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Pointless. It would not change a thing. It is merely a pretense to treat cyclists as nuisances and potential roadkill.

Cyclists could just as well say that drivers only deserve respect when they never exceed the posted speed limit (or, if indicated, drive at a lower safe speed for present road consitions), yield or stop at crosswalks every time, obeye yield signs, come to a full and complete stop at every stop sign and never run red lights. Add to that never parking illegally anywhere and full compliance with all other posted or statutory laws and regulations.

Speaking of red lights: Drivers should not get any respect as long as they treat red lights as little more than yield signs on right turns. We all know of the deadly consequences for pedestrians who are being mowed down while crossing the street with the light on a marked crosswalk and maybe not quite as deadly consequences for traffic going straight through the intersection on their green light.

This whole respect talk is pure hogwash.

On a related note: Maybe I am not driving enough on city streets but I encounter very little outright animosity these days. I had a guy in Alexandria yell at me to get off the road once but that was some 1.5 years ago. Clearly, the crazies are still out there and we can only hope that they don't kill us before they kill themselves.

Excellent post. I very rarely get honked at or yelled at, but still continue to ride in my own private Idaho. A properly executed Idaho stop is very respectful (I routinely wave cars to go first while doing a slow track stand) and safe (a cyclist moving slowly isn't a sitting duck; a stopped cyclist is). Personally, I think motorists say cyclists "blow through stop signs" only because it sounds less whiny than saying cyclists "roll through stop signs and get in my way when it isn't even their turn to go yet."

Politeness matters, but advocacy matters even more. Following the law to the letter matters not at all and, as you imply, would likely make things worse. I certainly think that advocates can take credit for the fact that, instead to thinking all cyclists are scum, some police officers now think that only cyclists of a "certain socio-economic class" are scum. Progress!

Most of your response has to do with the cyclist vs. motorist tension, and for the most part, I find a lot to agree with. Some motorists are always jerks. They will act aggressively toward fellow motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. As cyclists, our trouble is that unlike pedestrians we share the same space with said jerks and unlike fellow motorists, we aren't piloting a tank. Because we inhabit this strange area where we share equal space with a vehicle 100 times more powerful than us, we sometimes bend rules to defend ourselves. Just like motorists practice defensive driving by assuming that all other drivers (and cyclists, for that matter) are jerks, we practice defensive cycling by assuming that all drivers are jerks.

When we assume that drivers are jerks, we have to do things on the lawful side like advocate for bike lanes on Penn Ave so that we can be safe from the jerks (cry me a river, AAA). Any other action would be as irresponsible as complaining about "taking lanes away from cars" for bike safety while at the same time having no set program to educate drivers about bike safety (I'm looking at you, AAA Mid-Atlantic).

On the unlawful side, we sometimes have to do things like break laws set up for cars. For example, when a neighborhood is set up to keep motorists from using thru side streets as short cuts during rush hour, (with one-way signs, no turn during hours signs, etc - think Lyon Park in Arlington or the intersection of Russell/W Glebe/Mt Vernon Ave in Alexandria), we are going to flaunt that law because we want to be on the quiet street, away from the jerks. To do otherwise would be totally irresponsible. The legal authorities could help us out by adding exceptions to those kinds of rules for bikes. Such a change would inexpensively both bring us under the law and get us out of the motorists' space.

Now, in the cyclist vs pedestrian clash, it is the cyclist who is the more powerful, as cars are the more powerful in the car vs cyclist clash. And again, the issue is sharing equal space while possessing unequal power. I would support bike laws/enforcement/education the helped alleviate that terrified feeling that fathers have when pushing children along when buzzed by the $2000 lycra machine who gives no audible warning that he's even coming up or the cyclist who's weaving in and out of pedestrians on a very crowded Saturday sidewalk.

Bottom line: My cyclist's heart rate races when an Chevy Suburban crosses from the passing lane, across my path in the right lane to make a right turn onto a side street and yells for me to use the sidewalk. (happened Tuesday on W Glebe; I avoid the sidewalk there because of the Catholic School kids walking to school). So also does my pedestrian heart race when the cyclist buzzes me while I am walking with my daughter. When you frame this as power/space and what you do to mitigate the discrepancy, I think this discussion makes more sense.

I would simply be happy if all user groups stopped trying to kill pedestrians.

Like the other two posters, I am rarely harassed by drivers. I have actually had worse experiences with other cyclists.

I ride legally--for many reasons, but one to keep in mind is that when (not if) you are hit by a car, the first thing the cops will ask is what you (the cyclist) were doing at the time of the crash. If you are around to sue, keep in mind that DC/MD/VA are contributory negligence states, so you're screwed if you were doing something boneheaded.

Well, with Contrib neg, you're screwed even if you weren't doing something boneheaded. In DC you need only fail to account for the fact that every other road operator might do something illegal and boneheaded and ride accordingly. In other words, if you get hit by a car that crossed the centerline, it's you're fault for not considering that they might.

I'm rarely honked at or yelled at either. But when I have been, it was when I was following the law (with one exception when I just screwed up and deserved to be yelled at). I mostly ride legally. I rarely run stop lights and then only when it is absolutely clear. I do roll through stop signs pretty regularly.

And I often bike at 50mph in a 45mph zone.

"And I often bike at 50mph in a 45mph zone."

Yeah, I like to keep it at 5 over, cuz I hear the cops will let it slide.

I concur with your observation that there is rarely a cause-effect relationship between cyclist action and driver rage. Some people are going to come unhinged no matter what, and (unfortunately) cyclists are convenient/accessible targets, during what may be that person's most stressful part of the day: the drive to/from work.

And we have to remember that bikers aren't special when it comes to road rage: drivers aren't nice or courteous to each other. Not around here, at least.

Another situation that gets my goat is motorists trying too hard to "be nice". Here is a typical experience that illustrates what I mean.

I cycle up to a stop sign and stop to wait for traffic to clear on the cross road. This is not a 4-way stop. On a number of occasions, a motorist on the cross-street (who clearly has the right-of-way), will stop their car in the middle of the freakin' road and wave me across the intersection, as if I am a pedestrian or a child on a tricycle. They may sincerely be trying to be nice, but they are asking me to break the rules of the road in order for them to feel good about themselves. I always refuse their gestures and gesture to the stop sign in front of me. Once my return gesture triggered anger in the motorist. I had refused her thoughtful gift! Just treat me like a normal vehicle and I'll be fine, thank you.

It's as if this type of motorist considers all cycliists to be children learning to ride their first Schwinn.

I follow the Laws of Physics first. The Laws of Man come second.

Eric W. said everything I was thinking already...well done.

Thanks TurbineBlade. *blush*

My work for today is done. ;-)

Beaker, that happens to me a lot too. At first it used to frustrate me because I know I have the stop/yield sign and the car doesn't and I want the car to go ahead.

But now I'm starting to just accept that many people will continue to do this. It's not as bad as a driver trying to run me down.

On some occasions, if I see a car coming to the crossing point, I'll purposely slow down so that the car will reach the crossing before I do. That way, the driver will just go on ahead and I don't end up in the awkward situation you described.

I have followed the rules for many years but question if it's worth it. I've been run off the road, cussed out for stopping at stop signs and red lights and people constantly ask me "why do cyclists ride on XXXX road?"

Respect is a two way street. Cyclists will be respected WHEN drivers choose to be respectful and admit that drivers are as much of the problem as cyclists are.

@Beaker: Hey, if one motorist wants to suspend the rules of the road to do something nice for panting, sweaty little me, I won't take offense, but the favor is not always as nice as the motorist thinks it is. He/she has usually failed to consider the drivers in other lanes who continue to take their right of way, or drivers behind the action who can't see what's going on and might think of pulling out and around.

Ok,let's talk about obeying the law. On my way to dinner with friends tonight,I was rolling down Mass Ave through Embassy Row. I was taking the lane(legal) *and* keeping up with traffic. An SUV rolls up on my tail and starts laying on the horn. I drop him at the British Embassy light,and he pulls next to me at the bridge. He screams cuss words at me,tells me I was only taking the lane to be an a-hole(there was only one car length between me and the car that was in front of me),and then tells me he has to 'deal with my kind' all the time. He's wearing a Metro shirt,so I figure he's a bus driver. I calmly tell him I was riding legally(I was maintaining calm),and he just keeps cussing me out.

So I would put the question to Mr Irish;what are we supposed to do when we obey the law,but still get hassled? I can't count the number of times I've been in the bike/bus lanes in Chinablock and been honked at by drivers illegally riding my butt in the lane. We're damned if we do and damned if we don't.

To put a point to this;cyclists RARELY kill people,while every year motor vehicles kill more people than handguns. Clamping down on cyclists is a strawman argument;if you really want to do some good,you need to do something about the majority motor vehicles who are really doing the damage.

Stopping at stop signs is not necessarily the safest strategy for cyclists. Once stopped you are slow to get going again and across the intersection. Better to slow down and check the cross traffic, then move on. And, in fact, some states have wisely made it law that cyclists can treat stop signs as yield signs. Don't happen to know which those states are though...

Why Bicyclists Hate Stop Signs by BY JOEL FAJANS AND MELANIE CURRY

I agree with Eric W. in that the incidence of nasty encounters with drivers I've experienced is much lower now than in the recent past. I don't think that's because I'm a better behaved cyclist. I think it's because I have a heck of a lot more pedalling company out there on the roads, especially in Old Town Alexandria. Even the APD have backed off their obnoxious anti-cyclist behavior in the last 2 years. Sadly there will always be jerks and morons using all modes of transportation.

Thanks for the link to an interesting article that, unfortunately, buys into the "cyclists don't want to slow down" excuse for cyclists rolling through stop signs. IMO, that is a selfish-sounding argument.

A more useful and still factual argument is that a cyclist at a complete stop with his or her foot down is a sitting duck, waiting to be run over. Unlike a pedestrian, a stopped cyclist can't even jump out of the way of an out-of-control automobile.

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