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  1. #1
    20+mph Commuter JoeyBike's Avatar
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    Heal Thyself Scofflaw Motorists - Observations Behind the Wheel

    I decided to post this experience in A&S as a reasonable response to the cycling "Obey Every Law" members of this fine place, and for every one else who might be mildly interested to "Meh...see it every day". For those of you "worried" about how motorists perceive us out there this experience will highlight why I don't worry about motorist perception of cyclist behavior all that much.

    I took a road trip by automobile this past Thanksgiving weekend - an evil and hateful time to drive a car on Interstate highways - and as always I start out loving my fellow man with a live and let live attitude, my wife and wanderlust by my side. The journey covered 160 miles mostly on Interstate 10 between New Orleans, LA to just beyond Mobile Alabama. I set the cruise control at 72mph in a 70mph zone.

    Here are some observations keeping in mind that I probably will never encounter other motorists driving very close to my speed:

    Most of the large Semi-Tractor-Trailer vehicles were traveling roughly my speed - give or take 2mph.

    By my count (roughly) I would catch up to a slower vehicle (probably going EXACTLY 70mph) every ten minutes or so. On some of the more crowded stretches of roadway as many as 300 passenger vehicles would pass me for every vehicle I passed. For the most part most motorists maintained a respectful distance behind the car in front of them UNTIL congestion caused us to slow down below 70mph. This is when the fun started. Tailgating, dangerous and frequent lane changes, expressions of road rage, and just silly behavior based on the fact that NONE OF US were going to bypass the traffic ahead. At one point Sunday around noon I decided to bail from the Interstate and use a parallel state highway instead. I was not all that worried about being involved in an accident but more getting TRAPPED on the Interstate due to an accident up ahead.

    Another observation - whenever the posted speed limit dropped to 60 or 65mph on I-10 for whatever reason I set the cruise on 65 or 68 accordingly which only served to increase the number of vehicles passing me at much greater speeds. If I felt that keeping up with the flow was safer than creating a "rolling roadblock" I stopped looking at the speedometer and just followed the car ahead of me until things calmed down. Very few motorists were willing to obey a posted speed limit below 70mph - I would say a statistical ZERO unless their car had physical problems (i.e., looked like rolling junk to me).

    It is common knowledge that the vast majority of motorists roll through stop signs and speed on surface streets in urbanized areas in the Deep South - I see it every day during my commute and cycling errand running. Freeway drivers also seem to do whatever they want to do as it pertains to the law (if we all agree that the term Speed LIMIT is the fastest speed anyone should be traveling out there). I can safely say that during my road trip at least 75 percent of motorists break the law continuously on the Interstate either by speeding when the coast is clear, or tailgating when traffic is forced to slow below the posted limit.

    So again I ask the question - why should I care what motorists think of my behavior on my bicycle? If the status quo is anarchy why should I toe the line?
    Last edited by JoeyBike; 12-05-13 at 03:05 PM.

  2. #2
    PatronSaintOfDiscBrakes dynaryder's Avatar
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    I love whenever they have a story about new speed/red light cameras here in the District. They always interview a couple drivers who are incensed that DC is just trying to gouge more money out of people. If people obey the law,then how can they possibly be caught by a camera,which triggers at like 11mph over the speed limit?

    But them feakin' bicycles,never follow the laws....

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  3. #3
    Not quite there yet Matariki's Avatar
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    The only time I see a motor vehicle stop at a 4 way is when I am pulling up to the intersection on my bike. They assume that I will blow through - which is exactly what they would have done had they not seen me.

    I have no problem with folks not obeying traffic laws as long as they behave reasonably as partners on the road.
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  4. #4
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    On the interstates here in CA the speed limit for trucks is often 10mph lower than for cars. This creates some serious stupidity. You actually need a strategy to get around every single truck, or go the truck speed and never get there.

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    I currently obey the laws when driving or cycling just to be obnoxiously different. Nothing annoys a motorist like having the vehicle in front of them stop at a stop sign or go the speed limit in a 20 mph zone.

    I don't have to wonder what I would do in some parallel universe where folks obey the laws because I have lived there. It is actually quite nice, once you get used to it. However, it can feel a bit like Pleasantville.

  6. #6
    "Per Ardua ad Surly" nelson249's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by B. Carfree View Post
    I currently obey the laws when driving or cycling just to be obnoxiously different. Nothing annoys a motorist like having the vehicle in front of them stop at a stop sign or go the speed limit in a 20 mph zone.

    I don't have to wonder what I would do in some parallel universe where folks obey the laws because I have lived there. It is actually quite nice, once you get used to it. However, it can feel a bit like Pleasantville.
    Like you I do rather get a charge out following traffic laws to the letter behind the wheel of the car. When asked by a friend why I was doing this I responded by quoting Bill Murray in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: "Revenge."
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    Excellent observations, Joey. Motorists routinely disregard traffic laws. Speeding, talking on their cell phones, and aggressive driving are daily events on every American roadway. Has anyone here bothered to ask these motorists if they feel like their actions reflect on all motorists? Has anyone here asked them if they feel unjustly burdened with shouldering the whole groups image by their dangerous road behavior?

    So again I ask the question - why should I care what motorists think of my behavior on my bicycle? If the status quo is anarchy why should I toe the line?
    Nobody should concern themselves with trying to impress motorists with their angelic road manners. There is no evidence to suggest this is working. Such do gooder cyclists are most likely invisible to motorists who already have a locked interpretation of who or what a cyclist does. This is why I will continue to do what I always do: get from A to B as safely and quickly as possible without obeying traffic laws if not doing so achieves my goals.

  8. #8
    Senior Member howsteepisit's Avatar
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    I follow the laws regulations as best I can. I just cannot see adding even more chaos to an already chaotic situation. Not that my efforts make the least difference, but I feel better about myself that way. Plus I get to laugh at the jerks that I piss off by following the laws. Self righteousness can be a nice feeling.
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  9. #9
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solid_Spoke View Post
    Excellent observations, Joey. Motorists routinely disregard traffic laws. Speeding, talking on their cell phones, and aggressive driving are daily events on every American roadway. Has anyone here bothered to ask these motorists if they feel like their actions reflect on all motorists? Has anyone here asked them if they feel unjustly burdened with shouldering the whole groups image by their dangerous road behavior?



    Nobody should concern themselves with trying to impress motorists with their angelic road manners. There is no evidence to suggest this is working. Such do gooder cyclists are most likely invisible to motorists who already have a locked interpretation of who or what a cyclist does. This is why I will continue to do what I always do: get from A to B as safely and quickly as possible without obeying traffic laws if not doing so achieves my goals.
    I have to chuckle as your comment right there proves that the errors of some seem to be assumed to the actions of all... I am sure that not every motorist speeds, runs stops etc... as we have a few right here that state they follow all the laws to a T... yet you just made a blanket statement about Motorists.

    Gee do you think some motorists may do the same thing with regard to cyclists? Observe a few and assume the worst about the rest?

  10. #10
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    or go the truck speed and never get there.
    I generally go the truck speed. I'm not still out on the road. Unless you're driving hours, 10 MPH won't make much difference in your arrival time.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  11. #11
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    It might be interesting, if someone were complaining about red light cameras or speed cameras, to ask if they would be OK with cameras that caught and ticketed cyclists. If they said yes, then ask why they were ok with singling out a single group of people, saying they weren't allowed to break the law, but apparently they feel everyone else should be allowed?
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  12. #12
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    I just had a lively discussion online on a local newspaper's website with someone who repeatedly stated that if I wasn't driving the speed limit, I should get off the road. He insisted that it was dangerous to slow to 50mph in a 55mph zone because of darkness and a high probability of deer in the road.

    Another driver in the thread stated that he routinely goes 70-75 in 55mph zones because "he is confident in his driving abilities."

    Yet another refused to admit that a collision with deer was avoidable with slower speeds and more caution.


    This same group of people were commenting on a bicycle-related article about how cyclists don't follow any traffic laws and how my doing an "Idaho stop" was horrible and that I should be ticketed.

  13. #13
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    Joey, this thread is just begging for video!

    It should be posted on YouTube under the title "Those damned Scofflaw Cyclists" and contain endless examples of reprehensible driver behavior. I, too, when driving, adhere strictly to traffic law, partly for my safety but also because it is a form of "revenge" and it is astounding to watch how aggravated other drivers are when you obey the speed limit as you roll through a school zone or down a narrow winding country road.

    The other day I actually had the opportunity to drive back to Boston at early morning rush hour and was stunned not only by the aggressive driving but the log jam that auto commuters put up with on a daily basis. I could not abide that stress day after day.

  14. #14
    Seņior Member ItsJustMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by spivonious View Post
    I just had a lively discussion online on a local newspaper's website with someone who repeatedly stated that if I wasn't driving the speed limit, I should get off the road.
    A lot of people seem to think that "speed limit" means lower limit.

    In fact you're required to slow down for adverse conditions. These people are, quite simply, just morons.
    Work: the 8 hours that separates bike rides.

  15. #15
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by ItsJustMe View Post
    A lot of people seem to think that "speed limit" means lower limit.

    In fact you're required to slow down for adverse conditions. These people are, quite simply, just morons.
    Exactly my response, to which he quoted a list of example adverse conditions and noted that "darkness" was not one of them and that no one expects animals in middle of the road. To which I called him an idiot and said that his license should be revoked.

  16. #16
    Senior Member RPK79's Avatar
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    Animals only cross at designated "deer crossings". Otherwise they get ticketed and, while we may not find a $20 fine high, they cannot afford the fines!

  17. #17
    Dirt junkie. SnowJob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    On the interstates here in CA the speed limit for trucks is often 10mph lower than for cars. This creates some serious stupidity. You actually need a strategy to get around every single truck, or go the truck speed and never get there.
    Here's a strategy for ya: slow down, when the passing lane is clear, pass. The end. No more tears.
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  18. #18
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JoeyBike View Post
    ...
    So again I ask the question - why should I care what motorists think of my behavior on my bicycle? If the status quo is anarchy why should I toe the line?
    Why care what they think of your behavior, regardless of their proclivity to anarchy? What matters is safety and what the cops think of it.

    Quote Originally Posted by Darth Lefty View Post
    On the interstates here in CA the speed limit for trucks is often 10mph lower than for cars. This creates some serious stupidity. You actually need a strategy to get around every single truck, or go the truck speed and never get there.
    I think you'll lose three minutes over twenty miles going the truck's speed. Just relax and follow if passing becomes a chore.

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    "...So again I ask the question - why should I care what motorists think of my behavior on my bicycle? If the status quo is anarchy why should I toe the line?" JoeyBike


    You'll have to answer that question for yourself, but among reasons other people that bike should care about the behavior of people on their bicycles, is that amongst motor vehicles on the road...they are the vulnerable road users. They are the ones that stand to lose most in collisions, to the extent collisions may happen due to lack of support of people that bike from people that drive or otherwise use motor vehicles for transportation.

    Same applies to efforts to propose, design, and have approved, construction of infrastructure that provides more and better situations for using bikes as transportation: if the support for that type infrastructure does not exist from the majority road users...people that drive or otherwise use motor vehicles for transportation...expansion of existing infrastructure for biking is likely to be slow in happening, if at all.

  20. #20
    Disco Infiltrator Darth Lefty's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wphamilton View Post
    I think you'll lose three minutes over twenty miles going the truck's speed. Just relax and follow if passing becomes a chore.
    It's 400 miles from Sacramento to LA, so this would add an hour. Both lanes are packed and the speed differential between them is 20mph because the truckers are doing their limit but texting and the cars are going 10 over their 10 higher limit. Relaxing is not possible, it's dangerous no matter what you do and it demands your attention. So might as well be one of the fast ones. There's a sort of recirculation zone that develops behind a truck. They are a rolling roadblock, in a literal sense. Everyone comes rushing up to it and has to go around it, one at a time. There's always about 1 in every 10 who does want to go the limit and he clogs the drain for everyone else. So a line forms on the left - that's where everyone will have to pass. But that lane slows down to the truck speed because the people really jockeying for advantage go in the right lane, right up behind the truck, then pop left to cut the line.

    Sometimes of course there's a truck that's 0.5mph faster than another and he decides he's gotta pass. That can back things up for miles.

  21. #21
    rugged individualist wphamilton's Avatar
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    The speed limit is the maximum allowed speed, right? So there can't be much sympathy for having the drain clogged for illegal speed.

    Regarding the time differential, three minutes over 20 miles assumes a clear roadway allowing you to drive at your speed limit the whole way. When the traffic is as tight as you describe I doubt that you could keep up the full speed limit for 400 miles even with no trucks whatsoever. For that reason I am skeptical that the truck speed limit costs you an hour - it sounds like the prevailing speed sans trucks is somewhat lower than your nominal speed limit. The logical resolution to the problem is therefore a reduced speed limit, one that is enforced, which will eliminate the jockeying and unsafe following and other maneuvers.

  22. #22
    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SnowJob View Post
    Here's a strategy for ya: slow down, when the passing lane is clear, pass. The end. No more tears.
    I don't know what part of California he is from, but I have minimal problems with slow trucks.

    In fact where I have the most problems is going to work. No reasonable alternative to the freeway and my off ramp is at the bottom of a hill. Every other day or so there is a slow truck going down the hill with traffic piling up behind it.

    Here are the kickers.

    First the traffic is usually piling up because the lanes one and often 2 to the left of the slow lane usually have some jerks going barely (if that) faster than the truck in the slow lane. It results in cars thinking they will not get past the truck in time to exit.

    Second about half the time it is because the truck is stuck behind a slow car!

    Oh and the really aggravating part. As the slope flattens out for some reason the traffic in the more leftward lanes finally speeds up and a gap *MIGHT* develop. I decided it is not worth trying for, but others still do.
    Perish any man who suspects that these men either did or suffered anything unseemly.

  23. #23
    Senior Member dougmc's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Solid_Spoke View Post
    Excellent observations, Joey. Motorists routinely disregard traffic laws. Speeding, talking on their cell phones, and aggressive driving are daily events on every American roadway.
    Note that while speeding is pretty much by definition illegal, talking on one's cell phone is not (yet?) universally illegal, and "aggressive driving" isn't illegal by itself (though certain aggressive acts certainly are.)

    That said, don't think I disagree with your point -- I don't. But I'd suggest listing actual, universal laws that are broken -- speeding, failure to signal turns, rolling through stop signs and red lights when making right turns, etc. (Texting while driving ought to belong in this list too, but I don't think it's universally illegal yet. But it's a lot closer than simply using a cell phone while driving.)

    Such do gooder cyclists are most likely invisible to motorists who already have a locked interpretation of who or what a cyclist does
    Not necessarily. A cyclist who rolls through a stop sign at 3 mph with a motorist behind him watching him do it -- he's a scofflaw (though the odds are, the motorist will do the exact same thing.)

    But if the cyclist comes to a complete stop, puts his foot down, looks both ways, then goes ... he's just being a jerk, doing all that just so he can make the motorist wait.

    Neither cyclist is invisible, and neither has any way to "win" the public relations game with that particular motorist. (And so I agree with your conclusion -- if it's out of your control, it's not worth worrying about.)

  24. #24
    Senior Member RPK79's Avatar
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    I'm glad driving doesn't cause me rage. I just drive defensively, signal my lane changes, and act like a rational human being. Seems to work out pretty well for me.

    The only thing I dislike about rush hour traffic is how when we're all moving at a good clip and there is a slowdown ahead that you may not be able to see from your position. Everyone seems to wait until the last second to slow down (as if it will get them to home/work faster) and then you find yourself having to slam on your brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of you that just went from 70 to 20 for seemingly no reason (and so does the guy behind you!).

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    Quote Originally Posted by buzzman View Post

    The other day I actually had the opportunity to drive back to Boston at early morning rush hour and was stunned not only by the aggressive driving but the log jam that auto commuters put up with on a daily basis. I could not abide that stress day after day.
    Many years ago, I found myself in San Mateo, CA (south of SF, on the peninsula) for a conference that ended just in time for me to drive across the San Mateo bridge with the commuters. After an hour of that I was shocked that people did this every day. It was the most unpleasant way to travel that I could imagine. I'd sooner row a scull across the bay than drive if that was my commute.

    At least no one was speeding.

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