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11 July 2008

Man, Subaru Assaulted by Mountain Bike Although I do a fair amount of bike communting [More:](I either bike or walk to work every day), I am increasingly bugged by the attitudes of cyclists, who feel they can flaunt the rules of the road, ride on sidewalks, and generally act like jerks in the name of saving the earth.

Meanwhile in my town a guy riding in traffic without a helmet, wearing a iPod, turns in front of an oncoming vehicle and gets himself killed and is made into a martyr. The driver was in no way at fault, and her life is pretty much shattered by all this.

I keep telling people that, if you are biking, you are lower on the food chain than cars, and that your sense of self-righeousness will not protect you.

This is pretty much what I hate about Portland.
posted by pieisexactlythree 11 July | 14:24
I'd not have noticed it, but I was up there yesterday and the Oregonian had a HUGE front page story about it (as I am sure you know). It was hard to miss.
posted by danf 11 July | 14:26
I really never bother to read the O. The funny thing is, this took place about three blocks from my house! I'm on 17th and Belmont!
posted by pieisexactlythree 11 July | 14:28
here's the thing. (and danf for what it's worth I'm with you on this). With gas prices doing what they're doing, we're going to only see an increase in dangerously inexperienced cyclists in traffic. And I have no clue what to do about that, beyond to encourage people to take Effective Cycling courses wherever they are able.

twenty years ago when I was riding to work on a daily basis, there was a lot less visibility, yes, however you could also be reliably certain that any cyclist in traffic was a fairly serious and skilled individual, because we were the only ones serious enough about bicycles to bother.

A lot of things have changed in the intervening years. Over the past decade, the Lance Armstrong / Tour de France phenomenon has swelled the ranks of weekend warriors / recreational cyclists an hundredfold. More recently the hipster kid / fixie craze is all the rage, and they tend to kind of create their own mess with their ANARCHY NOW!!! critical-mass type posturing. And to top it all off, we now have gas prices threatening to hit $5/gallon, so suddenly everyone and their Aunt Matilda is on a bicycle... many of them completely clueless to how traffic law applies to them, so they do stuff like ride illegally on sidewalks or counterflow to traffic in the bike lane (ARGH!!!). Not to mention the increase in(unlicensed, unregulated) mopeds and scooters I've seen using bike shoulders and/or weaving in and out of traffic... the rules (if any) for them are at best hazy so far as I can tell.

I really don't know what to say at this point, because the perception of the general public is pretty much that all cyclists are equally unskilled/at-fault/crazy/rude/clueless. There is no difference in their mind between someone like myself, who has years of experience and skill, who rides defensively, and at a speed that's competent to clear intersections and generally stay out of drivers' way in city traffic; and my crazy alcholic friend who got his licence revoked, and, despite all my best efforts, continues to do shit like ride counterflow and on the sidewalk, and who couldn't make a competent turn from the left lane in heavy traffic if his life depended on it... so instead he charges thru crosswalks (instead of walking his bike, as the law requires) endangering himself and enraging pedestrians.

posted by lonefrontranger 11 July | 15:03
Yeah, I saw this in the Oregonian yesterday. I fucking hate the self-righteous douchebags who make up a small but very vocal minority of the bicycling community have here, and I say this as someone who(at least these days) bikes to work more often than I drive. Share the road goes both ways, fuckfaces-- stop giving the rest of us a bad name.

Some more discussion of the incident (some well-reasoned, some idiotic) can be found here.
posted by dersins 11 July | 15:08
Hah, I'm staying in Portland for a couple of days and this is the biggest story here. I saw the headline in the Oregonian and said, Portland is exactly what people said it would be. If it had happened in PA, the driver would have probably shot him.
posted by octothorpe 11 July | 17:28
has swelled the ranks of weekend warriors / recreational cyclists an hundredfold

Well, let me just say, I'm all for more people biking. I fucking hate driving and would bike absolutely everywhere if the infrastructure of L.A. allowed it. However, I agree that people need to get their shit together and learn the rules. I've met too many people who veer between pedestrian laws and vehicle laws when it suits them, and it does make it infinitely more difficult for those of us who recognize that - yes - bikes are vehicles, 100% of the time.

despite all my best efforts, continues to do shit like ride counterflow and on the sidewalk

Riding on the sidewalk isn't illegal everywhere - I was shocked to discover it's legal here in L.A. (within reason) after six months of tut-tutting at other bikers who do it (I came from Cambridge, MA, where it is firmly illegal). I now ride on the sidewalk for two blocks of my commute because a chunk of my Northbound road is both uphill and single-lane, and hence not safe to accommodate both bikes and cars at the same time. (If there are pedestrians within view, I suck it up and ride the street.)

What horrifies me is that we don't have helmet laws for people over the age of 18. Even as an experienced city biker, I've been doored or potholed enough to thank my damn stars for the helmet.

I really don't know what to say at this point, because the perception of the general public is pretty much that all cyclists are equally unskilled/at-fault/crazy/rude/clueless.

Oh God, this is so true. And as someone who occasionally drives in L.A., I have to say, the streets here are not designed for sharing - even as an avid city biker (100+ miles every week), I still find myself having to look carefully for bikers. So here it's a combination of urban planning and ignorance - both on the part of the bikers and the motorists. Sometimes I think there should be a city bicycling test just like there's a driving test, frankly. And drivers should likewise be educated about the rights of cyclists.

And in local biking news...
posted by mykescipark 11 July | 20:38
lfr is so right, and from what I've seen with the demographic I work with, the same holds true for motorcycles. The resurgence of the Harley, and the increased gas price has filled the roads with inexperienced and often incompetent riders.

Ultimately the bottom line is there are assholes in every group. JUst have to learn to deal with them.

Oh, and hopefully they throw the book at this guy.
posted by eekacat 11 July | 20:42
cyclists, who feel they can flaunt the rules of the road, ride on sidewalks, and generally act like jerks in the name of saving the earth.

While I know there are lovely people who are serious cyclists, I do agree that there's a real arrogance that can set in. I used to do a Wednesday night ride in town with a lot of serious riders. Nice enough folk, but their edgy competitiveness got to me sometimes. The night I decided it was my last ride was a night that a car passed us going maybe 10 mph over the limit. A cyclist in front of me took it upon himself to holler at the guy, give him the finger, and then speed up to follow the guy down the road and into his driveway, where he shouted "Slow down, you motherfucker!" after the car, while his wife fretted next to me "I wish he wouldn't do this; he had a mild heart attack last year..."

Whatever that's about, it's not about saving gas. It's about somebody very eager to be angry and self-righteous.

(ps, I ride to work a lot too, as well as for errands. I know not all bikers suck, but there is just a definite strain of bad behavior, no denying it, and it's not all the inexperienced cyclists. The other thing I hate to see is cyclists playing the rules-of-the-road game, but only in their favor - for instance, yelling at a driver for turning without a signal, but then ignoring traffic lights themselves - stuff like that).
posted by Miko 11 July | 22:43
the streets here are not designed for sharing

And yeah, actually, urban planning has a lot to do with this as well. Much of the issue could be moot with wide enough lanes, bike lanes where possible, good road maintenance, and public education/signage reminding people to share the road.
posted by Miko 11 July | 22:46
miko I submit that that guy would be an asshole were he driving a car, per his wife's aside it sounds like he's simply an anger management case.

bikes don't make people assholes, assholes are assholes regardless of what mode of transportation they are using.

sadly when assholes are on bicycles they simply become a more visible data point for everyone else's confirmation bias.
posted by lonefrontranger 12 July | 07:42
sadly when assholes are on bicycles they simply become a more visible data point for everyone else's confirmation bias.

Well, same with drivers for cyclists. The fact is, assholes are assholes, and assholes are everywhere and do almost everything. A lot of experienced cyclists really are assholes - it's true! So are a lot of drivers - it's true!

I think what rankles for people is that cyclists who are assholes want to both be an asshole and assume an attitude of superiority because they're on a bike. To me, there's just no excuse for the attitude of superiority. Do what works for your life and what you believe in - do it happily - do it to show it's possible - do it for whatever reason. But assuming that you have a moral pass to act like a jerk because you don't happen to be using any fossil fuel at the moment doesn't wash.

There are a lot of ways to use fossil fuel, and there's no telling whether the person on the bike is great at all of them - they might keep the stat at 72 all winter, eat banana-and-strawberry smoothies and oranges for breakfast daily year round, drink water and crap-laden sports drinks from plastic bottles, leave the computer running 24/7, and so on. Meanwhile, a driver might be heading home from a run to pick up compostable waste from a restaurant to feed the goats and pigs on their wind-turbine-energy-generating organic farm. People passing on the street just don't have enough information about one another to engage in this sort of rage.
posted by Miko 12 July | 12:58
For what it's worth, my self-righteousness has nothing to do with fossil fuels and everything to do with the fact that choosing to get behind the wheel of a car or truck is making an ethical compromise between the safety of other people (and animals and yourself) and convenience. I minimize my driving in order to minimize the exposure to this risk and because it's less wasteful and cheaper and healthier and because I'm currently able-bodied enough to do so. And because it's absurd that the government uses my tax dollars to subsidize such a horrible and common trade off that rewards a system with an unimaginable majority of single-occupant vehicles.

But, oh yeah, I really do feel sorry for the woman whose life is ruined because she chose to drive one day and somebody died regardless of fault. If you can't live with yourself after you make a utilitarian guesstimate and lose, then maybe you need new ethics.

I read threads like this and it further convinces me that transportation justice is the next civil rights movement. (Oh, yeah, how DARE I make that comparison, right?) It is pure and simple environmental justice. It's not the rich, white people who live next to the freeway, ya know. And it's not rich, white people who are disproportionately represented in all sorts of automobile fatalities from car-car to car-pedestrian. But, please, continue to pick on hipster bicyclists instead of sharing your feelings of entitlement with the poor kids with asthma. (And heart disease and cancer and pneumonia)
posted by Skwirl 17 August | 00:57
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