We Just Don’t Like Bikes

We were still digesting the unprovoked verbal assault from the woman, when the guy paused before getting into the passenger seat. He wanted to explain her outburst and let us know he was on-board with the message, albeit from twenty feet away with a car between us. He told us "We just don't like bikes". And with that they backed out the parking spot and went on with whatever miserable agenda they had planned for a beautiful, sunny Saturday.

TJ and I had just rolled up to Roberts in Woodside to meet Willy Nevin. Willy appeared almost immediately and as we said our hellos at the curb a large black SUV motioned that they wanted to pull up where we were standing. I acknowledged the driver and we lifted our bikes off the road and wheeled them along the sidewalk to the back parking lot. I got a thank-you smile and wave from that driver.

We'd no sooner stopped our bikes near the water fountain, when a 30ish couple who'd been shopping in Roberts appeared behind Willy and TJ. The woman didn't like that Willy and TJ were partially on the empty sidewalk, though they walked right by with a small bag of groceries each. That's when she launched into her tirade. "You're on the sidewalk, you shouldn't be there, what if an old woman wants to get by, or someone in a wheelchair. This is a fire route"

In response I offered "well when an old woman appears we'll certainly give her a hand, have a great day." Not quite the razor sharp response the situation called for, but then if you're not doing stand up, hecklers aren't a daily hazard. And then the guy delivered the punchline "We just don't like bikes"

We didn't let it bother us, we spent a minute more considering our options before setting off to climb Old La Honda and descend 84. After the ride we revisited the subject, trying to figure out what cycling atrocity had scarred the two of them so badly that they needed to go on the offensive with three complete strangers at 9:30 am on a Saturday. I'm just glad we ran into them in the parking lot and not out on the road. That kind of hostility so close to the surface is where road rage lives.

23 Responses to We Just Don’t Like Bikes

  1. Tim says:

    Astonishing. I can’t even begin to fathom the minds those folks.

    • MJ says:

      Wow. Not cool at all. I ride in that same area nearly every weekend, so it’s a little unnerving.

  2. Jon Moss says:

    That is very strange Michael. Not a good kind of strange either.

    Unfortunately these days, manners, general friendliness and a smile can be a rare commodity. Perhaps they had just had a “bad day” and you received the frustration and pent up anger. Zero excuse for the hostility though and something that I see every day when driving but not when cycling (yet).

    I think you did very well to be polite and not rise so kudos to that.

    • Jon,

      I think you hit the nail on the head with “manners and general friendliness” It doesn’t take much of either to break down the artificial barriers that separate cyclist, drivers and pedestrians.

  3. The fashion round these parts (NW England) is for the passenger to yell at top volume and without warning, in the ear of unsuspecting riders (and runners) whilst passing as close as possible. The resulting fright and ‘jump’ can require some skill in keeping the bike in a straight line……

    Not sure what the kick is, unless you revel in others pyschological pain, albeit for a brief moment. One of these days I am going to get a licence plate number and get a friend who is a Policewoman to make sure they are charged with threatening behaviour. So little respect for other more vulnerable road users………..

  4. Stephen says:

    Yeah – let me know if you find some sort of zen state to forget about this. I’m trying not to turn into Road Rage Goofy every time I nearly get smeared by a careless driver.

  5. Agreed. You handled it right. There’s no winning a situation like that, but by starting a tirade of your own you can give them a reason to confirm their negative opinions.

  6. Clicky-Windy says:

    Welcome to Woodside: the Friendliest Town on the Peninsula ™! As long as you’re not a cyclist, that is…

  7. M1CW says:

    As you said, Don’t let it bother us. You can’t change an idiot, they will be idiots for life.

  8. chr15 says:

    “we just don’t like bikes”

    Bikes or cyclists??? Nice work on keeping schtum, it’s hard sometimes to bite your lip, a response rarely gets you anywhere – but I love yours!

    “we just don’t like bikes” where would that sort of comment come from???

  9. willy in pacifica says:

    OK, so this got me wondering what rights the cyclists had in having to move for the SUV in the first place.

    For those who know the area we were on the South West corner of Hwy 84 and Canada on Hwy 84. We were next to the market on the shoulder of the road straddling our bikes behind a legally park car on the shoulder of the road. If we were not where we were there was enough room the SUV to legally park on the shoulder of the road. There was plenty of parking in the market parking lot. If we had been three motorcycles the SUV would not have attempted to take the spot. If we were in a car the same thing.

    So did we have a legal right to that spot on the shoulder of the road?
    If not, then where were we supposed to go if there hadn’t been the market next to us?
    What if we happended to be waiting on the shoulder of a different road waiting for some riders to catch-up. Are we reguired to keep moving along to accomodate drivers who want our spot even if there are other places for them to park?


  10. kurt says:

    What you didn’t realize was that you were on HER sidewalk, made by the government for her unrestricted use and paid for by HER tax dollars. You didn’t know it but your were denying her freedom and diminshing her power. In response, she felt the need to launch an attack.

    As you pointed out you received a polite response from the driver of the SUV for your considerate behavior. This is what you need to remember in order to keep your youthful optimism intact. To keep this in perspective on my commutes, I keep a tally and have found on average a 1 to 6 ratio of Moronic behavior to polite behavior on each ride. I do that to remind myself that the majority of the drivers a actually considerate drivers.
    The gentlemen of this blog seem to understand that we can really only control our own behavior and conduct ourselves in a way that presents ourselves and cycling in a possitive light.

    Albeit this in not always the most gratifying.

    I had a great ride with my wife this weekend, we enjoyed lots of green lights and sunshine.

    Ride on.

  11. Henry says:

    There’s no cure for stupid. So it’s best to not do anything to prolong your interaction with people who will only screw up your day. Stay positive and be happy you don’t have to go through life like that bitter, angry cretin (or worse have to be married to her).

  12. vectorbug says:

    I got lectured by a driver while we were waiting at a red. I was in the left turn lane, he was in the regular. He lectures me about how unsafe bikers are making the roads and how we need to get licenses or something. Of course he wouldn’t make eye contact, so I introduced myself over and over until he would too. Then I realized why he wouldn’t look at me – because he was texting someone on his phone.

  13. Matthew says:

    We can all relate to stories like these. Recently, I was screamed at by an out-of-stater (female) for riding on the road and _not_ the sidewalk.

    I’m in Boulder County, where cycling v. cars is close to the boiling point. I ride daily (commuting and training), and can say anecdotally that the verbal assaults and passive aggressive driving is on the increase in recent years.

    • Stephen says:

      This seems strange to me — I ride all over Boulder County on a nearly daily basis, have *never* been verbally assaulted and if I’m on the receiving end of passive aggressive driving, it doesn’t strike me as especially threatening (given that cars are inherently threatening to cyclists). Are drivers in Boulder occasionally oblivious? Sure, and that’s not acceptable. But malicious? Not in my experience. Perhaps, as vinberg points out below, we sometimes contribute to the problem?

  14. vinberg says:

    Woodside and cyclists have had a really antagonistic relationship–

    Several group rides go through the back roads–one every day of the week, one on Wednesday night with usually 100+ people, and another Saturday morning with 60-100. The cyclists haven’t always had the best etiquette, and the drivers and community haven’t responded very well, and the whole situation has devolved, as you saw. Combined with the love of horses in Woodside (apparently the cyclists spook the horses in barns and out on the trails), it’s not a great recipe; it’s turned a little irrational, to the “I just don’t like bikes” phase, rather than reality-based…

  15. kurt says:

    “These bicyclists need to get off the road and on the sidewalk where they belong. The cannot keep up with traffic. They are a nuisance. I always spit at them and honk my horn at them when I get a chance.”

    These words are in response to a Miami Herald article in Aug 08 reporting that 11 riders were struck from behind by a cab driver who had fallen asleep.

    The reality is we are a Fringe Element.

  16. Eric says:

    I ride in rural NE Arkansas–we have our share of kids and grownups showing off in their pickup trucks, sometimes even giving us a one finger salute. We choose our rides carefully, dependent upon time of day and week; all in all, people are fairly respectful and even have started to watch out for us–we are fairly predictable in our routes–I think the rage oftentimes comes when people are startled to see us, and do not necessarily know how to respond.

    Of course, sometimes you simply encounter kooks along the way.

  17. BR says:

    This is one of those “80%” stories. 20% of the riders wreck it for the 80% balance….80% of the drivers are not a problem. My opinion is that Woodside & Canada needs a stoplight. The town will never vote that in – period. I have witnessed…just a month ago…50-70? riders on the Peet’s Saturday ride pedaling right through that 4 way stop sign at 15mph at least. All day long….100′s and 100′s of cyclists roll that intersection from every direction. There are too many bikes in that small pocket of space at one time for the combined quality of skills of 80% of the riders and drivers. Michael and I saw several motorists pull an array of stupid stunts at the drove away from that market. Didn’t we see one girl eating a sandwich make a U-turn through the stop sign lane? One couple backed out against traffic, u-turned…I think…and took off. Add to that 3-4 riders rolling that stop sign simultaneously – it’s a very high stress scene. Just last night I exited the freeway and looked over my left shoulder as I merged on to Alpine. Three riders passed through the stop sign at ~20mph…I stopped dead to avoid these idiots hoping that the cars exiting behind me didn’t plow into us. There is NO requirement for me stop as this is an exit designed to remove traffic off of the freeway. These 3 assholes displayed their true skills as the “20% cyclists” = arrogance, poor judgement, and total disregard for MY safety and theirs. Had we been rear ended it would have been the responsibility of the poor slob that hit us and the riders would have just kept going. These jackasses ran that stop sign as ?? 10 people watched? Guess what those 10 people think of cyclists right now?

    The people walking down that sidewalk had a valid complaint – get off the sidewalk. Their attitude comes from, I asume, the 1000′s of poor cycling transactions that they witness while living there. They could have been nicer but put yourself in their spot – they are not cyclists but they deal with them and only notice the worst offenders. Woodside PD and cyclists have been at each other’s throats for 25 years. I was in a 50+ group once and we got pulled over en mass – and we deserved it.

    Descending Mt Hamilton yesterday was a rare treat I saw ?? maybe 10 cars in the 40 miles that make up the heart of the ride. So here I am zipping down the hill and a car approaches…doesn’t slow…crosses the yellow lines on a blind left turn. Idiot. 1/4 mile down the hill I make a turn and who is stopped in the lane? He’s out of his car picking up an aluminum can HUH? Of course he passes me again in the same manner. 10 minutes later I get shadowed by a Mercedes and I found a good shoulder to let him pass. He was maybe 3 seconds behind me and I was doing 30 mph! Both of these interactions had the makings of an altercation. I was so relaxed and mellow that I just kept riding.

  18. willy in pacifica says:

    “The people walking down that sidewalk had a valid complaint – get off the sidewalk.”

    Hey Brendan,

    One, we were not actually on a sidewalk, we were on private property and only to allow the SUV to take the spot we were previously in.
    Two, the part that got to us was that there was plenty of room for the gal and her friend to walk around us without us moving and her comment only came after she easily walk around us.

    So maybe I can ask this again.
    If the three of us are straddling our bikes on the shoulder of the road in a legal parking spot and a vehicle arrives, are we required to move to allow then to take te spot?
    If so, where are we supposed to go and how many times do we have to contine this?
    If we are a legal vehicle in a legal spot perhaps we are not required to move. But then we would really be in for a tongue lashing.

    I think, although it will never happen, that if there was no parking allowed in the front of Roberts it would be much safer. And there is a parking lot it the rear that no one likes to use. The dangerous part of that intersection is that it is tough to keep an eye on all the places cars and bikes can be coming from.

  19. BR says:

    Willy – I understood that there were two situations – 1 the car that wanted to park so you moved to the sidewalk and 2 a different couple that left the store and didn’t like that you guys were on the sidewalk. Please clarify if I misunderstood.

    My opinion is that cyclists and motorists should behave as cyclists and/or motorists when riding or driving. It all breaks down when cyclists and/or motorists break the most basic laws of the road. Last week the back wheels of a flatbed trailer missed me by a foot max as the driver (texting) passed me in the bike lane on a right curve. I chased him…he made the light….it would have been a roadside confrontation as I was furious at his lack of awareness. Texting and driving are not illegal but he would have been cited for entering the bike lane. I get the bad motorist thing as clearly as it can be understood. I have had things thrown at me, deliberate cut off’s, total stupidity (can guy yesterday), etc,
    The couple that uttered the sidewalk comment were entitled to be a little bit ticked but not enough to call you guys out on it. They clearly have a serious problem with cyclists and I hope I never share the road with them. I am a hot head and I might have had a few comments for them.

    Roberts Market – I can’t stand the place. I hate the intersection, the traffic, Woodside PD, the 4 way stop sign, the bad drivers, the bad cyclists, the lot. Sure it’s an oasis on a big ride but I really want to avoid the spot after years of pedaling through there. If they (Robert’s) gave a rat’s ass about congestion or sidewalk access they would build a patio with bike storage, shade, etc. The problem is that Woodside hates cyclists – period. Certainly their is a entrepeneur out there that should open a cyclists cafe within 1000′ of that intersection. It would be a goldmine. Picture it. There is no way that the people of Woodside would go along with that. They want zero bikes in town and that is why those knuckleheads who “just don’t like bikes” represent 99.9% of the very small amount of people that actually live there. Look…we love to ride..we do it well and always obey the law but the couple on the sidewalk see no difference between the 70 riders blowing a stop sign and three dudes chatting at Roberts. I don’t excuse them but I certainly understand them. We, the 20%, have to work around these high friction areas and avoid the confrontations and avoid the people that hate cyclists. We have the same right to be there in town as they do but they feel more entitled. But cars vs bikes have the same ending everytime.

    Michael – you were right to be ticked off…they were rude and obviously pre-loaded with the standard “we live in Woodside and you don’t so f-off” attitude. A messy exchange would have been hard for me to pass up on in that very situation.

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