Tuesday, September 4, 2012

On annoying cyclist behavior

I love cyclists.

I love watching other people ride their bikes. I love looking at other peoples' bikes, and checking out how they have chosen to set them up. I also get great pleasure from hearing that a fellow cyclist is enjoying their riding experience.

However, like pretty much anyone who steps outside in an urban environment with their eyes open, I frequently see lousy and annoying cyclists exhibiting lousy and annoying cyclist behavior.

These renegade hooligans discredit the value of responsible cycling for the rest of us, and it's no wonder people are quick to judge me as a reckless person simply because I ride a bicycle.

I recently had someone say to me in conversation, "Oh, I'll bet you save a lot of time commuting by bicycle! It must be nice to not have to stop at red lights."

The real kicker is that the person was being completely sincere, and not just making a sarcastic jab at lawless cyclists; there is a disgustingly common misconception that cyclists are somehow immune to the rules of the road, and can meander about as they please with no regard to other road users, pedestrians, or even their own mortality.

I would like to offer an official waxy opinion regarding cyclists who disregard the rules of the road: you suck.

Here are a few things you should not find yourself doing while you cruise along on your two-wheeled wonder:

  • Running red lights. You are using the same road space as cars and pedestrians who are expected to observe the lights, signs and signals that very clearly describe when you are allowed to go, and when you are expected to stop. Your impatience is unjustified, because most traffic lights will have you waiting a maximum of thirty seconds. If you are choosing to travel on a vehicle that tops out at fifteen miles per hour, can't you afford thirty seconds from your life to wait for the stupid light? If for nothing more than the simple sake of not being a dick?
  • Traveling the wrong way down one-way streets. What are you, stupid? You are going to hurt someone, and I hope it's just yourself. It is very likely that thirty yards away is another street that is going the appropriate direction for your intended route of travel. You are inconveniencing all other persons using the street correctly by going the wrong way, and making everyone else adjust to your selfish laziness. Try to at least pretend you are a smart person while you ride your bicycle, even though you are clearly not that bright at all.
  • Traveling the wrong way down a bike lane. This is even worse, because you are endangering cyclists who are actually using the road correctly. A lot of cyclists going the right way don't know how to respond to an idiot barreling straight towards them in the bike lane; best case scenario, they are usually forced to signal out of the lane and go around these offensive bike salmon. I even see bike salmon in the wrong bike lane even if there is a more directionally appropriate bike lane on the opposite side of the road, apparently because they are too lazy and self-absorbed to simply travel on the correct side of the street.
  •  Pulling up in front of other cyclists at the light. I have no idea why this constantly happens. In very few other situations in life does a person feel justified waltzing boldly to the front of the line when they are clearly the last to arrive, but it happens with cyclists at red lights all the time. Cyclists will pull up in front of you, even if it lands them squarely in the middle of a crosswalk or a live intersection. People get absorbed by this mentality that because they are on a bicycle, they have a right to scoot in front of the rest of traffic and wait in the front of the line. But wait, I'm a cyclist too! Take your proper place in the back of the line, you selfish putz.
[The worst offenders are the cyclists who cut in front of you at the light and then proceed to travel much slower than you, forcing you to wait for an opportunity to pass them again. This can turn into a devilishly annoying game of leap-frog, and begs the question: "What the heck is wrong with you?!"]
  •   Trying to pass a bus on the right when they have pulled over to take on passengers. I shouldn't have to explain this one. Don't be lazy: signal out of your lane and pass the bus on the left. Life is hard enough for people that have to take the bus everywhere; they certainly don't need the threat of collision with a cyclist added to their list of woes. If you can't be bothered to pass the bus on the left or it seems too risky with the traffic at hand, just wait a couple seconds behind the bus. It's gonna pass you again anyhow.
  •  Neglecting to slow down or stop for pedestrians in a crosswalk. I constantly encounter pedestrians who appear surprised that I stop for them. They assume that because I am on a bicycle I will ignore their right of way and plow through the crosswalk without any regard. I usually find it necessary to offer a hand gesture asserting the fact that I will allow them to use the crosswalk before I proceed. This is not how it should be! Pedestrians are more vulnerable than even cyclists, and right of way is not dictated by courtesy--it is the law. As a rule of thumb, if you estimate a pedestrian will make it to the crosswalk before you can realistically pass through it, you should slow down or stop to allow them that right. Don't be a dick. It is rare enough for pedestrians to actually use the crosswalk; you should honor their respect for the rules of the road by showing them that you respect them too.
  • Failing to advertise your intentions with proper signaling. If your goal is to instigate a traffic accident, then you are best off forgoing hand signals. For those of us who are not stupid and suicidal, please try to communicate with the other road users before you attempt a traffic maneuver. Shocking as it may seem, most motorists have no idea what the heck you are doing on the road, and have no ability to anticipate your spontaneous swerving throughout the lane. Even if you are just passing a double-parked car, signal out of the lane!
[As an addendum to my post on signaling from a few weeks back, if you are changing lanes from the left to the right, a right-turn signal with the left hand is not appropriate. That is a signal intended to indicate an intention of turning. In this case, point with your right hand. Whenever you are changing lanes (either side), the most appropriate thing you can do is simply point to the road space you anticipate occupying. This is the simplest and most universally understood announcement of your intention when changing lanes.]
  •  Riding on the sidewalk. It is called a sidewalk, not a side-ride. Have some respect for people that are stuck on foot, and keep your darn vehicle on the road. The only exception to this rule is in the case of multi-use trails that feed into sidewalks, where the cyclist is expected to use the crosswalk to cross the roadway in order to continue the trail. If that's not the case, you are just being a dick.
  • Talking on the phone. It's bad enough that motorists do this, but at least they don't completely compromise their ability to operate the brakes of their vehicle by doing it. Try to keep your hands on the handlebars, please. If you simply cannot wait to field your precious phone call, pull your bike to the side of the road. People swerving around the road because they are jamming their hand into their pockets trying to wrestle out a phone call so they can tell homeboy how they aren't up to anything, "just chilling, what's up with you?" deserve whatever clumsy fate they are destined for. You can't work the brake lever if there is a phone in your hand that you are actively holding against the side of your fat head. It's just impossible.
Riding a bicycle can be fun and safe, but the latter is largely dependent on not being a complete moron. Annoying and selfish cyclists will always exist, because annoying and selfish people will always exist, but the fewer of them on the road the better.

Thanks for tuning in for this week's waxy PSA, readers. Remember, before every ride take a moment to check your brakes and the air pressure in your tires, and then pull your head all the way out of your posterior.

Until next week (and hopefully indefinitely after that), try to make sure you are not only just one less car on the road, but also one less idiot as well.


  1. I love how clearly I can hear your voice in your writing-- I think that's one of the most difficult things to accomplish as a writer and also one of the most satisfying to experience as a reader. I'm sure it helps that I've actually HEARD your impassioned tirades about outrageous cyclist and motorist behavior, but my initial comment stands. I love your blog because it's so true to you, and I think you're pretty dang awesome. Though I am a bit concerned that my lack of experience when it comes to city biking could land me on your 'list'. While I wait for my bike to be finished, I'll be studying up to become a competent, responsible, Jeremy-approved cyclist.


  2. I take my bike to work sometimes and I ride frequently for pleasure. All I can say is, you NAILED it. These people make it worse for all of us and it's great to hear a voice of reason from within the biking community.

  3. This really helped especially with my homework i thought those where the best points i have ever seen and i loved the extra explanation and i think all what you said was right and should be complained about cyclists!