rant

I learned to drive in Berkeley.
I yield to pedestrians.
I stop for squirrels.
I avoid running into skateboarders wearing black at night.
And I treat bicyclists, not with respect but with outright fear.

I've had a bike rider fall over right in front of me in traffic.
Actually it was funny.
She was going uphill on one of the steepest street, in the middle of the street, very slowly
So I was behind her for three blocks, going very slowly, because she was making some kind of obscure bicyclist point about not letting cars by, although she was going about 5 mph.
She gets up to the stop sign at the steepest part, comes to a stop and just falls over sideways right in front of me.
I had been staying far enough back that I stopped in time not to drive over her.
But I have to admit that by then I didn't much care if she'd hurt herself falling over, nor did the other six cars behind me.

It's kind of typical of people on bikes around here.
Bicyclists routinely shoot off the sidewalk like kamikazes(pedestrians matter much?) onto the crosswalk without looking.
They run stop signs and lights without looking.
Tom had one hit into the side of his car, running a stop sign at dusk — the bike, that is.
They've run into opening car doors and fallen on the street in front of me (twice).
I've seen people without helmets riding bikes in traffic while talking on cell phones.
I've known three people who were injured (one hospitalized) by being hit by bicyclists — two of the bicyclists involved fled the scene.
(The third bike wasn't working so well.)

So far I have managed to avoid hitting anyone on a bike, but I constantly work at it.
If there is a bicyclist on the street, I have my eye on them the whole time because they behave so erratically.
Of course, I'm also watching for traffic, and pedestrians, but if there is a bike anywhere in sight, I have to monitor it until I'm well past.
I'm sure there are sane responsible bike riders somewhere, but they're not around here, because these people are freaking nuts.

Soooo.

San Francisco has a monthly event called Critical Mass, where — in practice if not in theory — masses of bicyclists go out and block rush hour traffic downtown, joyriding around ignoring traffic signals and yelling at people, so that we'll all be more bike-conscious and bike-friendly when we drive.
The logic is not compelling.
Car driver: "Oh gee, it's Friday rush hour, and in addition to the usual mess, there are hundreds of people on bikes blocking traffic on purpose.
So now I'm extra late, and I've been yelled at by a bunch of people on bikes.
I think maybe I should be nicer to the bicyclists from now on."
Not.

It's been just waiting for something violent to happen, so now we have this:

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2007/04/05/CRITICAL.TMP

No one hospitalized this time, but the thing is just a ticking bomb.
And, sadly, what's going to happen will probably involve a bicyclist getting really hurt.
I don't like cars getting damaged, but I like people getting damaged even less.
At some point, some driver will get seriously bent out of shape, and car vs. bike is not a good interaction.
If they wanted to do something nifty, instead of just wanting to piss off the grown-ups, they'd hold their  thingy at 3am, and have the city to themselves.

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4 responses to this post.

  1. This is a tough situation. I have a friend who cycles and is constantly complaining about drivers on the road. But what ticks me off is that he doesn't obey the same traffic laws (he doesn't stop at red lights or stop signs, etc.). When a cyclist wants to share a road with other vehicles they need to obey the same laws as the rest of us (as you well know from the stop sign incident you mentioned).Critical Mass sounds like it could turn into a massive riot.

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  2. Lobby for bike-paths… bike lanes, separate from pedestrian and motorised vehicles… it's the only sane solution. And school traffic education.I come from bicycle country (= Denmark), and we are taught the traffic rules for bikes quite early in life (mandatory in school)… and cars are taught how much distance keeping is really safe around a bike – because as you noticed, bikes fall over unpredictably sometimes… Most places we have lanes for bikes, and the entire traffic mix generally WORKS. However I haven't seen anywhere else in the world where it wouldn't drive me insane to ride a bike… or where the bikes seem to have any sense of what they're doing on the road… Very strange… I have equally little understanding for the bike in the middle of the road as I have for the car that leaves about a foot of space for the biker between himself and the parked cars on the side… I have seen a biker getting "rolled" between a driving car and a parked car and I don't think he survived… I really don't get why this has to be such a problem..Why don't both cars and bikes just learn how you do to get past each other in traffic… it really isn't that complicated if both do it right.

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  3. I know, the basic can't we all just get along remains unanswerable.We do have some streets with bike lanes (no parking on that side, painted lane), but they seem under used.People ride in on Telegraph with the traffic instead of on Dana.Don't get it myself – I don't even drive on Telegraph.

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  4. Wacky folks need to ride their bikes in Tampa, FL, for about a week. Bikes are invisible in Tampa, and you quickly learn to ride as though no one can see you. (I finally stopped riding when I realized that I was eventually going to get killed–Tampa is #1 for cycling and pedestrian deaths in America.)Critical Mass here in little ole Lawrence rode up my street and about 90% of them had NO HELMETS, so stepped out from door and shouted, "WHERE ARE YOUR FUCKING HELMETS, YOU FUCKING MORONS?" Forgot I live in a small town now. Have a feeling, from now on my house will be referred to as the Helmet House.

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