Why do they do this?

This rider doesn’t start out against traffic, but he swoops to the opposing lane just before the intersection. He is lucky the car entering the intersection from his left was not turning right, or it is likely he would have been hit.

Riding against traffic accounts for 45% of bike-v-car crashes in Orlando. The majority of those are intersection crashes because the bicyclist comes from an unexpected direction. Wrong-way riding is a bad decision caused by incorrect mapping of cause and effect. Despite the numerous conflicts people experience from this behavior, they don’t connect the dots. Why?

And how to we change that?

22 replies
  1. Columbusite
    Columbusite says:

    It’s because people think that you “ride” bikes; you’re not supposed to “drive” them. It seems to me that the issue is getting people (cyclists and motorists alike) to understand that bikes=vehicles and that they should be used as such, i.e., like cars or scooters.

    That brings up another interesting thought; when was the last time you saw a scooterist pull the same sort of thing some cyclists do like the example in that video? Scooters are much smaller than cars, have two wheels and are slower than cars (in some states like Ohio they’re mandated to have 30MPH as a top speed), so why the absence of unpredictable, illogical behavior?

    While it doesn’t feel natural, perhaps we should differentiate how we use our bikes in everyday speech by saying that we “drive” ours vs “ride” them.

  2. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Such bicyclists don’t differentiate between “ride” and “drive.”

    The thought is much simpler: “Never get in front of a following car.” I see that move-to-the-left-before-turning-left on Livingston. They ride with the flow in the bike lane, then do what you see in the video.

    How do we change it? The same way we change all bad cycling behavior; by getting more cyclists in training courses and getting more vehicular cyclists on our roadways giving good examples. Some of those “part-time salmon” will take courses; some will change by watching the examples of others; some will never get it.

    My goal is no longer to get garbage riders to change their behavior; it’s to get so many vehicular cyclists on the streets that garbage behavior will become the exception and be seen for what it is.

  3. Keri
    Keri says:

    Will Rogers said:

    “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.”

    The problem with intractable garbage riding is that so many people pee on the electric fence over and over and the results make them think peeing is dangerous.

  4. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I’m in agreement with Mighk. It doesn’t matter how hard I try, to assist garbage riders, in any form, they aren’t going to change. I also share his hope that there will someday be enough traffic-safe cyclists on the roadway that the garbage riders will feel safe enough to emulate them.

    Keri’s interpretation of Will Rogers comment is a hoot!

    My wife had an art show this past weekend in Port Orange. I pedaled my velomobile to the show, and parked across from her display tent, with the cameras running. Listening to the comments after I returned home was amusing and slightly saddening.

    “I saw him on Dunlawton. He was in front of a truck, right in the middle of the lane (11′ width) and I don’t know why he didn’t get run over! He got into the right turn lane too. Someone is going to turn right into him.”

    A motorist without a clue.

      • fred_dot_u
        fred_dot_u says:

        that was about as good as the comments got, but I agree about the granny with the juvenile vocabularly.

        Under the topics column to the right on my screen, there’s an entry for vehil cular cycling and I just now noticed pedes trains too. The latter must be a group of walkers in an organized line?

  5. Eric
    Eric says:

    >Despite the numerous conflicts people experience from >Why?<

    This appears to be a habit he developed to avoid conflicts with cars that would be coming up behind him or cars coming the other way. He doesn't want to stop and he doesn't want to stop with his left arm out waiting for oncoming cars to clear the intersection, so he swoops out of their way.

    In this case, there were no cars on his street and you are right, he is lucky that the car that was there didn't turn toward him and hit him. Since a right turning car is supposed to get close to the curb before making the turn, it was possible.

    But even though there were no cars to avoid by swooping left, he has that habit now.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      Eric, I think you’re right that this was more about habit than a response to existing conditions.

      I have a vague recollection of making a similar maneuver decades ago. I was turning left onto a side street (no traffic control) and I didn’t want to be “in the way” so I swooped in a gap, rode about 20 feet on the edge of the (empty) opposing lane. As I got to the intersection, a car approached from my left on the side street. I had an instant reality check, “oh! that was really stupid!” and I never did it again.

  6. ToddBS
    ToddBS says:

    Riding against traffic accounts for 45% of bike-v-car crashes in Orlando.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if that were the number for all areas, not just Orlando. I wouldn’t be surprised if it were much higher than that figure in my area. I seem to see more wrong way bike drivers here than not.

    I almost hit one while driving my car the other day. I was following behind a large delivery truck on a narrow 2 lane road. Of course I can’t see around the truck, and then it swerved to the left lane to reveal a wrong-way cyclist headed directly for me. I was able to swerve as well, but had I been the slightest bit distracted (I definitely am more conscious of that since picking up cycling again) he would have eaten my windshield.

  7. Brrr
    Brrr says:

    It looks to me that the rider in the video was turning left onto the sidewalk at that intersection. If that’s the case, his actions make perfect sense. I make exactly that kind of turn at the last block before my house so I can ride the sidewalk the last 75 ft or so to my front door.

    • Jayeson
      Jayeson says:

      I don’t think so, there is no sidewalk:


      Even so, that is a poor way to make a turn onto a sidewalk. Looking at the street view it all seems more obvious to me. Turning left properly in traffic requires an assertive riding position which is behavior I believe has to be taught. I was (fortunately) taught never to ride against traffic in elementary school so in my younger days I would have waited off on the right hand side of the road until traffic cleared.

      • Jayeson
        Jayeson says:

        I meant to add that it requires some level of confidence to negotiate a 4 way stop. If you aren’t sure of what the law or perhaps more importantly, social norms are, one might choose to avoid the situation all together. Personally, I found even normal signaling to be uncomfortable at first and I am still not comfortable in signaling cars to abort their overtake.

        • Doohickie
          Doohickie says:

          I am still not comfortable in signaling cars to abort their overtake.

          Heh. That’s my favorite new trick. My commute includes a mile or so of two-lane country road with no shoulders, including a no-passing zone around a blind curve. The cars pass me anyway, usually going all the way over the double yellow. After almost witnessing an accident because they couldn’t wait, I now signal “NO PASSING” by riding in the right tire track, putting me left arm out and down, palm facing back. I have no idea if that’s any kind of a standard symbol, but the meaning appears to be obvious. I’ve had cars start to pull out, then tuck back in behind me when I do that. After the oncoming lane is clear, I’ll pull the signal down and maybe even shift right. If we are in a passing zone by then, I’ll even wave them around. Surprisingly, since starting this I haven’t had one honk or irate comment, and lots of waves. When they realize you just saved their butt, they appreciate it.

          • rodney
            rodney says:

            I’ve been experimenting with the “pass me” wave. Seems to work well in most instances. One day, I was made the honorary Grand Poo-bah and had a motorist follow me for just over a mile then make a right turn. Plenty of passing opportunities but they refused to take even one.

            Of the motor vehicles behind the knowledgeable motorist, I interpreted the dropping down a gear or two, high rpm passes (with wide berth, of course) to mean irritated for being delayed. Glad to know I wasn’t the one causing the “delay”.

          • ChipSeal
            ChipSeal says:

            Because it is the person who is overtaking me who has the responsibility to pass me safely, I make no signals and pay them no mind if they refuse to pass me.

            My duty to inform other road users is encompassed in my “body language” of lane position and a predictable course.

            Any further action on my part to herd, direct or communicate to faster traffic is unnecessary and waste of my attention. The hazards that will hurt a cyclist are ahead of him, not behind him.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        There actually is a sidewalk there, but it would require a very sharp, slow maneuver to get onto it. The rider made a sweeping turn.

        As Jayeson says, that’s a poor way to get on a sidewalk.

        I actually make a left onto a near-side sidewalk at a 4-way stop when visiting a couple businesses in Baldwin Park. If there is no traffic around, I stop at the stop sign, turn left into the crosswalk, coast to the corner, dismount and walk to the business. If there is other traffic, I pull over to the right side, dismount and use the crosswalk as a pedestrian.

        The bicycle is unique for providing direct access and allowing instant mode switch (from vehicle to pedestrian mode), but is unwise to make unpredictable movements in the presence of other vehicles. Improvised maneuvers should be done mindfully.

        BTW, the pull off to the right and wait strategy is an excellent way to deal with uncertainty! There is almost always a gap at some point. And waiting for it gives a person the chance to observe the traffic movements from the perspective of “how do I fit in here?” In time, that information translates into problem-solving strategies. If we broke it down, I suspect many of us evolved our traffic skills that way. Thanks for that insight, Jayeson!

  8. Laura M
    Laura M says:

    I am forever grateful that when I got into cycling my mentors consisted of a gang of old roadies from the 70s where cycling ettiquette was a big deal and they taught me how to ride safely. I didn’t realize I was being taught VC at the time and now many of these issues are intuitive for me today.

    Over time however, as cycling got more popular the testosterone seemed to take over and there was less respect given to the ‘old ways’ (cycling ettitquette). Not to mention people couldn’t figure out how to echelon in a cross wind or not ride directly behind someone’s wheel in a paceline, etc. I admit, I can get quite snippy in a paceline – mostly cuz I like my skin on me, not the pavement.

  9. JohnB
    JohnB says:

    I’ve come to a similar conclusion to some of you others. They just don’t want to ever be in the middle of the road, so they choose a gap in traffic to cross to the other side so they can take their left turn without being in the middle of the road. I guess it makes some kind of sense, in an traffic-fearing sort of way. They probably think it’s safer than being out in the middle.

    One day last year I was first in line at a red light, with a car on my left in the next lane over. There was also an empty right turn only lane to my right. Another bicyclist (who I had seen on the sidewalk earlier) rides up in the empty right turn only lane, turns left perpendicularly and rides across the front of me and the motorist stopped next to me, to continue on the road to our left, going the wrong way in what was for that road another right turn only lane. I yelled something at him, and the motorist lowers his passenger-side window and says to me, “That guy’s a real idiot.” “Yep,” I said.

  10. Will
    Will says:

    I was sitting at iBar on tuesday watching orange ave traffic go by. One of downtown’s finest bike cops come salmoning up orange ave and stops for the light. Good for him, that he respects the red light but not the direction of travel. He then went up orange ave, splitting the only lane available with an oncoming car (parking on the left side, and a telephone truck with a guy in a manhole on the right side.

    Also, the cop bikes either don’t have lights, or the cops don’t know how to turn them on. Next time, I’ll take video.

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