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  1. #1
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    anti-bike backlash?

    This probably belongs more properly in A&S, but the people here tend to be more balanced, so here it is:

    Like a few other areas, Seattle has experienced a pretty noticable increase in the numbers of bicyclists lately. There are a lot more bikes on the roads than there used to be, and local governments have been pretty enthusiastic about integrating bicycles into their transportation plans, mostly as a way to reduce congestion and emissions. Civic leaders have been taking a hard look at what has been done in Portland, Amsterdam and Copenhagen. Our one major MUP is being slowly expanded, and several miles of new bike lanes have already been added, and many more are planned. All of which are good things, IMO. At the same time, I've recently begun to notice a palpable increase in hostility towards bicyclists by the non-cycling public. During the last ten days alone, I've had several people, pedestrians and motorists, yell anti-bicycle insults at me for no other reason than the fact that I was riding a bike on the street, and I'm a pretty cautious, law-abiding rider; I'm not a Critical Mass type by any stretch of the imagination. I know a few members of the Fremont Chamber of Commerce, and they're quite proud of the fact that they were able to partially block the creation of a bike lane on Stone Way, and are openly discussing attempts to have the bike lane that was created removed again. This weekend, a car-driving good friend of mine complained about bike lanes, and about bicylists in general, and his level of hostility was kind of shocking; he used to be fairly tolerant of bicyclists, but now that there are a lot more of them, and some arterials have been narrowed from four lanes to two to accommodate bike lanes, he's incensed, and has vowed to vote against bicycle-friendly politicians from now on. He's particularly infuriated by cyclists who take the lane; he sees this as evidence that cylists are "full of themselves," and that they're engaging in some passive-aggressive tactic designed to slow motorists' progress.

    Of course, I'm not at all in agreement with anyone who shouts epithets at cyclists, lobbies to block bike lanes just because they think they can, or who is totally pissed off just because he has to maneuver around a cyclist on surface streets once in a while. I am concerned, though, that there appears to be an increasing public level of frustration with cyclists as a result of there being more of them. The message I get from my non-cycling acquaintances is that they think bicylists are a selfish, self-involved, somewhat silly interest group, a bunch of enthusiasts who are willing to spend a lot of public money to establish an infrastructure and/or culture that will only benefit the few, slow everyone else down needlessly, and do little or nothing to improve the transportation picture generally. Among other things, I think it's significant that very few young adults have anything to do with the increase in bicycle use. In short, there are a lot of increasingly pissed off people out there, and they're pissed off because bicyclists and bicycle advocates have apparently done a poor job of getting their message out. (E.g., bicyclists take the lane because they care about survival, not establishing their "dominance.") We need to do much better; any thoughts?
    Last edited by bragi; 03-09-08 at 09:55 PM.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  2. #2
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    The message I get from my non-cycling acquaintances is that they think bicylists are a selfish, self-involved, somewhat silly interest group, a bunch of enthusiasts who are willing to spend a lot of public money to establish an infrastructure and/or culture that will only benefit the few, slow everyone else down needlessly, and do little or nothing to improve the transportation picture generally.
    Well, in the case of the people who call themselves "advocates", the message is pretty much spot on. Even the majority of utility cyclists have little more than disdain for "advocates" who promote "facilities" that benefit relatively few cyclists in a relatively small area (the ones that the silent majority of cyclists generally avoid like the plague), or who engage in exercises like critical mass or nude bike rides. I've said this before, but it's worth repeating here. Cycling as an activity needs to separate itself from the various leftist political agendas that follow it around.

    It's all well and good to talk about global warming, peak oil, foreign oil dependence, David Hicks, Bush and all the other issues that people go on about. They may well all be valid issues in and of themselves, but the fact is, they have virtually nothing to do with cycling. In a nutshell, "advocates" have to stop trying to actively promote cyclists as a bunch of freaks risking life and limb to "save the world", because all that really does is alienate people.

    Oh yeah, and a few training courses to educate cyclists in the proper and lawful use of public roadways wouldn't hurt either.
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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  3. #3
    ... thelung's Avatar
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    Eh, who cares what they think? Soon nobody will drive, whether they want to or not.

  4. #4
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Well, I think that a lot of drivers see their car and their lifestyle as under attack. They're getting panicky.

    As bicyclists, we represent what low a fate they may be dragged down to. We are also yet another impediment on the highway. When they see us, not only do they have to go around us, but we bring up unpleasant thoughts about how much their habit is costing them.

    They are also heavily taxed and mistakenly think that their gas taxes pay for highways and see anything that goes to bike paths as their hard earned money paying for frivolous extras.

    I'm not sure that directly, there is much that we can do other than being good cyclists and active bicycle advocates. We also need to stay the course in pursuing bike facilities. We know that they are needed and will be needed. Most motorists are so busy being defensive that they are not really looking towards the future.

    All we can do is to be true to what we think will be the best path to the future.

    "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." Mahatma Ghandi
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  5. #5
    Senior Member maddyfish's Avatar
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    I don't blame the car drivers for being unhappy. They are a dying breed and know it.
    If I rode the car, and suddenly a road I used went from 4 to 2 lanes needlessly, I'd be angry too. I would think to myself "what is this bike lane for, they ride on thr real road everywhere else, why cut down this road for them" and I'd be right. All bike lanes do is cut downthe usefulness of a road- for all users.
    They are unhappy because of gas prices, car prices, traffic, and then the road suddenly shrinks.
    Not too much to say here

  6. #6
    aspiring island dweller spinninwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Artkansas View Post
    Well, I think that a lot of drivers see their car and their lifestyle as under attack. They're getting panicky.

    As bicyclists, we represent what low a fate they may be dragged down to. We are also yet another impediment on the highway. When they see us, not only do they have to go around us, but we bring up unpleasant thoughts about how much their habit is costing them.

    They are also heavily taxed and mistakenly think that their gas taxes pay for highways and see anything that goes to bike paths as their hard earned money paying for frivolous extras.

    I'm not sure that directly, there is much that we can do other than being good cyclists and active bicycle advocates. We also need to stay the course in pursuing bike facilities. We know that they are needed and will be needed. Most motorists are so busy being defensive that they are not really looking towards the future.

    All we can do is to be true to what we think will be the best path to the future.

    "First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win." Mahatma Ghandi
    Excellent post. I believe this to be true also. I also think that we are an easy target for venting of one's frustrations.

    In general, I think a lot of people are unhappy and frustrated with the status quo. There are dire predictions about the economy, the environment, society, etc. And people are subjected to, on a daily basis, toxic and superficial crap from the media. And I honestly don't think that the majority of people can filter out this needless hysteria and fluff.

    Granted there are important issues in the world that need addressing. But we have to make sure our own houses are in order (mentallly, physically, emotionally and spiritually) before we can attempt to achieve anything else.

    That being said, this is an exciting time to be alive. I love Gandhi quotes, so here's another.

    We must be the change that we wish to see in the world.
    Life is either a wild adventure or nothing - Helen Keller

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by bragi View Post
    He's particularly infuriated by cyclists who take the lane; he sees this as evidence that cylists are "full of themselves," and that they're engaging in some passive-aggressive tactic designed to slow motorists' progress.
    Most drivers I know view taking the lane in a similar way. If they understand *why* the biker is taking the lane, they get a lot less upset. It makes a lot more sense when you realize that taking the lane makes the biker easier to see and (a little) more predictable. If you're in an area with terrible pedestrian facilities, you'll see similar anger towards anyone who dares to walk, even if they're doing so safely and legally.

    Many ordinary drivers find bikers scary because they're hard to see and unpredictable. I can understand this, since I've had a couple near misses with other bikers myself. Even when I'm *looking* for bikes, I'll often miss seeing them. And it drives me batty when someone runs a stop sign or a red light. Since most of my biking and walking is near the University, I see all kinds of bikers, pedestrians *and* drivers run red.

    I find drivers are a lot more receptive when I point out my biggest concern is pedestrian safety. Pedestrians are harder to see and even more unpredictable than bikers. If roads are built to work well for them, the roads tend to be safer for bikers as well. So it's a win for everyone, since even a dedicated car driver will walk sometimes.

  8. #8
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Riding home Friday I passed two teenagers who were on the sidewalk. As I was passing one said to the other: "I hate cyclists"

    I've never heard any negative comments about cycling from anyone I know.

    Al

  9. #9
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torrilin View Post
    Many ordinary drivers find bikers scary because they're hard to see and unpredictable. I can understand this, since I've had a couple near misses with other bikers myself. Even when I'm *looking* for bikes, I'll often miss seeing them.

    You're just perpetuating the myth. People are unpredictable, and it doesn't matter if they're on a bike, in a car, or walking. If you ride much, I'm sure you've had more than a couple near misses with cars as well.

    There's a well understood hierarchy on the road and being at the bottom of it makes you insignificant in the eyes of most; They literally look down upon you, and there's no place for positive interaction from there...

  10. #10
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam View Post
    Riding home Friday I passed two teenagers who were on the sidewalk. As I was passing one said to the other: "I hate cyclists"

    I've never heard any negative comments about cycling from anyone I know.

    Al
    Yea, most people will wait until your back is turned.

  11. #11
    J E R S E Y S B E S T Jerseysbest's Avatar
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    Great example of why there needs to be more driver education.
    Quote Originally Posted by SingingSabre View Post
    Cheating: a symptom of the problem.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    You're just perpetuating the myth. People are unpredictable, and it doesn't matter if they're on a bike, in a car, or walking. If you ride much, I'm sure you've had more than a couple near misses with cars as well.

    There's a well understood hierarchy on the road and being at the bottom of it makes you insignificant in the eyes of most; They literally look down upon you, and there's no place for positive interaction from there...
    Calling my personal experience a "myth" is less than helpful, since you're now telling me I've imagined all the near misses I've had. Since I know that I didn't imagine them, I'm now tempted to classify you as an idiot. I find it is more useful to listen to the other person and accept that their experiences are real. Then if I offer a suggestion or explanation, the other person is more likely to listen.

    Since I have a hard time seeing cyclists whether I'm biking or walking (I haven't driven in about 3 years, so I do not have current data on driving), I do not feel your hierarchy theory is a good and valid one. I am much more likely to have trouble seeing a cyclist when I need to use my peripheral vision. Since I need -8.5 diopters of correction, I don't *have* anything approaching normal peripheral vision. I (oddly enough) have lots of trouble with cars and pedestrians in the same circumstances where cyclists give me trouble. I am also more likely to have trouble in low light conditions. Rain, fog, and twilight all give me fits. If I chose to ignore these problems, I'd be much more likely to cause accidents. Instead, I pay close attention in situations where my disability is likely to cause trouble. Sometimes, I end up with a close call anyway.

    If I tell someone else "oh, cyclists are easy to see", I'd be lying. Of course, I don't go telling people "oh, cars are easy to see" or "pedestrians are easy to see" either. I've got enough vision trouble that they'd *all* be lies . Instead, I stick with reality, where I don't see very well and I have to be proactive so it doesn't cause serious trouble.

    I'm also slow, clumsy, have a lousy sense of balance and am easily distracted. Chances are good that if there's a mistake one can make on the road, I've made it. So if I can use the roads safely, chances are that almost anyone can. But it does take a lot of caution and awareness that I *do* make mistakes.

  13. #13
    not a role model JeffS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torrilin View Post
    Calling my personal experience a "myth" is less than helpful, since you're now telling me I've imagined all the near misses I've had. Since I know that I didn't imagine them, I'm now tempted to classify you as an idiot. I find it is more useful to listen to the other person and accept that their experiences are real. Then if I offer a suggestion or explanation, the other person is more likely to listen.

    Fine, I'm an idiot, but when I hear a statement like "cyclists are unpredictable", there is an inherent implication that they're MORE unpredictable than some other standard. As I said before, if you search your experience, I doubt that you will find cyclists more unpredictable than people in any other activity.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Lamplight's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Torrilin View Post
    ...since even a dedicated car driver will walk sometimes.
    Are you sure about that? I mean yes, they walk from their cars to a store entrance, or to the door of their house, etc. But most people I know go out of their way to avoid walking. I see people drive to their mailboxes on a regular basis for cying out loud. Where I work we have two seperate warehouses, and the owner bought a golf cart so people wouldn't have to walk back and forth. The distance is less than 200 feet, I kid you not.

  15. #15
    Biscuit Boy Cosmoline's Avatar
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    The "activist" crowd has never appealed much to me. CM is absurd, and frankly a lot of the cyclists out there *ARE* self absorbed jerks. Or rather packs o' jerks. I just ride.
    ''On a bicycle you're not insulated. You're in contact with the landscape and all manner of people you'd never meet if you were in a car. A fat man on a bicycle is nobody's enemy.''

    Tom Vernon.

  16. #16
    Senior Member coldfeet's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lamplight View Post
    Are you sure about that? I mean yes, they walk from their cars to a store entrance, or to the door of their house, etc. But most people I know go out of their way to avoid walking. I see people drive to their mailboxes on a regular basis for cying out loud. Where I work we have two seperate warehouses, and the owner bought a golf cart so people wouldn't have to walk back and forth. The distance is less than 200 feet, I kid you not.
    Before I moved to N. America, I visited about 25-30 years ago, I distinctly remember walking to the store through the subdivision my sister lived in, a distance of, oh, 1/3 mile? People looked at us as if to say, "What the hell are you doing?"
    Nice day, no big load to bring back, we were just thinking "WTH?"

    To return to the original post, on my commute, I start and end with about 2-3 miles of road, the rest is MUP. The first bit
    in the morning is a straight downhill run, it should be no problem, there is no way in hell I'm in anyone's way because I can get to the lights before they change, on the last bit before work, it's narrow, has a nasty blind curve, and there no way for me to get out of their way. Guess which one I was worried about? Guess which one is a problem? Don't ask me why.

  17. #17
    bragi bragi's Avatar
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    I'm wondering, though: if more people are cycling, why is there more hostility? I wouldn't have expected this. I've always been of the opinion that more cyclists = more acceptance. Some here have suggested it's the first realization of a declining motor culture that their days are numbered, but I don't think so. If even pedestrians are telling cyclists to F*** off, there must be something else going on. I think it's a combination of a few things:

    1. Increased congestion is making everyone cranky, regardless of their mode of trnsport;
    2. Drivers are irritated, because now, in addtion to all the other stuff they've had to deal with, they have to deal with a bunch of 15 mph vehicles every time they turn around (I can understand, but am not sympathetic here);
    3. Many cyclists don't know the first thing about riding in traffic, and as a result of their ignorance they irritate other road users (including pedestrians) and potentially put themselves and others at risk.
    4. Critical Mass and other "advocacy groups," though they mean well, do a really good job of alienating non-cyclists.

    We don't have any control over 1 & 2, but we do have a certain amount of influence over 3 & 4.
    If you're not part of the solution, you're part of the precipitate.

  18. #18
    aspiring island dweller spinninwheels's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    People are unpredictable, and it doesn't matter if they're on a bike, in a car, or walking.
    This is true. However, I may be perpetuating the myth of the unpredictiable cyclist, when I sporadically weave in traffic. And most of you know why one would purposely do this. The unpredictable driver, will now be very predictable, and give you lots, or at least more, room; rather than brush past you at a dangerously, high rate of speed. At least that is my experience almost all of the time.

    Is that wrong? Is it bad cycling behaviour? Maybe, but I've never had a driver yell at me yet for doing it, yet. I should say that I only do that on certain streets; and I only do it when they're well enough behind to either remain back until it's safe to change lanes, or change lanes before they reach me.

    That being said, I don't blow stop signs, or red lights, or ride on sidewalks (usually), or what I deem to be, dangerous cycling behaviour. Also, I use cycling-designated streets here, in Vancouver, when it is practical for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by JeffS View Post
    There's a well understood hierarchy on the road and being at the bottom of it makes you insignificant in the eyes of most; They literally look down upon you, and there's no place for positive interaction from there...
    Though this may be the case in some cities, I find it's a sweeping generalization. And if this is the case in most cities, it's not a hierarchy of the road; but a disfunctional symptom of society. As hard as it is to do, when someone (driver or pedestrian) makes a derogatory remark - smile and wave, blow kisses, or whatever; just diffuse the situation. It will be healthier for you, and it will hopefully dispell the myth that all cyclists are rude and inconsiderate.
    Life is either a wild adventure or nothing - Helen Keller

  19. #19
    Senior Member condiment's Avatar
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    This isn't surprising. Societies are resistant to change, especially change which inconveniences them for reasons they cannot understand. When forces out of someone's control conspire to inflict change upon him, the frustration and hostility that he is feeling is expelled towards the first scapegoat available to him. In the case of most frustrated motorists, commuter cyclists are the scapegoat.

    There is a simple way to alleviate this frustration: Education.

    Educate motorists about the growing number of cyclists on the road and the problems caused by their not having a "safe" lane to ride in. Illustrate how worse off they would be were it not for these new facilities. Encourage tolerance and humanity, environmental conscientiousness and compassion. A PR clip on the local FOX affiliate and a couple of well-designed billboards would go a long way towards eliminating any potential backlash.

  20. #20
    Dare to be weird!
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    It will get much worse. Car culture will soon be in a struggle for its life. It will search for scapegoats and lash out against its perceived enemies. I wouldn't be surprised to see, in the next few years, scattered local efforts to completely legislate bicycles off the road.

  21. #21
    Senior Member condiment's Avatar
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    Don't be ridiculous. 99.9% of industrialized citizens still drive everywhere, and their trusty car companies are engineering solutions for pesky problems like peak oil and emerging Asian markets. Thinking that bicycles will be legislated off the road is letting your reason fall victim to a persecution complex.

  22. #22
    Seeing things MIKEnDC's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Platy View Post
    It will get much worse...
    I'm afraid it will, too. There's far too much money being made via the oil infrastructure, and far too convenient a "lifestyle" being sold to far too many people--people who aren't inclined to change readily anyway (particularly when you're talking about their cushy way of life). They might have to think in different ways and, Heaven forbid, actually act differently.

    The unspoken thought might be, "Maybe if I crush that cyclist, it'll just go away," or like my neighbor angrily screamed at me yesterday (as she somehow restrained herself from bulldozing me while we were coming into "our" development), "GET OFF DA ROAD! YOU AIN'T NO CAR!"

    That kind of thing is still the exception right now. But if enough people feel threatened enough, it could easily become the rule.

  23. #23
    Pedaled too far. Artkansas's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by condiment View Post
    Thinking that bicycles will be legislated off the road is letting your reason fall victim to a persecution complex.
    I don't think so; Platy is usually a pretty inciteful guy. He didn't say that the efforts would get anywhere, but I agree that it is a possibility in scattered localities. Why not; around here they tried to pass legislation against certain styles of pants, and South Pasadena just declared itself to be a no-cussing zone for a week. It's a wacky world.
    "He who serves all, best serves himself" Jack London

    Quote Originally Posted by Bjforrestal View Post
    I don't care if you are on a unicycle, as long as you're not using a motor to get places you get props from me. We're here to support each other. Share ideas, and motivate one another to actually keep doing it.

  24. #24
    Lanky Lass East Hill's Avatar
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    It's odd, but up here on the East Hill traffic never bothers me. There are not many bikes lanes where I ride, either. It's actually easier now than a few years ago.

    East Hill
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    TRY EMPATHY & HAVE LOVE IN YOUR HEART, PERHAPS I'LL SEE YOU ON THE ROAD...

  25. #25
    Senior Member halfro's Avatar
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    I'm one of few people riding on the road (in a bike lane) where I work. I see a few others, but not many. If you put 100/200 other cyclists on the road during the commute hours, I can guarantee automobile drivers would flip. There is only one section where the bike lane disappears and I need to ride on the road. For the most part, automobile drivers are cool with one cyclist. I may slow down at most 20 cars during the section with no bike lane. But if 100/200 cyclist used that same section of road with no bike lane during commute hours it would be a problem.
    I wish there was a small barrier between bike lanes and roads. Something that could be driven over by a car and carefully ridden over by a cyclist. Just a little warning to drivers and cyclist. I don't think putting a cement curb is the right thing to do, but something that still allows access to the bike lane and road for cyclists and automobiles.
    Car culture, I believe, will not die. I agree with Platy: there will be some problems between cyclist and automobiles, but for the most part many places haven't reach the point where cyclist are causing problems (mentioned above). Cities with a rich bike culture will be the first to have the issues, but I do not see bikes being kicked off the road. As gas,people,cars goes up more people will start riding bikes or looking for alternatives. Oil is evil...

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