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I enjoyed this. Of course, one way to reduce driver complaints is to reduce the number of drivers.

Good column! My unscientific observation is that Cabi riders appear to be among the most cautious and conscientious road users. I can't say I've ever seen a CaBi user riding the wrong way in traffic for example.

And a quibble -- bikes are traffic. It's illogical to say that the Humpback bridge improvements have helped biking but not traffic.

Hmmm. Pads. Now there's a thought.

By contrast, Contrarian, in my experience CaBi riders are among the worst. In the past two weeks, I've seen them run Stop signs (w/o slowing down), ride on hte wrong (left) side of the MVT and expecting me to move, and almost hitting pedestrians on the sidewalk. (I don't care if they don't want to wear helmets or ride at night with only dark clothes.)

Can bicyclists start writing to Dr. Gridlock complaining about cars running red lights and stop signs as often as drivers write in complaining about bicyclists doing so? And what about drivers complaining about others drivers running red lights and stop signs? I think it's much scarier for me to see a car run a red light or stop sign (often the "D.C. stop") than it is inconvenient/enviable/unfair for them to see a bicyclist run a red light or stop sign - I worry that the next car that's 500 feet back and not slowing down is also going to blow that same red light/stop sign even though I have the green light.

Nice responses, Dr. Bikelock.

This kills me:
"I do wish they'd all wear helmets, though."

Why? This is equivalent to me pining away over all the rollerbladers or skateboarders who don't wear helmets, or worrying about the fast-food diet some parent is feeding his/her increasingly obese progeny.

WTF should I care? How does someone else not wearing a helmet affect me? Or affect anyone, with the possible exception of the helmetless cyclist?

I have a hard time believing that Dr. Gridlock is motivated by unbridled, impassioned concern for the welfare of his fellow man (and woman) in making that fatuous confession.

Non-cyclists think that cycling in the city is extremely dangerous. For a couple of reasons: (1) they are marginally competent drivers who have difficulty dealing with any traffic that moves differently from a car, (2) they project their own cycling incompetence on to cyclists ("You'd have to be nuts to ride in the city. It's so dangerous. You could get killed.")

Dr. Bikelock should return.

I'd add (to the last exchange) that we probably shouldn't omit pedestrians from consideration of slower "vehicles". In the spectrum of annoying, stupid, and arguably illegal participation in the square dance of traffic, pedestrians are colored infra-something.

It's easy to excuse their actions, and many laws aren't as clear as they are for others, but with the frequency I see pedestrian misbehavior I'm surprised it's cyclists who get all the attention.

I wanted to post in the Dr G discussion, but got busy with work. Damn you job!

Anyway, after all the complaints about phantom scofflaw cyclists, I decided to try and be hyper aware of other people yesterday - I drive from Arlington to 20 & K NW, walk around at lunch time, and then yesterday after work I drove over to my friend's new condo by the convention center. I saw two cars roll through reds when there was oncoming traffic (right in front of me!), I saw one person attempt to cross 19th when they thought the car driving on 19th was going to stop for the yellow (and the car totally didn't). I had two people crossing K in the middle of the block in front of me (and one homeless guy directing traffic in the middle of K and 14th). But the worst cyclist I saw (of 10), was one guy on a teen-sized mountain bike/bmx thing on the sidewalk. (And to be fair, leaving my friend's house at 10, I saw that no one was coming and crossed against the light; and previously had crossed sort of in the middle of the block (at an alley intersection). I also don't think I crossed the bike lane on 10th to make a right turn properly - but there were no bikes or busses nearby.

Then I was thinking that wasn't a very good study design, and two of my coworkers have good views of intersections from their office -- one looks onto Penn & I & 20, the other looks onto K & 20. I now kind of want to set up a little webcam, save the video, play in FF mode, and code infractions by type (cars rolling through a right-on-red, bikes not slowing/pausing at reds, and pedestrians walking against the light).

Dr. Bikelock should return.

I'd add (to the last exchange) that we probably shouldn't omit pedestrians from consideration of slower "vehicles". In the spectrum of annoying, stupid, and arguably illegal participation in the square dance of traffic, pedestrians are colored infra-something.

It's easy to excuse their actions, and many laws aren't as clear as they are for others, but with the frequency I see pedestrian misbehavior I'm surprised it's cyclists who get all the attention.

Posted by: DaveS

Like the guy I passed yesterday on Q Street NW, pouring a Molson Ice into a plastic cup, standing in the middle of the road (not the bike lane...the "car lane"), and oggling a young woman walking on the sidewalk. Amazing stuff.

I should write that one in to Dr. Gridlock and see what he says.

Might I recommend "Dr. Lanesplitter" in lieu of "Dr. Bikelock".

:)

Maybe it's time to move from taking the lane to taking the conversation? I would imagine that a large part of the readership of Washcycle and the membership of WABA and a large part of cyclists in North America in general are also drivers. We know beyond a shadow of a doubt that cars and trucks and buses are INHERENTLY more dangerous than bikes even without reference to the skills of the operator. It's a simply matter of mass times speed. Is it not time to frame essentially every discussion of bike and pedestrian safety vis a vis motor vehicles in those terms? The round robin about red lights and slowing down and blowing through and 'pausing' is pointless in the end. There is a long standing tradition in Washington DC and to a lesser extent in the suburbs of jay walking and crossing against traffic lights when no cars present a threat to the walker. How much discussion does that get in comparison to all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth over cyclists?

The discussion for the largest part of the population really is about vehicle safety in urban areas. Drunk drivers are a nuisance, teen drivers wrecking a car load of their friends after a party are a tragedy, wannabe race car drivers slaloming their way around the beltway are a terror, truck drivers unable to see behind them are a potential catastrophe. All of this 100 year long reign of terror on the part of motor vehicles is the over arching problem. Bikes are NOT the problem. I suggest that Dr Bikelock and all cyclists leave the block with that chip on our shoulder from now on and move the conversation - or the fight - onto the other guys turf for a change.

( Feeling my put upon minority oats today. 'Minority' woo whoo not bad for an old white guy! )

Just one quibble with Dr Bikelock:

But the legality isn't really why drivers complain. The problem is, bicyclists are the only operators of slow vehicles who blow through stops. Operators of other slow vehicles, such as construction equipment or buses, stop at the stops. What bothers drivers is when bicyclists ignore stops and then are slow afterwards. If bicyclists understood this it would help everyone use the road together.

Dr. Gridlock nailed this one to the wall. Drivers don't get upset about cyclists jay-biking because they're concerned about law-n-order, pedestrian safety, or most hilarious of all, cyclists safety.

They care about cyclists stopping at red lights and stop signs because that is the point at which most drivers salivate at the chance of finally passing that goddamned cyclist who is gumming up traffic. Period. And when the cyclist stops, rides through the red, and blithely rides on down the road STEALING THE DRIVER'S PRECIOUS MOMENT TO PASS it drives them fucking insane.

:)

Ya know, no one outside the cycling community accepts the various reasoning offered here as to why cyclists ignoring traffic control devices isn't an issue. Have that "conversation" all you want. Just don't come grumbling to me when it fails to move public opinion.

At least my view has internal consistency.

There is a long standing tradition in Washington DC and to a lesser extent in the suburbs of jay walking and crossing against traffic lights when no cars present a threat to the walker. How much discussion does that get in comparison to all of the wailing and gnashing of teeth over cyclists?

Again, leave aside the red herring of "lawlessness". Jaywalking does not inconvenience drivers, or impede the flow of speeding cars in any way. Therefore, it's irrelevant.

@Krickey,

If every cyclist obeyed every law to a degree no other mode does, they'd be angry at you for not wearing helmets. If every cyclist in the greater DC area wore a helmet every waking moment of the day, they'd be angry at you for not wearing "pads".

Public opinion moves in one of two scenarios: when more people get on bikes; or when the folks currently on bikes get the Hell out of the way.

Fortunately, the former is happening.

Ya know, no one outside the cycling community accepts the various reasoning offered here as to why cyclists ignoring traffic control devices isn't an issue

I don't care. How's that for internal consistency?

Oh, and just to close the circle: if pedestrians were required to walk in single file, always walk on the sidewalk that is to the right of traffic, and only ever cross at intersections, and never jay-walk, walking would decrease as a share of mode.

Allowing cyclists to operate more organically (and arguably more safely) increases the number of cyclists on the streets.

Opening CaBi to a new sub-population of scofflaws has done more to "move public opinion" than an army of hand-signaling full-stoppers.

I find this repeat of an old argument refreshingly consistent.

I don't care. How's that for internal consistency?

Interesting advocacy model you got there.

Bikesnob today has a good article with a video of pedestrians, motorists and cyclists all acting badly, at one intersection. Basically, enough blame to go around.

For "enforcement" he also gives a good link to a Chicago program where the cops are on bikes, and they warn and give advice as against ticketing. http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/breaking/chibrknews-police-crack-down-on-bicyclists-20110607,0,7331699.story

Interesting advocacy model you got there.

I recently read about an experiment they did where they brought people to a fake financial conference and "gave" people a share of stock in a fake company. Then they explained to them that 1) the stock had been on an incredible run 2) It was only worth about half of what it was now selling for. Then they let people either sell it for the current price or keep it for a month. Almost everyone chose to keep it - even though the knew it was overvalued, because they thought it would continue to go up in value. They were counting on other people being irrational, while they themselves were being irrational.

My point is, all I can do is give people facts. If they choose to ignore those facts or draw conclusions that are contrary to the facts, then there isn't much I can do about that and I am not going to bother caring. If they want to believe something that is untrue that's totally irrational, and I don't know how to work with that. The only thing left is to behave like a lawyer and try to win at all costs, even if that means making up facts like "If the glove doesn't fit you must acquit" or creating false scenarios like they always did on "The Practice" with Plan B. But I'm not going to do that.

So, it is best that I just not care if people choose to believe crazy things.

Amen to Krickey, but it is pointless to reprise the same old arguments.

I find the statements about jaywalking being harmless as amusing as I've noticed that people rarely jaywalk in front of moving cars, but have no problems doing it in front of bicyclists.

@Krickey7,

To whom are you responding? Also, I'm not sure that "cyclists should obey all laws to the letter (the way no one else does) because then, even though we'll still be gumming up 'real traffic', we'll get scads of grudging respect for our law-abidingness" is exactly a "new" argument.

@Christopher Fotos:

Interesting advocacy model you got there.

I'm not going to presume to speak for WashCycle, but...

Depends who you're trying to sway. Get folks on bikes--mostly DC citizens. I don't care as much about suburban commuters, particularly those who cannot bike-commute, or will not. Cycling can hit a critical mass in DC without their support. Fuck 'em.

Anyway, the advocacy seems to be working pretty well so far.

I find the statements about jaywalking being harmless as amusing as I've noticed that people rarely jaywalk in front of moving cars, but have no problems doing it in front of bicyclists.

I'll give you the same advice I give drivers: slow down in congested areas. It's your obligation not to hit anyone, regardless of what the law says.

More or less echoing what oboe is saying, I think it helps to keep in mind that cyclists who ride safely and obey very law perfectly will piss off the motorheads as much, if not more, than the standard-issue Idaho stoppers that are out on their bicycles pissing off the motorheads as I type this.

What pisses off motorheads is that a small bicycle is able to block their path, that they can see the open lane right there in front of the cyclist and they aren't allowed to somehow get through to that open lane. I offends their sense of "how things should be" (I'm big, they're small. Can't I run right through them? Just a little? Please?). It offends their sense of entitlement. But they can't say that. So instead they spew tired and oft-debunked nonsense about scofflaws.

It's like when NIMBYs say "bike paths bring crime" instead of "I'm a pea brain who is scared s--tless of change and I want you and your bike path to go away and stop scaring me."

Finally, I want to mention that I don't think all road users are breaking the law to the degree that they can get away with it and Dr. G suggests. Instead they are breaking the law to the degree that they feel is safe (there are studies out there that support this view). In other words, the average road user may be a pea brain, but he isn't an evil pea brain.

I ain't hit anyone yet. Guess that's the solution: a 15 mph speed limit for bicycles on the W&OD and on L street. Yeah... Bikes really are a transportation solution.

There are 2 things going on. One, I find excusing lawbreaking rather obnoxious no matter who's doing it. I'll admit there are degrees og lawbreaking and that certain laws are so unenforced as to be unenforceable, but running red lights and failing to yield at stop signs are not among them. Sure, I see cars do it, and it's wrong, and I see cyclists do it, and it's also wrong.

Second, as an advocacy tactic, cyclists excusing lawbreaking is a stone-dead loser. It plays right into every negative stereotype and, I believe, forms part of the rationale drivers have for their argument that cyclists can have rights to roads when they stop refusing to obey the law.

So, one, I find it offensive to anyone who values the social contract, and two, I can't think of a more counterproductive (read "idiotic") advocacy model.

Jonathan, I think there are two constraints to driver behavior. First, "what can I do safely", and then "what can I do without getting a ticket." It's the reason drivers slow down near cops or well-known speed cameras. I might label both of those as "what can I get away with."

@Krickey7:

I can respect your position, I just disagree.

Here's a thought experiment though: suppose the DC council did pass the Idaho Stop law here. How much goodwill do you think would be produced among folks who currently resent cyclists on the road?

My guess is that it would have zero effect.

I find the focus on lawbreaking obnoxious. We should focus on unsafe behavior. So when people choose to complain loudly about a behavior that is not particularly dangerous but is illegal I find that obnoxious. We can change the law however we want and make any behavior legal or illegal, but driving drunk will always be dangerous.

Second, as an advocacy tactic, cyclists excusing lawbreaking is a stone-dead loser.

What you see as excusing, I see as explaining. And since I want to see the law changed in this case, I think that is more valuable. We can say, "People should follow the law, but the law here is poorly written which is why so many cyclists break it. It should be changed."

What is the alternative?

@Wash I agree. A pissing match over who broke what law plays right into the hands of the people who are spewing tired nonsense about scofflaw cyclists.

What is needed is analysis of the effectiveness of the law as written and of the proposed alternatives. A law that few feel they need to obey is not very effective.

@Mark Williams,

I don't think the speed limit should be 15 mph on any are trail or road. But I do think cyclists should have an obligation to slow to a reasonable speed in congested areas. And would that really have a significant effect on "cycling as a transportation option"? It seems to me it wouldn't, at least no more than having a 25 mph zone through a town invalidates a highway as a viable transportation option.

I'm not sure which law is poorly written, Washcycle.

As a safety matter, the Idaho stop would be fine but, frankly, red light running is not. A driver with a green light has no expectation of having to contend with a vehicle crossing against the light, whereas a driver at a stop sign does. An Idaho stop still requires yielding, and so has the major safety issue addressed from a legal requirement perspective.

My bigger point is that while Dr. Gridlock may be a bit of a knucklehead, he tries to be balanced and isn't what I would call anti-bike. He's influential in the debate over traffic issues, in a certain sense. He is not the enemy and he is persuadable. And the overall message from too many in the cycling community is "piss off."

The Idaho Stop also applies to lights, which cyclists may treat as stop signs.

The poorly written law is stop sign and, to a lesser extent, stop light laws that are written solely with drivers in mind.

I don't think Dr. Gridlock is anti-bike, his answers above are pretty good. But I wish he would bike to work at least one day a year (and preferably 5, so that he was modelling the average behavior).

Thanks for the correction.

@Oboe

You told me to slow down while bicycling 25 down L St. with green lights and a clear path because some bozo might decide to jaywalk in front of me. If this amounts to a congested area, then you have said I am biking too fast.
Sorry, but I think the solution is for all traffic, cars, bikes and pedestrians, to honor everyone's right-of-way and not to grant privileged status to bicyclists and pedestrians.

No, the solution is to require all vehicles to yield to slower traffic. For the two or three blocks you're riding down L Street (one of the most congested stretches in the region), you may need to slow down if you don't want to hit anyone. This "treating everyone (bike, ped, car) like a car" thing doesn't work. My hunch is that in congested urban environments it's going to go the way of the dodo.

Auto traffic should yield to cyclists, and cyclists should yield to pedestrians. The fraction of our region's shared space where this is a major issue is miniscule.

@Jonathan Krall:

"More or less echoing what oboe is saying, I think it helps to keep in mind that cyclists who ride safely and obey very law perfectly will piss off the motorheads as much, if not more, than the standard-issue Idaho stoppers that are out on their bicycles pissing off the motorheads as I type this."

Especially because many motorists don't know bicycle law (just like the constables whose duty it is ostensibly to enforce it). For example, most don't know about the (il)legality of riding on the sidewalk, or when a cyclist is permitted to "take a lane." As for "riding safely," many of them clearly don't understand (or is it care?) what that means either.

Obey traffic laws and the hothead behind the wheel will move to something else as a target for his/her vituperation. Because it isn't about obeying the law--that's just an easy pretext because doing so tends to command respect. As others have pointed out, many motorists would break the law given opportunity and immunity (they already have motivation, because driving can be a frustrating experience). Opportunity and a degree of immunity are what the bicycle confers upon the cyclist, and what the motorist desires for him/herself, but detests when others take advantage of it.

To quote an idiot former president and actually make his statement true by changing its context, "they hate our freedoms."

I agree with Krickey and Jonathon Krall that the way we frame this issue plays right into the hands of those who would deny us our rights as cyclists.

The argument that "well you are not going to convince the haters" is a straw man: we are not trying to convince the haters. We ARE however, trying to sway opinion of the majority of reasonable people. We only give the haters ammunition when we confirm their stereotypes.

When I do an Idaho stop at a light or a stop sign I have in mind that the driver behind me might be pissed off already at having not having been able to go through the light and that I'd like to give myself a head start so s/he's not waiting for me to kick it up to 15-20 mph.

Otherwise, unless there's a hill in front of me and I want to keep my momentum so that hill is an easier climb (think 4th street NEfrom H to D Street NE), I really don't care what time I get home and have no incentive to be in any hurry on my bike. My wife won't be there for 30 more minutes than I and I'm gonna be a hot sweaty mess no matter if I'm home at 5:30 or 6. That I care about what the driver behind me thinks is indicative of my caring about my safety, lest that driver try some fool stunt to pass me without leaving me any room. As drivers of taxi cabs and some other vehicles in D.C. are wont to do, in my experience.

I sure as hell don't salmon (something I see too often on L Street NW, especially around 5pm for whatever reason), and I don't try to cheat cross-traffic by making them slow down when they have a green light.

What I'm not going to do is use a sidewalk or wear kneepads or elbow pads. I will continue to wear a helmet and use lights and a bell. I will give more respect to the drivers around me than I am given, so as to set a good example. I will thank them for their generosity when they give me the right-of-way (something often given, in my case) or leave me enough room to bike alongside them comfortably and safely. In no way does an Idaho stop, responsibly executed, diminish a driver's driving experience. All drivers are welcome to ride bicycles and forego the automobile experience, as I have been allowed to take out a Zipcar once-a-month when I 'need' to drive (to get away from the city).

That's my take.

Auto traffic should yield to cyclists, and cyclists should yield to pedestrians. The fraction of our region's shared space where this is a major issue is miniscule.

This is dead-on, and is probably law, right?

@SJE, the majority of reasonable people, if they truly are reasonable, don't need to be swayed.

Motorists seem to fall into 3 groups: 1) compassionate/caring/empathetic, 2) indifferent/apathetic/oblivious, and 3) angry/hateful/frustrated (the "haters").

The first group doesn't need to be swayed, the second doesn't pay attention, and the third can't be swayed by anything, no matter how rational or logical, because they are operating on emotion, not intellect.

Here's a thought experiment to consider.

If you imagine that in DC there were only motor vehicles on the street, which traffic laws could you do away with? Probably not many - just the ones dealing with bicycles and other non-motor vehicles.

Now imagine that there were only bicycles on the streets of DC. (Let's just stipulate that all goods that need to be shipped arrive by way of transporter technology, with Scotty manning the controls.) Which traffic laws could then be eliminated?

How does this inform the discussion of scofflawism and safety?

"@SJE, the majority of reasonable people, if they truly are reasonable, don't need to be swayed."

And there you have an illustration of the crux of the problem. We are right, and everyone else who is reasonable must therefore agree with us, and everyone else we can ignore.

Sorry, you can talk about rights and the law, but that's not how it works.

Cyclists are seeking access to a limited resource: roads, money, police enforcement. Why should others give you a share? If others don't like you, you are not going to get anything.

This doesn't mean you have to do everything that the haters want. It doesnt mean that you even have to follow all the laws. But acting like the law does not apply is entirely counterproductive.

Lets think of the road as a playground. If the littlest kid is afraid of the bully, should he do whatever he wants and goes to the teacher when he gets pounded? If the littlest kid is a complete jerk, the teacher won't care ("you started the fight") and the kids will feel its OK to pick on him.

I agree pretty much with what Shawn said.

"uto traffic should yield to cyclists, and cyclists should yield to pedestrians. The fraction of our region's shared space where this is a major issue is miniscule."

This is dead-on, and is probably law, right?

Unfortunately, no. Instead we have a thick layer of regulation designed to allow drivers to proceed at unnaturally high speeds, mostly avoid running into each other, and mostly avoid running down slower users just so long as they keep the Hell out of motor vehicles' way. YMMV in the auto-centric suburbs, but that's a fair characterization of the dynamic in the city.

oboe is gonna be a hot sweaty mess tonight, too. Especially in this heat.

Cyclists are seeking access to a limited resource: roads, money, police enforcement. Why should others give you a share? If others don't like you, you are not going to get anything.

I wasn't going to address this question of "swaying those who want to take our rights away" earlier, because it seemed superfluous to the conversation, but this just seems like an odd framing to me:

Cyclists are seeking access to a limited resource: roads, money, police enforcement. Why should others give you a share? If others don't like you, you are not going to get anything.

The courts have already ruled on this matter. It seems *incredibly* unlikely that their ruling is going to change anytime soon (or in the distant future, for that matter). This question of "How are we going to win over drivers?" keeps coming up. It's irrelevant.

The ranks of cyclists in the city is growing, and it looks like a cultural shift rather than a blip.

As Blue-eyed Devil put it, some drivers are empathetic, some are oblivious, and a minority are pissy and jealous. Fuck that pissy minority. Neither my rights nor my safety relies on cultivating their goodwill.

I'll continue to ride courteously, and with consideration to pedestrians and drivers, I'll break the law when it's convenient and safe (for everyone), and ignore the rest.

I don't care. Drivers think they know the regulations when--in many of my encounters--they clearly don't. How can you discuss the ethics of obeying the regulations if they don't even know what the regulations are. Even if all cyclists biked perfectly for a week, drivers would still complain we're not following some imaginary rule.

Rule #1: do no harm
Rule #2 don't be harmed

There. Everyone gets to go home.

There is in fact a cultural shift toward acceptance of cycling. Our numbers are increasing. That only reinforces the need to abandon the outlaw biker mindset. We're starting to appear on the streets in numbers that, if the percentage of non-compliance with traffic control devices continues, we WILL have significant negative effects on traffic flow and safety.

It's like traffic congestion. No single driver causes it. But every single driver contributes a bit, and the effects appear in non-linear fashion.

That only reinforces the need to abandon the outlaw biker mindset.

Right but *is* there an "outlaw biker" mindset? I mean, if you confronted a bunch of pedestrians who were crossing the street against the light, and started accusing them of being "outlaw walkers" and decrying their arrogance and entitlement, they'd send for the men with the big butterfly net.

As far as non-compliance of traffic control devices leading to significant negative effects on traffic flow (setting aside safety), I'd say there's an argument to be made that this is a good thing--at least in congested urban areas.

Cycling advocates point to the phenomenon that the more cyclists riding in the street, the better it is for everyone involved. Auto traffic is calmed, everyone's safer. Frankly, a city in which drivers operate in a state of constant paranoia for fear they're going to hit someone when they proceed on a green light is a city I want to live in.

@SJE, you misunderstand me with this:

"And there you have an illustration of the crux of the problem. We are right, and everyone else who is reasonable must therefore agree with us, and everyone else we can ignore."

I wasn't trying to say that at all. What I was trying to say was that reasonable motorists don't see cyclists as threats--not to life, limb, precious time, or anything else--nor as targets for their vehicles or their aggression (this is, in part, what makes them reasonable). They see them as people on bikes who are more vulnerable--in general and yes, by their own actions (of which choosing to ride a bike is one)--and who take care around them, recognizing that vulnerability and realizing--using reason--that cyclist do not generally impede traffic, and that on the rare occasion when they do, it's out of safety and is, in the end, a "delay" (assuming the motorist doesn't simply change lanes, a reasonable and usually viable option) of only a matter of seconds, typically no longer in total than your average red traffic light cycle.

I wasn't being so myopic as to suggest a "we're right, they're wrong, period!" attitude.

I almost got hit twice yesterday, once from a driver zipping too fast around that idiotic slip lane leaving Greenbelt Metro station, once by driver who decided to turn left from a parking garage exit on to 2nd street NE without looking to her right. At all.

I was dressed and lit up like a circus clown.

These morons behind the wheel are legalized killers. Equivalent to firing guns in a crowded room. I have no respect for the laws and rules of the road that allow and even encourage this.

Well, I have yet to see the pedestrian blog where they justify walking against the light as being safer and a matter of right by virtue of their unique traffic qualities. Also, they're not road users and have an entirely different set of rights and obligations under the Motor Vehicle Code. And finally, what is this fixation of it being okay because other people do it, too? Didn't your mother have some annoying saying about cliffs, like mine did?

@Blue-eyed Devil As others have pointed out, many motorists would break the law given opportunity and immunity

In fact, we know this is true, because when given immunity - such as diplomats and DC Councilmembers - people break the law at an astounding pace.

@NeilB, I'm going way off topic but your comment about transporters reminds me that I just saw the remake of "The Fly" again last night - the one with Jeff Goldblum - and all I could think was "This guy may be a genious, but he's a terrible computer programer. When your system doesn't know what to do, it should shut down and put up an error message, not gene splice. I don't like Windows OS, but it's never merged by genes with that of an insect."

@SJE We are right, and everyone else who is reasonable must therefore agree with us, and everyone else we can ignore.

Pretty much, yes. I have yet to have heard the "reasonable" argument against the Idaho stop. It boils down to three things 1) Cyclists are a bunch of scofflaws and don't deserve this 2) It's not fair to treat them differently 3) Just because it worked in Idaho doesn't mean it will work here.

We can't really ignore the people who don't agree with us - and I'm talking about those who have all the facts - because sometimes they're decisions makers, for example, but we don't have to waste a lot of time on them either. If facts aren't going to change their mind, what will?

Why should others give you a share? If others don't like you, you are not going to get anything.

In additon to what oboe wrote, because they absolutely need us on our bikes. Having people bike for transportation helps governments meet way too many of their critical goals. Until cars don't pollute, fold up to the size of a bike, make users healthier and require facilities that cost significantly less than the ones they use now, that will continue to be the case. Besides, less than half of all DC residents own a car, so I'm not sure who is giving whom a share.

@Brendan,

Someone had a good list of rules awhile back, very Assimov's rules of robotics like.

1. Be safe
2. Be courteous as long as it's safe
3. Look out for your own convenience as long as it's safe and courteous
4. Follow the law

Oboe and Shawn stated: "Auto traffic should yield to cyclists, and cyclists should yield to pedestrians. The fraction of our region's shared space where this is a major issue is miniscule."

This is dead-on, and is probably law, right?"

No. This is not the law. The law is obey traffic control devices. These exist to establish rights-of-way. A corollary is try not to run down anyone who disobeys. I don't see how traffic can function in any other way.

An (apropos) note of levity:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ

P.S. An Idaho stop law, with which I have no problems, does not reassign rights-of-way.

No. This is not the law. The law is obey traffic control devices. These exist to establish rights-of-way. A corollary is try not to run down anyone who disobeys. I don't see how traffic can function in any other way.

While you're right, this is not the law. The current ad hoc system (cars obey traffic signals, and peds and cyclists treat them as optional) works pretty damned well. Again, if drivers weren't being inconvenienced, it wouldn't even be an issue. Certainly not a public safety one.

Drivers do not obey the speed limit becuase it's inconvenient and rarely inforced.

I watched the video. Dude totally needs pads.

"totally paused" guy obviously doesn't drive in PGC. I see red light running from drivers *ALL THE TIME* on my commute.

I feel sorry for Dr. Gridlock. Presumably he's picking the best questions that he gets to answer. Transportation policy is an interesting subject, as readers of this blog well know, yet the best his readers can come up with is this dreck.

@WASHCYCLE"I have yet to have heard the "reasonable" argument against the Idaho stop."

I agree that the law should be changed in multiple ways. Acting as if we are above the law and shouldn't care is a recipe for failure.

"because they absolutely need us on our bikes."

Gee, what a winning argument. I agree that bikes benefit motorists. I agree that we have the facts on our side. But we have an image problem, not to mention access to resources and getting-crushed-by-SUVs problem.

Those "less than 50% who own a car" in DC: the majority of them voted out the most pro-bike mayor in DC history, and voted for the candidate with a dog-whistle campaign against bike lanes.

I'm about to head off to court to help out a WWII vet denied his benefits. I have all the facts and the law on my side. He is a sympathetic character. However, the government has been messing with him for 50 years. Sounds like bikes v cars.

Acting as if we are above the law and shouldn't care is a recipe for failure.

I don't think anyone is doing that.

what a winning argument.

It's not an argument. It's a fact.

Those "less than 50% who own a car" in DC: the majority of them voted out the most pro-bike mayor in DC history

They voted out Anthony Williams?

Mayor Gray makes my point. He can't come in and shut down the bike program because it's the only place they can affordably add to the transit system. So he may have run a quasi-anti-bike lane campaign (or not) but bike lanes are still being installed.

Having people bike for transportation helps governments meet way too many of their critical goals. Until cars don't pollute, fold up to the size of a bike, make users healthier and require facilities that cost significantly less than the ones they use now, that will continue to be the case. Besides, less than half of all DC residents own a car, so I'm not sure who is giving whom a share.

And one of the perks of living in DC is that--as opposed to living in VA or MD--you've pretty much isolated the sub-population of folks who care about this stuff. In this sense, the political isolation unique to DC--which can be a liability for addressing things like poverty--is suddenly a huge advantage. While there's Congressional oversight, there's no majority of rural downstate interests (or upstate interests, etc...) trying to undercut the necessary political changes.

Perhaps that's why folks who live in DC see things a bit differently than folks across the river or in MD: they're shackled to a political foe that's pretty much antagonistic to most of the "walkable" agenda, and in the suburbs, the numbers are not in their favor. Perhaps it is possible to win these folks over--but my guess is that convenience will always trump other considerations. That seems to be woven into the fabric of suburban life.

I think it's one of the reasons that you see a migration back into the cities: it's a cultural self-sorting that I think will continue to lead to a radical divergence in policy.

[Disclaimer: This is not intended to be a roundabout slam at cyclists who live in the suburbs, or suburbanites in general; I just think their challenges are a bit more challenging.]

@SJE:

I agree that we have the facts on our side. But we have an image problem, not to mention access to resources and getting-crushed-by-SUVs problem.

Given the statistics, you're going to need a bit more support for the "getting-crushed-by-SUVs" assertion. The resources are pretty much all there for those who want to take them (and the bike infrastructure continues to grow at historically unprecendented levels). I think the "image problem" is overblown, but we've covered that about 1,001 times above.

It might be helpful to point out that cyclists and pedestrians can play a vital role in disaster preparedness. 9/11 and Hurricanes Katrina and Rita underscored the near-impossibility of relying solely on motorized vehicles and mass transit to evacuate the inner core.

One last thing:

Those "less than 50% who own a car" in DC: the majority of them voted out the most pro-bike mayor in DC history.

Wait, I thought the last election was a referendum on Michelle Rhee. Or a referendum on "clean government". Or an attempt to "bring up to speed those we've left behind". Or a rebuke to twittering hipsters. Or triathletes.

Pretty funny: everyone who's pursuing an agenda sees any electoral outcome as a vindication.

@SJE, that "image problem" was created by motorists largely out of whole cloth. Most of them don't bike (at least not regularly or in traffic) and have no idea what it's like to do so, nor, it seems, do they particularly care.

In general, we are viewed as impediments to their freedom to drive however they wish, whenever they wish, even when we are acting in accordance with the law, which, by the way, most of them neither know nor wish to know (and the reason for that is, to motorist, the law isn't the issue...the issue is people riding bikes on the road where only cars belong! The law is the convenient pretext.).

And how do you change that image, the image of the cyclist as mobile obstacle to the motorist? By not biking on the road at all. So, if you really care about our image, get on the sidewalk where they think you belong.

The image problem is real, and the biggest component of it is the visible evidence of non-compliance with traffic control devices (to a certain extent, this includes not understanding that cyclists may be permitted to split the lane and/or pass on the right).

It's distinct from the unhappiness some drivers have with cyclists using roads and transportation dollars, and the perception that this disadvantages drivers.

When you conflate the two, you attempt to deflect any responsibility for how cyclists might be responsible for the first. You also fail to differentiate the number of otherwise neutral drivers and pedestrians that are rightly bothered by the first and the smaller number of exclusively drivers that are unreasonably bothered by the second.
I'm calling you out on that.

The image problem is real, and the biggest component of it is the visible evidence of non-compliance with traffic control devices

True. But there is really only one solution - to make the public understand why cyclists so often disregard TCDs and how this is comparable to (and often less onerous than) their own illegal behavior. This can be extended to changing the law, but isn't necessary.

Some propose that getting all cyclists to OBEY is the other option. It isn't. Because it can't be done.

You haven't seen my Jedi mind tricks yet.

Nice discussion. One thing that's worth pointing out, I think, is that we _are_ trying to sway people (using the facts, as Wash emphasizes). Swaying the public is not a simple task. No single argument will "win." No single voice will prevail. To succeed, we need attention, allies and resources.

In fact, successful movements have a variety of voices, from the very angry (who get attention) to the very reasonable, who ultimately get heard. In a situation where the criminal justice system values the life of a bicycle rider at about $300, there is lots to be angry about.

This discussion, OTOH, has been focused on the more reasonable approaches, where we work to educate the public, the police and our elected leaders on the value of cycling and the need to have laws that work and roadways that work. Right now those work very well for drivers, fairly well for pedestrians (hence no "scofflaw pedestrian myth"), but they don't work well for cyclists.

So, if you want to be angry then do so, by all means. If you want to be reasonable, do that. Either way, IMO, you will be more effective if you keep in mind which "hat" you are wearing and, as we all seem to agree, frame the argument to your advantage. Thanks again for a good discussion.

"So, if you really care about our image, get on the sidewalk where they think you belong."

If you want to change our image, get a bunch of beautiful women to ride all over town on European-style upright bicycles. Have them wave hello to passing motorists often and follow the Idaho stop rules. Instruct them to wave others through so as to follow the usual right-of-way rules (which are the same as for regular stop signs) before politely giving in and going first when others insist. People will love them.

Right now those work very well for drivers, fairly well for pedestrians (hence no "scofflaw pedestrian myth"), but they don't work well for cyclists.

Point of order: it doesn't work well for pedestrians. The reason there's less "scofflaw pedestrian" myth is that pedestrians don't generally inconvenience drivers to the same extent. Sure the jay-walk in huge numbers, but they're not permitted to just take a traffic lane, which is the real issue. If a driver sees a ped jaywalking in the street (or crossing at an at-grade crosswalk, for that matter), you assume they'll scurry out of the way.

On a semi-related note, this afternoon I had to cross Penn Ave, SE at 11th today to go to Frager's. Eight lanes of traffic, a 15 yard median, and peds are given 15 seconds to cross. After a deluge of complaints to DDOT, they appear to have cut the allowed crossing time for peds in order to let traffic turn left unimpeded.

Apparently the War on Drivers is a "long war."

@Jonathan Krall,

While I usually wear the "angry hat" here, I often don the Pants of Politeness while riding around town.

As soon as I can find my fossilized walrus penis good luck charm, I think you'll be able to spot me around town, too.

Wash and Oboe: you can't dismiss opponents perspectives solely with facts. This is a PR issue, not science. If we could just rest on well accepted facts we would not have a large minority of people thinking that evolution is made up.

Krickey7, motorists conflate the two. That's part of my point. And it's a bit presumptuous (and outright incorrect) to say that my statement was an attempt to deflect responsibility away from cyclists. Seriously, where is that? Also, where did I say that the image problem wasn't real? I spoke only to its origin (and, by implication, legitimacy), not its existance.

@SJE:

Yeah, I get that. I suppose my inclination is to ride my bike, and let sprawl and congestion put more folks on bikes. It seems like natural economics is taking care of the "winning over converts" thing.

If I had to distill the skeptic's approach to '100% lawful cycling' it would be that, in my experience, the *legal* things that cyclists do piss drivers off more than any illegal activity ever could.

The image problem is not "made out of whole cloth". It's in large part a reaction to highly visible incidents of lawbreaking. Whether or not any cyclist has an opinion as to the righteousness of their justification for wholly ignoring the traffic laws is a question entirely separate from how average, reasonably law-abiding people--and the average person drives--perceives it.

To then segue without a break into an unrelated issue of how a minority of the driving public holds irrational hatred for cyclists has the effect, intended or not, of minimizing the reaction of the people who are, as I am, bothered by flagrant disregard for traffic laws. So I'm a member of the first, not the second group, and I'd thank you for recognizing the distinction.

Krickey7, I couldn't disagree more with the first and second sentences in your latest response.

I have NEVER had a motorist blow a horn at me or buzz me at an excessive speed or spew empty epithets at me as they pass safely in their cars for performing an Idaho stop. However, I have, and continue to have, motorists blow the horn at me and buzz me at excessive speed and shout epithets at me for taking a lane when it is perfectly legal for me to do so.

And the "segue without a break" bit...I think a blank line and a new paragraph are considered breaks, arent' they? I think a period followed by one or two spaces is closer to a segue, but really, ellipses are the shit, and I love those. Methinks you're reading between the lines without proper eyeglasses. Or perhaps merely filling in the space with your own thoughts.

I'm not minimizing your reaction--the reaction is usually all too visceral (as it is here). I'm suggesting a different reason for your reaction than the one you propose. By your way of thinking, the average motorist dislikes him/herself and the majority of other motorists because a large percentage of motorists break the law and are observed doing so. Do you have distaste for motorists as a class of traveler because you know many of them break the law? I'm guessing not (presumptive, I know, but let me play). Thus, my disagreement with your "they suck because they break the law" rationality.

Also, FWIW, I, too, am bothered by flagrant disregard for traffic laws...but only by motorists. Cyclists who exercise due care while Idaho stopping are not only okay, they command my utmost respect.

If the image problem is, as you contend, in part a reaction to incidents of lawbreaking by cyclists, I would contend that it most certainly is not a "large" part.

I submit that blowing the horn under such circumstances is an indication on anger or displeasure.

At the risk of becomine King Kommenter, I'll go a little further and underscore my apparently contentious assertion by positing that the reason I've never had a negative response from motorists for Idaho stopping (something--hold on to your hat, Krickey7--I do all the time, almost eveyr day) is that when I do this, I'm NOT INCONVIENCING ANY MOTORISTS.

Sigh.

@Blue-eyed Devil,

All respect to Krickey7, but that's my experience as well.

I fear for Krickeys 1 through 6, and all future Krickeys.

I am not arguing about the Idaho stop. Or that there are d-bag drivers (they hate us for our spandex). But the "cyclist scofflaw" meme is alive and well among reasonable people, who are too polite to mention it to you. If they didn't know you were a cylist, and started spouting off about scofflaw cyclists, would you get agreement or pushback?

For the final time (I hope), I agree there is an image of the scofflaw cyclist. I always have. That isn't and hasn't been the issue.

What is the issue is whether it is this image that infuriates drivers or whether it is--as I maintain--frustration (caused by driving in rush hour traffic and myriad other negative things associated with driving) and the usually inaccurate perception that cyclists slow down traffic. In essence, it isn't so much that we are scofflaws, but that we are in the way. The scofflaw argument is a rhetorical device employed because it (clearly) is effective. As soon as you identify someone as a lawbreaker, you immediately garner sympathy and attention from most of society, while the accused gets its wrath.

Please read carefully.

Really, I'm going home now, not wearing a helmet, and probably doing a half-dozen Idaho stops along the way on a bike that has no rear brake save my overtaxed quads. Krickeys 1-7, please don't hate me for my freedom, yeah?

Put simply: They hate you because you're in traffic. Their hope is to use the scofflaw charge to get you banned. But they can't.

If you're hoping that by convincing me, washcycle, and Blue-eyed Devil to adhere to 100% compliance with code, you'll placate them, you're in for disappointment. You'll need to convince all human beings who will ever sit astride a bike. Because every cyclist is accountable for the worst excesses of the least responsible cyclist.

When a driver sees a bad driver, that's a bad driver, not yet another representative of "scofflaw cycling".

I'm sympathetic to your position, but you can either get upset about "scofflawism" or let it go. It's certainly not going to change anytime soon. So I've chosen to let it go. It's a lot easier for me since I never really saw it as a problem to begin with--not even a PR problem.

I give up and thank God for WABA.

@SJE 'But the "cyclist scofflaw" meme is alive and well among reasonable people, who are too polite to mention it to you.'

Indeed it is. Perhaps it is worth keeping in mind that, in the 1950s, many reasonable people thought that black people should sit in the back of the bus.

Once again: The scofflaw cyclist is a tired and oft-debunked myth spread by motorists who are upset that cyclists are legally on the road in front of them. It is effective in swaying the public, but it is not true. While we will need to debunk this again and again for some time, what we need more is to follow every debunking by a re-framing of the problem in terms of mutual problem solving that will work for all road users.

@oboe I see your point about pedestrians.

Really? Getting annoyed at people who flagrantly pretend a safety law can be ignored is akin to racism? Now I'm the one getting annoyed. I'm not one to throw harsh words around, but that's a dumb and rather offensive analogy.

I might grant you the "myth" argument, were it not for the fact that a self-described cycling advocacy site is full of commenters touting their own law-scoffing and excusing the rampant scoffitude amongst cyclists.

The "myth" is that cyclist are unique in the magnitude of their scofflitude(TM) not that they don't willfully break the law. Every group does that - and that's the point. As for excusing - I'd like to see an example of what you think is an excuse (I might call it a justification, which is only an excuse if you think breaking the law is always unjustifiable).

Getting annoyed at people who flagrantly pretend a safety law can be ignored is akin to racism

No one said that. His point was that "reasonable", polite people can hold opinions that are perfectly in keeping with the "common sense" of the time, but which we now find abhorrent. Majority rules, but it isn't always right.

Pick another analogy. That one is offensive, just as if one were to start throwing around comparison to Nazis. As a rhetorical device, it implies that reasonable people really can't hold those beliefs. It closes down dialogue.

I lived through a good chunk of those times. It ain't the same, trust me.

@Krikey. I didn't say it was the same.

However, consider that in the recent past (around 2004, when I started paying attention) police often made statements to the effect that cyclists who ride in the road and get hit pretty much deserve it (they say this much less often today). And, at present, I am well aware that any non-drunk driver can kill me if he or she can afford to pay the $300 dollar ticket. That's what my life is worth. 300 f---ing dollars.

No. Not the same. But it sucks.

Those advocating for civil rights wanted laws that forced a group to be treated unequally to be changed and were willing to publicly suffer the consequences for breaking those laws.

It's unclear that there is a coherent single voice in the cycling community calling for changed laws. In fact, it appears that many are just as happy simply ignoring ones that they feel shouldn't apply to them. The latter group actually claim a right to be treated un-equally. The group pushing for changes to the laws is enjoying some modest success. You know what they'd tell you? The scofflaw cyclist meme is prevalent, it hurts them, and anyone claiming the title of cycling advocate does the movement a disservice by excusing cyclist lawbreaking.

@SJE:

I give up and thank God for WABA.

***dancing atop the smoldering heap this comment thread has become***

"anyone claiming the title of cycling advocate does the movement a disservice by excusing cyclist lawbreaking."

I totally agree.

Once more (with feeling): The scofflaw cyclist is a tired and oft-debunked myth spread by motorists who are upset that cyclists are legally on the road in front of them. It is effective in swaying the public, but it is not true. While we will need to debunk this myth again and again. In all cases we need to follow the debunking with a re-framing of the issue. For example, we can speak of the need for mutual problem-solving leading to solutions that work for all road users.

For an example of debunking the scofflaw myth without coming out in favor of lawbreaking, see Wash's post above.

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