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Old 01-19-06, 07:21 PM   #1
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A NON-VC Thread, please!

Do you feel there are geographic/situational differences in bicycle-vehicle interactions and safety issues and driver's attitudes?

For an example, I would posit that where there are many active cyclists amongst the population (such as where I live) and there is an atmosphere of "fitness" and "exercise" and lots (almost all in my neighborhood) have an adult bicycle in the garage and even sometimes they ride it, that there would be a more tolerant attitude towards bicyclists, "share the road," taking a lane appropriately and other aspects of bicycling - vehicle interactions.

Or perhaps situational - such as rural vs. suburban vs. urban.

I have no evidence for my positing, but I am sure there are many folks there who may have opinions or even evidence, due to their personal experiences or whatever.

Your thoughts?

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Old 01-19-06, 07:50 PM   #2
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Having lived in a few different places over the years, I find the cycling environment much friendlier in the more rural western states for the most part, and rural areas in general. Metro areas seem less tolerant, suburban areas the least tolerant.
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Old 01-19-06, 07:55 PM   #3
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All I know is, you folks that left the indian trails of the Northeast are spoiled with 4 foot breakdown lanes!
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Old 01-19-06, 07:57 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chipcom
Having lived in a few different places over the years, I find the cycling environment much friendlier in the more rural western states for the most part, and rural areas in general.
Any ideas as to why this is? Are rural folks just nicer?

I know I have heard of stories from the south (USA) of "Good old boys" and their pickup trucks not being real friendly to bicyclers. Having only been south a couple of times, I don't know if this is true or not.
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Old 01-19-06, 07:59 PM   #5
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I think there's about 10% of the people in rural areas, suburbia, the urban core, and exurbia that hate ALL bicyclists.

Ironically, it doesn't matter if they have a bike in the garage, or their kids ride bikes.

I notice situational differences in driver's behavior between urban core thru suburbia and into the rural areas. Overall, though, a lot of people give bikes plenty of respect. And a significant percentage that don't.
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Old 01-19-06, 08:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DnvrFox
I know I have heard of stories from the south (USA) of "Good old boys" and their pickup trucks not being real friendly to bicyclers. Having only been south a couple of times, I don't know if this is true or not.
I used to live in Central Florida, and spent alot of riding time in the area of Florida Crackers (cattle ranchers who got their name from the short whips they used to crack to drive the steers) and being a Northeast boy, I was quite amazed by the good hearted helpfulness of those bucolic bumpkins.

Whenever I paused for a break by the side of the road, it was inevitable that a pickup would stop and ask: "Are ya in need?"

In a way, the bicycle has helped me get over my geographical prejudices.

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Old 01-19-06, 08:12 PM   #7
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I lived up in the Florida panhandle a couple of times and had plenty of good riding there.

Heck, people in rural areas are just nicer by and large, it doesn't matter if you're on a bike or not.
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Old 01-19-06, 08:29 PM   #8
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I'll stick to the state I currently reside in for my comments.

It's probably tough to calculate with any statistical accuracy but on an anecdotal basis it certainly seems to me that areas that see a lot of bicycle traffic split the drivers into two camps. One is aware of cyclists, give them room, give them right of way and respect them. But this is matched by almost an equally large number for whom that constant exposure to cyclists has become an annoyance and it is reflected in the way they drive.

In Cambridge, MA, a relatively densely populated, more urban environment with a large number of students and others using bicycles as transportation, I actually find more aggressive drivers than I'd like and there seems to be just about the same percentage of that type of driver now as there were 25 years ago when I first moved to the Boston area. This is also an area that has seen a great deal of bicycling advocacy and politics- whether there is correlation between the advocacy and the aggression is open to speculation but certainly in this rider's opinion there has been little gain in on road respect for cyclists in the Boston area.

In the western suburbs of Weston, Concord, Wayland- areas that have been used for training and racing rides by thousands of racers and recreational cyclists for about 30 years- I do think these wealthy suburbans have gotten a little better over the years but early morning training rides with anything more than 3 riders can inevitably lead to an occasional conflict.

I bicycle across Massachusetts frequently and find that the further from Boston I get the more drivers ignore me. In the Springfield and Worcester areas the drivers can be downright dangerous because they literally act like you simply don't exist. Further west, towards Pittsfield, North Adams (more rural areas) they give me wide berth and the only close calls I'll sometimes have are either drunks or intentional- kids being rowdy stuff like that- and that is very, very infrequent.
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Old 01-19-06, 08:51 PM   #9
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The 'good ole boys' are more apt to mess with you because of what you might be wearing, rather than the fact you are on a bike. We had this discussion among a large group of cyclists once when meeting to come up with a unified position for a road we were rebuilding. Talk got around to drivers, and it seemed that the roadies in spandex and colorful kits were the ones who seemed to have problems with harrassment, while the utility and mountain bikers felt people treated them friendly.

People were defintely much more friendly in the rural areas out west...but Denver, Colorado Springs and Albuquerque were another story. I don't think it was that the city folks were less friendly, but they were in more of a hurry, more impatient and of course traffic was much more congested and stressful.
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Old 01-19-06, 09:03 PM   #10
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Back in the eighties, I did a lot of cycling in the city (Portland, OR) including a daily commute of 14 miles. For the most part, folks were friendly enough but I felt that my safety suffered from the traffic density and, to a lesser extent, aggressive drivers. I was never in an accident but there were some close calls. Since moving out into the bushes in 1992, my cycling is for recreation only and not during rush hour. I feel a lot safer now and credit it to the rural folks being friendlier and not in so much of a hurry. I have a 15 mile non-highway loop that I ride frequently and usually see no more than a couple dozen cars and trucks. More than half of the drivers I encounter will wave. I know a few of them but most are strangers.
If a driver honks at you, it is more likely as if to say "howdy" than "get out of my way".
When the infamous Freckles, the border collie, tried to make a snack of my ankle, his owner sat me down on the porch and brought out some Hydrogen Peroxide, bandages and a copy of Freckles' vet records. They called me a week later to see if I was ok. Even though they live less than a mile away, I did not know these folks. I don't think this would have happened in the city.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Bikepacker67
All I know is, you folks that left the indian trails of the Northeast are spoiled with 4 foot breakdown lanes!
I feel your pain. I was born in W. Mass. but left in the sixties. I went back for a visit to my folks in Westfield in 1986 and went for a ride down 202 to Southwick..... man that was intense! I think those lanes were about 6 feet wide.

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Old 01-19-06, 09:04 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by chipcom
Talk got around to drivers, and it seemed that the roadies in spandex and colorful kits were the ones who seemed to have problems with harrassment, while the utility and mountain bikers felt people treated them friendly.
I have found that is the only gripe I've ever heard anywhere about bicyclists from motorists is about the appearance of questionable masculinity of men in tight spandex, especially if seen mincing about in cycling shoes in public places in "full kit".

That, and of course the old standard, anybody who is of a different skin complexion, who annoyed the speaker for any reason.
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Old 01-19-06, 09:22 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DnvrFox
Any ideas as to why this is? Are rural folks just nicer?

I know I have heard of stories from the south (USA) of "Good old boys" and their pickup trucks not being real friendly to bicyclers. Having only been south a couple of times, I don't know if this is true or not.


I've been helped out a time or two by some of those southern rural "good old boys" in their pickup trucks.
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Old 01-19-06, 09:41 PM   #13
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I live and cycle in a fairly rural Midwestern university town in Indiana. I mostly stay on the county roads for my rides next to the corn and soybean fields. The roads have exotic names like 300E and 800S.

The folks out in the sticks seem to be friendlier.....

It might be the lack of any real traffic (I'm usually the only one on the road in certain parts of my ride). On the occasional steep hill where a car or pickup truck has to wait, they don't yell. Even in more suburban areas here, drivers seem to be curteous.

When I hear the horror stories on the boards, they sound so alien to me.
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Old 01-19-06, 10:36 PM   #14
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In the LA area, you can be on a given road in a higher income area, and then suddenly you leave the higher income area and enter a lower income area. Even though the road width doesn't change, I'll get more horn honks in the higher income area.

In addition, I find harassment more likely when motorists perceive that I can be further to the right and out of their way. For example, I find I'm less likely to be harassed when in the middle of a 10 foot lane, compared to when I'm in the middle of a 13 foot lane when the conditions make it unsafe for me to share.
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Old 01-19-06, 11:05 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chemcycle
When I hear the horror stories on the boards, they sound so alien to me.
I'll second that. Sometimes I'm very thankful to live in Maine. (Motto: The Way Life Should Be.) We have what I call "rush quarter-hour" here around Portland, but still I rarely see road rage on the local roads. (The interstate might be another story.) I have to admit that the idea of riding in a major city is a bit intimidating. (I only took up cycling after moving here.)

As to rural/urban, I haven't ridden much in the rural setting, but I'm a bit more intimidated about that than in town. I'm sure the people are nice, but many of the rural roads are small and shoulderless (bike lanes - what are they?), given to blind curves and hills, and cars speed along them like nobody's business.

I agree that the riding experience varies greatly according to geography and situation, including the particular road or intersection, the traffic at the time, and the rider him/herself. That's why hardly any advice you get here on these boards is going to apply to everyone all the time, even though most of it is probably good for most people most of the time.
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Old 01-19-06, 11:38 PM   #16
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Geography certainly makes a difference. I haven't ridden in a lot of different geographies, so I'm not much of an expert about it, though.

Sometimes I ride in Oxnard. There some intersections are difficult or stressful to negotiate because of things like right-turn-only lanes or double-turn lanes, or intersections with merge lane interfaces like freeway on/off ramps. Traffic moves way too fast around stuff like that. We don't have much of that sort of thing here in Santa Barbara so the feeling you get is that it's easier to ride here.

I used to ride in San Diego in the 80s. It was more thrilling. The traffic always made me feel like I'd survived the ride to work, like I was some kind of bike warrior. I sort of came away with a feeling of mastery of it all. Here in Santa Barbara my mind wanders, I gaze at the views. The thrill is less about adrenaline and more about feeling so lucky to be surrounded by such beauty. Because of that, I probably get more annoyed by the little driver issues than I should. It really wrecks the reverie, you know?
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Old 01-20-06, 03:30 AM   #17
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I find that drivers downtown are more tolerant of cycling than elsewhere. In downtown, the drivers understand that sometimes they have to slow down and adjust to other drivers.
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Old 01-20-06, 03:51 AM   #18
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I think in general a high cycling population promotes a higher level of acceptance but that does not necessarily decrease the amount of incidents. Having a higher percentage of cyclists is statistically bound to incurring a higher accident/incident rate . The higher level of acceptance is basically an aclimation thing. Additionally, there's a higher chance that the populace will know someone personally who is a cyclist and that promotes some awareness. Also, drivers tend to be a bit more on the lookout because deep in their mind, the prospect of hitting a cyclist could mean that the victim is a father, brother, wife, daughter, etc...
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Old 01-20-06, 05:38 AM   #19
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Living in a rural area of the Florida panhandle, I get more waves, thumbs-up and compliments than anything else, and folks who completely change lanes to pass. This has completely changed my view of motorists, in a positive way. I have come to realize that the vast majority of motorists are competent, knowedgeable people who are secure in and of themselves and their abilities. My cycling experience on Okinawa, my last duty station before I retired and came back here, was completely different and was, for the most part, caused by what I observed to be the worst drivers, as a group, on Okinawa, the "Y" plates. The letter "Y" on the license plate designating American military, family member or dependant.

When I was there, I was cycling arterial roads during rush hour in order to keep on my work schedule. Here, I am cycling arterial roads, there aren't any paved residential routes that go from place to place, but there isn't much of a rush hour except for Hwy 319 going into Tallahassee and that's not on any of the routes I normally use. There, I had narrow paved shoulders on most of my route and still had to deal with problem motorists. Here, a few routes have wide paved shoulders, but for the most part I have to take the lane everywhere I go and very rarely have any problems.

I expect cycling in Tallahassee would be different from here, but not nearly as bad as Okinawa.

The old adage about miserable people taking a perverse delight in attempting to inflict misery on others was what I was seeing on Okinawa with the "Y" plates.
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Old 01-20-06, 06:03 AM   #20
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My cycling experience on Okinawa, my last duty station before I retired and came back here, was completely different and was, for the most part, caused by what I observed to be the worst drivers, as a group, on Okinawa, the "Y" plates. The letter "Y" on the license plate designating American military, family member or dependant.
Completely different from my experience with American plated cars in Heidelberg which was full of U.S. Army personnel, military and civilian, as well as their dependents. They adapted to the city bicycling-motorist environment (of numerous bicyclists day or night on every street) quickly or they would have been in serious trouble with the Polizei, if not the American authorities for the conflict that rude or stupid driving would cause.

The only significant difference was the size of the American cars and pickups brought over from the US; no Germans (or any other Europeans) drive an American made car.
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Old 01-20-06, 07:40 AM   #21
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I find that drivers downtown are more tolerant of cycling than elsewhere. In downtown, the drivers understand that sometimes they have to slow down and adjust to other drivers.
Downtown Cleveland is the same, everybody is moving slow and used to seeing bikes. But at rush hour the big thing you gotta watch for is the impatient idiot who will jump into another lane that might be actually moving when the slighest gap presents itself...don't matter if a cyclist happens to be in that gap or not.
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Old 01-20-06, 07:44 AM   #22
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Quote:
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The old adage about miserable people taking a perverse delight in attempting to inflict misery on others was what I was seeing on Okinawa with the "Y" plates.
Hmm, I never had much problem while in Okinawa, or Japan either. I loved riding over there.
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Old 01-20-06, 07:48 AM   #23
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I find that people tend to drive much faster in the South compared to other areas of the country. Nothing bothers me more when I'm riding than some idiot doing 50mph in a 35mph zone.
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Old 01-20-06, 08:32 AM   #24
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Here on the outer banks of NC, the year-round population of around 30,000 swells to around 300,000 at any given point in the summer. Most of the year everyone is polite, friendly, and I have come to recognize many cars that regularly wave and give me plenty of room, even though I have never met the drivers. During the summer, I get buzzed, honked at, and yelled at by tourists who are supposedly here to relax. Except for the teenagers, they are jerks year-round.

I have a friend, a captian in the army, who cycles to work at Ft Bragg. Most of the problems he runs in to are with young enlisted men and Lieutenants. Oh, the fun he has when he catches up to these fools at stoplights!
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Old 01-20-06, 09:34 AM   #25
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<snip> ... no Germans (or any other Europeans) drive an American made car.
Hmm. I saw quite a number of Dodge pickups and 70's-era Chevy sports cars in the Netherlands just recently. They sure stand out, which is, I'm guessing, the point.
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