Every so often I see an article like this: “Cyclists! As long as you keep breaking the law motorists are going to keep hating you. We must show that we are law-abiding members of the public if we hope to be treated with the respect we deserve.”
This is stupid and it’s wrong.
Cagers hate you because of the law of the jungle. When a tiger and a mouse meet on a path, the mouse steps aside. Your bicycle, a weak and puny plastic thing, impedes the forward motion of a hulking 2,000-lb. slab of steel. The jungle law says you must step aside, but the California Vehicle Code does not. So the cagers hate you even when they yield the right of way.
Before you start whining you should ‘fess up: You’re no different from the soccer mom in the SUV. Remember last Sunday on the bike path coming back from Malibu, and how the path was clogged with all those fucking walkers? Remember how you roared past them at 15-20 mph shouting “On your left!” Remember how annoying it felt, especially since the path said “Bikes Only”?
Yeah. The natural human reaction when a slow moving, weaker bicycle obstructs a faster moving, bigger car, is to be pissed off, and you can’t tamp down the cager’s road rage by stopping at the stop signs.
Here’s another example. Have you ever seen a cyclist on Hawthorne or PCH during rush hour and thought “What the fuck is that fucking fuckfuck doing riding on this busy fucking street at rush hour? What a fucking moron!”
Of course you have.
As long as bicycles get in the way of cagers, the cagers are going to hate them and it won’t matter if you stop at the stop signs. They will still shoot you, splat you and run away, kill you, kill you, and then finally, yes, kill you.
No one ever had his rights vindicated by being nice
You have a right to ride on the road. It can’t be taken away because you ran some red lights.
“Mr. Smith, due to your abysmal record of having run ten red lights and thirty stop signs this year, the court hereby revokes your right to ride your bicycle.”
Not gonna happen, although your scofflaw approach may get you run over and killed.
The only thing that obeying the law on your bicycle does is increase or decrease your chances of being hit, depending on the situation. It will never make any cager anywhere stop hating you. It will never stop someone who has made up his mind to hit you from hitting you. Most importantly, it will never cause someone to intentionally hit you if they haven’t already decided to do so.
Think about motorcycles. Most cagers who don’t ride think motorcyclists are batshit crazy sucides. But it doesn’t make them want to kill the guy on the Ducati in flip-flops and a t-shirt and an eggshell brain bucket who’s splitting lanes on the 405 at 70 when the traffic’s at a standstill.
At worst it makes you think “That dude’s gonna die soon and I’m not gonna feel sorry for him one bit.” It never makes you intentionally hit him. By the same token, seeing some old fart on a Goldwing with his wife, dog, and three kids on the back doesn’t make you love motorcyclists or change your opinion that this is their death wish.
The take home? Motorcyclists still have the right to be there. If they break the law they can lose their license — unlike cyclists — but you’re really fucked up if the way a person rides a moto makes you decide to kill them or not.
You have a right to be in the road on your bicycle. The only way you can keep that right is to exercise it. You won’t change the hearts and minds of the hater cagers by being a Boy Scout, although you may thereby avoid becoming a statistic. The only thing that will really change the way people think is making bicycles a permanent part of the traffic landscape.
Until then, the best thing you can do to change attitudes is to … ride your bike. Simply existing will piss off certain cagers, no matter how you ride.