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Absolutely. Here, here!! Spot on! There's nothing I could add or subtract that would make these comments any better.

My rules are similar to yours for stop lights and stop signs. I tend to come to a full stop if there is a light, though, since the cross traffic doesn't have to slow.

I don't agree about the bell/horn, though. I have a loud, small bell on my handlebars and I don't have to take my hand off the brake to use it. It's easer to hear than my voice and everyone recognizes it as a bike bell.

Excellent job with this post. I think you are entirely correct here although I too typically come to a complete stop at red lights unless I am positive there is no danger. Even then it's more of a rolling stop.
If only the people who write things as malicious as this person

"All I can say is, if you, Mr./Ms. Bicycle Rider, show me a complete lack of respect and courtesy when I am walking, I will return the favor when I am in my car."

Could actually grasp these concepts then maybe the world would be a safer place for all of us.

Brilliant! Just great. The one thing I will say is that when I ride, one of my major thoughts at intersections--aside from my personal safety--is making sure I don't inconvenience anyone. What I mean by that is that if a car is already waiting at the intersection I will slow down and let the car make its move, because it's got the right of way and it means that the car doesn't have to wait extra long for me to get through, nor does the driver have to develop bad feeling about bikers who fail to stop at stop signs. But so many drivers are afraid of those few bikers who seem to make no efforts to stop at stop signs that they will often sit longer at the stop sign and meekly waive me through. By that time, I've already slowed down, I'm no longer in a position to cruise through the intersection, and without doing anything wrong I feel like I've put them out. I guess I just wish that cars would follow the rules designed for cars, and bikers would follow (theoretical) rules designed for bikes. I don't know.

Also, in response to the quote about bikers feelings like hipster environmentalists. When I get on my commuter bike, I feel like I'm out to do battle, and I love it. Passing cars on the right side of the road isn't about saving the environment... it's about kicking their butt with nothing by my legs and my singlespeed.

Okay, I'll bite. Perhaps the reason why people are upset about this has something to do with the arrogance of (some) cyclists, who do not simply break the law, but make it clear that they feel morallyentitled to do so. (Bikers, it should be noted, break the law in very visible ways: burning lights, for example, as opposed to going 35 in a 25 mph zone.) Your apology for cyclists simply confirms this suspicion. (I love the notion that stop lights are optional, as long you look both ways. I'm sure many motorists would go for that, too.)

And its not just motorists who are mad at cyclists. As your own quotes (from the Post, I believe), pedestrians are mad too. As are transit-users in Portland:


So here is my question to the forum: what is the most effective form of bike advocacy:

1) Never giving any ground on any point, never trying to address the concerns of millions of motorists, pedestrians, while campaigning that their tax dollars be spent on bike lanes/paths/parking.


2)Participating in safety campaigns, encouraging cyclists to be sensitive to others (especially pedestrians), and working with public transit (which is different from simply demanding accommodations).

As far as I am concerned, 1) is a lost cause. Right now, motorists and pedestrians can outshout cyclists.

There have been many mentions on this blog about how great the bike facilities are in Holland/Denmark/Germany. It is worth pointing out that the cyclists there are, on the whole, much more considerate of others than American cyclists (as are the motorists). I'm sure that it will be objected that the cyclists are more considerate because they are treated with more consideration. That may be true, but the idea that cyclists are somehow entitled to break the law (which your post disavows while implicitly condoning) because others do leads to a moral and social impasse, not to mention road rage.

The problem, as I have said in a previous post, is that although cyclists start from a strong position (non-polluting, etc.), the attitude of some (many? most?) of them manages to alienate a lot of people. How is that a good thing?

There is a basic principal which many bicyclists don't seem to realize: If you give respect you get respect.

I did a little experiment as a bicyclist commuter. One day, I rode as many criticized bicyclists do... I barely stopped at stop signs and ran red lights. In both of these cases I made sure that it was safe and I would not inconvenience anyone. Then, the next day, I slowed to almost a dead stop and made it obvious that I was looking both directions at stop signs, and I came to a dead stop and waited patiently at red lights. Not surprisingly, on the second day I was treated much better by the motorists around me. They often waited a few extra seconds for me when the light turned green and passed me with a little extra space. There was a sense that "hey, he's following the rules so I'll be nice."

I've been bicycling like I did the second day ever since, and I'm continued to be amazed at how much patience motorists have when they feel you're playing by the rules. So, even if you know you can safely bend the rules as a bicyclist, it's really in your best interest to play by them. Your ride will be more pleasant, and you'll help the bicycling community be taken a bit more seriously when advocating for more or better facilities, enforcement of bicyclists' rights, etc.

A few comments:

"If you give respect you get respect." Sadly, in my experience, and especially on my daily commute, this hasn't been my experience at all. Perhaps it's the nature of the area in which I commute. I'm certainly glad there are apparently some respectful motorists out there, though.

"Bikers, it should be noted, break the law in very visible ways: burning lights, for example, as opposed to going 35 in a 25 mph zone." How about going 45 in a 25 MPH zone? That's more like what's happening out there, and it's pretty visible to me. Also, this morning I decided to count how many times I saw motorized vehicles going through red lights -- on my meager 5 mile commute, there were 2 buses, 3 cars, and an SUV running red lights. Is that visible enough? And I didn't even bother counting the number of pedestrians crossing against the signals. I really have no problem with pedestrians crossing against the signals, as long as they do so safely -- that's because I recognize that a person crossing is a lot less dangerous and very different than a large piece of metal. It's the same thing with bicycles versus cars -- a failure to recognize the significant degree of difference between a bicycle and a car with regards to these moving violations even while suggesting that a car going only 10 miles over the speed limit is a minor offense is strange to me.

"the idea that cyclists are somehow entitled to break the law (which your post disavows while implicitly condoning) because others do leads to a moral and social impasse, not to mention road rage." The source of road rage is hardly due to cyclists on the road -- it is due to a bad day at the office, too many motorized vehicles on the road, and a generally uncivil society before it's ever about cyclists on the road. I suspect that the road rage I experience is not due to my breaking the law (which I rarely do, by the way) -- it's due to the fact that I'm moving and the cars gridlocking the road are not.

"Passing cars on the right side of the road isn't about saving the environment... it's about kicking their butt with nothing by my legs and my singlespeed." AMEN!

Chris: Okay, so cyclists who pass on the right are not hipster environmentalists, they're stupid jocks. Does that make you feel better?

What many of you fail to understand is that cyclists stand to BENEFIT from a culture of consideration and respect for the law. We do not have large chunks of sheet metal protecting from other vehicles: we HAVE to depend upon the good will of others. Cyclists need good road laws, but they cannot effectively advocate them if they repeatedly insist they have no obligation to obey them.

When it it safest to go through an intersection? When there are no cars around. By all means, I will run a light if there are no cars close by. On the other hand, nearly as often, I will decline to go through an intersection if I have the light and the automotive traffic presents a risk.

Quez: Hmmm, I'm not sure why passing cars on the right is a demonstration of being a "stupid jock." There's nothing illegal about passing cars on the right, and indeed, in a lot of cases, it's a hell of a lot safer on the right in front of the car than behind it.

As for failing to understand that we cyclists benefit from a culture of consideration and respect for the law, I can't speak for the others, but I understand that perfectly well. I have never suggested that I have no obligation to obey the law. I'm just saying that obeying the law (as if most motorists even KNOW what the law says about cyclists on the road) is not going to suddenly force motorists to respect the rights of cyclists on the road.

Here's the problem, as I see it: You read the original post as an attempt to justify breaking the law. I read it not as permission to break the law; but rather as an attempt to explain what may be going through the cyclists' head when he/she runs a red light which may not be obvious to the motorist. It doesn't justify it; it explains it.

One last thing: I don't just depend upon the good will of others -- when commuting, I ride in a defensive manner which assumes that motorists don't have good will. This means taking my place in the middle of the lane when necessary, or changing lanes. A motorist who doesn't know any better might think of this as unsafe and illegal, but, like I said, that motorist doesn't know any better.


I agree that cycling (driving) defensively is a good idea. That does not mean that cylists do not fare better when there is a culture of respect for the law.

My problem with the original post is that it began with the project of understanding why motorists (& pedestrians) are so angry at cyclists, but ended up merely reiterating a series of talking points that explain and, yes, justify cyclist behavior. You can say "I'm not saying two wrongs make a right" as many times as you want to. But that is certainly what it sounds like you saying.

As for the "dumb jock" comment, I acknowledge that it was gratuitous. My point was that cyclists' tone on such topics usually comes off as arrogant. (I am greener than your SUV. I can go faster than your SUV. etc.)

quez-you are right - for the most part cyclists in Holland, Geramny, and Denmark are usually very considerate- except for in Cologne[ Koln] where both bikers and skaters are preposterously risky and obnoxious. Keep this in mind when going to see their fantastic Cathedral[ Dom] which has a huge square in front of it. The antics of some of these juveniles likely gives a bad name to the majority of the bicyclists there, who are probably OK- but it did make an impression on me. My favorite places were Muenster- which is a university town and very bike friendly- and Copenhagen.. Bike manners seem to be pretty good in most of these places-in Copenhagen the cars are clearly the odd ones out- the bicyclists certainly rule..Im guessing Im one of the few folks in DC who actually likes the new plaza for the White House- its freedom for bikers just like in Europe...WF

First, I'd like to thank everyone for his or her very thoughtful comments. I knew this post would be controversial, and I'm glad it has not denigrated to name-calling. One reason I posted this is that I’m still considering my own thoughts on the issue.

Jamy mentioned they disagreed with me on the bell/horn. Let me restate that. I have a bell, I use it and think it’s great; but there may not be enough evidence that they improve safety as to mandate that everyone own one. In this way they differ from lights – for which the safety benefits are large enough that a law requiring them makes sense. That’s my point.

As far as the “moral and social impasse” that breaking the law brings one to, that’s harder to address. Charlie D. has the most ethically correct stance. No doubt, following the law to the letter (and fighting to change it when it’s wrong) is the most ethical policy – except in cases of unethical laws (I’m thinking Rosa Parks here), but we aren’t dealing with any issues like that. The policy of many cyclists, myself included, is the most pragmatic. And I think the fact that the police so rarely enforce these laws on bikes (and pedestrians) is a tacit admittance that they think so too. If people jaywalk at an empty intersection at 3:00 am, that’s fine with me – and with just about everyone else I know.

Bikes are different than cars. It’s not that I don’t think the laws apply to me because I’m on a bike, it’s that they shouldn’t apply to me in the same way. I agree with guez that we should be “Participating in safety campaigns, encouraging cyclists to be sensitive to others (especially pedestrians), and working with public transit (which is different from simply demanding accommodations).” (Though I’m not clear what they mean about “working with public transit”), but I also think we should be working to change laws so that they make sense for bikes. Stop signs aren’t optional, but they should be for bikes (or yield signs to be more accurate). So what about lights? Maybe we don’t want to say that bikes can treat lights like stop signs. But we don’t want to make bikes full stop at a light if no one is there (bikes are different in this case because they’re about 2000 lbs lighter, have greater visibility, can maneuver better and can stop and park on the island if they can only make it halfway). So what do we do? We make it illegal to run stop signs but only enforce it in egregious cases. How is that different from what we have now?

I don't think whether or not the cyclists in Holland, Germany, and Denmark are more considerate than those here particularly proves much other than to suggest that people in those countries are generally more courteous.

I'm not going to continue ranting, but I'm curious. Is anyone aware of a jurisdiction (city, state, province, country, etc.) where stop signs are legally considered yield signs for cyclists and cyclists can use their discretion at stoplights?

Idaho and Montana allow for yielding at stop signs (and I've heard Davis, CA). Nowhere that I know of are stoplights at cyclist's discretion. The law in Idaho...


(1) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching
a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before
entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or
stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in
the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to
constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving
across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that
a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the
right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed
through the intersection without stopping.

Three comments:
The quote: "All I can say is, if you, Mr./Ms. Bicycle Rider, show me a complete lack of respect and courtesy when I am walking, I will return the favor when I am in my car," comes from Dr. Gridlock's online chat. I was dismayed that the new Dr. Gridlock pretty much followed in the footsteps of the old Dr. Gridlock and let the comment go.

For pedestrians, getting run into by a cyclist is one of those things that is more scary than dangerous. Nationwide, it would be a bad year if one pedestrian were killed by a cyclist. Still stay off the sidewalks.

It's also instructive to look at the stats on red-light running. In 2004, five cyclists were killed in DC, all in collisions with cars. None of those collisions were caused by a cyclist ignoring a signal or sign, while two were caused by motorists running red lights. In one case, a cyclist who stopped at a red light was killed by a motorist who ran it. This squares with nationwide statistics; according to the NHTSA cyclists are substantially more likely to be killed by a motorist ignoring a sign or signal than by doing so themselves.

The poster who talks about Arizona law in the original entry mis-represents Arizona law. Here's what the law says:

"If a person is driving a vehicle at a speed less than the normal flow of traffic at the particular time and place on a two-lane highway where passing is unsafe, and if five or more vehicles are formed in a line behind the vehicle, the person shall turn the vehicle off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout by signs erected by the director or a local authority, or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists, in order to permit the vehicles following to proceed. "

This law does apply to bicycles -- Arizona considers bicycles "vehicles" -- but there is more to this than the poster indicates. First, it only applies on two-lane highways where passing is impossible. Second, the driver of the slow vehicle is not required to pull over immediately, rather wherever "sufficient area for a safe turnout exists." I would expect that as normal cycling behavior -- if you're backing up traffic, and there's space to get over and let them pass, you do, but it doesn't mean you have to get off the road simply because there's someone behind you who wants to go faster than you.

In general, the law regarding slow moving vehicles is that the legislature has the right to set minimum speed limits and to limit what types of vehicles use the roadway. If the legislature chooses not to do so, then vehicles may use the road as they are capable, even if other road users are inconvenienced. There is no concept of a limited right to use the road as long as others aren't inconvenienced -- either you can use the road or you can't. (Keep in mind that the slow-vehicle lobby is not primarily cyclists, it's agriculture and trucking.)

An interesting discussion of the issue is here:

People who ride bicycles every day should be the ones writing the laws/rules for bicycles - and idiotic regs like not allowing bicycles on downtown DC sidewalks would be thrown out.Car drivers in DC do not want to yield to bicyclists in most situations- and this makes riding on the streets very dangerous except for people who are young, fast, and strong enough to deal with this kind of urban combat. Not allowing bicycles on the sidewalks- at least in zoned or marked areas on the sidewalks- effectively bans bicycles from downtown DC.Our sidewalks are more than wide enough to permit nicely spaced bikeways just like they have in European cities.

I ride through downtown every day. I'm 40. Thanks for calling me young, fast and strong!

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