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Weiss isn't the worst I've heard, but some of these guys treat "bicyclist" like a permanent label, so bicyclists do this and bicyclists do that but one thing's for sure, they're all bicyclists, like it's a tribe or a hereditary condition. Hey, sometimes I bike, sometimes I drive, sometimes I ride Metro. Instead let's look at it this way: There's some vehicle operators who are unsafe and discourteous and lawbreaking, and there are others who aren't. Some people behave rationally, and others rationalize their behavior. When I bike in the road with friends who don't do it very often, they often break traffic laws left and right. Does that make "bicyclists" scofflaws? Hardly.

You can take his second comment up to the word suggestion and replace the word 'cyclist' with 'driver', 'pedestrian' etc... and it still makes sense.

I live at an intersection with 2 stop signs. Most of the cars going by take these signs as a hint to slow down, maybe.

This is silly. There isn't a single motorist in DC who does break the law in one way or another every single day, whether it's merely slowing down at stop signs, going over the speed limit, or not using a blinker. I suspect it's correct that most bicyclists break the law too - they are, after all, products of the society in which they exist.

It's not the law-breaking that's a problem; it's the occasions where the law-breaking becomes something dangerous.

Stat for the day: over 3,000 people a year in the US are killed by drivers who run red lights.

I think that Weiss is basically right. Substitute "few" for "none" in the first paragraph and add "in the business district" to the third paragraph, and his summation seems pretty good to me.

That may be true. And this WAS in a chat where you aren't giving things the thought you would in an article so maybe even he would agree.

But, I think it's important to note that he talks about cyclists in a very different way than he does drivers. This was a question about drivers respecting pedestrians and he throws cyclists out there. Where is the condemnation of bad drivers?

Well he *did* criticize the lack of enforcement of motorist misbehavior by the police. His larger point, I think, is that no one—motorists, cyclists, or pedestrians—has a monopoly on righteousness or victimhood.

This is a guy who is a cyclist, who speaks positively about city initiatives to encourage cycling, but God forbid that he mention that there is a highly visible sub-group of cyclists who disregard traffic regulations! Remember the scofflaw cyclist is a MYTH, like the unicorn or the Loch Ness monster.

Guez, it is really sad that the only way you think you can make your point is my mischaracterizing mine. Is your argument really that weak?

1. The conversation was about motorists and pedestrians. But he had to bring cyclists into it, and, for good measure, overstate and erroneously describe their behavior - because if MPD won't enforce laws on the worst class - cyclists - then why do you think they'd go after motorists? And THAT's what I disagree with, the 'common knowledge' that cyclists break the law more often than anyone other group. There is also a highly visible sub-group of drivers and pedestrians who disregard traffic regulations.

2. And that is what the myth of the scofflaw cyclist is about. And you damn well know it - or you should by now. The 'Myth' is not that cyclists break the law, it's that they break the law more than other users.

Do you understand the difference between how I state the 'Myth' and how you characterize it? If so, why do you insist on misrepresenting it over and over again? Is that really the only ammunition you have? Don't you think everyone sees through it?

It'd be nice to have some hard statistics on it, but based on anecdotal evidence (and personal observation), that 'myth' is not a complete farce.

I think you would have a very difficult time proving that cyclists break the law more often than drivers.

Consider this. Imagine taking an instantaneous snap shot of all users on the road right now. Count up the number of each type of user who is presently breaking traffic laws as a count of the whole of their group. That gives you a ratio of those currently breaking the law and those not.

Do you think cyclists would have the highest ratio? If so do you think they'd win in a landslide?

I can imagine people thinking yes on the first question, but I can't imagine anyone who thinks yes on the second. [I think motorists would blow us away, btw].

I don't think it'd be a landslide, but I do think bicyclists have a higher ratio...

Again, it'd be nice to have some hard statistics, but I just don't see that being possible in this category.

As a daily bike commuter for many years, my take is that, hell, yes, cyclists would win the lawbreaking championship in a frickin' landslide. I see other bikers run red lights every day; I see cars do it once or twice a year. Wrong-way/wrong-side operation by bikes is common, by cars virtually unknown. I feel endangered by other bikers (especially the wrong-way ones) far more often than by cars. (Ironically, a big part of the danger of encountering a rogue biker is that he might knock you into the path of a car.)

Weiss's comments on bikes may have been gratuitous, but they weren't wrong. Alas.

I just don't see where he overstated his case. There *are* "many" cyclists who don't play by the rules.

As for the myth of the scofflaw cyclist, you're right that I'm well aware of your arguments. I just find the whole rhetoric of the "myth" to be counterproductive. It communicates the damaging notion that bicycle advocacy is about deflecting criticism of cyclists, rather than more important causes. And it neglects the fact that many motorists (and cyclists) are sincerely concerned about cyclist behavior, and often with reason.

And it neglects the fact that many motorists (and cyclists) are sincerely concerned about cyclist behavior, and often with reason.

I disagree with the "with reason" part. If a cyclist kills one person in the US in a year, it's a bad year. As I noted above, motorists who run red lights kill over 3,000 people a year. According to NHTSA statistics -- which are notoriously pro-motorist -- cyclists are more likely to be killed by motorists who disobey traffic signals than by doing so themselves.

Cyclists who run reds pose no danger to anyone but themselves, and even that danger is minimal compared to the danger posed by operators of motor vehicles.


Cyclists who run red lights pose a great danger to OTHER CYCLISTS as well as themselves. I almost got hit by one last week as I rode through an intersection which was green in my direction but not his; he appeared suddenly from behind the stopped cars. This particular time an actual collision would not have knocked me into the path of a car, but it would have been pretty painful nonetheless.


Yes, cyclists would probably win a red light running contest or a wrong way driving contest. But on stop sign running cyclists would be pretty evenly matched. And on speeding we'd get absolutely crushed. I've ridden the bus/bike only lanes in downtown a 1000 times and not once have I seen it occupied by only buses and bikes. Driving while using a cell phone? Illegal stopping? Double parking? Advantage motorists.

I just don't see it as a landslide, but I don't know anyway to prove that.

Au contraire, Contrarian.

Cyclists who disregard traffic regulations can and do:

-cause injuries (and death, albeit rarely) to pedestrians
-cause car-on-car accidents
-increase insurance premiums for motorists
-contribute to escalating road rage and the general decline of civility on the roads

Look: I'm not saying that motorists aren't bad (or even worse), I'm just saying that the people who complain about cyclists have a point. So do the cyclists who complain about disrespect from police, lack of adequate facilities, cars in bike lanes, etc.

Misunderstandings arise because, as Washcycle has pointed out (above), cyclists and motorists violate in the law in different ways. Cyclists blow red lights. Motorists speed. Rather than reflexively respond to criticism with criticism, it might be useful to pause listen to the grievances of motorists (and pedestrians).

Guez, I call bull. Show me one verified instance of a cyclist disregarding rules causing a car-on-car accident or a pedestrian fatality anywhere in the US in the past year. It just doesn't happen in the real world.

Why is our public policy based on things that might happen versus things that really do happen?

Here's a pretty good discussion of it. It is incredibly rare that a cyclist kills a pedestrian or causes an accident. And in not all of those cases is the cyclist breaking the law.


I seem to recall a case of a pedestrian killed by a biker: he rode into her on the sidewalk, causing her to fall and hit her head in a way that inflicted fatal brain damage.

This would have been an extreme case (if it actually happened), but it should be clear that bike-pedestrian collisions can easily produce broken bones and other nontrivial injuries.

Another thing. If I'm hit by a wrong-way or red-light-running biker and fall into the path of a car, technically it's the car that kills me, not the biker, and the accident would undoubtedly wind up in the motor-vehicle-fatalities column. Come to think of it, a car-car collision caused by one or both of the motorists being distracted by a reckless bicycle rider is still a car-car collision, and is most unlikely to be separately tabulated by its cause.


I can't find an example *in the US* *this year*, but it happens. Type "swerved to avoid a cyclist" into Google. In most cases, the car does not hit another car, but rather an obstruction. There is case in China of a bus swerving to avoid a cyclist and killing 19:


Fun fact: T. E. Lawrence died in a motorcycle crash when he swerved to avoid cyclists.

It's pretty rare, but we can hardly say that there is "no danger" (your *exact* words) nor does it absolve cyclists of the responsibility to be careful.

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