Road Cycling “It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” -- Ernest Hemingway

The Compassion Curve

Old 01-06-15, 11:32 PM
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interungulate
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The Compassion Curve

So I went back up to the Bay Area for winter break and had my long-overdue first "get off the road!!!" experience. Then came back down to Santa Barbara for school and realised just how much nicer the motorists here are. This got me thinking about something I think would best be described as the 'compassion curve'.

Let me explain: the compassion curve is a visual representation of the quantity of drivers at each stage of niceness, from d*ckheads to neutral to awesome road angels. I'd postulate that the 'normal' curve for most places is a bell curve, where a lot of the population are neutral toward cyclists and the (small) percentage of awful and awesome drivers is the same. However, no city is ever /truly/ normal, right?

So for Walnut Creek, where I grew up, I'd say the curve tends to be flatter, with more people being terrible and more being great, but still proportional. In Napa, where I explored a couple weeks ago, it's pretty much a flat line, maybe even sloping a bit downward. In Santa Barbara, it's pretty much a line with slope 1 originating at (0,0). Here's three pictures, of the 'norm', Walnut Creek, and Santa Barbara. Please excuse the really awful quality of my digital drawings.



My question is pretty simple. What does the 'compassion curve' in your city look like?
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Old 01-07-15, 04:37 AM
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Around Ann Arbor, most of the drivers are pretty attentive and compassionate. I very rarely have issues or complaints about behavior.

Westerly routes out of town stay pretty compassionate for many miles, but 15 out to the north and east, and it changes rapidly towards awful. I've had it all: yelled at, honked at, buzzed, cans thrown, and brake-checked. I was even smacked on the butt once in South Lyon.

Southerly routes are pretty flat behaviorally for many miles, more than I've ridden to see any change, perhaps because it's the most rural. I've never experienced the heights of awful experienced in the north and east (commuter corridors for metro Detroit area).

My town makes efforts to promote and publicize cycling, and the way the university and its students are mixed in the city probably increases awareness of cyclists...and the expectation of erratic behavior... so drivers give more accommodation.
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Old 01-07-15, 04:50 AM
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There needs to be a curve for cyclists too and do the correlate?
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Old 01-07-15, 04:52 AM
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Where I live it is more like picture #3 , but it is a bit of an apples vs. oranges comparison. I would say probably around 99% of the drivers here are also cyclists, because almost everyone in the country owns at least one bike. Bikes almost always have the right of way in most situations as well, so people generally pay more attention and are friendlier toward cyclists. Even if this weren't the case, we are fortunate that much of the time we aren't even really forced to share the road with fast-moving traffic since there is usually a dedicated bike path along most roads. A small consolation for not having any real climbs, I guess.
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Old 01-07-15, 05:29 AM
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I'd say it's pretty hard to plot a curve, since it's hard to tell whether the vast majority or nice or not; most seem indifferent. The truly awful drivers stand out, but I don't think they represent a sizable portion, and there may be more "road angels" but they aren't noticeable.

Most of the honking I get, I appreciate. Frequently, I'll get a quick "bip-bip" by a taxi to warn me that he's approaching from behind as we make our way down a side street (one way), weaving around potholes and double-parked vehicles.

While I don't like to be nearly sideswiped, it also sort of bothers me when drivers will veer WAY over across the centerline to pass - I appreciate it if they want me to feel comfortable, and if they LIKE doing that, OK, but I don't want them to think that passing me is such a big deal.
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Old 01-07-15, 07:42 AM
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My assumption is always that the denser the population the riskier the cycling thanks to the "rat race" mentality.
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Old 01-07-15, 07:49 AM
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Of course the distribution is most likely very close to a normal Gaussian bell curve everywhere, just a with a different mean value in different places.

Personally in Houston I find that the more economically depressed neighborhoods have the most compassionate drivers. It is in River Oaks and Meyerland where the riding is most dangerous.
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Old 01-07-15, 08:33 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
My assumption is always that the denser the population the riskier the cycling thanks to the "rat race" mentality.
There probably is a convergence point, but there also seems to be some fairly small towns where there's an "us vs. them" mentality, too, like where the rednecks in trucks like to yell, "Hey, Lance!" as they buzz you. In my area, I think I can see this in smaller communities that are, to use their perspective, "under siege" by change, in particular, encroaching urbanization. The more stable small communities which aren't seeing commuter housing pop up, and where traditional, local businesses remain, seem to be more compassionate towards cyclists, or at least less outwardly aggressive.
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Old 01-07-15, 08:35 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
My assumption is always that the denser the population the riskier the cycling thanks to the "rat race" mentality.
Faulty assumption, at least around these parts. More and more people have come to accept bikes in the streets, and they realize that the next stop sign or traffic light is usually just a block away. It's when you get into the 'burbs that things get hairier. Higher speed limits. Fewer traffic control devices. Twisty roads with poor sight lines. Greater opportunity to hit and run. People in more of a hurry because they have to drive from here to there to there to there to get things done. The majority of death and serious injuries in these parts happen in the suburbs and exurbs.

There are, course, risks in urban cycling, but I often feel safer in the city than in certain less-populated 'burb areas.
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Old 01-07-15, 08:59 AM
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My observations in suburban Chicago:
1. Illinois drivers are generally left-ward (road angel) skewed. 72% of people around here are reasonable around bikes.

Having stipulated that:
2. The curve is skewed heavily to the right among pick-up drivers. Adding "No Fear" or Browning stickers to the rear glass, a lift kit or "big rig" style exhaust stacks generates an almost entirely right-skewed curve.
3. Minority drivers are generally much more reasonable and accepting, they skew leftward. The biggest jerks are exclusively 28-50 year old white males.
4. The curve moves steadily to the right as the road you're on becomes busier. People become so fixated on the traffic rat race that a delay of milliseconds sends them into a mashing the pedal to the floor insta-rage. Everyone just needs to relax.
5. Rural areas don't have a Gaussian distribution. You either get people who panic for some reason when they see a bike (oh! oh! a bike! whatever do I do?!? I'll just sit right behind him for miles on an empty road and then swing out to pass with 35 feet of clearance 1 MPH faster than the bike is travelling) or you get reasonable drivers. The occassional ******bag fat, goatee-adorned redneck who loudly and with great wit questions your sexuality is thrown in for spice (seen about once every two weeks).
6. You need somewhere on the curve for people who are dangerously oblivious: trailer towers who don't know how wide their trailer is, texters in BMWs who somehow don't see you or a flat and straight road in broad daylight, people with no sense for closing speed that cut you off with a no signal left turn when you're doing 25 MPH etc. These people aren't deliberate jerks but they're inarguably the most dangerous drivers you can encounter. Not sure where they go.

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Old 01-07-15, 10:10 AM
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Originally Posted by indyfabz View Post
Faulty assumption, at least around these parts.
Same here. It seems like every time someone does the "aggressive honk, close pass" move, the road is empty. That's such a pet peeve of mine for some reason. Why get upset when you can easily pass me and I didn't slow you down at all?

I think when it's busy, people are more likely to do the more benign inconsiderate stuff like pull out in front of you.
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Old 01-07-15, 10:23 AM
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It's much better to ride in Seattle than in the suburbs. They'll hit you for fun in Kirkland or Bellevue. I think part of it is political, and part is that there are more bikes in the city. Last year there were more than a million bike trips across the west span of the Fremont bridge, and cyclists use both spans.

I've never encountered a rude motorist in the Methow Valley. That place is an outdoor recreation mecca, tourism is the cornerstone of their economy. Politeness serves their interests.
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Old 01-07-15, 10:35 AM
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Screw city living.
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Old 01-07-15, 11:08 AM
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Originally Posted by DXchulo View Post
Why get upset when you can easily pass me and I didn't slow you down at all?
This is exactly what makes me crazy. If I'm obeying the law and riding responsibly but still inconvenience a driver, I feel that they at least have some cause to get annoyed with me (however ludicruously over-entitled that annoyance may be).

However if I'm not inonveniencing in a driver in any way, I haven't slowed them one micosecond and I'm not in their way at all, why do they sometimes still act like a jerk? To these people, just the very sight of a cyclist is deeply offensive to them. These completely irrational people are the ones I generally lose control with and end up flipping off. This is a bad habit I'm trying to break myself of.
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Old 01-07-15, 12:01 PM
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Originally Posted by rpenmanparker View Post
Of course the distribution is most likely very close to a normal Gaussian bell curve everywhere, just a with a different mean value in different places.

Personally in Houston I find that the more economically depressed neighborhoods have the most compassionate drivers. It is in River Oaks and Meyerland where the riding is most dangerous.
I think the issue in Houston is directly proportional to how many cars are on the road, how much room there is to get around a cyclist, how much (or how little) of a jackass the local cyclists are about riding 2 (or more) abreast, and how much of a hurry the drivers are in. In lower income areas, there just aren't as many cars on the roads in general, and they aren't in as big a hurry to get somewhere like they are in the richer areas. But there are also a lot more folks riding bikes in the lower income areas that aren't dressed in flamboyant colored lycra and riding 3 across the only lane of traffic on their way to starbucks. I swear some of the folks I see riding around here are complete idiots in how far out of their way they will go to NOT get out of the way of traffic. I can hardly blame some drivers for being irate at cyclists after watching some of the behavior on the roads around here...but I wish they would take it out on the jackasses blocking traffic instead of those of us who are minding our own business. And don't get me started on Critical Mass' contribution to the number of virulently anti-cyclist drivers in Midtown.
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Old 01-08-15, 07:47 AM
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I live in northeast CT in a town that has more of it's land area in farms than any town in the state. A bordering town has 20,000+ residents with it's share of idiots. However, it is extremely rare that drivers become aggressive towards cyclist in either place. If it happens it is more likely that it will happen in the "city." OTOH I grew up in NJ near the GWB and I visit there fairly often. I would not ride a bicycle there and I've gotten to the point that I won't even take my motorcycle down there. I'm sure there are regional differences but I remain convinced that population density is a big factor.
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Old 01-08-15, 08:20 AM
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I would guess that only 1% of drivers are jerks. I suspect that is true everywhere, but more cars means higher absolute number of jerky drivers.
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Old 01-08-15, 08:30 AM
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Originally Posted by interungulate View Post
My question is pretty simple. What does the 'compassion curve' in your city look like?
Sounds like the Hot Crazy Matrix
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Old 01-08-15, 09:01 AM
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Wow, I literally could not sit through more than a minute of that.
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Old 01-08-15, 10:26 AM
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Originally Posted by bruce19 View Post
I live in northeast CT in a town that has more of it's land area in farms than any town in the state.
I mostly grew up in Lebanon, CT. Went to Lyman. Used to bike around to visit my friends as a kid.
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Old 01-08-15, 10:27 AM
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Originally Posted by datlas View Post
I would guess that only 1% of drivers are jerks. I suspect that is true everywhere, but more cars means higher absolute number of jerky drivers.
More cars also means more polite drivers in the mix, so your chances of encountering a jerky one don't change. (At least not based on the number of cars.)
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Old 01-08-15, 11:18 AM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
I mostly grew up in Lebanon, CT. Went to Lyman. Used to bike around to visit my friends as a kid.
So you know the Liberty Hill Plant Farm on Trumbull Hwy? We live in the old house across the street. Built around 1763. A lot of people (especially the folks at Bender's Oil) call it the Kissman House. One of my hangouts is Uncle D's Log Cabin down the street.
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Old 01-08-15, 11:29 AM
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Originally Posted by oldnslow2 View Post
Sounds like the Hot Crazy Matrix
That's really stupid and offensive.
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Old 01-08-15, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Seattle Forrest View Post
More cars also means more polite drivers in the mix, so your chances of encountering a jerky one don't change. (At least not based on the number of cars.)
Chances of encountering one every moment, sure, but the chances of encountering one on any given ride increase greatly in more populated areas. The more cars/people that go by, the more jerks that go by.
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Old 01-08-15, 12:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Lazyass View Post
Screw city living.
I have a much better time in the city/dense urban areas. Its the suburbanites and rural rednecks you have to watch out for.
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