The Worst Day of the Year Ride is February 11th

Anger explained in “Why You Hate Cyclists”

Posted by on September 24th, 2012 at 1:47 pm

From the other side-2

Hate? Really?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland) has published a very interesting, and I think important, article on why some road users have such anger toward people on bikes. In Why You Hate Cyclists: Partly because of jerks like me. But it’s mostly your own illogical mind, writer Jim Saksa delves into the psychological underpinnings of why bike riders get such a bad rap. His article is a must-read if you want to better understand why we so often hear hate-filled rants about “those crazy cyclists!”

Here’s the gist:

… lots of drivers assume all people on bikes are assholes like me. In doing so, these motorists are making an inductive fallacy, not unlike saying, “Of course he beat me at basketball—he’s Asian like Jeremy Lin and Yao Ming.” Now, you might be thinking to yourself that you’ve seen more than one or two suicidal cyclists in your day—that these roaches on two wheels are an infestation that’s practically begging to be squished underfoot (and by “foot” you mean “my Yukon Denali”).

First off—wow, that is disturbingly violent. Second, your estimate of the number of asshole cyclists and the degree of their assholery is skewed by what behavioral economists like Daniel Kahneman call the affect heuristic, which is a fancy way of saying that people make judgments by consulting their emotions instead of logic…

Every time another bicyclist pulls some… stunt, the affect heuristic kicks in to reinforce the preconceived biases. The same isn’t true in reverse: The conviction that bicyclists are erratically moving hazards is not diminished by the repeated observance of safe and respectful riding.

Saksa correctly (in my opinion) states that much of the hate we hear about on talk radio shows, in and local TV station blog comments, has more to do with emotion than reality. This is something I’ve tried to explain to people (in a much less eloquent way) for a long time, and it’s why we can’t let people’s personal anecdotes become the basis for policy.

I’ve found that much of the divisiveness and anger present in our discussions about transportation projects and policies has to do with a simple lack of perspective. Most of the people I debate issues with simply haven’t spent time riding a bicycle in an urban environment. On the flip side, I have driven around this city in a car plenty of times.

Saksa nails this perspective issue:

Moreover, bicycling as a primary means of transportation—I’m not talking about occasional weekend riders here—is a foreign concept to many drivers, making them more sensitive to perceived differences between themselves and cyclists. People do this all the time, making false connections between distinguishing characteristics like geography, race, and religion and people’s qualities as human beings. Sometimes it is benign (“Mormons are really polite”), sometimes less so (“Republicans hate poor people”). But in this case, it’s a one-way street: Though most Americans don’t ride bikes, bikers are less likely to stereotype drivers because most of us also drive. The “otherness” of cyclists makes them stand out, and that helps drivers cement their negative conclusions. This is also why sentiments like “taxi drivers are awful” and “Jersey drivers are terrible” are common, but you don’t often hear someone say “all drivers suck.” People don’t like lumping themselves into whatever group they are making negative conclusions about, so we subconsciously seek out a distinguishing characteristic first.

One thing Saksa doesn’t mention, but that I feel plays a large role in peoples’ tendency to “hate cyclists” is that people on bikes are not anonymous. Because bike riders are out in the open, they are very easy to judge and attach anger to. People in cars, on the other hand, can barely be seen inside their vehicles and they are, in effect, shielded from hateful and emotional psychological scapegoating.

This is important stuff. If we are ever going to significantly (not incrementally) change the transportation status quo in America, improving our mental infrastructure will be just as important as improving our physical infrastructure.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • Kurt Kemmerer September 24, 2012 at 1:57 pm

    I found this piece to offer very little insight, especially in the Portland area. The author is speaking to a small percentage of people and/or a strawman.

    Now, I’m not saying there aren’t people who’s views of cyclists are as described by this author, but, until someone can show solid research that said drivers are a huge percentage, I’m not sure what the point of this piece really is.

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    • Caleb September 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

      Maybe he is speaking to a small percentage, but if there are any with views such as he portrays, why not talk about such views that affect many more than just them? Further, when I see people on this web site debating what characteristics homeless people/drivers/unicycle bastards/fixed-gear riders/etc have without apparently even realizing they’re making generalizations, I tend to think merely the concept Jim Saksa conveys is worth talking about, no matter who it is immediately relevant or irrelevant to.

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  • Dave September 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    I totally agree about the anonymity issue being important as well. Just think a little about your reaction to a cyclist doing something dumb as opposed to a driver: we (or at least, I) have a tendency to talk and think about the cyclist directly; “That guy ran that light,” or “She almost hit me.” At the same time we treat the driver indirectly, and talk about the car instead; “That Toyota blew that stop sign,” or “That BMW is going way too fast.” It’s a short leap from there to decide that the car is an inanimate object that has no intent or malice, while the cyclist is clearly a living breathing person that should know better.

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    • Kurt Kemmerer September 24, 2012 at 2:15 pm

      Really? I’m not sure about that. I think it would be some interesting research, but, anecdotally (and I know anecdotes are worth nothing), I tend to be just as angry at the driver of a vehicle as I do of a cyclist when one or the other pulls a crap move, and I’m just as angry at that individual. I don’t care what they’re driving.

      OK. Actually, if they’re driving an expensive car, I might be even more prejudiced.


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    • Chris I September 24, 2012 at 2:17 pm

      I usually do the opposite and people get upset at me. Granted, I generalize, which will occasionally put me in the position of being accused of racism or sexism. I constantly point out when other drivers make mistakes. So to me, it seems like the crux of the issue is the fact that most drivers do not ride bikes for transportation. The more people we get to do it, even for just a few days a year, the fewer irrational drivers we will face out there.

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    • Aaron September 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm

      Very good point. Most car drivers still react to ‘those bikers’ in the general. But cyclists are still seen as human beings more than someone in a car (especially with tinted windows). The other major factor is that it’s easy to communicate with someone on a bike. So if I do something in error, I can easily say “I’m sorry.” In a car people can only use hand signals and there is no universally recognized hand signal for sorry. This is behind road rage issues.

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  • Hart Noecker September 24, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Huh, I’ve been saying ‘all drivers suck’ for about twelve years. But really, it’s the cars that suck, and dehumanizing effects the car has on the driver that sucks the most.

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    • Caleb September 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm

      What “dehumanizing effects” are you referring to here?

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  • thefuture September 24, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    I would assert that there is a bit of jealousy that exists from people in cars towards people on bikes in urban environments. In cities, being in a car is not a very pleasant experience with traffic, finding parking, etc. Seeing someone on a bike zip by you in a bike lane while you’re stuck in backed up traffic or watching them lock up right outside their destination can be frustrating. All this considering its being done on a bike that might cost several hundred dollars vs. an automobile that can cost several thousands or more likely tens of thousands of dollars to own.

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    • Hart Noecker September 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm

      Apparently still not a negative enough of an experience for drivers to liberate themselves from their cages.

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      • Jeff September 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm

        looks like you’re having the same heuristic problem here, Hart, and probably don’t realize it.

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        • Hart Noecker September 24, 2012 at 4:21 pm

          Just like you’re having right now, too?

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          • Scott September 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm

            Jeff is not having a hueristic moment unless there is a large mass that can be generalized as ‘Hart Noeckers’.

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            • Hart Noecker September 24, 2012 at 11:10 pm

              Well, I guess this entire article and every theory about any group of people ever thought up in the history of everything would have to be a heuristic moment then. Sheesh.

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              • Scott September 25, 2012 at 10:32 am

                You should re-read the article and how a heuristic moment is defined. It is in the application of the thought to the group rather than that there is a group.

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          • Caleb September 25, 2012 at 2:34 pm

            I suppose Jeff could have been experiencing a “heuristic problem” if he considered your post one based upon instances of other people he groups you with doing whatever you did that he considered a “heuristic problem”. But the post he said you were having a “heuristic problem” in reaction to did contain words indicative of a “heuristic moment”, so he might have simply made the claim based on your post. Who knows?

            But he did say you “probably don’t realize it”. Such words literally express an assumption about conditions in your mind, whether he had actually made such an assumption and tried to express that or not, and I’d say assumption of any sort is what we consider problematic in “heuristic moments”, so is that perhaps what prompted you to refer to his posting as “heuristic”?

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    • Chris Tuttle September 25, 2012 at 12:56 pm

      I agree about the jealousy thing. It angers people to see others who are playing by rules that seem less restrictive, and there’s little doubt that a bike-lane-cyclist is a vision of freedom if you see them speeding by while you are in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

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  • 9watts September 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Fantastic piece. Thanks for discovering it and discussing it here.

    I am reminded of the >3,000 people are killed by distracted drivers every year, but let’s focus on and ticket people riding bikes running stop signs in Ladd’s Addition discrepancy.

    The emotional reaction to and personal unfamiliarity with people riding bikes, even those doing nothing whatsoever wrong, combine to skew authorities’ and other segments of the public’s perception of what is important/dangerous/deserving of sanction.

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  • Indy September 24, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    Bring it meta:

    Why do I hate the slowpoke on the sidewalk blocking my ability to walk fast? Well, they are taking up a good portion of my ability to stay at my pace. If only there was a dedicated lane for those slower people! Then I could go about my merry way.

    People hate bikes for the simple reason that it impedes their ability to go somewhere as fast as they feel entitled to. Cars give them that ability, bikes slow them down.

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    • Richard Allan September 24, 2012 at 2:46 pm

      “People hate bikes for the simple reason that it impedes their ability to go somewhere as fast as they feel entitled to.”

      Then why the anger about bike paths and bike lanes?

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      • Indy September 24, 2012 at 2:56 pm

        By association they cause car lanes to shrink, slowing cars down more.

        Not using logic here, even if 9000 bikers across Hawthorne reduces car traffic significantly, many drivers can’t see past “my lane is smaller so I get screwed.”.

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      • Spiffy September 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm

        Richard Allan
        Then why the anger about bike paths and bike lanes?

        huh? when were those mentioned?

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        • Richard Allan September 24, 2012 at 4:25 pm

          They weren’t mentioned in this article. But if you follow the comments on places like OLive, there seems to be substantial resentment toward bike lanes and bike paths. It goes something like this: (1) bikes don’t belong “in the lane” with cars; (2) we shouldn’t be using part of the street for bike lanes, either; (3) bikes definitely don’t belong on sidewalks; (4) we shouldn’t waste money on frivilous things like “bike paths” (even though most ‘bike paths’ are actually multi-use paths). In other words, some people don’t like bikes (or people riding bikes) no matter where it occurs.

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      • Kevin from September 25, 2012 at 7:29 am

        What’s interesting is that motorists get angry at bikes on the streets because the bikes slow them down. On trails, pedestrians get mad at cyclists because they go too fast. This is not necessarily true of all bike riders, though. The ones who ride single file & far to the right on the roads don’t have many issues w/ drivers. And the ones who are courteous on the paths get along fine w/ the pedestrians. Therefore, this isn’t a “biker” issue. It’s an individual issue.

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        • Caleb September 25, 2012 at 2:43 pm

          That seems the overall point of the article. All issues are individual, since “groups” are abstractions comprised of the abstraction we call “individuals”. Characterizing anything (be it a group or individual) accurately is, I believe, the mental effort John and Jim are encouraging. If not, then it’s at least something I would encourage.

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      • Jonathan Gordon September 25, 2012 at 8:49 am

        Because transportation infrastructure funding seems like, and in some instances is, a zero sum game. So money spent on bike paths appears to be money not spent on road paving and freeway widening. Jonathan has done a great job of discussing this dynamic.

        Same goes for money spent on bike lanes, which can be even more frustrating when sometimes people on bikes don’t use them. If you’re a person in a car who never rides a bike I imagine them feeling, “We gave you this nice toy you asked for and you’re not even playing with it!” The nuances of why a person on a bike might choose to avoid staying within a bike lanes or cycle path are subtle enough to be beyond grasping for those who haven’t spent any time on two wheels.

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  • Paul September 24, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    Based on conversations I’ve had with non-cyclists, I’d add fear to the reasons drivers often dislike sharing the roads with bikes. If a automobile collides with another automobile, the worst result is usually financial (repair and insurance costs). If that collision is with a bicycle, the worst result is usually injury, often a very serious one. Most people loathe injuring others, so fear of injuring a cyclist can quickly become a loathing.

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    • Randall S. September 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm

      I’m not sure how you came to the conclusion that “If a automobile collides with another automobile, the worst result is usually financial.”

      Motorists kill about 30,000 other motorists (or themselves) every year. It’s the #1 cause of death for all people from 1-45. There are 4.4MILLION motor vehicle caused injuries per year. The worst result of an automobile colliding with another automobile is death. Thinking that motor vehicles are safe is naïve at best.

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      • Paul September 24, 2012 at 4:40 pm

        I didn’t use the word “usually” in a thoughtless manner. From the statistics I’ve reviewed, there are approximately 6.25 million automobile collisions annually, resulting in roughly 2.9 million injuries and 40 thousand fatalities.

        I can’t find a breakdown between minor injuries (cuts and bruises) and majors ones (broken bones, severe soft tissue damage, etc.). My assumption is that minor injuries greatly outnumber major ones, but I have no hard data to support that idea.

        So I’ll repeat, in the clear majority of collisions, the worst result is usually financial. Then I’ll add: The worst result is often financial even when there are injuries like minor cuts, abrasions, and sprains. In a minority of collisions, there major injuries that dwarf the financial costs. In a very, very small minority of collisions, someone will die.

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  • Ken September 24, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    This article is silly. Here is obviously the primary reason that car drivers hate bicyclists:

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  • q`Tzal September 24, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    The cyclist that is following traffic laws dutifully is nigh invisible in memory of an auto driver. The act of driving a high velocity vehicle (faster than our brains were evolved to cope with ~ >25mph ) has been proven to change the way our neurology processes peripheral visual inputs and their storage in long term memory.

    In short: to be remembered as a cyclist on the road you have to do something unpredictable and dangerous – the inverse holds true as well.

    Driving a vehicle is such a normal, routine and mundane experience that recall of details is blurred by thousands of nearly identical tracks. Only statistical flukes are recalled and the bulk of these are reinforced by emotional intensity at the time of memory formation – usually anger.

    Don’t trust your wetware. Or anyone else’s.

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    • Paul in the 'couve September 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

      My experience is the invisibility of cyclists is nearly actual – not just in memory. I am convinced that Cognitively even if cyclists who are “out of harms way” register in the visual cortex that information is never processed in any conscious manner. Essentially, cyclists who aren’t never “get in the way” of the driver just don’t register at all even at the time. They aren’t just forgotten, they are never seen – at least cognitively.

      I base this informed belief on years of riding and finally on riding in a car with dozens of interactions with family members and friends who don’t cycle. Many will say “there aren’t any cyclists in ___ ” or I almost never see cyclists. Yet, when I ride with them, I will point out a cyclist here and another over there and there is another one…. I have concluded that pretty much nothing that doesn’t affect the 8 feet of space directly in front of them registers at all as even existing. Unless of course it has flashing neon lights or is something they have a personal interest in.

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      • Oliver September 24, 2012 at 3:53 pm

        “the 8 feet directly in front of them” isn’t just a figure of speech either. Heaven forbid they (most, many, a large percentage thereof) should be aware of other vehicles on their periphery or behind them either.

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      • q`Tzal September 24, 2012 at 3:55 pm

        I agree on the visual/perceptual invisibility of cyclists, it’s just not relevant to the cognitive fallacy of “all cyclists are jerks”.

        In the same way that a rape victim might see all men as attackers or the victim of an attack by an ethnic minority might see all of that ethnic minority as criminals so too does the subconscious minds of drivers latch on to anomalous and irrelevant sensory data and conflate it to the point of cause.
        This is just the way the human brain works without specific education, training and self awareness. It can be overcome, it just requires effort.

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      • Caleb September 25, 2012 at 3:04 pm

        Does your experience only include people who don’t notice cyclists? I don’t think the invisibility of cyclists comes down to whether a person is in a car or not. Some people won’t see many cyclists if they’re dining on a sidewalk next to a busy bike lane, and some people will notice them all. Every individual will see, cognitively or not, something different in all situations. And what each person will see is subject to change at all times, too. That’s simply the nature of our eyeballs and the brain they’re attached to.

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        • Caleb September 25, 2012 at 3:07 pm

          Sorry, I mean it comes down to more than just whether the people driving are cyclists or not.

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          • Caleb September 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm

            And that different cyclists dining on the sidewalk will see different cyclists riding by.

            And this is one more example of why not to trust your wetwork in all situations.

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  • Andrew September 24, 2012 at 3:46 pm

    Nah, they’re all just jealous of how good my butt looks in lycra.

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  • Tim September 24, 2012 at 4:17 pm

    My observation is that drivers are 5 times more likely to give way to a cyclist as a friendly gesture, than they are to ignor a cyclist and hostile actions are actualy rare. I count one or two friendly actions a day and two or three hostile actions a year.

    What types of people harass cyclists? I looked into one lady who threatened to have here cop husband beat me up. Her husband was not a cop. He was a chubby real estate salesman like her and they owed over $30,000 in back taxes. They had walked away from their home loan, but they still had the money to drive a $70,000 convertible.

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    • Ian C September 24, 2012 at 4:52 pm

      You clearly have never cycled outside of Portland.

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    • Scott September 24, 2012 at 5:32 pm

      I HATE IT when cars give way. It is the same as running a stop sign in a car to stop when there isn’t one. Traffic directing is not the right or obligation of someone in a car. Don’t do me no favors. You do you and I’ll do me.

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    • spare_wheel September 25, 2012 at 10:37 am

      “drivers are 5 times more likely to give way to a cyclist as a friendly gesture”

      no non-injury behavior irritates me more then these types of “friendly” gestures. and if you want to see how friendly this gesture really is, try insisting that the motorist take their right of way.

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  • Ron G. September 24, 2012 at 4:22 pm

    The otherness of cyclists. I like that. I cut my hair, but it’s good to know I can still let my freak flag fly just by riding in traffic.

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  • Bartelby September 24, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Find this one on Reddit too?

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  • wsbob September 24, 2012 at 4:29 pm

    Saksa’s piece is funny…or at least it appears it’s supposed to be funny, rather than a serious look at why wacky, deranged people on bikes of the type he describes himself being…as he with apparent delight refers to himself as an “asshole”…cause all road users trouble.

    Foul mouth words like ‘asshole’ and ‘assholery’ (use of the latter in his story was kind of funny) and his simple ‘hate cyclists’ summation of the response people on the road have to the type of cyclist he describes himself being, seem to be his schtick for the piece he wrote.

    He misses though, the fact that zig-zagging, contra-flow, signal control device blowing, etc-etc, people on bikes, even occasional ones of them, pose to other road users, a potential dangerous situation which they’ve got to reckon with as they’re traveling down the road in their cars or on their bikes.

    Guys like Saksa laugh off the reaction of road users to people on bikes like himself, with simple minded conclusions that they ‘hate’ cyclists. In reality, the Saksa-type cyclist cause potentially dangerous traffic situations that add stress to the driving experience for road users, mess with the flow of traffic and the ability of roads to function optimally.

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    • spare_wheel September 24, 2012 at 5:03 pm

      You would hate Naples, wsbob.

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      • wsbob September 24, 2012 at 5:54 pm

        You would hate Naples, wsbob.
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        Yeah? What do you think Saksa might know of and feel about what people in Naples think of the type of cyclist Saksa describes himself being, in their city? Maybe Neapolitans love guys like Saksa running wild on their streets.

        Do you think Saksa was thinking about people in Naples, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen, rather than the U.S. when he wrote his piece? Impression I get, is that Saksa was writing with people in the U.S. in mind.

        Simple web search ‘traffic in Naples, Italy’ brings up hits indicating Naples traffic and observance of rules of the road there isn’t exactly wonderful. I could be wrong, but if traffic conditions there really are a mess, I doubt many people in this country would seek to duplicate them here.

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    • davemess September 24, 2012 at 5:12 pm

      Did you not read the last paragraph Bob?
      I’ll paste it for you:
      “And some of us are trying to get better. I’ve recognized that my bad behavior keeps others from taking up riding, and keeps politicians from investing in things I care about, like more bike lanes. So I’ve stopped riding on sidewalks and try to keep my illegal lefts to a minimum. But I’ve been a jerk for a real long time. So, let me say this to drivers, pedestrians, and my fellow riders alike: I’m sorry. See, aren’t cyclists the nicest, most polite people in the whole world?”

      I don’t really think he missed your facts.

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      • wsbob September 25, 2012 at 10:45 am

        Daveness…yes, I read the last paragraph.

        I hope he’s sincere in saying he’s moved away from his lousy road user behavior. Considering what he spent the majority of his piece writing about, in his closing paragraph, his sincerity is questionable.

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        • 9watts September 25, 2012 at 10:52 am

          why do you assume he’s faithfully chronicling *his own* cycling behavior? Because he uses the first person? I assumed this was a great rhetorical flourish, a writer’s prerogative.

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    • Scott September 24, 2012 at 5:35 pm

      I would wager that watching me ride my bike in traffic, much in the way you describe, is the most intersting thing that people in cars see all day. You’re welcome.

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  • deborah September 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    Last week we were discussing the errant and misleading Oregonian articles the psychological phenomenon this article describes came to mind. It’s far easier for the common non-biking public to believe that the bike paths are the cause of Portland’s ‘Road to Ruin’ because they emotionally already feel like bike riders are terrible for so many other reasons. Give them a carefully crafted Oregonian front page piece with a big font and they’ll happily believe it.

    But I do love that the Slate article offers a glimmer of hope when it comes to rational thought…
    “But we’re not doomed to our initial prejudices: Once a person becomes aware of her biases, she is more able to engage rational thought processes to overcome the affect heuristic and dispel her inaccurate conclusions.”

    Thanks to you Jonathan for dispelling the inaccurate Oregonian conclusions! Maybe with the threat of your investigative reporting keeping them in line they’ll think twice about publishing headlines that are obviously pandering to false affect heuristic thought patterns!

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  • Kaba September 24, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    I’m both a cyclist and a driver. I get pissed off at driver’s that do stupid shit and cyclists that do stupid shit – an equal opportunity “hater.”

    As much as I hate when another driver cuts me off, steals my parking space, or blocks my car in a parking space, I also hate seeing cyclists run red lights, ride side-by-side on the road, and getting flipped off when I use my horn to gently warn a cyclist to keep him from danger.

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    • Bike-Max-Bike September 24, 2012 at 5:00 pm

      A horn is not gentle, but it may be all you have.

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    • 9watts September 24, 2012 at 5:19 pm

      the paternalism you claim to exhibit towards those on bikes ‘to keep him from danger’ undermines your claim to be an equal opportunity hater.

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    • spare_wheel September 24, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      the byrne prayer:
      david, spare me from cyclists who are also drivers.

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    • Jonathan Gordon September 25, 2012 at 2:39 pm

      “when I use my horn to gently warn a cyclist to keep him from danger.”

      I have never, in over 30 years on bicycle, felt safer when being honked at while on a bike. However, there have been many times where I’ve been so startled by an unexpected honk that I’ve nearly crashed my bike. I beg you to reconsider your warnings and their attendant gentleness.

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  • pruss2ny September 24, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    am in the “equal opportunity hater” camp…speeding distracted cars, bikes weaving thru traffic and blowing stop signs, pedestrians jaywalking between cars….there’s alot of reason for loss of love for your fellow human. that said, disagree with assertion that good habits DON’T engender positive feedback. I spend alot of time between nyc + portland and the accidents and near misses that i witness daily in midtown has made me respect the portland community much more. individual anecdotes rarely do much good, but would argue that repeated situational positive experiences do make a difference.

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  • Ben September 24, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    People talking/texting on their cell phones while driving suck!

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  • Ryan September 24, 2012 at 10:30 pm

    @ Kaba: “I also hate seeing cyclists run red lights”

    Why? What’s the big deal about running red lights? Considering the sheer number of cyclists who run red lights, it appears to be a relatively safe activity with a very high reward (faster arrival times) with very little risk (death). This is because bicycles are completely different vehicles than automobiles: a cyclist possess a much stronger line of sight in addition to hearing the sounds of traffic. I believe I’m safer coming up to a red light, to look both directions for pedestrians and cars, and proceeding when the coast is clear; versus sitting alongside a wall of cars just waiting to right hook me/get pissed off at me because it takes 20 seconds to get up to speed again…

    Not only is this a misunderstanding by drivers in not understanding the unique advantages a bicyclist possesses, but it reeks of jealousy. Jealousy that cyclists can more often than not safely treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights like yield signs, whereas cars in that same situation would cause endless mayhem throughout the city!

    There needs to be some kind of study/education/campaign that shows cyclists treating stop signs/lights as yield signs is 1) safe 2) not as evil as drivers like to imagine.

    Would drivers get as angry at me if I pulled up to a red light, got off my bike, ran across with my bike, and hopped back on?

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    • resopmok September 25, 2012 at 7:33 am

      I almost got hit by a bicyclist (while I was on my bike) at the corner of Division and 71st yesterday when the light on Division turned red. I saw him approach the intersection, assumed he would stop because his light was red, and pulled out into the lane to make a right, nearly getting sideswiped when he didn’t stop. Sadly, this was the worst interaction I had with all other traffic on my way home.

      Your argument can easily be turned on its head to justify rude or bad driving by those in automobiles. What’s the big deal about getting passed too close when you don’t get hit? What’s the big deal about being cut off from a right hook when you had time to hit your brakes? No harm no foul, right?

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      • Granpa September 25, 2012 at 10:00 am

        This morning it happened to me also. I was rolling west on Woodstock in front of Reed College using gravity to move me along briskly and a cyclist blew through his stop sign at Reed College Place right into my path. It is curious as he had high viz vest and dork’d out in all the safety gear. I don’t hate the guy, but I think he is a moron.

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      • Jonathan Gordon September 25, 2012 at 10:36 am

        Sounds to me like that cyclist didn’t treat that light as a yield sign, he blew it. That’s quite a bit different that the scenario Ryan is describing.

        Also, I think you’re missing the fundamental point of Ryan’s argument. The reason why you can’t flip it around is that the effect of the behavior’s are asymmetrical. When bikes *properly* treat stop sights/lights as yield signs, as they most often do, they pose little danger to anyone but themselves. The same can not be said of cars, whether it be close passing or right hooks: cars pose no risk to themselves but great risk to vulnerable road users. There’s no way to safely pass closely or right hook in a car.

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        • wsbob September 25, 2012 at 11:18 am

          “… they pose little danger to anyone but themselves.” Jonathan Gordon

          That’s daredevil mentality, and is not a valid excuse to regard stop lights as yields, or disregard any other traffic regulations. Assumption of risk to oneself outside of traffic regulations is not the basis upon which safe road use functionality relies.

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          • Jonathan Gordon September 25, 2012 at 11:44 am

            A few points:

            1. I misspoke re: stop lights. I adhere to the Idaho Stop law and stop at them and then proceed if it’s safe to do so. But I only do this when there’s no cars around because a) it’s safer and b) I think it’s bad PR for the bicycle community. Hopefully some day soon Oregon law will catch up.

            2. The notion that not coming to a full stop at a stop sign when I have full visibility of the intersection is “daredevil mentality” doesn’t make sense to me. The difference between traveling zero miles an hour and two miles an hour on a bike is *huge* in terms of experience/effort but in terms of being a daredevil, I don’t get it.

            3. Some portion of “safe road use functionality” relies on predictability. Because the majority of cyclists currently navigate stop signs as yield signs — and do so safely — strictly hewing to traffic regulations in this instance can prove to be the dangerous choice.

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            • wsbob September 26, 2012 at 1:53 am

              Jonathan Gordon…your clarifying points help explain your thinking about people on bikes regarding stop lights as yields. Number 1 though, cites as a condition of doing so, “…when there’s no cars around because a) it’s safer …”. When there’s no cars around, there can be a fair, but not great…argument that treating stop lights as yields can be acceptable. There’s still risks, but more of chance that someone treating stop lights as yields in that situation, will safely get through it than during busy traffic conditions treating a red light as a yield.

              Your point Number 2 about your feeling that not stopping at stop signs not being a daredevil mentality. Stop signed intersections vary from intersection to intersection. So does the traffic they’re subject to, which at some intersections can be fast and furious. Intersections commonly do not offer excellent visibility in all directions.

              In the original comment , you said: “…When bikes *properly* treat stop sights/lights as yield signs, as they most often do, they pose little danger to anyone but themselves. …”. The ‘danger to anyone but themselves’ is your daredevil mentality. With some conditions, people as vulnerable road users willing to risk danger to themselves to save a few seconds by passing through an intersection against a light or a stop sign without stopping to look carefully before proceeding is daredevil mentality.

              In what you write, there’s no accounting for wide variances from person to person in being able to adequately ascertain without actually stopping for a stop light or sign and looking each way before proceeding, whether the way is truly clear.

              You mention “…traveling zero miles an hour and two miles an hour on a bike…” as a speed at which you travel through a stop sign in treating it as a yield. That’s less than a normal walking speed. As long as they look each way before proceeding, people in Oregon, whether driving cars or riding bikes, basically already are allowed that latitude with regard to stopping at stop signs. No need for a ‘stop as yield’ law to allow the practice. Blowing stop signs at much higher speeds? Completely different situation.

              Saksa-type cyclists would probably not roll through a stop at a mere two mph; if at all possible, they’d most likely blow them at a much faster speed: daredevil mentality. I really doubt Oregon voters will ever approve an Idaho Stop law that would support that kind of road use behavior.

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              • Jonathan Gordon September 26, 2012 at 10:51 am

                You seem to be equating the Idaho Stop Law with blowing, or at least, daredevilly proceeding through stop signs. When I say “properly” I’m referring to using the process Spencer Boomhower describes in his very informative video. Skip to 1:06 for his take on how to obey the Idaho Stop law. This is what I’m advocating and this is how I, and most Portlanders I observe on bikes, currently ride. Conflating this with daredevil behavior seems both misguided and tilting at windmills.

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              • wsbob September 26, 2012 at 6:28 pm

                I don’t have a fast cable connection, so at least for awhile, I probably won’t be watching the ‘informative video’ you provided a link to. If, as what you’re recommending as a proper way to treat a stop sign as yield, you’re suggesting people on bikes roll through stop signs at a normal walking speed…or slower…as I said earlier, Oregonians basically already are given that latitude by law enforcement. People in Oregon don’t need the Idaho Stop for that.

                As to what percent of people traveling by bike would travel through stop signs at a normal walking speed or slower, if Oregon had a ‘stop as yield’ law, that’s an interesting question. Videos from the Ladd’s enforcement details and more recently, the Broadway-Wheeler-Flint videos, give some idea; I believe most of those people didn’t roll the stop signs…they blew them. At any rate, they kept the cops busy issuing tickets.

                And of course, Idaho Stop would give the daredevil crowd pretty much carte blanche to blow through stop signs at about any speed they chose. Leaving other people approaching them on the road whom they considered far enough away to allow themselves to make their way across the road without stopping and waiting for traffic to clear…but weren’t…with the responsibility to brake to avoid colliding with them due to the Idaho Stop users poor judgment.

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          • El Biciclero September 25, 2012 at 12:42 pm

            “…not a valid excuse to regard stop lights as yields”

            What would you suppose the State of Idaho uses as their rationale for allowing cyclists to do just this?

            Is having a law that allows something “a valid excuse”? Or, if the government says something is safe, that makes it safe? Is the inverse of that true, too–if the government says something is not safe (or just “not allowed”), does that make it unsafe?

            “Assumption of risk to oneself outside of traffic regulations is not the basis upon which safe road use functionality relies”

            Why then, in the early days of motoring, was it deemed necessary to license and regulate cars and drivers, but not pedestrians or equestrians or bicyclists?

            As has been mentioned, part of the “hatred” of cyclists stems from a sense of envy that drivers have when they see cyclists “getting away with stuff” that they wouldn’t try to do. But there are many (actually MOST) rules of the road that were designed specifically due to the inherent danger posed by large vehicles speeding around. Because bicycling in the U.S. has really only been regarded as a quaint pastime or a passing fad, no thought whatsoever went into designing rules specific to safe bicycle operation. Lazy lawmakers simply said, “hey, we’ve got all these rules in place for cars, let’s just make the bike riders follow those. Oh, and add a few extras that make cyclists stay out of the way of cars”. This was a totally car-centered approach: we can only conceive of rules that apply to cars, and the bicycle-specific rules we do think up also only pertain to cars inasmuch as they only exist to keep cyclists out of drivers’ collective way. The few cycling-specific rules we have were not designed to enhance cyclist safety; they were put in place for motorist convenience. In fact the one rule we have that allows all road users to treat red lights as stop signs–Right Turn On Red–was put in place for driver convenience. Most drivers don’t actually follow this rule; they roll on around the corner if they think nobody is coming. Yet we get up in arms at the thought of extending this rule for cyclists to include all directions, not just right turns. This is irrational.

            So, because we have catered almost exclusively to cars for 100 years, without stopping to think about what actually makes common sense relative to different modes of transport, drivers have of course come to expect cyclists to follow all of the same rules. Cyclists who “cheat”, whether or not it makes common sense and is safe, are viewed with envy and contempt. Drivers want cyclists to comply simply for compliance’s sake–because they (drivers) “have to”, everybody should, else it’s “no fair”. I think our ability to judge what is “fair” might also be affected to a large degree by the “affect heuristic”.

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            • wsbob September 26, 2012 at 12:44 am

              “… “…not a valid excuse to regard stop lights as yields, ….” wsbob

              What would you suppose the State of Idaho uses as their rationale for allowing cyclists to do just this? …” El Biciclero

              How exactly Idaho ever conceived of passed their ‘Idaho Stop Law’, is a continuing mystery I’ve yet to read an official explanation of…if one exists. Any of you Idaho legislators that might happen to be reading: jump right in here and give us the Idaho Legislative history on it if you can trace it down.

              At any rate, other states in the union haven’t seemed to jump on Idaho’s stop as yield for bikes only law, considering it to be some kind of wonderful advance for their state. Oregonians, other than an apparently small percent of biking enthusiasts that periodically speak up for ISL, don’t exactly seem to be clamoring for the Idaho Stop either.

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              • spare_wheel September 29, 2012 at 12:00 pm

                laws that are largely ignored are eventually modified or repealed. the requirement for cyclists to come to a complete stop is one of those laws.

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  • Ydosque September 25, 2012 at 10:44 am

    There is also a definite personality change in most folks when they get behind the wheel that needs to be taken into account for all the hate and agression. I would say that most people tend to get more agro at others when they get behind the wheel – how often to people yell out loud and flip others off when they are walking down the street, or even biking – There is also that innate belief that when driving, I think most folks believe anyone who is going slower than you, or faster than you, is an asshole, be they in a car, or on a bike….

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  • Joe September 25, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Drivers these days don’t care.. I know that might a blast statement but
    even fokes with bike racks on top cut me off. ppl can hate me all they want but riding is a form of transport.

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  • Chris Tuttle September 25, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    This was a fun read for me. My favorite snippet from the article was “once some clown on two wheels almost kills himself with your car, you furiously decide that bicyclists are assholes.” This is a colorful framing of something I’ve found hard to articulate, namely the dubiousness of the argument that cyclists can play loose with the rules of the road because they are very unlikely to hurt someone given that they are on a 25-pound vehicle, as opposed to one that weighs 2000 pounds. When I’m driving a car, the idea of being involved in a collision/accident with a bicycle is very scary to me, regardless of the fact that I have a near-zero percent chance of being hurt because I’m in a car. I simply don’t want to hurt someone, so it really angers me to be near a cyclist taking unnecessary risks in traffic.

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    • 9watts September 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm

      “the idea of being involved in a collision/accident with a bicycle is very scary to me […] it really angers me to be near a cyclist taking unnecessary risks in traffic.”

      Can you give me an example (not a hypothetical but an actual situation you know to have occurred) where a bicyclist’s risky behavior caused this kind of collision you’re concerned about? I have no doubt that it happens, but I think our imaginations can run wild with scenarios that are quite rare, at least compared to the situations where the car driver causes the crash. Our persistence in conjuring up these scenarios suggests to me that this concern/fear may be more about the judging party in the car than the judged party on a bike.

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      • Chris Tuttle September 25, 2012 at 2:14 pm

        No specific examples, but think about it: almost every collision between two vehicles on the road entail one or both parties being at fault. So it’s not hard to imagine that there are a lot of collisions every year, in Portland and wherever else, where a cyclist was partly the cause due to risk-taking behavior.

        Oh, and I do have a specific example: a few years ago my wife was driving me to work and we were stopped at a red light at Yamhill and 6th Avenue. I’m riding shotgun. My office at the time was on Yamhill between 5th and 6th, so this red light was a perfect place for me to get out of the car. I open the car door and almost killed a messenger who was on his way to blowing the red light at 15-20 miles an hour.

        I see stuff all the time – both motorists and cyclists engaged in behavior that increases the probability of something bad happening.

        And I think it’s very biased to assume that for a given data set of car-bike collisions, the motorists are more likely to be at fault. One thing I’m completely confident of is that the cyclists in this data set would incur much more in the way of injuries, but that is irrelevant to the question of fault. It maybe does speak, however, to the importance of laws protecting vulnerable road users.

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        • 9watts September 25, 2012 at 2:24 pm

          “almost killed a messenger”
          you know what they say about that…

          “I think it’s very biased to assume that for a given data set of car-bike collisions, the motorists are more likely to be at fault.”

          Perhaps you think it biased, but it appears to be true.

          “between 1995 and 2009, 60 percent of fatal New York City pedestrian and cyclist crashes with known causes were the result of motorists breaking traffic laws.”
          If I am reading the report correctly, when you add in serious injuries, the share of the carnage for which drivers are responsible goes up:
          “Driver inattention caused 36 percent of crashes that killed or seriously injured pedestrians. Failure to yield resulted in 25 percent of crashes. High speeds caused 20 percent of these crashes.”

          (& from Monday Roundup Nov. 29, 2010)
          Researchers in Melbourne found that in the course of a study using helmet cameras in city traffic, the person in the car was at fault for 87% of the collisions and near-misses they observed.

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          • Chris Tuttle September 25, 2012 at 3:37 pm

            Hi 9Watts,

            First, I will lamely respond that there is a study for everything. I think you can still find a number of studies that refute man-made climate change. 

            Less lamely, I will look at the study you cited, it sounds interesting and I am not surprised in the least by the headline: “between 1995 and 2009, 60 percent of fatal New York City pedestrian and cyclist crashes with known causes were the result of motorists breaking traffic laws.”

            But, if you think carefully about what that headline is saying, you’ll see that it says absolutely nothing one way or the other about who, for any given car-bike collision, is more likely to be at fault. The only thing it says is that when you look at all bike/ped fatalities, 60% of them are a result of drivers breaking laws.  I’m actually surprised the figure isn’t higher. I bet for a lot of the other 40%, there was a motorist breaking a law but without an official determination of that as a cause.  If you’re interpreting this as saying that 60% of the time it’s the motorist at fault and 40% of the time it’s the ped/cyclist, I think you’re drawing the wrong conclusion. But maybe I should read it before I make a fool of myself 🙂

            But I’m now thinking about this a little more carefully myself, and there does seem to be at least one valid reason to suspect that cyclists are more careful, and of course that is the fact that the consequences of carelessness are higher when you aren’t protected by a 2000 pound metal enclosure.

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            • 9watts September 26, 2012 at 10:27 am

              “there does seem to be at least one valid reason to suspect that cyclists are more careful”

              Just one?
              What about the superior ability to take in their surroundings–hear, smell, see cross traffic or much else better than someone in a car?

              There’s careful, or perhaps rule bound would be more apt (recognizable by someone in a car), and there’s perspicacious (not so easily recognized by someone in a car). Laws, stop signs, etc. have their place, but they only map onto one of these behaviors very neatly, and not I think the more important one.

              I’m not endorsing violating any rules or laws, but I’m allergic to those who don’t bike in traffic obsessing over this or that technicality or rule they know ‘bicyclists’ violate.
              People driving cars kill >3,000 by allowing themselves to be distracted. Let’s fix the behaviors that kill people, throw some enforcement priorities at that, and then worry about the merely annoying stuff.

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              • Chris Tuttle September 26, 2012 at 11:34 am

                Yup, mostly agree with all points you’re making, I think we’re just looking at a couple things a little differently.

                You’re right that cyclists can see more as they approach an intersection, which I think is somewhat a justification for the “Idaho Stop.” So perhaps it’s true that at a 4-way stop intersection or an uncontrolled intersection, drivers are statistically more likely to be at fault. There are probably studies that show that. But for me the Idaho stop is problematic because it isn’t a great move forward for cyclists and I think it would increase tension between roadway users.

                Partly related: the Australian study you mentioned needs to be looked at a lot closer before you can trust its conclusions. For one, the study delegates a monitoring responsibility to cyclists, and we can well imagine that the past experiences of those cyclists might condition them, if only on a subconscious level, to pay more attention to incidents where drivers were endangering cyclists. If I were filming roadway interactions, I would place a camera in conflict locations and record everything. For example, we would learn a lot by placing a camera aimed at the Wheeler intersection, and the information obtained would be vastly more reliable than if the camera was being pointed by a cyclist at particular incidents. Or imagine how lousy the data would be if the camera operator were that business owner who is now proposing bicycle registration and license plates.

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              • 9watts September 26, 2012 at 12:59 pm


                all good points.

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              • Jonathan Gordon September 26, 2012 at 1:08 pm

                “But for me the Idaho stop is problematic because it isn’t a great move forward for cyclists and I think it would increase tension between roadway users.”

                The Idaho Stop Law is named that way because it’s already a law in Idaho. We don’t have to hypothesize about it’s possible implementation effects, we know them. I’ve never read anything suggesting that there’s increased tension in Idaho because of this law.

                I can only see implementing the Idaho Stop Law in Oregon *reducing* tension. The vast majority of people on bicycles in Portland and around the US already behave as if the Idaho Stop law were in effect. Actually putting it on the books would help educate people in cars that there is indeed a difference between traveling in a hermetically sealed, two ton car and sitting on top of a bicycle and applying different rules makes sense and will make *all* road users happier.

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            • dr2chase September 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm

              There is one aspect of “more careful” that many people who do not bike seem to miss. If I reduce the weight of my vehicle by a factor of 10, and its speed by a factor of two, doesn’t that count as “more careful”?

              There is a safety sleight-of-hand that we’ve all been conditioned to completely ignore, which is that we focus inordinately on rules and intent, and not at all on outcomes. Traffic laws give us this wonderful framework for demonstrating our dedication to “safety” through our adherence to various rules (“rituals”, perhaps). And since there is no rule that says “gross vehicle weight not to exceed 300 lbs, and speed rarely exceeding 20mph”, the safety measures implicit in the choice of a bicycle do not count, and cyclists get no credit. They break laws, they are clearly unsafe.

              But look at the results. Cars kill 3000 pedestrians per year, bikes kill about 1 (I look at pedestrian deaths so we don’t get bike-vs-car-fault finger-pointing; if anything since bicycles are small and mostly silent, pedestrians are more likely to jaywalk in front of them, and MUPs mix peds and bikes in ways that are rare on roads). Assume a 0.5% ride share for bikes (199 cars, one bike), and you end up concluding that bicycle riders must be the actual safety experts — per vehicle, a car is 15 times more likely to kill a pedestrian than a bike.

              Bicycle riders are doing something that is extraordinarily more safe than what cars do. And I’ll freely admit that it is not “obeying traffic laws”, but the conclusion from this is not that cyclists are lawbreaking scum, but rather that the laws are crap, and do an extremely poor job of capturing what would actually result in more safety. If they were not crap, cars would be as safe as bicycles, but 3000 dead pedestrians say they are not.

              I know that sounds like a completely unsupportable claim, but look at the numbers. Cyclists are clearly doing something that is much more effective, and it’s clear that the laws don’t capture it. I’ve come to think that the main purpose of the law is to make cars somewhat safer than they otherwise would be, but more importantly to distract people from the fact that the use of a car itself contributes hugely to a lack of safety. Again, look at the numbers — a car is 15 times more likely to kill. How can you not say that the use of the car isn’t what contributes the greatest danger? And I know the response, and the response exactly illustrates my point — “but those drivers are breaking the law, or those pedestrians were jaywalking”. The law provides a reason for the death that is not “someone was driving a car”. Google “invention of jaywalking” — before cars, there was no such thing. Jaywalking was invented to absolve drivers of fault in crashes with pedestrians.

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        • davemess September 25, 2012 at 4:26 pm

          So you almost doored someone on a bike, after not checking your mirror and randomly getting out of you car? That sounds like you were totally at fault whether the cyclist was going to run the light or not. It’s your responsibility to check your mirror and make sure no one is coming before you open your door.

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          • Chris Tuttle September 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm

            Maybe I didn’t provide enough detail. I was the front car at the red light (6th and Yamhill). All cars were stopped. The cyclist in question is passing cars on the right, which I believe he is entitled to do under Oregon law. But he is not entitled to blaze past those stopped cars and blow through the red light. And regardless of the right-of-way he was entitled to, he was exercising that right in a ridiculously stupid manner.

            Anyhow, I open the rightside passenger door to get out. You are correct — I should have but did not check my rearview mirror. But if the bicyclist had been maimed/killed as a result of this scenario, to what extent would you say that it was my fault? Even if you say I’m 90% to blame, the accident would never have happened if the cyclist had been acting prudently. Do you really feel my actions in this situation were so much more out-of-line than the guy on the bike?

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            • davemess September 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm

              No, but unless you know he was going to blow the light (which he wouldn’t be able to do if you hit him with your door), you have no recourse to say he was in the wrong, as you admit that you were the one at fault for not checking before opening you door (and not being at the curb anyway).
              Maybe the light was about to turn green and he wouldn’t have run the light.

              Presuming he was going to run the light does not negate your fault.
              Even if he was traveling at 5mph you still would have hit him with your door, as we all know that doorings occur rather surprisingly (so speed doesn’t really factor into this equation).

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    • wsbob September 26, 2012 at 12:07 am

      “…When I’m driving a car, the idea of being involved in a collision/accident with a bicycle is very scary to me, regardless of the fact that I have a near-zero percent chance of being hurt because I’m in a car. …” Chris Tuttle

      Due to their comparatively smaller size and correspondingly greater difficulty in visually detecting them on the road, greater potential for having a collision with someone on a bike than with a motor vehicle is a valid fear.

      People that look in their mirrors and over their shoulders before getting out of motor vehicles they’ve been operating can help reduce dooring incidents, but not eliminate them if people that ride don’t do their part to help avoid having them happen. Saksa-type cyclists, ninja cyclists and other wacky road users aggravate already bad road and traffic conditions most people in traffic work to calmly deal with.

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  • Barbara September 25, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    I always remember the saying that anger comes from Angst. So what are the bike-hating car drivers afraid about? About losing turf? About being forced to bike themselves? I work at OHSU and whenever OHSU announces an improvement for bicyclists or pedestrians like a reflex you have someone saying “I can’t bike for this or that reason so don’t make me bike”. It seems to be really difficult to understand that it would make the life of this driver easier, if just a few more percent of people biked. After all more people on bikes means less congestion, less deterioration, more parking for the remaining drivers. Yes, a bike might slow a car down momentarily, but not as much as a traffic jam. So with the right perspective you would think it couldn’t be that difficult to give bicyclists some slack.

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    • wsbob September 26, 2012 at 12:31 am

      “…So with the right perspective you would think it couldn’t be that difficult to give bicyclists some slack.” Barbara

      Giving slack to people responsibly and conscientiously using bikes for transportation, doesn’t seem to be difficult for most of the people on the road. It’s great when people on bikes in traffic have lights and visibility gear so other road users can see them, that prominently signal turns in advance of the turns, look over their shoulder before lane changes…and so on.

      Cyclists of the type writer Jim Saksa, describes himself as being…or having been, don’t particularly deserve any slack from road users. The inherently positive benefits of someone riding a bike in traffic rather than driving a motor vehicle, don’t justify that person’s being an a-hole road user.

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  • rg September 25, 2012 at 2:10 pm

    Drivers, repeat after me:I vow not to be dehumanized by my gas pedal. I will stay kind to those on the other side of the windshield.

    Cyclists, repeat after me: I will stay kind to those on the other side of the windshield.

    Share the road. Don’t make it a war. I’ve logged a lot of miles and seen some bad stuff, but mostly good stuff (or I wouldn’t still be here). It can be a really wonderful dance going thru traffic.

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  • Joe September 25, 2012 at 3:32 pm


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  • Barbara September 26, 2012 at 10:06 am

    It works the other way round, too. I consider myself a pretty benign bicyclist and mostly follow the rules (although I turn right onto a bikelane without coming to a full stop). Still I have been yelled and honked at because I was riding on the street without a bikelane (“are you a car?”), I have been honked at for riding on the sidewalk with my 7-year old (by a woman in a minivan!) and I have been shown the finger because I indicated a driver to stop instead of running me over in a right hook. Add to that that seemingly 90% of drivers go above the speed limit and I think that all drivers are scofflaws! It always amazes me how so many drivers complain about bicyclists breaking the law while they drive 10 miles above the speed limit while being on the phone!

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    • 9watts September 26, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Or the newest variant I’ve started to notice.

      I approach a four-way stop on my bike with a car already stopped at the intersection to my left. Car doesn’t budge. Squinting, I see a hand waving me through (harder and harder to see theses gestures through the windshield). This part is of course familiar. But I’ve started to notice that more often than not that the reason they’re refusing to take the right of way that is theirs and messing up the logic of the four-way stop is that they’re ON THE PHONE.

      If this isn’t an admission that driving and talking on the phone are not compatible I don’t know what is. Of course it is better they remain stopped while talking, but this is ridiculous. Can you imagine someone on a bike behaving that way?

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  • Kurt Kemmerer September 27, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Anecdotes are fun, but mostly pointless. This is a response to the piece in Slate, which shows the faults of the Slate piece, and clarifies at least the direction we must go to improve understanding.


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    • Alan 1.0 September 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm


      Yes, good response to Saksa’s piece, and she cited figures supporting that most bike/car collisions aren’t the bikes fault:

      “…the Transport Research Laboratory in the UK found in 2009 that for cyclists over the age of 25 who sustained serious injuries in an accident, the driver was entirely at fault 64-70% of the time and the cyclist at fault 23-27%. For cyclists over the age of 25 who died in a crash, the driver was entirely at fault 48-66% of the time and the cyclist at fault 33-43%. The TRL also found that when cyclists were seriously injured, only 2% of the accidents were due to the rider disobeying a stop sign or traffic light.”

      Caution, though, the TRL paper is behind a paywall so the full context isn’t clear. Also, while not directly related, a TRL report on bike helmets has been heavily criticized.

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