Seattle Newspaper article on cyclist-motorist relations
Article from today's paper:
Crossing paths: Cyclists and motorists are far apart on rules of the road
By KRISTIN DIZON
SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER REPORTER
Cyclists are scofflaws pulling dangerous moves on city streets.
Drivers are road hogs who cut off and flip off people on bikes.
It doesn't take much poking beneath the surface to tap a potent brew of hostility between many a motorist and bicyclist in Seattle.
As the songs say, we could all use a little more peace and brotherhood on the roads. In that spirit, we talked with drivers and cyclists about their perceptions of each other and why they do what they do.
The sins of cyclists that seem to incense motorists most: running red lights or stop signs, going the wrong way down one-way streets, splitting lanes by riding between two lanes, changing lanes or turning without signaling, a holier-than-thou attitude.
And, driver trespasses that stress out cyclists: failing to yield the right of way when turning left; not looking when turning right; opening the car door without looking (thus, giving a cyclist a painful "door prize"); failure to use turn signals; running red lights or stop signs; a holier-than-thou attitude.
Drivers said many cyclists want to be treated like vehicles but don't want to follow the same rules. But drivers who respect traffic laws and the speed limit 100 percent of the time also are an endangered species. Many motorists were sympathetic to the risks cyclists face, and some cyclists excoriated their own for illegal moves.
Behind the handlebars: Cyclists sound off about dangerous drivers
Eric Heller commutes to work seven miles each way from Green Lake to Amazon.com on Beacon Hill. Heller has been hit twice in the past three years -- both times in the bike lane on Second Avenue when drivers turned into him. In what cyclists say is a common occurrence, one motorist drove off; the other drove down the block before returning to help. Heller had scrapes, bruises and a bent frame.
"So I don't ride in the bike lane anymore. I ride in the street," he said, though he gets "the finger all the time." People yell, "Get into the bike lane. You're breaking the law." (It is not illegal to ride in traffic lanes.)
Blings, a messenger who didn't want her real name used, said she feels some animosity from drivers. "I don't blame them. I'd be upset if I was driving around too," she said. "I think they're mad that we can get away with breaking traffic laws."
Blings was recently hit by a woman who turned right into her bike, then drove off before checking on her. She was unharmed.
She says she doesn't use arm signals and knows only one person who does. She runs stop signs and yield signs when it looks clear -- partially because it takes much more energy and effort to stop and restart the bike with muscles, unlike pressing an accelerator or brakes.
And she won't sit behind a line of cars at a light, because that means sucking up exhaust. She rides to the front of the line, which infuriates some drivers. She also rides between lanes, which she says is a courtesy to not slow cars down. "We feel comfortable riding down those lanes, and people can pass us on either side."
Cyclist Joseph Sheedy, who uses a bike to go everywhere and owns 10 to 20 bikes, says he sometimes splits lanes too. "That definitely provokes strong emotions from people."
He said he's safety-conscious in an aggressive way, usually riding between 20 and 25 mph.
"Speed is safety," he said. "If I can stay at or near the speed limit, I should have the complete right to be in the middle of the lane. It's mostly to increase our visibility to motorists and control the situation around me."
Sheedy, like many cyclists, is wary of riding at the right edge of a lane when there's no shoulder or bike lane, because many drivers try to pass with razor-thin, heart-stopping margins.
A few weeks ago, Sheedy says he was deliberately hit from behind by a driver in the University District at a slow speed. He wasn't hurt, but stopped to call police. After yelling at him and referring to cyclists as "hippies of the road," the driver left, but was later visited at her home by an officer. "She just didn't like the fact that I was slowing her down 5 mph," Sheedy said. "There's definitely a strong us vs. them mentality there."
He says he can't criticize others since he bends the law, but hopes drivers understand the seriousness of piloting a 2,000-pound vehicle around bikes. "I think a lot of motorists don't really understand the consequences for cyclists of not using their turn signals or opening their door without looking."
Nick Spang, a 29-year-old graduate student, said it's not fair for cyclists to follow rules that were designed for cars.
"They never had the vulnerabilities or capabilities of bicyclists in mind when they created those rules," said Spang, who sits on the city's Bicycle Advisory Board, but whose views do not reflect the board's. "Bicyclists are small and can't cause the same amount of damage."
Spang, who has been the victim of a hit-and-run collision with a car, says drivers don't treat bicyclists with the same respect as they do other cars. "If a big truck is in the middle of the road doing 5 mph, the cars will wait. But if a cyclist was doing the same, he'd probably get run down or yelled at," Spang said. "People would not accept it."
Behind the wheel: Drivers sound off about reckless cyclists
Rob Neilson, 60, is fed up with cyclists ignoring laws. "It's like they have some moral, pure-of-heart right because they are not using gasoline that they can do anything they want," said Neilson, of Capitol Hill.
"I know stopping at every stop sign is a pain, but my God, the car behind you is stopping at every one," he said. "Don't even get me started about bicyclists talking on cell phones."
Neilson, a freelance stage manager, says he doesn't believe that drivers are breaking the law as much as cyclists. "If cars were disobeying the rules of the road as much as bicyclists, there'd be carnage out there," he said.
Neilson's bottom line is one that many drivers share -- for cyclists to err on the side of caution: "Go with the side of physics. Your 80-pound titanium is going to lose when you hit the smallest compact, right or wrong."
Alana Sorem sees cyclists going the wrong way down one-way streets, but what frustrates the part-time Metro bus driver most is cyclists riding in the "bus only" lane on Bothell Way.
"Double solid yellow lines mean 'do not pass,' except, apparently, for bicyclists," she said.
She said when she comes around a blind curve on a hill going 40 mph in a 60-foot-long bus, she sometimes finds a cyclist going 10 mph. "I veer into the other lane to avoid hitting them sometimes. I have to slam on the brakes and the passengers are jostled," said Sorem.
She's spoken to a few about this, but was flipped off once and ignored other times.
Mike Bishop, 33, drives more than an hour each way from Gold Bar to Ballard for work and worries most about not seeing cyclists at night.
"I've almost hit a couple that had no tailights, headlights or reflective clothing at night," said Bishop, who works at a seafood wholesaler. "You can't see them until you practically run them over."
He thinks people on bikes should have flashing front and rear lights for night riding.
He admits he once hit a cyclist who was turning right -- because he didn't look. The bicyclist was unharmed.
Bishop used to bike a lot himself. "It's great for their health and for the environment and to get more cars off the roads," he said. But, he's loathe to do it now. "I'm just too afraid to even try and ride on the roads."
Brandon Adkins feels similarly. An occasional recreational rider, Adkins, 27, says: "I'm too chicken to ride on the street. I ride on the trails."
Like others, he sees cyclists ignoring laws.
He's irked when cyclists ride to the front at a stoplight, and then drivers who just passed them must now pass them again. "It's kind of annoying, because it backs up all that traffic. It seems like they're causing a big delay."
He's seen people honk at cyclists or pass them aggressively and thinks that's wrong too. "Everybody's guilty. Just as many motorists as cyclists will disobey traffic laws," said Adkins.
Tessa Dul, who lives on Capitol Hill, agrees with that. Dul, 30, sees cyclists run red lights on a hilly overpass to downtown and worries because drivers can't see them on parts of the hill. "If it were me -- knowing that I had less steel around me -- I'd err on the side of not getting hit."
RULES OF THE ROAD FOR CYCLISTS
Cyclists have the same rights and duties as drivers of cars, with a few exceptions.
Both must follow the speed limit and exercise care not to hit pedestrians. Both must use turn signals -- blinkers for cars; hand signals for cyclists.
Pass to the left of another car or bicycle at a safe distance.
Cyclists going at a speed slower than the flow of car traffic are asked to ride as near to the right side of the right lane as is safe (they also may ride in the left part of the left-most lane on a one-way street with two or more lanes).
Cyclists may ride two abreast in roads or on sidewalks.
Cyclists using the sidewalk must ride in a "careful and prudent manner" and yield the right of way to pedestrians as well as give them an audible sign before passing.
Cyclists must yield to pedestrians in and along a crosswalk.
One hand should be on the handlebars of a bike at all times.
Helmets are required by city law for cyclists.
In the dark, bicycles must have a lamp on the front visible from at least 500 feet and a red reflector on the rear visible up to 600 feet from behind (they can also use a red light).
You can find these rules at www.seattle.gov/transportation/bikecode.htm.
Our cyclists and drivers suggested ideas to improve safety on the roads, including:
More bike paths and lanes; and better signage and intersection engineering
More traffic enforcement of laws for cars and bikes
Better visibility for cyclists, including lights in front and behind, and reflective vest or clothing at night; or a tall bicycle flag during the day
Licensing cyclists or requiring them to carry insurance
Including information on bicyclists in the state driver education guide and test
Classes on how to ride in traffic from schools, clubs or bike manufacturers
More following traffic laws by everyone, and more patience
I read that story yesterday. What I find troubling about the article is that the cyclists they quoted who admitted to not obeying traffic rules and riding dangerously creates a bias in the article. Personally, I've found that the representation of bad cyclists amongst the good ones is quite proportional to the bad drivers amongst the good ones. It's interesting that at the end of the article is a list of "rules of the road for cyclists" yet there is no similar list for motorists.
I agree they picked some pretty boneheaded cyclists. This "Blings the Messenger" looks like a strawman for bad cycling behavior. Hard to say how representative it is. Would have been nice if they found at least ONE cyclist who said "Yeah, I obey the law and try not to pi$$ drivers off". I've been riding the roads around Seattle for a long time, over twenty years off and on, and I've had very few problems with motorists. Maybe I've been lucky.
One of the most common problems with drivers here is people yielding right of way when they shouldn't, but that also happens when you are in a car.
Originally Posted by cheg
I too have been riding around Seattle and the Puget Sound area for many years ( since about 1972 ) with very few problems. I actually have less problems with motorists when I am on my bicycle then I had when I drove a car.
How is the riding out on the islands in the Sound? Was up there last summer and the islands just looked like a blast.
Originally Posted by pmseattle
PMseattle I have to agree, lately I"m cruising around on my bike, and having less friction with motorists than I had when I was one!
Know Your Turf
Of course, if you're a reporter on a deadline it's a lot easier to find a bike messenger than a responsible cyclist! There are a couple of downtown coffee shops where messengers hang out waiting for jobs... easy pickins!
My problem with the article is that I don't see that degree of hostility here in Seattle: it sounds like another case of the media trying to drum up us-v-them divisiveness. red stats and blue anyone? As someone who apparently does a few of the things that anger motorists (esp stop signs, splitting lanes, & riding to the front of stopped traffic) I can honestly say I have never, ever felt any animosity from Seattle drivers. I have occasionally had near misses with drivers who did stupid things, but that is by far the exception. Seven years of riding almost daily, I can count the occasions I got mad at a driver on one hand.
The one thing that does bug me is that messengers apparently have a free license to break the law downtown. That wouldn't bug me so much if it weren't for the fact that police outside the downtown core love to ticket cyclists for going through red lights under far, far safer conditions. I stopped running red lights after my second ticket from police. But every time I am stopped at a red light at a broad, open intersection with no traffic in any direction I think of the messengers blowing red lights downtown, weaving through cross traffic, while the police look on benevolently and I get steamed all over again! Yes I made my feelings known to the courts when I contested my tickets. No it didn't matter. The law inconsistently or even nonsensically enforced is still, apparently, the law.
Know Your Turf
I take that back. There was one occasion when a utility / construction pickup of some sort passed me the guys yelled something like get off the road. I was cranking up a reasonably steep hill, but it's a wide, two lane road with plenty of room to pass. That was particularly scary because not only did they not give me any berth in passing, but the door to some side compartment on the truck was hanging open and came within inches of decapitating me.
Still, one bad experience in seven years? Not too bad.
Well it's not perfect. I had a guy at a cross street stop sign look right at me then pull out in front of me. I T-boned him but not fast enough to go over the bars. Put a huge dent in the door of his Beemer . But that was in about 1986.
My favorite was the Metro bus driver...
"She said when she comes around a blind curve on a hill going 40 mph in a 60-foot-long bus, she sometimes finds a cyclist going 10 mph. "I veer into the other lane to avoid hitting them sometimes. I have to slam on the brakes and the passengers are jostled," said Sorem."
Her a$$ should be fired IMMEDIATELY!!! What the hell is she doing driving 40 mph around blind curves in a 60 foot bus?????
I can't find my pants
Well, it did state that: "Cyclists have the same rights and duties as drivers of cars, with a few exceptions." and then started to list them off.
Originally Posted by khuon
What I found interesting is this:
"Go with the side of physics. Your 80-pound titanium is going to lose when you hit the smallest compact, right or wrong."
80 lbs?!?! That's more than half of me! No wonder these people are going so slow and holding up traffic!
Amen. What if she came around the same curve and found a 60-foot-long bus doing 10 mph? Would she stop and give them a lecture like she did the cyclist? The operator of a bus is the operator of a bus, regardless of what is happening outside the bus.
Originally Posted by doctore
That bus driver tries to run me over on a regular basis! There's a LOT of road rage hidden just under the surface in here in latteland. If you haven't been screamed at by a driver in Seattle you must be riding the bike paths all the time
...seriously, I get some asshat driver giving me a hard time on fourth ave northbound, or second and fifth south, at least once a month, because speedy cyclists can pace and pass traffic and get up off the stops faster then traffic. Sure, lots of drivers are nice in seattle but there's a lot of angry drivers here too. I've had run ins all over town and out in the country for doing nothing other than riding my bike.
Regardless if I'm following the rules or not, there are lots of drivers out there that don't like me riding my bike, and chances good are one's right behind me. Taxi drivers, angry soccer moms, frustrated hummer drivers, dumb suburbanites etd. I've gotten threatened and screamed at by them all.
There are a few bus drivers in Seattle that are obviously anti bike judging by their driving around cyclists that I've seen here in town. As well as that bus driver they quoted, I swear she's out to get me when I'm riding down Dexter
Last edited by Bekologist; 08-30-05 at 09:42 AM.
Trust me, the cops write tickets to messengers for running red lights downtown. Just because you don't see it happen doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I got pulled over one morning and becuase I didn't have my ID on me I got handcuffed and taken downtown to until my boss came in and ID'd me. Messengers don't get any free ride, they just get away with it more often than not.
Originally Posted by bluejack
[QUOTE=Treespeed]I got pulled over one morning and becuase I didn't have my ID on me I got handcuffed and taken downtown to until my boss came in and ID'd me. QUOTE]\
What state law requires you to have an ID?
Given the majority's ruling, the only safe bicycle in Illinois is a stationary exercise bike located in one's home or at the gym.
----Illinois State Supreme Court, Boub V Wayne
Also what I thought was funny was at least the cyclists came clean about the times they've broken the law, but none of the motorists did. And the drivers are the ones accusing the cyclists of having, "a holier than thou" attitude. Please, why didn't the reporter take some of the drivers to task about always driving 10mph over the speed limit, not yielding the right of way, or cutting people off. The way this article is skewed you'd think the whole city was filled with a bunch of Ballard Grandmothers being terrorized by tattooed messengers.
Who knows? But the cop still wrote the ticket and the judge upheld it. I think that at the time many messengers had been giving fake names and getting off on their citations, lucky me.
Originally Posted by Treespeed
God, did it ever occur to the bus driver to slow her ass down on blind curves? What a crappy, one-sided, anti-cycling article masquerading under a fair and balanced headline.
Go back and actually read the WHOLE article. The most obvious symmetry is that the list of complaints about BOTH drivers and riders ended with a holier than thou attitude. I also think it was quite intentional that the next to last thing on the list of driver faults was running red lights and stop signs. Something that is the most justified complaint of drivers against cyclists.
Originally Posted by Treespeed
Both when cycling and driving, I find Seattle-area drivers to be incredibly polite and law abiding compared to folks down here in Clark County. We're kind of the Skoal can in Washington State's back pocket. Lots of people can't seem to read them funny white signs with the two-digit numbers on them by the roadside.
There is no law in the United States that requires you to have I.D. (As opposed to a lot of Europe). But once you have broken the law, no matter how small a law, the whole thing changes. Then the police have a right to have you identify yourself and they can hold you and treat you as being potentially dangerous until you are adequatly identified.
Originally Posted by Treespeed
I did read the WHOLE article Keith, and none of the drivers fessed up to breaking traffic laws. Did you read my WHOLE post?
Originally Posted by Keith99
I actually think the list of laws for cyclists was more for the benefit of drivers. A lot of drivers don't even realize that we have a right to the road... you know, 'cause we don't pay taxes. We don't pay taxes, right?
I gotta talk to my morgage company and my accountant about this... I keep writing these big checks to the city, state and federal government. Dammit, don't they know that cyclists aren't supposed to pay taxes?
Originally Posted by rjkresse
Know Your Turf
The one guy fessed up to turning right into a cyclist.
Originally Posted by Treespeed
Personally, I still think this is a journalist trying to stir up a hornets nest where one doesn't exist.