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Re: [CarFree] sharing the road

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  • John Bourn
    Barb - I was quite shocked to read this. In 3 years or so of regular cycling here in the UK, the worst I ve ever encountered are a couple of drivers
    Message 1 of 7 , Jul 31, 2001
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      Barb -
      I was quite shocked to read this.  In 3 years or so of regular cycling here in the UK, the worst I've ever encountered are a couple of drivers impatiently tooting their horn at me!  Many motorists have been very courteous.
      Is it because American motorists just aren't used to cyclists?  I take it such rude, aggressive behaviour isn't normal off the road.  A case of the Jekyll & Hyde syndrome?
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: barb howe
      Sent: Monday, July 30, 2001 6:44 PM
      Subject: Re: [CarFree] sharing the road

      It's definitely been my experience that on a trip of any significant length I'll always get yelled at or have something thrown at me for being on the road.  Most often people tell me to "get on the sidewalk" but sometimes they hurl explicatives instead which leaves me frustrated and angry.  Or they lean on the horn as they careen wildly around the two feet my bicycle takes up on the four lane divided highway.  I've always wished I could figure out a productive thing to say or do when these situations arise that would educate the driver but the only semi-serious suggestion I've had so far is from my brother-in-law, a racing cyclist who's toured cross country several times: take a small piece of broken antennae from a car or something that you find lying in the side of the road.  Lash it onto your rack at a 90 degree angle and hang a little flag off the end of it.... enough to give you a foot or two of clearance.  That'll make them give you room.  They don't care if they splatter your guts all over the highway but they don't want to mess up their paint job by having it scratched by a broken antennae.  I haven't actually done this yet as it seems really harsh but the jackasses mentioned above are making me nearly cynical enough to try it.
      barb howe
      ----- Original Message -----
      From: De Clarke
      Sent: Monday, July 30, 2001 1:23 PM
      Subject: Re: [CarFree] Bicycle helmets

      > Still, with fewer people riding bicycles, experts are mystified as to why
      > injuries are on the rise.

      this seems quite absurd to me -- that experts are "mystified" by
      the very obvious.  *fewer people are riding bicycles*.  the fewer
      cyclists there are, the more drivers there are (those non-cyclists
      are getting around somehow, and CDC tells us they are not walking).
      the ratio of bikes to cars in the US road system is smaller than it
      has been for many years... this decline in the number of cyclists
      is actually underreported, because off-road cyclists are counted --
      the kind who drive their bikes to parks, then ride in the park,
      never cycling on a public road if they can help it.

      the lower the ratio of cyclists to drivers, the less visible and "present"
      cyclists are, and the more convincing are driver excuses like "I wasn't
      expecting a cyclist to be there" or "he just jumped right out in front
      of me."  the lower this ratio, the more cyclists are perceived as "not
      belonging" on the road, having no right to be there.  drivers then feel
      less inhibition about executing dangerous manoeuvres around cyclists,
      since "it's their own fault for being where they are not supposed to be."
      rude, impatient motorists will scream at cyclists to "get on the sidewalk,"
      and that sort of thing.  moments of ill temper expressed by dangerous
      driving account for quite a lot of road "accidents".

      just to muddy the waters further: the smaller the percentage of middle
      class and prosperous people who cycle, or whose kids are permitted to
      cycle, the more cycling is associated with poverty (only those who
      cannot afford to drive ride a bike) and thus incurs the prejudice that
      this invokes.  just as the bus is called the "loser cruiser" by
      affluent high school kids, cycling (for utility, not for sport) is
      considered a low-class or "hippie" thing to do.  some male drivers even
      see (male) cyclists as "faggots", i.e. unmasculine, and harass them

      in other words, it's a conformist society.  when fewer and fewer people
      cycle, cycling is seen as "weird" and incurs the prejudice and hostility
      accorded to nonconformists in most cultures.  when the person feeling
      the hostility and prejudice is in command of 1 to 2 ton of metal moving
      at high speed, very small changes of attitude and very small reductions
      of carefulness can result in major consequences for the less armoured
      road user.

      so why should it be "mystifying" that the smaller the cyclist minority
      gets, the higher becomes the risk for that remaining minority?  I think
      the experts have been looking through the wrong end of the telescope
      [KK's phrase] for so many years that their vision is permanently impaired.


      :De Clarke, Software Engineer                     UCO/Lick Observatory, UCSC:
      :Mail: de@... |                                                     :
      :Web: www.ucolick.org |             Don't Fear the Penguins                 :

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    • Ken Kifer
      I live in Alabama, and I ride all over the Eastern United States and Canada. I have a map of my travels at http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/touring/trips.htm
      Message 2 of 7 , Aug 1, 2001
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        I live in Alabama, and I ride all over the Eastern United States and
        Canada. I have a map of my travels at

        In most areas where I have bicycled, no one reacts in any hostile
        manner. I consider 99.9% of motorists safe. My only frequent problem
        with motorists has been their unwillingness to slow when conditions call
        for it. This behavior may usually be due to driving on automatic rather
        than an unwillingness to be careful; nonetheless, a few motorists are
        quite willing to risk my life to save a few seconds or two.

        As for people yelling at me, I have had that happen in a number of
        states, but I never pay much attention to it. More of a problem is the
        person (or car full of people) that yells and swerves. Often these are
        teenagers. For a while, I was attacked every night on the way home by
        the same car. I have also had some motorists come up behind me and
        blast on the horn. Usually, this is done in an attempt to scare me, but
        sometimes the person stays back a distance and really blasts and blasts
        on the horn, saying "get off of my road!" -- a behavior I ignore. One
        woman stayed behind me for half a mile, blasting on her horn, and I just
        continued until she finally passed me. In another case however, the
        fellow was hauling a big trailer and couldn't safely pass me; I felt
        embarrassed on that occasion.

        People who throw stuff seldom hit me because they fail to allow for the
        speed of the vehicle.

        None of this stuff bothers me very much, because as a teenager, I
        started walking instead of taking the bus due to aggressive behavior on
        the bus. Whenever the bus would pass, the kids would yell every
        profanity and throw paper and bottles at me, so I became quite
        desensitized to it all.

        Some of the honking seems to be due to a misunderstanding of my right to
        use the road, and some seems to be a misunderstanding of who is supposed
        to yield. In the later case, I was approaching a bridge in Delaware,
        and a truck approaching behind me was carrying some big pallets that
        overhung the side of his truck, so he honked for me to stop, so I
        wouldn't get hurt as he passed. Somehow, it never occurred to him that
        _he_ should slow down; he considered it to be completely my
        responsibility to avoid getting hit.

        In more serious cases, people have done things that could have gotten me
        killed. One fellow, driving a truck, blasted his horn at me. I looked
        back. I was on the shoulder, and he had two free lanes with no signal
        on. At that point, I reached a right turn and took it. He did too! If
        I had gone straight, he would have killed me, and he would have told the
        police that he had warned me. In an fatal accident near where I was
        living (in an area I considered very dangerous for cycling), a truck
        driver killed a motorbike rider who was making a turn. Asked for the
        cause of the accident, the trucker said, "He slowed down." A number of
        truckers have honked at me, "Get out of the way or die," and they made
        no attempt to slow down.

        The most common incident I face of vehicular assault is from the driver
        coming towards me who passes another vehicle coming towards me. On more
        than one occasion, this has happened several times within a short
        period. Some evidently believe that I am supposed to bail out, for
        instance, the truck driver in friendly Kansas who waved at me as he ran
        me off of the road. Some evidently feel that it's OK to miss me by
        inches at our combined speeds 75 mph + 15 mph. Some do it for the fun
        of it, like the U. of Alabama student who stayed on the wrong side of
        the road for an extra quarter of a mile so he could attack me. Finally,
        I think some are just willing to risk murder. I was so close to one RV
        that I could tell that the man had shaved that morning before I dived
        off of the road.

        There is one thing that bothers me more than these careless, hostile, or
        homicidal motorists, and that is the response I receive when telling
        about them. I dropped out of Chainguard recently because the members
        either refused to admit that such problems existed or blamed them on the
        way I ride a bicycle. Their repeated statement was that by maintaining
        the proper distance from the edge of the roadway that they were sending
        a message and forcing motorists to behave properly.

        I am a great believer in acting like traffic. Back when I began riding
        in 1964, the motorists all accepted me on their highways as if I
        belonged and would patiently wait behind me at lights because I followed
        the same rules in operating my bike that they did in driving their cars,
        not because they had seen anyone acting like that before.

        However, no amount of obedience to the traffic laws is going to make
        someone who is not paying attention, driving on automatic, drunk or
        drugged, half asleep, out-of-control, aggressive, or homicidal start
        behaving properly. Motorcyclists have a much higher death rate than
        cyclists, yet they are much more visible, even using their lights during
        the daytime. About 40% of the motorists who die were doing nothing

        I also try to be visible, always using lights at night and bright
        colored shirts or jackets during the day.
        However, in riding a bicycle, I have a good solution not available to
        the motorist or motorcyclist. I am within a few feet of the edge of the
        roadway, and whenever I notice someone behaving strangely or whenever I
        pass an intersection, I pay attention and am prepared to react.

        Remaining alert when near motorist has saved me time and again when they
        did something foolish. For example, last last year, a woman was pulling
        out of a side road onto the highway without stopping, and her head was
        turned backwards, watching to see if some speeding motor vehicle was
        coming over the hill. She never saw me, so I saved myself only by
        making an emergency turn.

        I don't consider riding a bike to be especially dangerous. I feel safer
        on the bike than in a car, as in a car, I have nowhere to go if someone
        pulls into my lane (according to a recent Reader's Digest article, 42%
        of the drivers who committed no fault died in this fashion). I keep my
        eye on all nearby traffic, and I ride thousands of miles each year
        without injury.

        Ken Kifer's Bike Pages: 100 pages of info! -- health, advocacy, safety,
        touring, lifestyle, humor, and links: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/
        What's New: http://www.kenkifer.com/whatznew.htm
        Link info: http://www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/webmastr.htm

        Bicycling Life: The good news about bicycling, with commuting,
        recreation, how to, and safety info: http://www.bicyclinglife.com
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