High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels

Driver — Fear Thyself


Car running stop signDriver — Fear Thyself Today, apropos of nothing, I decided to count the number of cars breaking obvious traffic rules. Riding home from the gym that takes me on approximately three miles of road, I counted 20 cars that rolled through stop signs, zoomed through a “pink” light, didn’t signal, or drove above the speed limit. At the same time, I noticed that out of the numerous cyclists on the road, not one did anything wrong. In fact, they didn’t even come close.

The misconception that bicyclists are scofflaws is rampant in our society. Sure some are, but no more so than those who drive a vehicle. I’ll go so far as to say that proportionately, cyclists adhere to traffic laws more than drivers. But I’ve had numerous conversations with non-cyclists over the years who declared that they weren’t against cyclists on the road per se but that it would be a lot easier to tolerate them if so many didn’t break the rules. I’m not going to get into the conversations I’ve had with the idiots who hate cyclists whether they follow the rules or not. The people I’m talking about here are otherwise normal and rational. In fact, many of them think cycling as transportation is kind of cool.

I believe that part of the problem is that except for psychopaths, no driver actually wants to hit a cyclist. Even the Neanderthals who believe that bikes don’t belong on the road really don’t want to be involved in a collision with one, if only to save them the inconvenience. So drivers view cyclists as obstacles to avoid instead of simply considering them as a normal part of traffic and that makes them uncomfortable, even scared, and yes, sometimes hostile. And, when you’ve invested all of those emotions in a group of people it’s easy to slap a label on them. But it’s probably safe to say that most cyclists riding the streets are to varying degrees more alert and more cautious than their driving counterparts. We don’t want to be hit either. A driver might be inconvenienced but we could easily be dead—and we know it!

imageAs a driver you might shake your head at another person running a light or stop sign but you wouldn’t then condemn all drivers (or even most of them) as scofflaws. In fact, you probably just take it for granted and, unless there’s a major collision, don’t give it much thought at all. And isn’t that interesting? When someone operating a ton of metal does something risky or illegal, isn’t that infinitely more dangerous than say someone operating something as flimsy as a bicycle? Just sayin’!

I’m glad I did this little exercise. The next time somebody tells me that cyclists would be easier to tolerate if they followed the rules, I’ll whip this nugget of observation out and see where the conversation goes.



Author: d2

I ride because it's fun. It's also healthy, good for the environment, and my gas budget but if it wasn’t fun, none of that would matter. It's what gets me on my bike almost every day, even when I'm tired, not feeling my best, or just not in the mood. No other form of "exercise" has equaled it. I used to love to run but I was injury-prone and couldn't do it every day. I certainly couldn't jog down to the store and come home with dinner. Walking is okay but definitely falls around midpoint on the fun scale. I enjoy it, especially when I'm walking with a friend, but am not exhilarated by it. So I ride.

8 thoughts on “Driver — Fear Thyself

  1. The conversation would probably come to a complete halt because you would be talking to a dummy!!!

    Good article Deedle.

    Sent from my iPad

    • Thanks, Cleo. I know what you mean, when people make up their mind about something proof, albeit anecdotal, otherwise only serves as white noise to their dearly held beliefs.

  2. It probably makes a difference where you ride. Seattle bicyclists are a lot more capable of following the rules of the road than were the riders down in San Diego, where it was common for people to ride on the wrong side of the road or to blow through stop signs and lights.

    On the other hand many drivers who complain about bikes don’t understand how the rules of the road apply to bicyclists. I am far too frequently berated for not staying in the (glass and trash filled) bike lanes, for example. Or for taking a lane when my safety requires it. Those drivers surely believe I am violating the laws, and would complain as a result.

  3. You will never convince someone who is set upon their ways. Never.

    …but, is that the point? I find myself in debates with others frequently, even though I know I wont change their mind any more than they will change mine. But here’s what keeps me going:

    1. I will at least annoy them a little 🙂 They will be unable to go on their merry ignorant way. Sometimes, that’s enough depending on the person and the issue.

    2. Don’t try to change their mind. Focus on the witnesses. I rarely bother if it’s just me and this other person. If there are others, however, who might have more of a neutral stance, then I will go to town. It’s the people who haven’t quite made up their mind yet that you can usually reach.

    In regards to your post…I’ve been drafting something (in my mind) to respond to that very complaint — that drivers would be okay with cyclists if they just followed the rules. So I was happy to read this.

    It IS interesting how they don’t give it a second thought when a fellow driver breaks the rules (also, most drivers themselves don’t follow the law). So, what’s going on here. Why do people do that? How does our culture socialize people into being able to be such hypocrites, with such deadly consequences. Interesting question, indeed. I have some ideas…but we’ll see when I can type them all out! 😀

    • Echo, I believe it all comes down to the idea of sharing the road which I believe many drivers for varying reasons are simply uncomfortable with. Demonizing cyclists is an easy way to deal with that discomfort. Can’t wait to see your post on the topic.

  4. Many people drive brain-dead. They truly believe that accidents happen only to “other people” and all their “safety devices (seat belts, air bags, etc) will save them. They think it is ok to break the law because there isn’t a cop in sight. In my experience, bikers on the other hand pay lots of attention to where they are and follow the law. They KNOW that if an accident happens, they are toast.

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