyclists, although they arouse anger in me, my dominant emotion is fear.  I’m absolutely terrified that, in a run-in between my two-ton car and their bike, even if they’re at fault, I’ll walk away and they’ll be dead.  For that reason, I give them an especially wide berth whenever I see them.  Some drivers don’t.  They act on their anger and come dangerously close to bicyclists, putting those frail bodies at risk — and putting the driver at risk of a lengthy prison sentence and the end of his life as he knows it.

My thinking has always been that the bicyclists believe that their environmental chops mean that they are wrapped in an invincibility cloak, one that allows them to ignore the law of physics.  That is, I’ve thought that, in their overweening bicyclist arrogance, they truly believe that, even as they break all known traffic rules, they cannot be hurt because they’re on the side of angels.

How naive I was.  They know they can be hurt.  But rather than following the rules of the road, they have a different plan:  to make cars illegal.  More frighteningly, they seem to be succeeding in many communities.

Drivers should strike back.  The reason the car took over the road shortly after Henry Ford brought mass production to manufacturing is because they are better than bikes:  they’re safer, they carry more people and goods, they’re faster, they protect people from the elements, they bring more traffic to commercial areas, and they more comfortable.  Certainly it’s nice if they burn fuel more cleanly, or if drivers make time in their lives to exercise so as to offset sitting, rather than walking, but they’re still better.  Bicyclists, however, would have us revert to a pre-industrial time when transportation was limit to a person’s own two feet — whether without wheels, or augmented by two slender ones.

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  • lee

    I, too, hate bicyclists, for much the same reason. Some random thoughts about bicyclists:
     
    1. Critical Mass-UGH! When I lived in Marin and worked in the city, if I DROVE MY CAR on Critical Mass days, I would have NO PROBLEMS getting home. But if I TOOK THE FERRY, they would screw up my commute ENORMOUSLY.
     
    2. Once I got behind a bicylist on Camino Alto in Marin, just off of Blithedale. The b*****d would NOT let me pass, come hell or high water. Finally, on the downhill portion, he got a lot of speed, and was going well over 50 when he got to the more heavily residential area–where there were more likely to be pedestrians, kids, people checking mail boxes. I still wish death upon the jack**s.
     
    3. I went to Indiana University right after “Breaking Away” came out. EVERYONE had to ride bicycles, and be cool. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. That scene with the truckdriver? Every body and his frat brother wanted to relive it.
     
    4. For the five years I lived in Manhattan, AT LEAST one pedestrian was killed a year by a bicyclist.
     
    5. A friend of mine was sued by a bicyclist in a precedent setting case in that state. Right before the accident she had with him, the laws had changed, and bicyclists were to be considered more like cars and less like pedestrians. This guy came up on her right while she was turning right into a parking lot. She had signaled, and he still came up on her right. She hit him. He sued her. She won!!!!! Yay! (This was about 25 or 30 years ago.)
     
    6. About twenty years ago or so, I read an interview with a guy who had been a big bicyclists in the Bay Area. One of those people out every weekend on their fancy road bikes sailing through the hills. He was in an accident (his fault–going too fast down a hill) and wound up paralyzed. All his bicycling friends pretty much dumped him. There was nothing they had in common besides bicycling. He vented pretty good about them, and I think realized what a jerk he had been before.

  • 11B40

    Greetings:
     
    At the risk of throwing fuel on your fire, you haven’t given “Critical Mass” (Mess ???) its proper due for community organizing and civic disrupting.  It is one of my prime examples of what I refer to as the New Jim Crow in which the right to disrupt or destroy the rights of others to freedom of travel or to pursue one’s commerce is given precedence in order to move us closer to the myriad goals of “social justice”. 
     
    But, to vice your versa a bit, I seem to still be able to remember at least three pedestrian deaths attributed to bicyclists over the past handful of years in the San Francisco Bay area. My limited understanding is that all three victims were elderly and at least one bicyclist in Frisco San Francisco faced whatever they mean these days by criminal charges. However, I’m almost pretty sure that some inconvenience was involved.
     
    Lastly, but certainly my personal favorites, are the city’s The City’s bicycle messengers, one of whom provided me with an excellent bit of exercise.

  • Jose

    About 10 years ago I visited California for the first time.  After spending a week with family I drove the coast road from San Francisco to the tip of the Olympic peninsula.  It was quite a novelty for someone raised in the landlocked midwest, and I enjoyed numerous stops to wade in the surf or just admire the scenery.
     
    The only drawback was the bloody bicycles.  The 2 lane road, following the beach and cliffs, wound back and forth between blind curves.  I knew automobile traffic would be in the other lane, but I never knew where the bikes would be.  I understand that they wanted to enjoy the road also, but it just wasn’t designed to accommodate them.  They were endangering not just themselves but also motorists in many places. 

  • Charles Martel

    Lee:
     
    I, too, have been stuck behind arrogant bicyclists on Camino Alto. Aside from their snottiness, I have to crack up at the silly costumes they wear. Their disdain for car drivers comes partly from having spent thousands of dollars on fancy bikes and designer togs that bestwo membership in an exclusive club. I think many of them would buy a bridge if a well-dressed snob offered it to them.
     
    About New York: My strongest memory of Manhattan bicyclists was seared into my brain in 1988 when I stepped off a curb on Sixth Avenue and was greeted by loud, frantic whistles from a bicyclist bearing down on me at 25 miles per hour. It was obvious from the position of his hands—nowhere near his brakes—and the grim look on hos goggle-covered face, that he had no intention of slowing down and that tweeting a warning at me was a massive act of charity on his part. To my shame I found myself praying for a drunken Pakistani cab driver to weave over and execute a bike-lane oopsie.
     
    11B40, your comments about Critical mass are spot on. The tolerance for its members’ shenanigans is a prime example of what I call San Francisco’s “Occupy Mentality:” Like the Occupiers, the act of sh***ing on public property—in this case, the streets and civility of a beautiful city—is seen as progressive.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Early on in life, I had to figure out how to conduct training to eliminate people on bikes trying to run me over. The timing of it was interesting. Although if they were going at the same speed as cars, the timing can be reused, since jumping on the hood of a car and rolling up and over will decrease most of the force and is a bit more reliable than trying to dodge something on wheels.
     
    A bicycle has more jagged edges in front, but jumping on them is still the less risk averse tactic, especially if you can use the human as a body cushion. Various stuff I thought up, when I didn’t need to. Now has more uses in life than I had ever imagined.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    You know the height of the regular pickup truck and that square box on the back?
     
    I used to be able to jump, from a standing start, on top of the edge like I’m magnetized to it. One person that saw that acted like he was surprised. I, at the time, didn’t know why that would be. Football players are often told they have to jump a certain height during practice. Although not all of them make it.
     
    My experience or perception of bicycles are mostly positive. In Japan mainstream shows, they would often show scenes where a male student carries a girl on the back of his bicycle, transporting her around. I always thought that was kind of cute, that she would trust him enough to sit on a bike, that might not even have a back seat, sometimes “side saddle” due to the skirt Japanese high school girls wear (are required to wear). It must certainly take a lot of balance and skill to be able to ride up a hill, down a hill, to and back from school, carrying a high school girl hugging your back.
     
    And that’s the kind of image I get when I pair bicycles with youths.

  • JohnC

    Bicyclists 
    bi′cy•clists n. pl.
     
    People who insist they have the rights and privileges of both automobiles and pedestrians but the responsibilities of neither.

  • JKB

    Oh, you have to read this that Ann Althouse posted a few days ago.  Oh, the irony.
     
    Some bicyclists ride a country road I travel a lot.  They are annoying but not terribly.  I slow, pass them when safe but if they became a problem, they’d eventually discover the law of maximum tonnage.  Only real event was when I came upon three women riding abreast on the wrong side of the road in my lane.    They have to drive in to it.  None on my road, it’s two lane highway and the logging trucks would plow the road should a bicyclist try to ride it.  
     
    When I lived in Seattle and walked the path around the lake, the bicyclists were dangerous.  I found carrying a stick worked to keep them from breezing me.  Just carried it at port arms with the low end on set to drive between the spokes.  They maintained the perimeter.  When alone on the path, I kicked gravel on the asphalt.  It had no impact on the kids or walkers but boy was it a problem for the skinny tire set.  
    Althouse: “Madison committee to consider paying employees to bike to work.” 
     
    That’s very funny to me because just this morning, as Meade was driving me to work, we were observing the people on bikes and I said, “It’s almost all young white males. All these bike lanes and other amenities, paid for with our tax money? It’s almost all for white males. Oh, how it would pain Madison liberals to admit it!”

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    The KKK was originally funded and led by Democrats. Still was as recently as Byrd’s regime, actually.
     
    So the White Aryans are just a bunch of individuals now. For the real lynch mob, check out CM and union thugocracies. They are training up some “interesting” goons in there using some interesting money flows.

  • Ellen

    I live in a college town where the administration encourages bikes.  I am scared to death of them.  They tend to speed down streets and sidewalks totally ignoring pedestrians.  I’m 62 and in very good shape, but I know if one of those people hit me, I’d be toast.  
    We have skateboarders too, but they are mostly quite polite and never, ever speed like crazed NASCAR wannabes.

  • Danny Lemieux

    It would be a shame if somebody nudged one as they whipped by. Just sayin’!

  • 11B40

    Greetings, JKB:  (@ on 20 Nov 2013 at 5:34 pm )
     
    Well, far be it for me to rain on Madison’s parade, but our rulers in the San Francisco Bay area managed to include a bike lane on the newly opened Bay Bridge  for a cost of only $10 or so million.  Actually, that was only for part one.  The second part, about a third of the overall distance, has yet to be quantified dollar-wise.  
     
    The new Bridge is a triumph of government effectiveness. In a little less than a generation, our rulers managed to replace a bridge that had mostly survived the Loma Prieta earthquake, an almost big one.
    And they managed to do it at only five or so times the original estimates. I think they admitted to it costing $6 really really big billions.
     

  • some1talkin

    An now, from a different perspective.
     
    I’m an avid cyclist and really have no choice regarding riding in traffic, so I do it with caution, a great deal of fear, as safely as is possible. I ride and on the lowest trafficked roads that I can find that get me where I need to go. Many cities have laws that forbid riding on the sidewalks. Many roads have no sidewalks. Many roads have no shoulders and many routes have no alternatives.
     
    Do I have a right to ride a bike and/or do I have the right to use the roads?  I hate people that claim rights so I won’t, but I will say that I, like every productive/working adult in this country I pay an extraordinary amount of taxes that build and maintain those roads.
     
    Ironically, when the car was invented, it had to ride on the roads that were built for bicycles. Cyclists hated the cars and complained that the cars had no right to be on the roads.
     
    I agree that some cyclists break the laws & ride dangerously which fuels the fire of rights but if you look at things through clear glass you’ll see even more cyclists abiding by the laws, riding defensively and as safely as they can while trying very hard not to impede traffic.
     
    BTW: On some roads, as a matter of safety cyclists have to block the path of cars because if they allowed them to pass, they will put themselves in grave danger. I know from experience that impatient drivers will attempt to pass regardless of the danger from oncoming traffic and in a pinch, will swerve back into the lane and run over me to save themselves.
     
    One more BTW: the goofy looking clothes are more than just style, they are for comfort, weather, and VISABILITY (so they won’t get run over).  Basketball players wear goofy looking clothes too as do every other athlete – typically for good reason.
     
    The good news is that it’s getting better out there as more drivers are becoming more aware and more accepting.

    • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

      Some1talkin: You sound like a sensible bicyclist. In my neck of the woods, biking is too often a political act, and sensible, law-abiding behavior is irrelevant. For example, Critical Mass in San Francisco is a deliberate effort to take over the roads, often at great risk to all involved. My beef isn’t with bicycling per se, but with extremism in bicycling.

  • http://ymarsakar.wordpress.com Ymarsakar

    Book, an individual that chooses the bike is still an individual. A swarm of tools designed as zombie bullets on bikes aren’t individuals. A significant difference.

  • some1talkin

    I’m not familiar with Critical Mass other than via news articles but I am familiar with the tactic as seemingly every minority group tends to use extremes to get the attention of the masses. Yes, that pisses people off but right or wrong it tends to get peoples attention. 
    My guess is that you’re both on the same side of the issue but just don’t agree on the semantics. Cyclists and motorists want to stop the conflict with each other and the cyclists are asking that they be heard over the din of so many motorists.  
    How do you get people to pay attention to what you have to say?

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    some1talkin:  I think the way to be heard is to do what you do, but to do it politely and with respect for others.  In the Bay Area, though, too many bicyclists are so self-righteous as to be nothing more than bullies.  In that regard, their their human-powered equivalent of Prius drivers, who were found to be more aggressive on the road because they were enveloped in their environmental virtue.

    As I said, I live within one block of a major bike path.  I will concede the sharing required for the curvy part of the road, since there are no side lines that bikes can safely traverse.  However, the bikers’ refusal to pull over when there are four or five cars crawling along behind them is every bit as offensive as a car’s refusal to pull over on a windy road when there are four or five other cars trailing along behind it.

    Worse is the conduct on the main drag, which has both a bike lane and a very wide multi-use pedestrian and bike path.  I can actually understand not wanting to use the path, as there’s a risk of toddlers and dogs.  But refusing to use the bike lane?  It drives me beyond bonkers when two or more bikers decide they’re equal to a car, leave the bike lane, and drive down the middle of the road at a comfortable ten or fifteen miles per hour.  That’s what I mean about biking being a political act.  They’re not doing this for convenience or safety, they’re doing it to make a point.

    As for Critical Mass, it’s been going on for a long time.  On the last Friday of every month, bikers take to the roads, intentionally blocking traffic.  I lived in or near the City during both my pregnancies and was absolutely terrified that I’d go into labor during Critical Mass, as it would completely block my access to the hospital.  Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but it left me hostile to a movement that lives to be cruelly disruptive.

  • Katja

    I LOVE biking, and for years, I biked to work.
     
    However, I hate the way most bicyclists, especially in the city, tend to ride.  Forget about stop signs, but most of these people will fly right through red lights.  As a cyclist who stops, I myself have almost been mowed down by people behind me who didn’t.  The situation in Chicago is so crazy that once I’ve even had somebody on one of those “Critical Mass” rides or whatnot shove “literature” into the car I was driving; I’ve had someone ride right in front of my car while making a left turn (he was running the red); and once while driving around with someone from Paris, my guest commented that he couldn’t believe how out-of-control bicyclists were here.  
     
    Chicago also has the “ghost bike” people, who set up memorials (which are never taken down) where bicyclists have been killed.  They never say anything about whether the bicyclist was at fault – the one that was set up closest to where I once lived was ridiculous – it’s a major intersection with an irregular shape under a bridge which also includes the beginning to an on-ramp to US Interstate 94.  1:30am, biker with no lights shoots through red light in front of an SUV.  All witnesses said that there was absolutely no way SUV driver would have been able to see, much less react to this idiot.  But somehow we’re supposed to be so sad that the big, bad SUV killed this guy.  
     
    With living somewhere smaller, people with bikes generally more cognizant that they need to follow the rules, but it really annoys me how much the city is pushing being “bike friendly”.  However, a few weeks ago, as I was driving, I was on a one-way, 3 lane street that ends, and forces drivers to turn left onto another one-way, 3 lane street.  It’s pretty much a blind turn, but with no opposing traffic, there isn’t even a stop sign.  I was in the left lane, made the turn, and right in front of me, there’s a teenager, maybe 15 or 16, riding his bike the wrong way in my lane.  Had he been just a little bit closer to the intersection, I probably would have hit him, having had no way to see him beforehand.  As it was, I made sure not to hit him, and really hit the horn to let him know my displeasure.  Of course, he then yelled at me passing by – I’m sure he has no idea how close he was to a hospital trip pulling a stunt like that. 
     
    I actually really like the way Germany handles bicyclists; though it’s never happened to me,  from what I understand, the police have no qualms about ticketing bicyclists for infractions (running red lights, no lights at night, etc.)  As a result, most bicyclists actually follow the rules, which is quite nice.  

  • http://bookwormroom.com Bookworm

    Katja, your descriptions of lawful, sensible bike riding, and unlawful, arrogant bike riding perfectly sums up the point I was trying to make.

  • some1talkin

    Well said Katja.
     
    I too am embarrassed and upset with how other cyclists ride and the risks they take with the naïve belief that they are invincible. They fuel the fire that I read in this blog post.
    I just want to enjoy the freedom of the bike and to get somewhere safely – I don’t want to be automatically hated.
    I now carry a large mace can on my bike. At first it was to protect me from dogs but now it provides me with some comfort that I can defend myself if some 3-toothed pickup driver decides to get out of his truck and kick my ass.