Ease up, already

I came across a cyclist’s traffic law rant a couple of days ago. You can click on the link, or read my summary below:

  • He obeys the traffic laws (mostly)
  • Riders on his group ride break the traffic laws
  • Riders on his group ride endanger pedestrians on the bike path
  • Cyclists are their own worst enemy
  • He’s gonna quit riding with those wankers

This is a common mix-and-mash polemic bruited by many cyclists, and it combines good points with utter horseshit. The good things are obvious — masses of cyclists who race down a shared-use bike path are endangering weaker, less protected pedestrians. That’s no more acceptable than racing your car on the street. Because you are “training” or in a hurry or because you have to win the sprunt doesn’t make it okay to endanger others.

From there, however, lots of cyclists fall off the logic cliff, and it’s very rocky down below. First, traffic law violations on the street, where a group of cyclists runs a red light or stop sign, are not what causes most accidents. Most collisions between bike and car are caused by car. In non-car accidents, bicyclists typically fall off their bicycles due to road conditions or bike handling errors, not because they were scofflaws.

Here are some examples from the last few days alone:

  • Droopy-headed rider hit magnolia seed cone on group ride. Shoutypants, riding behind Droopy, braked. Dreamy, riding behind Shoutypants, wasn’t paying attention, and slammed into Shoutypants, whose face splatted against the pavement. This is a group ride where red-light running is endemic. In three years, and despite thousands of blown red lights, not a single rider has fallen off his bicycle or been hit by a car due to running a red light. Not once.
  • Rider 1 was carefully descending from the college. Road construction crew had failed to remove incredibly deep and dangerous sand from the edge and center of the roadway. The sand, from recent paving, was the same color as the new asphalt and almost invisible. Rider 1 slid out, broke his collarbone and three ribs.
  • Rider 2 was descending by the accident scene of Rider 1. Rider 2 also hit the sand and broke her pelvis.
  • Dude in Santa Monica got doored, separated his shoulder and trashed his $10k bike.
  • Rider on Newport Coast Drive was hit by a drunk driver and suffered catastrophic injuries.
  • Rider dropping down the hill to the MB Pier almost got taken out by right-turning cager who didn’t see the cyclist next to him.
  • Rider slipped on some sand on the bike path and fell off her bicycle.

These aren’t cherry-picked examples; I could easily add a hundred similar incidents. But I couldn’t give you one — not one — example of a cyclist who either got hit or who fell off his bike because he ran a stop sign or a red light. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen, so please feel free not to email me your personal experience of how you fell off your bike when you scofflawed a stop sign.

The point is that you need to STFU when it comes to correlating traffic safety to obeying stop signs and red lights. Obeying traffic laws is good for lots of reasons, and having rules within your group makes for better group rides. But the reason people get hit by cars isn’t because they scofflaw. Bikers mostly get hit because cagers don’t see them — they’re impaired, they’re texting, or the cyclist is invisible, hugging the shoulder in a deathgrip.

The idea that cagers will hit cyclists because they “hate us for running stop signs” is as silly as the idea that motorists hit pedestrians because they hate them for stepping out of the crosswalk. For the most part, cagers hit things they don’t see, and if you’re really concerned about not being hit, the best step you can take is to run a bright headlamp and taillight every time you cycle.

Many riders have the mentality of second-class citizens, claiming that motorists “hate” them because they break the law. Newsflash: most of them don’t hate you, and the ones who do are going to hate you whether you stop or not. You, as a bicycle rider, are an annoyance every time you slow down a car or cause a cager to have to do something other than mash the gas pedal and point the car. Stopping at stop signs won’t make you less of an annoyance when you slow down a car, although the cagers might not mutter “fucker” under their breath like they do when you scofflaw through four red lights while salmoning up a one-way street.

Cyclists are not their own worst enemy. Cyclists’ worst enemy is something called a “car.”

If you want to follow the law and set rules for your group, then do so. If your group is a crazy bunch of marauding stop sign killers and that sets your teeth on edge, go ride somewhere else, start your own group, or go to the group at the beginning of the ride and tell them to quit scofflawing. If they laugh, tell you to FO, or shell you on the first climb, then go pedal elsewhere. But quit calling me my own worst enemy, because my worst enemy is beer.



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39 thoughts on “Ease up, already”

      1. As a friend used to say, “Almost makes dollars?”.
        (I take full responsibility for that repetition) (that was sooo easy!)

        I don’t know, 98% correctness? But with some of the “hit from behind”, and “left turn chops”, I do think there is some antagonism involved.

        Another friend used the term “running out of skill”, relating to multitasking texters and other stupid smart-phone users who “didn’t see him, officer”.

        I have confronted a woman who almost greased me with a left turn across my path. She indicated that it would have been just fine with her if I hadn’t been able to avoid the crash. I mean, she wasn’t going to get hurt. “I didn’t think you were going that fast” was an obvious blow-off lie.
        “I’m turning now, screw you, stupid in-my-way bicycle!” was the real deal.

        1. Well, yes, there are many people who don’t feel bad about hitting you once you’re down (especially if the clearcoat on the SUV is fine). But that’s different from people going out of their way to hit you because they hate you.

          Also, there are crazies out there who target people. We had one in PV last year who went on a rampage, running over cyclists. He wasn’t going to be deterred by cyclists putting a foot down at stop signs. In fact, he pursued one rider over the curb and into the shrubs. In his car.

          He’s enjoying some time in an orange suit now, by the way.

  1. I started out the article being against your position but your examples of accidents convinced me.

    So, I guess in a wiser world the laws for cyclists would be quite different than they are now. We would be allowed to carefully cruise through stop signs and red lights.

    Europe of course has a deeper tradition of adult cycling, and I wonder how their laws and enforcement deal with cyclists, if it’s any better than the way we do things here.

      1. Before I read a web link that has “idaho stop” in the URL, I will need a “McAfee Safe Site” icon that assures me it won’t take me to a public toilet frequented by Republican senators from that state. Or that it will.

    1. I don’t know about Europe, but I know that here in California the main problem is that cars hit riders they don’t see, and riders fall down because of pilot error/road conditions.

      Obeying the law is fine for a lot of reasons, but stopping at every stop sign and red light doesn’t necessarily make you any safer.

    1. Actually, they were! And it saved their skulls in one case. The helmet shattered, and the rider went down so hard that it melted the plastic sides off his shoes. So … put one in the column for helmets!

  2. If I followed correctly…setting aside rat stabard obstacles minding their own bizness in one’s path (let’s call them FOD = F’dup Outtaplace Debris) as a cyclists natural enemy…you are really saying that POOP = Poor Oblivious Operator Performance (car/bike/pedestrian) causes most accidents.

    This would explain why too much BEER is your worst enemy…causing your brain to create POOP.

    However, I must point out that GRAVITY and MASS play a significant role and thus should be in contention for cyclists’ enemy status…here’s why:

    Given the nature of things, Mother Earth really prefers us to be happy lying flat upon the ground in constant embrace where we would certainly remain much safer than riding atop devices formed by thin layers of carbon atoms and glue. In general, I would agree with this happiness, but only if it was perpetual on the warm sands of a tropical island…and endless beer within reach.

    We all know that drinking much beer causes an increase in MASS lending to the age old proverb “bigger you are…harder you fall”. This is explained by the equation F = M x A (Force = Mass times Acceleration) assuming you are at rest and GRAVITY = ACCELERATION causing that Earth-hugging phenomenon cyclists despise…but sounds really pleasant if stated as above. We know that life would be pretty boring simply attempting to defy GRAVITY by remaining stationary upon our very expensive carbon formed prizes…thus we love motion…accelerating in the sprunt or double-dipping by sprunting while having gravity add to the fun on the downhill ride.

    As you indicated, cycling life is good with the universe goes way south when FOD & POOP show up. This is especially exasperated by GRAVITY & MASS (whether a cyclists beer-induced mass, thrill of acceleration, Earth-defying balancing techniques, a cars BIGGER MASS, or combination of all above) when FORCE instantaneously goes to zero as FOD/CAR and CYCLIST/EARTH attempt to occupy the same point in space and time (a well-established physics no-no)…therefore GRAVITY & MASS deserve enemy status.

    May the FORCE always be with you attempting to STFU…

  3. Sr Geezer Johan

    I take a philosophical approach when poseurs and phreds tell me what I should do on the bike. I calmly say “I ain’t your bitch. You do your ride. I’ll do mine. If you don’t like riding with me then don’t. I won’t hurt my feelings.”

    The world would be a better place if everyone just took care of themselves rather than trying to control others.

    1. True! However, controlling someone when they have one of those little leather facemasks and a bit between their teeth can be kind of cool, too.

  4. Stop trying to confuse us with actual facts!

    And since I was mostly 100% in agreement before I read your piece I can’t say you changed my mind at all.

  5. And no one noticed that Seth used Prohibition slang to describe brain dead cyclists. Yes, redundant, I know. Plus, if he had not been dropped the entire cascade of piffle would have been unnecessary. After all, saying “I sucked and got dropped” is hardly the stuff of which blogs are made. “Hey guys wait for me, I am drug free and won the sprint.” Next blog topic: “I could of been great but boycotted the Fondue because, cheese.”

    1. Wait a minute! “I sucked and got dropped” is EXACTLY the stuff of which blogs are made.

      Mine, anyway.

      1. No Wank, read the guy’s blog again. He was dropped after winning the sprint and would have made it back but traffic light banditry and outright ugliness and short cut had an even steeper climb. But yeah

  6. Huh, I don’t think I’ve ever run in a group ride where people ignore stop signs, unless it’s a coordinated thing with the police, of one of those horrible critical mass things.

    Though from personal experience i will say this: If a police car is waiting for a red light to pass and you hammer through it next to them, they will take it as a personal affront to their ego, end bill you to the full extent of the law.

  7. My favorite part of the “I-am-fast-but-I-got-dropped-so-now-I-boycott-we-deserve-to-die” train of thought is the inevitable conclusion: “and-I-blame-strava”.

  8. I had a cop camping out at Hermosa Ave and 2nd stop and lecture me about all the cyclists that were being hit by cars at that intersection because they ran the stop sign. The choice quote was something along the lines of..
    “I could show you the videos right now….”
    I almost took him up on that, but I had to get to work. Plus I didn’t want a ticket. Even through I looked both ways before crossing the street, I was just glad I didn’t get hit by any of the the invisible cars which he was protecting me from.

  9. Hello fsethd-san,

    Beer is not your enemy.

    Addiction is your enemy.

    When addiction leads the dance all manner of problems appear.

    Beer can be your frenemy and help loosen the creative juices.

    Although I must say (as a writer) you are in good company if indeed you are an alcoholic:


    Many great writers of the 20th century (especially American writers) struggled with addictions to alcohol. Some believe that this may have contributed to their great artistic abilities, while others believe that the alcohol served as a medication for other problems in their lives. This is a list of the 15 greatest writers who were alcoholics.

    15. Hunter Thompson
    14. Raymond Chandler
    13. John Cheever
    12. O. Henry
    11. Tennessee Williams
    10. Dylan Thomas
    9. Dorothy Parker
    8. Edgar Allen Poe
    7. Truman Capote
    6. Jack Kerouac
    5. William Faulkner
    4. Charles Bukowski
    3. F. Scott Fitzgerald
    2. James Joyce
    1. Ernest Hemingway

    On the down side ….. many of those on the list had short lives.

    About 4 weeks ago I visited with my friend Lyle Prouse and his wife at our 3 day Northwest Airlines Retired Pilots convention in Sacramento.

    He was fired from his job, lost all his pilot licenses, and was the butt of regular jokes on national TV, the Jay Leno show, and others, as ‘the drunk pilot’.

    Lyle did 16 months of hard time in prison. We had a group of Northwest Airlines pilots that gave him moral support and helped him financially support his family while in prison.

    He commented that having someone still believe in you when you are down and out is important.

    He is still doing good works for AA as he notes here:

    “This past weekend I spoke in Pueblo, CO. When there are sober Native Americans in the group it becomes more special to me. There were three. One gave me an eagle feather before I spoke, and that’s powerful and deeply treasured. Two others were ladies who came and spoke with me, one Seminole and one Navajo. I remember growing up, the powwows, the 49’s, and the wholesale drinking and intoxication.

    How amazing, touching, and wonderful to see us reaching and retaking the values and traditions we were born to.”


    “This is the story of the first airline pilot ever arrested and sent to prison for flying under the influence. He was fired by his airline, stripped of his FAA licenses, tried, convicted, and sent to Federal prison. This was a first. It had never occurred before.”

    Before he came to Northwest Airlines he was a decorated Vietnam era US Marine Corps fighter/attack pilot.

    Lyle is a good writer …….. and the book is a good read.



    +1 mph Faster

    1. When addiction is absent a whole different set of problems appear. Unless you give your soul to Jebus.

    2. That list looks like the UCI World Tour rankings, with the heavy hitters trailing the guys who consistently come in second and third . . .

  10. Pingback: Follow the law at your own peril… or not.

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