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Old 06-28-10, 10:57 AM   #1
Velo Dog
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Motorists treat me w/respect. Am I doing something wrong?

Another post this morning about drivers who yell at cyclists supposedly "for sport" has me wondering again...
I've been riding as an adult since college, almost 40 years. I've lived in three states and ridden in half a dozen more, big cities and rural areas, downtown San Francisco and Kanab, Utah.
In all that time, I've had maybe three minor conflicts with drivers. The most serious came just a couple of years ago when two kids threw an empty Coke can at me. A couple of other times, people have yelled something stupid ("Nice legs" or "Go, Lance"). I've had a few brushbacks, but I attribute those to driver incompetence, not malice--people can't even park; they have no idea where the right side of their car is.
In thousands of miles on the freeway (the only way to get from my house to my office required almost two miles on the shoulder of I-80, and I commuted regularly for 20+ years), I never had a close call or a scare. Drivers stop and wave me through at stop signs.
I have no idea why, but a couple of thoughts:
--I rarely wear "cycling kit." I ride in mountain bike shorts and T-shirts nearly all the time, including centuries and long tours. I don't look (to the motoring public) like "one of them bicycle a-holes."
--I don't insist on right-of-way even when it's mine. I'd rather let a car go ahead of me than expect it to stop when it doesn't.
--I don't block traffic. We have a lot of fairly narrow two-lanes around here that are overburdened by new subdivision traffic, and many riders still go two and three and four abreast, holding up cars. I'm 100 percent in favor of full rights to the road for bikes, but cars are faster and their taxes pay for the pavement. what's the problem with letting them go by?
And parenthetically, I reject the common claim that some driver "tried to hit me." The level of skill among drivers is pretty low, but they can't ALL be lousy shots.
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Old 06-28-10, 01:12 PM   #2
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All I can say to this is that you're lucky. I've encountered driver hostility when commuting around town in my street clothes as well as when out for a ride in "cycling kit."

I've also encountered driver hostility not resulting from anything that I personally have done, simply inspired by 'you people.'

Also, I must take issue with this: "cars are faster and their taxes pay for the pavement"

Maybe it's different where you live, but where I live, it's not that simple:
1. Gas taxes, license fees, etc, all go to the state's general fund, as do state sales taxes, etc.
2. State roads are paid for out of the state's general fund. If you pay any kind of tax, you're paying for the roads.
3. Cities receive no gas tax, no license fees, and city streets are paid for out of city taxes.

When you consider how much more road a car needs than a bike, the car is probably being subsidized more than a bike is for the road that it uses. But this discussion probably belongs over in commuting and advocacy.
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Old 06-28-10, 01:14 PM   #3
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OP ~ where do you live and ride?
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Old 06-28-10, 01:54 PM   #4
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I live in California, I obey the law and I rarely have anyone yell at me in a negative fashion. I stop at lights and signs, complete stops and 90% of the time, will be waved thru signs by motorists. Only time people will honk is in encouragement with a thumbs up or a woot! Yeah, that can scare the poop out of you but I know it's a good thing so I don't get upset about it. Especially in the mtns, many drivers will give a thumbs up. On the tandem with the wife on a climb, people love it. I guess seeing a couple working their way up is a good thing, we get lots of encouragment from drivers.

I do ride with other rides at times and see first hand some carp that will upset drivers. I ride in the bike lane, they ride in the road, chatting away swerving in and out of drivers' paths. Every one of them swear they are the expert rider but IMO, idiots! I've watched other riders do some stupid things in the same areas I ride and everyone of them swears they are safe riders. Blowing through stopsigns at 30 mph, running intersections causing traffic into emergency stops. I step back at times and point out these riders to my wife and say, "it won' be long til these friggers get hit". Does it happen? Take a guess!

Seeing all these idiots on bikes make me wonder how many of these posts about idiot drivers are lacking detail. I even hate reading them and don't after riding with and seeing other riders on the road. Especially the idiots talking on the cell phone while riding, one darted into the path of my truck while not paying attention at a signal.

3 days ago, a rider heading down the road, blowing stoplights on Central Avenue Montclair Ca. Nice bike, stupid rider! Those of you that know the are, tell me it isn't busy and running lights isn't totally stupid in this area.

Yesterday, a wide road, 40 mph limit, nice wide shoulder. Enoughto park two cars side by side andstil have the main lane to drive. Stupid idiot rider feels the need to take the lane at 15 mph! WTF for? Get the F out of the way and ride to the side. There was no need to take the lane, no cars parked on the side, 15 yards for a shoulder. GTF out of the way!

I wanted so bad to shout "Get the F out of the way" I should have! I bet in is mind, he felt it was his right to take the lane, it wasn't, he's stupid!

So after reading all this BS on the forums, I think 90% of the authors of these "stupid driver" threads are just as stupid as the drivers, if not, more!
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Old 06-28-10, 01:54 PM   #5
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I notice more agressive drivers when I am driving a car than when I am on my bike. On Sunday when I was out with 27 other club members we rode fairly close to the RH side, but cars didnt try to squeeze by, when there was traffic in the opposite direction.
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Old 06-28-10, 02:22 PM   #6
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I've only had a couple of instances of actual hostility. I have had a couple of close scrapes with drivers that simply didn't know I was there. I think it's some kind of tunnel vision, or at least tunnel perception. Like everyone, I have also had my share of extreme courtesy - sometimes more than desired. I really, really do not want drivers waving me through stop signs when they have the right of way, for just one example.
Some people are like a Slinky ... not really good for anything, but you still can't help but smile when you shove them down the stairs.
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Old 06-28-10, 02:45 PM   #7
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+1 everything Nermal said. Drivers are 90% courteous, 9% clueless or 'too nice', only 1% actual jerks.
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Old 06-28-10, 03:08 PM   #8
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I ride very similar to Beanz. Follow the rules of the road just as if I was a car, but with modified exclusions. Meaning I don't take the lane if I don't need to. I do live in a cycling acceptable area (portland) and I have only once had an incident. Even then it was only a honk.

When I lived in NC, I had a much different experience. I rode the same as I did here, but it didn't matter. People would constantly buzz you, throw stuff at you and yell things. Personally, I think the area of the country says it all.
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Old 06-28-10, 03:37 PM   #9
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People are good here (Ottawa). I've been shouted at pointlessly more times while on foot than on a bike. Had a lot more "courteous" warning honks from behind than pissed off ones, even though both are annoying and useless.
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Old 06-28-10, 03:56 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Velo Dog View Post
Another post this morning about drivers who yell at cyclists supposedly "for sport" has me wondering again...
In thousands of miles on the freeway (the only way to get from my house to my office required almost two miles on the shoulder of I-80, and I commuted regularly for 20+ years), I never had a close call or a scare. Drivers stop and wave me through at stop signs.
I have no idea why, but a couple of thoughts:...
I suspect it has a lot to do with people being familiar with you as well. The same people commute the same roads at the same time every day. They get used to seeing you, know where you turn, etc.

It seems that the more I regularly cycle in my home area, the more courteous people are to me. Recently when I stopped for a flat, a number of drivers offered help and mentioned that they see me riding "all the time."

I only ride maybe ~2000 miles a year in my home area, using about 4 different core routes, each with several variations. That's not much time on the same roads, yet it's enough to build familiarity. I bet that when you take a few days off, people chat about it at the water cooler.

Plus there's the fact that you're not an a-hole.
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Old 06-28-10, 04:34 PM   #11
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I usually wear cycling specific clothes, but most often plain black shorts almost never co-ordinated team kits. (did a bit when my local club had shorts, but the yellow panels on those and the other similar pair fell apart ewll before the black panels).

I've had far more "incidents" where the (small) group I'm with is at the right at a stop light and makes room for a car behind to be able to make a right turn without having to wait for the light to change and us to move where the driver pulls up rolls down their window and .. Says 'thanks'.

That said there are a few routes well known to have idiot drivers, often kids. Avoiding those routes does a lot to shift the balance.
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Old 06-28-10, 04:44 PM   #12
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I'd say the OP has a much higher tolerance for both motorist idiocy and close passes than most BF posters, and that explains a lot of the OP's observations.
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Old 06-28-10, 05:04 PM   #13
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When I moved from Utah to Pennsylvania, I couldn't take the extra hostility I got and quit riding for a decade. So maybe it's the people. When I lived in Utah, I used to ride with the racers every wednesday night, and we'd go out in a double paceline in cycling appropriate clothing for a 50 mile ride and I don't remember any motorist hostility. So I disagree with most of the OP's theories, particularly about taxes.

The biggest improvement in my cycling experience happened when I moved away from the Appalachian region of Virginia.
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Old 06-28-10, 05:50 PM   #14
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I only had one "bad" experience with a driver. It involves a truck that I guess out of impatience spin his truck tires upon overtaking me. But apart from that, I find drivers seem to be civilized and many times give me alot of space when overtaking.
Some even would stop to allow me to cross.
Perhaps it has to do with the city where one lives in. Bad cyclists do exist. I see alot more aggressive cyclist in the urbanized area. Usually associated with the bike messengers that feel that they can own any paved surface around them, clueless joe on a fixie etc.
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Old 06-28-10, 06:49 PM   #15
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Hey, I get annoyed at folks on bikes too. Guys riding the wrong way, not using signals, not following any rules at all, actually, hogging the road for no good reason, randomly hoping off the sidewalk, weaving all over the place with their knees up to their chins, and giving me dirty looks when I'm doing by best to be courteous and trying my darnedest not to run them over. My favorite is when I'm stopped waiting to turn right, graciously allowing a poorly positioned cyclist to cross in front of me to go straight, and he points at my car practically daring me to let my foot slip off the brake.

I think a lot of it is people tend to remember the really bad cyclists, myself included. I don't remember the 10 guys I passed today that did everything right. Why would I? I also don't remember the 100 cars I interacted with on my drive home tonight that did everything right. I remember the jerk from two days ago that tried to cut me off! While bad bicyclists isn't all of it, because there will always be folks that just hate us because we're different, it only takes a handful of folks that ride 10 or 20 miles a week to interact with thousands of cars and really ruin things for us.

So I try to do my part when I'm out on a ride to undo all the damage. When I'm stopped at a light, I make eye contact with the folks in the car next to me and smile. If there's a kid in the car, I make a funny face. Other drivers see the interaction. They treat me well. The drivers after them see how the drivers in front are treating me and they treat me well too. There's the occasional jerk but I like to think there's one or two less because I made their kid laugh at the light
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Old 06-28-10, 07:03 PM   #16
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A negative person can assume that cars hate cyclists without having any idea why there was a close call. A happy person may attribute the same action to driver error. The different perception may be as simple as one cup more of coffee.
I'm sure many close calls are not intentional. In general drivers are less patient in large cities. There are always exceptions.
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