Dumb Moves: They Hurt My Eyes

Warning: I’m cranky.

The pink line on the photo above is the course taken by a bike rider this morning. He rode the wrong way on Virginia (I’m not sure how far), then crossed into the Brian’s parking lot, wiggled through the parked cars—intermittently with one, or no, hands on the handlebars—swooped across Orange and onto the sidewalk. This is what is known as a garbage rider move. Just at the one little intersection, he created numerous opportunities for himself to be hit by cars… most-likely because he’s afraid of being hit by cars.

To be fair, there is a segment of the bike-riding population that is just completely ignorant of safe cycling practices. These are often people who have no other form of transportation and they’re trying to get around as best they can with no idea how to do it safely. We need a way to reach them and I’m not sure what it is.

OTOH, there is also a segment of transportation cyclists who do know better but seem to think it’s cool to act like they don’t give a damn.

Yesterday afternoon on Lake Howell Road (the speed-bump section), there was a cyclist riding 6 inches from the curb with no hands on the handlebars, swinging his arms as if he hadn’t a care in the world, with a line of cars behind him. I always ride in an assertive position there and sometimes it means cars can’t pass. That’s OK. There is really no need for cars to pass on that stretch of road, the speed differential is less than 5mph. What was interesting was that despite his bad lane position, the motorists behind him waited until they could give him a wide berth, probably because he wasn’t actively controlling his bicycle.

The cavalier ‘tude was annoying, but here’s the big rub. The motorists waited patiently (there was no honking) and passed him safely. But when he reached the small queue at the 4-way stop, he put his hands on the handlebars, squeezed past the 2 cars in front of him and ran the stop sign! Then he swooped across the lane into the center turn lane and rode to the Howell Branch intersection with no hands on the handlebars.

These people reinforce, for every motorist that sees them, the belief that cyclists are incompetent scofflaws that don’t belong on the road. I’m always appalled at the anti-cyclist vitriol when I read the comment sections of newspaper articles about cycling. But it’s hard to argue when I witness this type of cycling day after day. I see more garbage riders and scofflaw jokers than I do competent, law-abiding cyclists. Sadly, it’s not a mystery why so many people hate us and DOTs want to shove us out of the way.

I see a common thread in cycling advocacy forums that cyclists can do no wrong—we’re all helpless victims of oppression by the “kar kulture.” Car dominance and speed-centric culture does make things hard for us, but we need to clean our own house before we have a defensible position on this issue.

12 replies
  1. PM Summer
    PM Summer says:

    As Walt Kelly’s Pogo so famously observed a few decades ago…

    “We have met the enemy, and they are us.”

  2. PM Summer
    PM Summer says:

    Keri said… “Warning: I’m cranky.”

    Probably caught it from one of those old white guys with axes to grind.


  3. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    Was he wearing a helmet?

    I wish there was something that identified those of us who try to ride the right way (sometimes I think a helmet does help imply that perception), so that cars could make a quick determintation: “Oh, this cyclist knows what he’s/she’s doing” vs. “Oh, this cyclist doesn’t look right — yes, he’s running a red light! Too bad he’s not like the other cyclists ….”

    I mean, I don’t want a uniform for all, but some way of visually telling a motorist “yes, I know the proper way to ride a bike on the road” …….

  4. danc
    danc says:

    Building on PM’ s reference to Walt Kelley’s Pogo, is “Mr Dumb Moves” a ‘hobo cyclist’?

    From the Hobo ethical code: “Decide your own life, don’t let another person run or rule you.”?

  5. Keri
    Keri says:

    Andrew asked: “Was he wearing a helmet?”

    Neither of them were. However, the wearing of a helmet isn’t a reliable determinant for the quality of a rider. I’ve seen plenty of helmet-wearing dingbats. And I know some non-helmet-wearing, extremely competent cyclists.

    The best we can do is show ourselves to be competent and law-abiding through our behavior on the road… and hope not to be prejudged by motorists who may be biased by experiencing the behavior of bozos. And try to offer them the same equity.

  6. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Most of my bike commuting stressful moments are due to unexpected wrong-way cyclists. Since they worship the gutter, they pass to my right, but I always worry they’ll swerve to their left right before we cross. Some dutifully wear helmets. Makes ya cranky & wanna yell “get off the road!”

  7. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Actually, I worry they’ll swerve toward MY left (their right). I get confused about left & right when dealing with wrong-way types. Perhaps they’re ex-pat Brits…

  8. Keri
    Keri says:

    There’s no telling what a wrong-way rider will do. I’ve had them swerve both directions. I was catching up to one the other day on a residential street—he was riding away from me on the other side of the road—when an oncoming car came around the corner and swerved head-on toward me to avoid the idiot. After that, he turned left and decided to ride on the right side of the road.

  9. Dragon
    Dragon says:

    As I recall that corner could use more than a bit of tweaking, pot holes, storm drains, no ramps to the paths, need to be up on the sidewalk to hit the button for the light and fell backing up to get back to the street, and then a total mess at the south end of the park, and very narrow lanes if you go north, with the parked cars along the way an added danger. To say nothing of the major traffic bottlenecking through from downtown.

    The path he took was not a good one but there are not many good ones there. The reason he was on the far side of the street might have been from picking out a way across the tracks that is also very problematic there.

    I was not there so I don’t know. I avoid that corner if at all possible.

  10. Keri
    Keri says:

    Yes, the potholes are terrible! And you have to pay attention to the road when riding through the intersection as a result. But other than the potholes, the intersection itself is not at all problematic.

    I ride through that intersection regularly on my way to work — with traffic, in the correct traffic lane, as a vehicle — with ZERO problems. Sometimes I turn right on Orange and ride in the traffic lane until I make a left at N Ivanhoe Blvd. Sometimes I turn left and ride in the right traffic lane and turn Rt on S Ivanhoe to go to Lakeview. Both routes are good, conflict-free and safe. My behavior on both is law-abiding and predictable… just as any other vehicle, only slower. My experience has always been good. And it always amazes me to see cyclists making things so unnecessarily difficult for themselves trying to avoid riding on the road where it is so incredibly easy.

    The RR tracks are perpendicular to the road. Crossing them in the traffic lane is not a problem. In fact, the way this guy crossed them was actually more likely to cause him to crash because he was at an angle rather than perpendicular. Before they repaved around them last year, they were much more jarring — I used to try to get enough speed to bunny-hop the worst part. They’re nicer now. But either way, perpendicular tracks are NOT a problem… crossing at a closer-to-parallel angle like this guy did is what causes crashes.

    This is not an issue of infrastructure. This is an issue of a person not thinking of himself as driving a vehicle with a legal right (and obligation) to drive predictably in the road. Instead he was acting like a pedestrian on wheels… or as my friend Summer says: like an urban deer.

    As a result he is far more likely to be hit by a car and to experience constant conflicts with cars.

    It’s very easy to ride in a way that produces virtually no conflicts — and is actually far safer even than driving a car. It only requires that you think of yourself as a driver and drive your bike like a human-powered motorcycle. Don’t worry about being slow. Motorists will change lanes and pass. Just take your place on the road and act like you belong there… because you do!

  11. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Keri mentions avoiding potholes, which is easier when one has the entire lane, of course. One of the other benefits I’ve found is the virtual lack of debris on the lane. I ride on commuter grade tires (Schwalbe Marathon Plus) which are heavier than some riders’ entire wheel and tire assembly, but have been quite durable, especially since I don’t pick up the trash in the litter-lane (aka bike lane/shoulder).

    Keri’s comment about being safer than driving a car strikes home too. My wife and I own and use a couple electric vehicles. They are somewhat more limited than the bike in that the range has to be considered, but it works for my non-commuting wife’s trip to work and other destinations. It’s slower than other motor vehicles, but as with a bike, other drivers go around and that’s all there is to it. There are angry horn-blowers for the EV too, but more thumbs-ups than I get. When she has to drive the Infernal Combustion Engine powered vehicle, she drives slower than surrounding traffic and the trips are more relaxing.

    The unfortunate aspect of being a proper road user is that suggesting it to others is not well received. I have ordered the Traffic book suggested in another entry, to better understand why. Keri’s reference to a human powered motorcycle brings to mind the Yahoo group for electric assisted bicycles, (a bunch of Yahoos, to be sure) and the reaction to my suggestion that operating in the lane would be safer. One of the message posts became insulting: http://tinyurl.com/6hqnmt and that’s just sad.

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