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Ooooh, man. I want to ride out there just so I can ignore it.

:P

"Why don't cyclists follow the rules"?

When I ride home, I don't remember the 99 motorists that safely passed me. I remember the one jerk that made a close-call. Nobody remembers the cyclists who stop at red lights and otherwise rides responsibly...

Rob: I work on K St underneath the Whitehurst Freeway, so I see a lot of bikes. As a commuter cyclist, I make special notice of other cyclists. more than 95% blow straight through stop signs on K St. It definitely is a problem for relationships with the non-biking community

As a commuter cyclist, I make special notice of other cyclists. more than 95% blow straight through stop signs on K St. It definitely is a problem for relationships with the non-biking community

They blow through the stop sign at K Street for the same reason that *cars* blow through stop signs--because stop signs are meant to negotiate right-of-way, and when right-of-way is not in question, there's no need for them.

There's an (in-)famous YouTube video that shows about five minutes of heavy auto traffic passing through a four-way stop--not a single one of them comes to a stop. They each slow down a bit, make sure they're not going to hit or be hit, and rolls through at 5-6 miles per hour. Exactly as bikes do.

The problem for relationships with the non-biking community stems entirely from the higher standard they're held to.

The negative stereotypes about bikers have nothing to do with rolling stop-signs, and everything to do with a few selfish individuals on bikes not being sufficiently deferential to pedestrians, wrong-way cyclists, and the like.

Meanwhile there are a hard-core of drivers who don't think bikes should be on the road--period. Fuck 'em.

SJE, K street is a great example of cars driving unusually slow and coming to a complete stop at stop signs far more than usual. It is not a typical intersection.

Reasons include:

1. Stop signs every couple hundred feet so there's little chance for cars to speed up.
2. Lots of cars driving slowly looking for parking.
3. Lots of driveways and mini intersections slowing traffic.
4. Only one lane in each direction with a turn lane that seems to always have cars in it which slows down traffic through intersections while they wait for turns.
5. Drivers usually know they are not going to get anywhere in a hurry when they are under the Whitehurst so they are not very aggressive (usually).
6. Its an enclosed space with a roof which helps slow drivers down. Makes you feel like you are driving inside.
7. Pedestrians all over the place.
8. Lots of bikes, which drivers expect and this probably makes cyclists feel a little safer so they go a little faster.
9. Lots of drivers unfamiliar with G-town from MD and VA.
10. Lots of DC cabs which are driven more slowly than other vehicles and are more likely to come to a complete stop at stop signs.
11. Lots of double parked cars or cars idling or waiting illegally.

Come visit most of the intersections near my home in Chevy Chase. I'll bet 95% of drivers run the stop signs there.

Yes a big % of bikes run that intersection and lots of bikes travel through to the trail. But its relatively safe since cars are moving so slowly. I don't think K is a big problem for the non biking community. The vast majority of drivers on K st. don't get upset and most bikes are on their way to or from the trail which takes them off the road out of drivers hair for miles.

Let's put aside rolling stops. How about cyclists that blow through stop lights? I see this all the time, am I'm not talking about stop lights in the middle of nowhere where no traffic is around. I'm talking about major intersections during rush hour.

There are definitely cyclists--not a majority but definitely a visible minority--who basically ignore traffic controls. If you don't see how this is a public relations issue for cycling, then you have your head in the sand.

guez, I agree that there are a few cyclists who do really selfish and dangerous things - and I'm talking about actions that are both - and that it makes cyclists look bad.

One could try to discipline all cyclists to quit that. But since cycling attracts a certain anarchy element, that is unlikely to be effective. A better policy is to do what Dr. Gridlock has done and to point out that every group has a few bad apples, and that it doesn't ruin the whole bunch. So I think that while we ask cyclists to be more responsible, we also need to ask observers to realize that cyclists don't have a monopoly (or even a majority stake) on bad behavior.

I agree about the anarchist fringe and how that is not representative of every cyclist. There are so many drivers, cyclists, pedetrians, rollerbladers and dog walkers who ignore rules so no group is better behaved than any other group, from what I've seen.

I included dog walkers because of the long leashes some of them use. One woman had what must have been a 40-foot leash. She let her dog wander to the other side of the road while she stood still. The leash blocked off two full lanes of the road at Hains Point.

While I'm walking in crosswalks as I have a green light, a car driver will try to force people out of the crosswalk as the car is turning into that road. This happens extremely frequently. So I don't really sympathize when someone complains that all cyclists ignore traffic rules. Drivers ignore traffic rules every day and act aggressively toward pedestrians as well as cyclists. Not all drivers, but enough. And that driver is carrying a 3000-lb. weapon.

How many cyclists really "blow through stop lights"? (As opposed to slowing down and looking rather than making a full stop). Even if cyclists are totally selfish, they would be putting THEMSELVES in danger by doing so.

Wash, are you sure the ped and bike phases at the new MVT bike signal are different? The few times I've been down there to observe, they're on the same cycle, not different as you alluded to. And even within that ABC7 piece, at 0:44, it shows the signal phasing green for both bikes and peds at the same time.

No, I'm not. Someone said that in the comments I think. I haven't been down there yet.

Geez, all this self justification from my fellow cyclists. Most cars at least slow for the stop, and take turns with other cars. Its an acknowlegement to the law.

The cyclists on K St blow through stop signs faster than any of the cars (not even slowing), do not give way to cars at the car's turn, and regularly buzz pedestrians. I was walking yesterday with a bunch of co-workers who, after being buzzed, complained loudly about cyclists who don't follow the rules.

I realize that drivers disobey the law. But this behavior by cyclists only irritates drivers, does not enhance cyclist safety, and does us all a disservice in the long run.

Not even slowing doesn't bother me per se. It depends on the circumstances. But certainly I don't condone going out of turn (unless it is in the lee of another car) or buzzing pedestrians. And I agree that behavior is bad.

Behavior that is rude and/or dangerous should be avoided.

It bothers the drivers and sends the signal that we cyclists are above the law. It is particularly dangerous with the dense traffic on that section of K street, with lots of turning cars etc. One comment I heard from a coworker was that he had heard that there was a move to recognize bikes as vehicles, and if so, they would need to follow the law. I responded that they are already legally vehicles, and should follow the law, or at least slow down.


What is really needed in DC and across the USA are auto-protected, separated bikeways. There is absolutely no reason in the world that cyclists should be forced to mix in with high speed cars on dangerous roads. we can bump out our sidewalks and use the super-wide sidewalks we already have in DC for safe bikeways. cycling is not all about going fast or about racing- it should also be for transportation.

I am not sure if everyone will agree with this, but on K St under the Whitehurst it seems to me that it makes a difference which direction you are going, the side streets only go north. An eastbound cyclist can go through the intersections without interfering with auto traffic, if riding on the ride side of the road. Or course all of the normal cautions about pedestrians and parked cars should be observed as well.

sorry- but I have cycling in DC for over 40 years - mostly on the sidewalks. Knock on wood- but I am yet to be in an accident with either a car or a walker. I always use a bell or horn and give way to people on sidewalks- it is simply too dangerous to ride int he roads with the cars around here. If anyone wants to do this- I do not care- but I also think that for the folks that do not want to risk our hides that we need an alternative to racing or athletic cycling fast on the roads. It does not make sense that the athletic cyclists are the ones making decisons about how everyone cycles. I am also impressed that the new Capitol Bike Share bikes are as good as they are- sit up bikes, chain guards, big thick tires, fat seats- in a word- everything that the racers and athletic bikers seemingly do not approve of. Question is- how many cyclists will be maimed or injured before the planners wake up and realize that cycling on streets and roads with cars is inherently suicidal?
Vehicular cycling is a policy that has been unfairly stamped upon this basically anti- cycling, anti - transit, anti - pedestrian society we live in- and the very people one would expect to go against this stupidity are in league with it.

Purple Eagle: you are right that the direction of travel does make a difference in regard to safety. The impact on perceptions, however, is less affected by direction of travel: motorists only notice "scofflaw cyclists"

"Vehicular cycling is a policy that has been unfairly stamped upon this basically anti- cycling, anti - transit, anti - pedestrian society we live in- and the very people one would expect to go against this stupidity are in league with it."

I consider VC to be a plot perpetrated by AASHTO and AAA so that they could keep cycling mode share exactly in the same place it was in 1976 when the term Vehicular Cycling was coined. So far, mission accomplished.

That said, the reason city streets are unsafe for cycling is not due (entirely) to a failure to develop appropriate facilities. It is basically due to the failure of our society to control the car.

SJE, just to be clear are you talking about cyclists putting an end to safe, polite, but illegal behavior? If so:

1. I can only assume that the purpose of this is to appease drivers. While I can see reasons why this goal is of value, I don't see why you think this wou0dl work. We've all been yelled at and buzzed by drivers when biking safely, politely and legally, why would this change? Add in the fact that many drivers don't know what is legal and what isn't, and there is no reason to believe that cyclists would get credit for biking legally. Getting cyclist to bike legally probably won't have the benefit you seek.

2. How would that even happen? If drivers see one cyclist break the rules and thus think badly of the whole group, how far must the message penetrate? Do you need 100% of cyclists to follow the law for it to work? 90%? 50%? Considering that 0% of pedestrians and drivers follow the law in all cases, tell me if that is even possible? Even if it has the benefit you expect, is it a realistic goal?

3. At what cost? One reason why people bike so often is that they can get places as fast or faster by bike. If cyclists must now footdrop their way through town, how many trips does that push into the slower by bike category. If you had a magic machine that would make it impossible for cyclist to perform Idaho stops, what would that do to the number of people who bike?

So is the benefit worth the cost, and is it possible to achieve. My take on both of those is no. Changing the law is possible though.

Washcycle:
A cyclist should follow the rules of the road because it if the law, not to make drivers happy.

If (when biking) you have a noble purpose for ignoring those rules you need to find a way to declare your intentions, because the rest of the world--those people who decide how much funding cycling gets, or whether they are going to conform to social norms and not act out their rage--you look like you are a jackass who thinks the rules do not apply to him.

The laissez faire approach to biking works fine when our mode share is small. The problem is that it is not scalable. If half the people on the roads are doing whatever they damn well please, then we're all screwed.

Finally, are you seriously suggesting that cycling will take a hit if suddenly cyclists have to obey the law? Point-to-point, the bike is still faster than the car, bus, or metro in an urban environment. Bikers are going to start driving just because MPD writes a few tickets. People don't stop walking if they get a jaywalk tickets.

Bikermark -- have you spent any time observing the way people drive cars? "half the people on the roads doing whatever they damn well please" would be about a 50% improvement.

Bikermark - when you bike in the District do you always have a bell or horn on your bike?

"SJE, just to be clear are you talking about cyclists putting an end to safe, polite, but illegal behavior?"

So would you feel comfortable with trusting *motorists* to "safely" run red lights?

guez, yes. But that actually can't be done. So the correct percentage of times that red lights can be safely run by cars is zero.

And why is that? Are there any traffic laws that you would suggest could be disregarded by motorists in a "safe" manner? And are there any any traffic laws that you think cyclists cannot disregard in a safe manner?

And why is [it that drivers can't safely run red lights]?
For a driver to see if the coast is clear they need to move their car into an unsafe position. So either they are going when they can't see or they are moving their car partly into the intersection. I think this is validated by the fact that drivers almost never do run red lights from a stop. It is not because they hold the law in high regard (or they wouldn't break other laws) it is because they know they can't do it safely.

Are there any traffic laws that you would suggest could be disregarded by motorists in a "safe" manner?

On Penn SE, where the trolley ROW exists, drivers who turn left on the green into the median are then supposed to stop and wait for the cross-street light to change. Often they don't, treating it like any other left turn. I think this is usually OK (though I don't do it). Also, vehicle registration laws, HOV violations, toll gate violations come to mind. And I'm OK with the "midnight flashing yellow" that one occasionally sees in small towns, which changes the law in a similar way.

And are there any any traffic laws that you think cyclists cannot disregard in a safe manner?

Off the top of my head: light requirements, wrong-way cycling, highway restrictions, and properly yielding the ROW.

Washcycle: Yes, part of it is to "appease" drivers, except that we are not "appeasing" them, just following the law without an increase in risk for us. The term "appease" implies that we are giving up a right that we have to avoid a confrontation, like not riding on Rock Creek Park so as to "appease" the drivers.

As for "appeasement" generally, we cyclists are a small minority, and a vulnerable minority. Its one thing to stand up for our rights, but why antagonize the majority unecessarily?

why antagonize the majority unnecessarily?

But my point is that following the law vis-a-vis red lights and stop signs will do little to reduce the antagonizing and is extremely useful. Why give up something so useful if you get little in return?

part of it is to "appease" drivers What is the other part?

I don't take appease to mean giving up a right. I take it to mean giving into to the demands of others to make them happy.

@guez:

There are definitely cyclists--not a majority but definitely a visible minority--who basically ignore traffic controls. If you don't see how this is a public relations issue for cycling, then you have your head in the sand.

I drive (and cycle) down Bladensburg Road pretty often. Inevitably, there are various middle-school kids, down-on-their-luck looking guys, women, etc, etc... all walking across the street against the light, standing in the road, giving drivers the stink-eye as if they were daring you to run them over.

I don't drive away and spend the rest of the day buzzing pedestrians in the crosswalk because the minority has somehow "proven" that pedestrians haven't earned the right to cross the road. If I did, you'd be right to label me a nutcase--certainly not in "the majority."

As washcycle said, you're confusing cause and effect: there's a minority of vocal drivers who begrudge cyclists their right to be in the road. That's their starting-point. If no cyclist ever treated a red-light as a yield in perpetuity, they'd be pissed off that cyclists are splitting lanes. Or failing to stay sufficiently right. Or not using hand-signals.

Ask yourself why some tiny minority of drivers gets sputtering mad at behavior that does absolutely nothing to endanger the driver (aside from ridiculous scenarios where the car ends up flipping onto it's back and exploding into flames after unsuccessfully trying to avoid a self-absorbed hipster doofus on a single speed).

As the number of cyclists increases, and urban traffic congestion increases, this stuff will cease to be a novelty to the driving population, and we'll see even fewer drivers go ballistic over "that time a guy rode right in front of me--and he wasn't even wearing a helmet!!"

Now, jackasses who ride on the sidewalk at speed, or who endanger pedestrians in some way--they deserve to have umbrellas shoved into their spokes. Those guys are pure evil.

[W]e are not "appeasing" them, just following the law

    without an increase in risk for us
.

This assertion is by no means uncontroversial, btw. There are a number of scenarios in which "jumping the light", or even stopping, looking, then rolling through a red-light is safer than waiting for green.

I agree with Pangloss wrt red lights: there is definitely an advantage to being out in front and visible. Its a different story in the particular place I mention: stop signs, turning cars, entering and exiting from the side, pedestrians, lots of bikes.

As for the minority/majority issue you mention to Guez: my posting was stimulated by the conversations started by two colleagues who were disgusted at the behavior of cyclists. They are both very calm, even keeled people. One is European, and has a lot of experience with non-car transport, and the other has lived his entire life in dense cities. If you are losing the PR war with these people, there is a problem.

Dr. Pangloss,

It's not just people who hate cyclists who bring this up. Large numbers of cyclist-friendly motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians complain about (bad) cyclists. It's a genuine public-relations problem, whether you like it or not. And I hope that you're right that history is on the side of cyclists, because we're not doing much to advance our cause.

The other day, I saw a cyclist blow across a busy intersection in DC, during rush hour, against a light. I see something like this every couple of days. I know that motorists do all sorts of bad things, and I acknowledge that the consequences are much greater. But that is really beside the point. Cyclist hi-jinks like this are highly visible and they damage cycling advocacy among perfectly reasonable people, many of whom may well be on the fence: they like the idea of cycling, but they're irritated by the behavior of a highly visible minority of cyclists. How is this not a problem?

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