War with the Industry: We are the Problem

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I have many bones to pick with the industry I love, I’m calling it a war - a war to get more butts on bikes, to get kids safer to adventure and for the industry to get their head out of the ground. First step was bike shops, the front line of the bicycle industry. Now to put more of a blanket across the complete industry, to everyone that calls themselves cyclist.

Here’s what I ask of you, as you are most likely a cyclist to read this blog…I ask you to take a moment and reflect on the thoughts I am bringing you.

How many sports interrupt everyone’s daily life?

Other than running, to a point, who’s “sport” stops the lives of the non-cycling population?

We talk about going after golf as a target audience of potential cyclist – golf has beautiful couses and ranges to practice our strokes

Runners can run on sidewalks

Baseball, soccer, lacrosse and football have fields with bleachers wrapped around

The Sport We Love Causes Chaos

We fight to share the road, should we be fighting to have our own roads, greenways and trails instead? Is sharing roads with 4,000 lb cars the smartest thing to do?  Do bike lanes, only inches, from 55 mph roads make sense? Do we belong on roads over 35 mph as road cyclist or commuters?

I sit here writing this while watching the latest stage of the Tour de France. Beautiful, romantic and exciting. I also watch thousands of miles of roads shut down. The closest I can think of this that is non-cycling is that of the Boston Marathon at 26.2 miles.

What is Our Hope?

The bike industry “is flat” they say. Of course it is. My family worry about me when I go for a ride on the road. I’m not able to ride my mountain bike locally when it rains, and it has been raining on and off all week. The local velodrome is 45 minutes away. The closest greenway, 8 miles away, is 3 miles long.

When you look for our hope, look to your neighborhood. Look at all the bikes with flat tires in your neighbors garage. What would inspire them to ride? What does the venue look like?

Our hope is not for the next Lance Armstrong.

My hope is for organizations like Streetsblog, a blog about sustainable transportation and livable communities. Side neighborhood streets, planned development and creating safe ways to move around communities.  That is how to get more people on bikes, out of the gym and out of their car.

Think About It

Next time you are out on the road, think about what is going on around you. Wave to that person that stopped for you or went AROUND you. You are interrupting their flow and their day. Just because you are able to be on the road, share the lane or take the lane, doesn’t mean you aren’t creating chaos out there. When we are riding 10 deep of 2 or 3 a breast, who is sitting patiently behind you in their car? Where did we go so wrong that we feel entitled to interrupting someones day because “we ride a bike”?

If your kids were in the middle of the street playing catch or kicking a soccer ball and a car comes down the road do you expect your kids to get out of the way or the car to stop?

23 Comments

  • Ken Harris says:

    I really don’t see cycling that way. We can coexist with larger vehicles. This isn’t a sport for me, so maybe that is the difference. I bike to work, nine miles round-trip. I don’t think requiring drivers to pay attention and give us space is an imposition on their time. They should already be driving in a safe and predictable manner. I’m not interrupting their flow, I’m part of their flow. It’s not an imposition for them to have to touch their brakes…

  • Meg says:

    Perhaps the problem, at least in part, is that cycling is referred to by many as a “sport,” rather than as a means of transportation. While I realize that for some it is in fact a sport, there are many of us who ride daily merely for a bit of exercise and for transport, not because we’re trying to train/win a race. I think those transportation numbers are growing dramatically, and that will help to change the perception of cyclists by drivers. The more plain-clothed and kitted folks on bikes who are seen on the roads, respecting (and as you say) waving at drivers for their consideration will certainly assist in improved relationships between two-wheeled riders and four-wheeled automobiles.

    In my personal experience, it is often the “racer/kit-wearing cyclists” I’ve seen fly through red lights, yelling at drivers for something that was the cyclists fault, or expecting everyone to yield to them… not always, but the majority of instances I’ve observed. We all need to be respectful of each other (common courtesy, as some might say), and in time, changes will take place… or at least, that is the hope.

  • I could not disagree with this more.

  • steve says:

    A visit to Denmark or the Netherlands is very useful. Bikes are “just” transportation and everywhere. Nearly everyone is a cyclist – even the drivers. Sure some people use bikes for sport there – but that isn’t why biking is widespread and safe.

    It was non-trivial for this to happen and it took about three decades in each country – very different solutions in fact. Thirty years ago it appeared that both countries were more on an American path and that changed.

    John Pucher at Rutgers is the expert who studies this. His papers on the subject are great and he is also a gifted speaker. Here are a couple of papers.

    http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/Irresistible.pdf

    http://policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/Pucher_Dill_Handy10.pdf

  • Rich says:

    I’m with Jill. Or lets just give in and close all the bikes shops,rip up the bike lanes, and join the car drivers. What a few thousand more cars, another tanker load of middle eastern oil, another war for that oil, a few more spare the air days. Another lane on the freeway and a bigger traffic jam, Thats got to be cheaper and less inconvenient than giving me 3′ on the road.

    • Bike Shop Girl says:

      maybe, but maybe we can just think a bit when we are out on the road being obnoxious?

  • Rich says:

    Got it.

  • Being obnoxious?

    There are thousands of people that get in my way one way or another every single day. I’d freaking LOVE IT if they weren’t there but they are and I have to put up with it. Riding a bike lawfully on the side of the road isn’t any more of an imposition than someone trying to turn left across four lanes of traffic during rush hour, backing my neighborhood up a mile. Stopping in the right lane at a red light, making everyone else wanting to turn right have to wait for the green. Driving 5mph below the speed limit for a hundred unpassable miles. Driving two feet from my bumper at 65 mph on a two lane road with a huge line of cars in front of me. Blasting bass while driving through my ‘hood at 2am. Putting a modified, loud exhaust system on a car, making my walls shake every time they drive past.

    Or bringing noisy kids to a restaurant where they can disrupt everyone else’s meal. Or writing a check (seriously, who writes a check anymore?) while a long line waits at the grocery. Or talking loudly on a cell phone in a public space. Parking way too close in the airport garage. Bringing fifteen six year olds onto narrow singletrack. Letting unmannered dogs run loose to hassle my trained dog. Getting to the front of the pint/growler line and not knowing which freaking beer they want to order (after fifteen minutes in line with the offerings on display right in front of their faces – really? my god, people). Wandering aimlessly through the grocery, blocking the aisles. Shoppers walking into Costco and stopping dead to look around, as if they’ve never been there before. Tourists interrupting my nice brunch with friends to shove their camera in my hands and ask if I’ll take their picture. The list can go on forever.

    If I have to put up with all the things that annoy the crap out of me, a few people can deviate 3′ from their path to not ram their Ford F-350s up my spine. They can pause their cell phone conversation or delay their text message long enough to not kill me.

    There is no earthly reason why the fact that I have a bike underneath me makes their errand more important than mine, their life more precious, their problems more worthy, their time more valuable.

  • zac_in_ak says:

    Really…we are obnoxious???? Drivers are THE most obnoxious. Not just to cyclist but to everyone even near a road. I have been almost run over numerous times. walking, jogging,biking. Drivers don’t pay attention often and consider anything that slows them down( even other drivers) a nuisance. Get some objectivity if you are going to post slanted/unthinking things.

  • Lucas says:

    I have to say that I agree with you. Riding on the road, whether we like it as bike riders or not, is disruptive. We can argue that we belong there, but the roads in many places were not designed for cars and bikes and in an accident, the car wins.

    there are definitely some people who want to exert their right to share the road, but there is the larger issue of all of the others who do not want to be bothered with risking their life to go out and ride. Also, do we really want to have to make our kids share the road with trucks and suvs doing 60? I sure don’t.

    Where I live, there was the opportunity to create a 25 mile rails to trails line and because of the resistance of a few concerned homeowners, it is not moving forward. This would have offered a safer alternative for those who do not want to share the road.

    There do need to be more safer alternatives for bikes to encourage more people to get out and enjoy riding.

    • Bike/Ped Planner says:

      So Lucas, I guess all those people just drive their cars to the trail somewhere to ride this one linear route and then drive home? I’m all for rails to trails, but you still have to get to them, and all too often that means driving. Which means you are now inconveniencing people with your pressence in an automobile. And let’s not even consider the fact that a liner trail isn’t functional for transportation if one can’t get to and from it on a bike.

  • I had so much to say in response to this I had to write a blog post. http://bikestylespokane.com/2012/07/24/we-are-not-the-enemy/
    Actually, I have so much to say I have to write another one because my first one is already too long, so there will be another in a couple of days.
    I don’t like the perpetuation of the we/they. Some people are jerks, some people follow the rules. This isn’t linked to their choice of transportation and we shouldn’t add fuel to the fire of drivers (mostly drivers) who seem to think it is.

  • Janice in GA says:

    I don’t ride for sport at all, and rarely ride for leisure. I ride for transportation about 90% of the time. I’m a SLOW rider, and I know how annoying that can be to folks behind me.

    So I do things like wave cars ahead of me when we’re both stopped at a stop sign (yes, I stop at stop signs) and go after them. I ride with a mirror so I see cars coming a long ways back, but I do courtesy shoulder checks (pretending to look back at the car) because that seems to let a driver know I’ve seen them, and they can proceed more confidently. I wave at people all the time, and say Thanks to folks who move back so I can cross in front of them.

    My attitude mostly makes me feel better. It sure didn’t stop the guy in the pickup truck from throwing something at me the other day, though. :(

    I’d love to ride on separated tracks, just to lower the amount of worry I have. But it’s not going to happen where I live. Heck, most of the roads I ride on don’t even have SHOULDERS.

    I just soldier on as best as I can.

  • Matt says:

    Sorry, have to disagree with the fundamental idea that I am interrupting traffic when I’m on the road on a bike. I am traffic. Most of the miles I ride are to and from work. By riding those miles instead of driving them, I am providing for my family by keeping our car costs low (we are a one-car household). I’m just another guy, trying to get to and from work safely, day in and day out. My need to get to work every day (or to the store or wherever) is no more or less important than anybody else’s. I deserve the same respect as the operator of any other slow-moving vehicle.

    The speed limits on our roads are maximums, not birthrights. There are lots of things that limit the “free flow” of traffic at maximum legal speeds at all times. Traffic, intersections, road conditions, weather, and yes, cyclists on the roads all keep us from driving as fast as we possibly could everywhere.

    And what about when I do ride for sport? When i go out on the road for something beyond necessity? Am I the only one out there whose presence on the road is “unnecessary?” How many lumbering Winnebagos on the road are there for absolute necessity? How many tractor trailers carrying crappy cruelty-raised commodity beef across our highways are “necessary?” How many 50 miles-each-way single-occupant-vehicle commutes between a job in an urban center and a home out in the rural sprawl are “necessary?” Those things are obnoxious, those things are disruptive.

    Now, I agree. Use the road on a bike, within your rights. (I don’t go on a lot of group rides with people I don’t know anymore because I can’t be part of the 2,3,4, abreast, stoplight-blowing bad behavior). Don’t be a jerk, and be grateful when drivers are considerate toward you. I do that on the bike, and in the car. I try to do that in life in general.

    I’d love to see good bike infrastructure, but I’m pessimistic about it showing up in my or even my young son’s lifetime. I work in town planning, and I’m acutely aware of how expensive infrastructure is and how long and difficult the process to build it can be, even when you have the money. And the truth is, the infrastructure is there. It’s our existing road system. On my commute, there needs to be a wider shoulder here, a left turn lane there, maybe. The barriers I face are not the widths of the roads or the lack of bike lanes. It’s the scary intersections that were never designed for bikes to navigate, and violent (note, not obnoxious, but violent) drivers who have become desensitized to the humanity on the bicycle next to them.

    Instead, communities around me are often focused on big, expensive MUP’s that don’t connect with each other and are crossed by driveways and side streets every few feet and have no provision for integrating back into the road system when they end. All the MUP’s end up doing is upsetting the motorists around me even more, because now it’s “why aren’t you on the bike path?” Great.

  • mike says:

    what?

    yes, when you are ‘club’ racing on a tuesday night 10-20-30 in a line, positioning yourself up the next hill because you feel like lance… you are being an ass, and potentially causing disruption.

    riding to work? out for a tour? even ‘training’ by ones or by twos or threes out for a scenic ride to clear your head, to pick up milk, to drop the kids off at school?

    no more disruptive than any other legal road user. and i’d say less so.

    the roads, those things we all pay for? they are public rights of way, in most cases, and unless bikes and pads or officially banned (many interstates in the east) – then i have a right to them just as much as i do when i’m on 4 wheels with a motor.

    when does ‘mode’ give anyone a right to be more or less ‘important’?

  • Mark Ortiz says:

    Probably the worst expression of cyclist-inferiority thinking, bicycle segregationism, and just lousy thinking and writing I’ve seen in a long time. A bad issue position, presented in a confused manner.

    With “lovers” like this, cyclists have no need of enemies.

  • Ken Grubb says:

    Even though I ride for fun, when I am commuting I am just another vehicle traveling from here to there.

    While not a scientific assessment, anecdotally I see a higher percentage of distracted or obnoxious drivers out and about–whether I’m driving, biking, or walking.

    Can cyclists do better? Always. Can drivers do better? Yes, and by an order of magnitude far greater.

    I have yet to hear of a distracted or obnoxious cyclist killing someone other than themselves, but I suppose it has happened if only once.

    Finally, I must quip that bicycles were here first.

  • Seth Maciejowski says:

    Let me see here :
    Cars :
    Loud, destroy roads much faster, pollute the air, increase obesity rates, burn fossil fuels sourced by dictatorial regimes and generally lower the quality of life of anyone living along a busy road.

    Bikes :
    inconvenience cars, delay some motorist for up to 2-3 seconds!

    Clearly bikes are the nuisance here….

  • Harry says:

    I ride all over the city. I ride about three feet from the right edge of the pavement, and I am allowed by law, I believe, to do that; and/or, by law to ride in a way that protects my safety when I’m on the streets. Most cars safely pass me, usually by moving to the lane on the left. I don’t ride on busy streets during rush hour.

    I ride in a way that respects auto traffic. And, I ride expecting respect from the traffic. I don’t jump ahead of cars stopped at the traffic light. I stop in the lane behind them and keep that lane until I get through the intersection and pull over to my three feet from the right edge of pavement.

    When the bike lane ends, I get over in the traffic lane before crossing the intersection to continue.

    I don’t trust my safety to cars and drivers. I will be in the traffic lane and they will just go around me.

    If the street and traffic seem too dangerous or risky, I use the sidewalks for a little ways.

    And, I don’t use earplugs to listen to crap when I should be listening to the traffic behind me.

    After at least 25 years cycling, I have learned not to be a jerk on the streets, be respectful of cars, trust no one else with my safety, and ride like I belong there.

    Please, amateurs and elite riders, don’t mess things up for the rest of the cyclists.

  • Bike Shop Girl says:

    Harry

    AMEN!!!!

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