A biker’s list of complaints.

I open with the caveat that I understand that pedestrians and drivers have their own complaints about bikers not obeying laws. However, I have noticed that there is often a rush to blame the cyclist in an accident even though when a big truck/car/something motorized is involved I think greater responsibility falls with the operator of the 2 ton (possible) killing machine. In any event, I recognize that I myself ride through stop signs and red lights (after making sure it’s clear) and that some folks may call that dangerous despite my feeling that I am very alert about my surroundings.

With that being said, I have stated before that I am an angry biker and it’s because I feel there generally isn’t enough awareness of the many other people using the city’s services and infrastructure. So here are my specific complaints. I start the list off short and think I may add to it every now and then when the mood strikes me…

  • When pedestrians cross illegally without looking and almost run into me (probably sending me flying into traffic)
  • Cars that race to the red light seemingly in an effort to get away from the bike, which scares them since they clearly don’t trust themselves to drive and SHARE the road, thus wasting lots of gas, emitting more pollutants that probably get into my lungs more than anyone else’s since my bike lane puts me right next to their exhaust.
  • Scooters that park at bike racks (and fall over and spill diesel fuel all over my bicycle). Scooters are by law not treated the same as bicycles. They’re pretty much motorcycles (you need a motorcycle license to operate one). For that matter, people that drive their scooters up onto the sidewalks to park them or what not are completely breaking the law (just learned that on the local news).
  • Scooters that use bike lanes. Bike lanes are for non-motorized bicycles. It is therefore a slow lane. Using this lane with a fast motor-powered vehicle can be really dangerous — especially when motorcycles and the like weave in and out of them, which I see in Capitol Hill all the time.
  • When cars make right turns without signaling or even looking even when there’s a bike lane to the right. This creates what can be a deadly and tragic situation.
  • When cars honk at me for riding in traffic when that’s what I’m supposed to do.
  • Bicyclists that don’t wear helmets. It just makes me nervous for them since we don’t live in a country where other users of the transportation system are aware enough about cyclists…like in the Netherlands where most people don’t even wear helmets because of the level of awareness (and maybe slow city traffic).
  • Bicyclists that ride on the sidewalk really fast.
  • Pedestrians that don’t know how to share paved trails (walk in the opposite direction that the cyclists are supposed to be going in).
  • Runners that use the bike lanes. Cyclists shouldn’t have to go really slow in a bike lane and shouldn’t have to swerve into traffic to avoid runners (who often have earbuds plugging up their hearing and thus can’t hear me when I yell that I’m coming up behind them).
  • Cars and trucks that use bike lanes as shoulders — they are not for temporary parking!!

I needed to get some of this out. I know I make mistakes all the time, but often it seems like people don’t realize they shouldn’t be doing certain things…and so I see the same people in my neighborhood doing the same annoying and dangerous things…

Lastly, I have a basic complaint in that I wish there were no cars in the city. While I have a lot of complaints about pedestrians and scooters, they just don’t carry the same weight with me as when car drivers operate their vehicles dangerously — or oblivious to cyclists, which may be worse.

EDIT:  I just found the perfect knitting project to compliment my angry bikerness.  (the machine-knit sweaters are amazing as well —  thanks to Lekkercraft for introducing them to me).

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17 Responses to “A biker’s list of complaints.”

  1. akb Says:

    As a cyclist, I don’t like it when other cyclists bike on the left side of the road. It makes it more dangerous as cars try to squeeze in between to get by.

    A lot of cyclists don’t follow rules of the road in very dangerous and rude ways, myself included. Probably the things that I do most often is not yield the right of way (who wants to stop?) or weave around cars that are stopped or in traffic. I made an effort to improve these things and I found that I get angry less often about the things you mentioned. I bike slower and am more willing to stop and find that it has really helped.

  2. Make up your mind Says:

    Bicyclists need to make a decision. Do you want to be cars or pedestrians? You pick one or the other and you follow the rules and I bet over half of your problems disappear. If you want to be cars- Ride in the flow of traffic, no more weaving. STOP RUNNING RED LIGHTS AND STOP SIGNS! If you want to be pedestrians who can run red lights and stop signs and always have the right of way…ride slooooowly on the sidewalk. There is nothing worse than a bicycler running lights and stop signs, and it informs the general disdain for bicyclists from motorists like me.

  3. mmmona Says:

    I recommend for all drivers to ride a bicycle for a commute trip at least once. I have played all the roles of being a cyclist, pedestrian and a driver and I strongly believe it’s helped me see what’s annoying and dangerous on all sides. I never run red rights when there are cars clearly coming–I’m the one that’s going to die. I yield to peds in crosswalks, like I’m supposed to. But from my experience it’s the drivers that are oblivious to cyclists even when they obey the laws perfectly.
    I also love how drivers assume that they obey the law at all times…how about this: STOP SPEEDING IN MY RESIDENTIAL NEIGHBORHOOD!

    I sense this attitude from drivers that cyclists have the PRIVILEGE to use facilities that they also pay taxes for and if they don’t operate perfectly they shouldn’t be allowed to use them. Well I’d like to flip that since it’s the cars that make accidents deadly, and drivers are quite frequently not at all faultless.

  4. Matt Says:

    “I never run red rights when there are cars clearly coming.”

    Could you imagine someone saying that about driving a car? It’s insane. You deserve no courtesy on the road. Safety, yes. Courtesy? Hell no.

  5. carylmarx Says:

    To Make up your mind:

    jealous?

  6. Anne Says:

    I’ve started to use my bike more to run errands in the city. So far, I think I must have a look of terror on my face because all the cars slow down around me. I am very fearful that I’ll meet the same fate as the woman killed by a trash truck turning right without seeing her last month in Dupont (area of DC). I think the trend will be toward more bike riders in the city, though, and that makes me happy.

  7. Gil Says:

    Mmmona,

    I believe it’s just going to have to be give and take on the part of all. My own adage is that if respect is given, it’s usually returned, even in DC.

  8. mmmona Says:

    Gil,
    I completely agree.
    These are just my gripes. everyone’s got their own.

    But to comment on Matt’s comment:
    there’s a huge difference between bicycle conduct and driver conduct–and it pertains to the impact of your vehicle. A bicyclist will not likely kill a driver with their bike, but the driver’s car can definitely kill the bicyclist–regardless of who’s fault the accident is–and I think that’s something to think about.
    If you drive with no courtesy to non-motorized traffic you’re irresponsible. walkers and bikers have a responsibility to be safe, but the same rules don’t apply as they do with cars–and that’s why the actual laws are different.

    ETA: While when I bike I do not strictly obey traffic laws geared toward cars…like waiting at stop sign when there are no cars in sight anywhere (which is frequently the case in my neighborhood), when I drive a car in the city or elsewhere I ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS operate with deference and courtesy to bikers and walkers. and I drive slow.

  9. Marissa Says:

    Matt–

    You seem to be missing the point. Cars are bulky. Bikes are not. On a bike, not only is our peripheral vision less blocked, but we have more physical maneuvering abilities to be able to do such things as run red lights and stop signs without consequence under most circumstances.

    Plus, what you must understand here, is that waiting in line with the flow of traffic at a stoplight is dangerous for a cyclist, who is so much smaller than an SUV. Why not get out in front when we have the chance so motorists can see us?

  10. Matt Says:

    Marissa – I don’t want to be too confrontational, but I get your point and it’s inane. Mass difference between a cyclist and a motor vehicle is completely irrelevant. To extrapolate: just because a car weighs more than a pedestrian doesn’t mean there’s no harm in walking into a busy street without any crosswalk or signaling device. Obey the law. No one with right-of-way should be expected to slam on their brakes, swerve into oncoming traffic, or lord forbid swerve onto a crowded urban sidewalk to avoid hitting a cyclist or pedestrian who is breaking the law.

    Mmmona – I agree with the great majority of your posits in the post – don’t honk at cyclists that are obeying the law; bike lanes are for bikes; runners belong off the roads; wear your helmets. But courtesy – – just obey the laws. Every day on my commute I see cyclists putting OTHERS at risk because of the sense that they’re ‘more maneuverable’ or have a better field of vision. Drivers do not have to and should not be expected to courteously accommodate reckless behavior.

  11. Marissa Says:

    Matt–

    Again, you’re missing the point. 1) There IS a huge difference safety concern as a cyclist on a road with cars which could kills us. I am less visible than someone’s Rav4. A dump truck driver will see you on the road if you’re stopped in front of him (or her) at a stoplight. He might not see me. If I can weave through a few stopped cars at a non-busy intersection to avoid taking the chance that of getting mowed down by a truck, I will take it. It doesn’t affect you. Chances are the driver will be too busy texting or otherwise fussing with his or her cell phone to even notice.

    Also, because it’s all been explained before: http://washcycle.typepad.com/home/2008/07/the-myth-of-the.html.

  12. mmmona Says:

    marissa–
    great link, thanks for posting that!
    there’s always such a rush to blame the cyclist, which is just not intuitive to me. As a driver I also have endless complaints for the many scary drivers. They’re not only dangerous when I’m on my bike, but when I’m in a car as well. And there are so many wacko drivers in DC, since there’s virtually no traffic law enforcement. Love the big u turn in the middle of the street…sometimes I forget that’s completely illegal in DC.

  13. Matt Says:

    Marissa, you said “Cars are bulky. Bikes are not. On a bike, not only is our peripheral vision less blocked, but we have more physical maneuvering abilities to be able to do such things as run red lights and stop signs without consequence under most circumstances.” I responded to that statement, and you said that again I was missing the point – – and then you stated a completely different point. Come on.

    Now, on to your new point, if you’re concerned about being rear-ended by a vehicle, then don’t weave through stopped traffic, splitting lanes to get in front of as many cars as possible. If you’re concerned about being less visible than a Rav4, then you’d better start carbo-loading. Best thing to do, though, is to not violate the law and don’t drive recklessly. In the last six months I’ve seen two different moving bikes hit two stationary cars. Never seen the converse. If traffic is stopped, then stop.

    The opinion piece you linked is nearly swiftian in its ‘modesty’ – – the author complains about parking infractions and cites patently misleading statistics (“From August 1999 through May 2008, the automated red-light enforcement program has, at 49 locations, resulted in 741,780 notices of infraction.” – 741K infractions over 3,225 days at 45 intersections nets approximately 5 red lights ran per intersection in every 24 hour period. How many bikes do you think ran that same light in that 24 hour period? How many violations as a percentage of total? That’s a nonsense article.)

    The only thing I’m advocating is responsible, lawful cycling. I don’t know why you choose to argue against that.

  14. Erinn Says:

    I enjoyed reading your post. I’ve recently moved to DC and commuting is much better here than any other western city I’ve lived in. The drivers, as much as they can be oblivious to your existence, are much more aware of us. I appreciate that, but it could be better. This past week I got honked at by a taxi cab – I was stopped at the bike path crossing to the memorial bridge and he honked at me as he passed. I think he just hated cyclists, even if they aren’t a threat. If I wasn’t in a daze of confusion I would have replied to his honk…

  15. motoproponent Says:

    Y’know every one chooses their vehicle for reasons. I feel that you should exploit every advantage your chosen vehicle gives you. But when people get jealous of the advantage you exploit, don’t pay forward the hate at others similar exploitation. It’s not a stretch to consider the sidewalk a “Pedestrian Lane”. So a motorcycle taking advantage of a “Bicycle Lane” shouldn’t raise any more ire than a Bicycle on the sidewalk. Of course I wouldn’t plow through a packed downtown bike path on my 600 pound BMW with a sizzling hot exhaust, just as you wouldn’t go slamming down a crowded walkway. But if you can safely ignore red lights and stop signs, I can safely cross a white line painted on the ground.

  16. Ann Says:

    BIKERS NEED TO OBEY TRAFFIC LAWS

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