A Lighter Exchange Between Cyclist and Pedestrian

After the negative exchange with Woodside pedestrians last Saturday and the follow up comments which paint a depressing picture of the antagonism between some town residents and cyclists, I've got a much better story to tell today.

On my commute home tonight I stopped for a red light at a lightly traveled residential intersection. An older gentleman crossing the road noted I was waiting for him and commented... "Stopping for pedestrians, eh?"

With a big grin I said "If you want respect on the bike, you've got to earn it" He nodded his approval and added "you have a good day." "You too", I replied. The light changed and off I rode. I've got to feel that something more important than the light changed in that moment. Made me feel good and cost me no more than ten seconds.

26 Responses to A Lighter Exchange Between Cyclist and Pedestrian

  1. Jon Moss says:

    Manners and politeness, not too mention a smile, do not cost a thing, and are always appreciated :-)

  2. Paul Etherington says:

    Patience, tolerance, compassion. In cycling, in life. As the Italians say; ” You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

  3. Matthew says:

    Agree 100%. Cultivating one’s own garden, as it were, is the only solution I’ve come up with in this situation. Ride by example.

  4. kurt says:

    Entirely agree with the approach.

    1) If it is true that people who ride bikes tend to be more tolerant of them in their world, how do we get more people to ride bikes?

    2) A Miami study stated the following related to bicycle related accidents:
    50% involved cyclist riding in the wrong direction or against traffic
    30% involved cyclist riding on the sidewalk
    20% involved nitetime cyclists riding without lights

    and yes, I observe all of this regularly and yes they have placed me as well as themselves at risk. Additionally, motorists and pedestrians are no doubt annoyed by this behavior.

    OK, I will get to the question… how do we change it? Sorry guys, although I believe in setting the example I do not think it is quite enough.

    I have seen the enemy….

    • Good Questions Kurt.

      I suppose I hope there’s a tipping point out there somewhere. Enough people riding to really influence the public agenda for safety, transportation (road) funding and enforcement. Maybe another spike in gasoline prices will push more people to ride; getting them out of their cars is key.

      I know our group certainly waves the flag and spreads the gospel but as you say cycling’s collective voice is still not being heard above the noise.

      There’s no more important constituency than law enforcement in this politically charged and dangerous situation we find ourselves in. It might help if cycling made an organized and concerted effort to get more policemen and women (and their families) riding bicycles. Free riding clinics, an industry-wide discount for officers to buy bicycles, with a bonus if they attend a seminar on rider safety issues (which could be given at police stations). And the core message we’d deliver would be for them to properly understand and enforce the existing traffic laws as they apply to motorists and cyclists. Book cyclists running lights, riding on the wrong side of the road AND book/charge motorists who drive dangerously or carelessly; take cyclists complaints seriously.

      Getting back to the Woodside situation that started all of this. I think it might help to have a uniformed officer directing traffic or observing that intersection each weekend. A disciplinarian with some style, a sense of humor and a whistle (we all had that gym teacher/coach). Encourage, warn and cite the worst offenders until everyone gets it through their heads that the roads are meant to be shared by all taxpayers… and everyone has to live by one set of road rules. Maybe that might make a difference.

  5. Erick says:

    Sound advice for any situation – cycling related or not.

  6. kurt says:

    Interesting angle, get the cops on the bike to experience the abuse 1st hand. I like it.

    Training is always good, but I am afraid it will need to be forced, say through licensing. Probably not what cyclist want to hear but it allows for ticketing as well. Unfortunately it introduces fees, taxes and additonal govt. into the equation which we are currently exempt.

    Certainly “cycling” needs to influence…..this reminds me, I need to make a donation to the League of American Bicyclist.

    I will be attending a meeting on Miami’s plans on 08/19 for safety improvements to support the initiative and provide input.


    I wish luck in Woodland.

  7. mw says:

    Cyclists give cyclists a bad name when it comes to riding on the street.

    I commute daily by bike and I see more cyclists ignore basic traffic laws.

    Yesterday, I was in my car making a left hand turn in the middle of an intersection. A cyclist three cars behind me decided he was impatient and rode through the intersection passing me on the left hand side of my car. I could have turned right into the idiot.

  8. chr15 says:

    I was cycle commuting a few weeks back. Saw a guy up infront also on his bike. A white van came past, typical stereotype, jeering at the schoolgirls swerving all over, despite driving like A-holes they passed me with plenty of room.

    I winced as they aproached the guy up front as it looked like they were swerving toward him, but no they swerved away again. He shouted something at the van.

    300yds later, traffic lights, Red of course. I had caught and overtaken the other cyclist at this point, I stopped at the lights, the van long gone. The other guy comes up behind me, I can’t imagine he even slowed down, straight through the light, straight into the middle of the junction. I wouldn’t really say he put anyone at risk other than himself but several cars were ‘aware of his presence’ on their green light!

    So what made him think he deserved respect from the van?

    “respect breeds respect” as my ol’ nan used to say.

    Sometimes I feel an idiot sitting at the lights on my way through town, I have 10 sets in the first mile of my homeward commute. But often I get positive comments from pedestrians and drivers. What reaaly niggles me however is pedestrians crossing the road in front of you when their light is red…

  9. Henry says:

    A recent study showed that the more cyclists there are, the safer cycling is: http://ruedatropical.wordpress.com/2009/06/30/safety-in-numbers/

    Where I am in Miami the only cyclists in the street are in club kit on racing bikes. Everyone else cycles on the sidewalks. I was happy recently to see some officers of the new Doral police dept. on bikes. Unfortunately they were both pedaling the wrong way on the sidewalk!

    I think the more cyclists, the more drivers accommodate their presence as a normal part of traffic and the more casual cyclists feel it’s OK to be on the road as it is so commonplace to see cyclists in traffic.

  10. mike says:

    no, we don’t need to license cyclists. that is ridiculous. and no, cyclists do not have to observe every freaking traffic law thata a car does. that is equally rediculous. if you want to, go ahead. if you want to set an example, go ahead. i think its odd to think anyone is watching me when i ride, so i’m not out to set any examples. i ride for efficiency of time, and my own safety first. cars be dammed. pc is bs. not everything can be pc nor is it a battleground for “my/our way is best.” lets not take ourselvse too seriously here folks, we’re riding bikes for chrissakes, not holding hands across america. ride as you see fit.

    • Actually Mike, if you reread Kurt’s post he’s just following the licensing thread to see where it leads. He didn’t actually come out and advocate it. Given how bad the situation has become some places anything is worth considering if it might help.
      You’re going to be in the minority around here trying to make the argument that cyclists don’t have to observe the same traffic laws as cars. By not following the same rules we stick out, and people (pedestrians, motorists and other cyclists) DO notice what we are doing whether we like it or not.

      Looking out for your own safety is common sense and no one would expect you to do any different, but you’ve got to see that a “cars be damned” attitude is going to get you nothing but grief from drivers. We’re looking to reduce the hostility we experience, not increase it. That has absolutely nothing to do with PC (assuming you mean political correctness). I like to think I call it as I see it and certainly don’t think anyone here is pushing a PC agenda. Ride as you see fit is a recipe for chaos… and there’s too much of that out there already. Now you may be a very reasonable chap, who rides safely and is generally considerate of drivers and pedestrians, but others are not. Those riders are making it more dangerous for us to enjoy the sport we love. That fact is obvious and not debatable. We just need to figure out how to improve things. For many of us lacking the time or energy to work with an advocacy group the only thing we can do is to police ourselves.

      • Henry says:

        I don’t think Bicycles should be licensed. I don’t think they should do anything to discourage bicycle use.

        However obeying traffic laws has nothing to do with being ‘PC’. If you want to ride in the road you have got to respect local traffic laws. Nothing pisses people off like someone who demands that you follow the rules while they flaunt them.

      • and to illustrate my point I had two close calls today. First on my commute in I got squeezed right against the curb by, get this, a school bus. Must have come within a foot of me for the whole 35 feet of him. Four lane road, and nothing in the lane to his left. On the way home, I stop to make a left and just as I start to turn a cyclist blasts straight through, right to left in front of me. “Hey that was a stop sign” to which he responded “that’s for cars” He rode straight through the next stop sign while I turned right. I spotted him again about half a mile later crossing an eight-lane (4 x 4) intersection diagonally.

        I rest my case. There are jackasses on both sides.

        • Henry says:

          “I rest my case. There are jackasses on both sides.”

          I agree 100% Based on the fact that Florida has the worst cyclist fatality rate in the nation and my experience as a motorist in Miami I was expecting the worse when I got on my bike after moving here. I’ve been surprised by how many motorists go out of there way to be courteous, waving me through when they have the right of way, etc., So there is hope.

  11. kurt says:

    As Velo suggested, I am not advocating licensing,however, I am at a loss as to how to educate cyclist on basic safety measures without forcing them to be educated.

    Remember the statistic 50% bicycle related accidents are caused by the cyslist riding against traffic. I am confronted with this fact at least three times on every commute placing me and themselves at risk.

    These guys believe they are doing the right thing. How do you change that… with a warm an fuzzy poster? When I yell, “Wrong side of the road”, the response is “Why?”.

    Remember 30% of bicycle related accidents are caused by the cyslist riding on side walks. They are riding as if they are pedestrians, scaring pedestrians to death, surprising vehicles when they are backing out of their driveway.

    These guys believe they are doing the right thing. They think they are safe on the sidewalk, they are afraid of the road.

    I do not agree that licensing will deter anyone from riding. Thats like saying that people will not purchase a $1000 dog because of a $25 dollar licensing fee. Or fishing permit, or hunting permit…

    How do you identify rogue cyclist if they are not licensed? Oh the guy on the black bike with the colorful shirt and tight pants.

    So Mike how do you get the guys who are clearly causing %80 of the bicycle related accidents (in Miami) to ride in the direction of traffic and on the road? This is the question and I am afraid that “Ride as you see Fit” is not the answer.

    Escalating the frustration of drivers and pedestrians with inconsiderate riding will not improve our life and safety on the road.

    Now my question of how do we educate is not merely a rhetorical one. I am attending a meeting on Wednesday where Miami’s Bicycle Action Plan is being communicated to the public and feedback is being considered.

    It would be great to have a viable suggestion on the matter.

    I wonder Velo, did all of this calamity exist on your trips with the Rapha guys?

    • Kurt,

      The Rapha rides were uneventful. The rides out of Colorado Springs and Boulder had their share of traffic, but the guys rode responsibly. Stopped at all lights, signaled. Out in the wilds of AZ, CO, and NM drivers seemed courteous, waiting to overtake. Didn’t see any bad passes around the peloton on curves etc. Good piece along similar lines on Embrocation blog today.

  12. Henry says:

    I don’t think you will educate anyone by a fee system. You will piss people off and kill any support for any sort of program. There is no quick fix but I’d rather see police giving out tickets as an economic incentive. When I first moved to Doral I’d see an accident a day. Sometimes 2 or 3. I’d never seen anything like it anywhere. Doral recently got it’s own police dept. and they started ticketing like crazy. I haven’t seen an accident in months. It got rid of the most egregious illegal and aggressive driving behavior.

    Put up some posters warning of ticketing and spelling out what you should and should not do. The rest is time. The more cyclists there are in the streets behaving responsibly the more casual cyclists will be encouraged to follow suit and the more drivers will become accustomed to cyclists as normal part of traffic.

    • Henry says:

      Maybe they could put up share the road signs with an advisory that it is the law when passing cyclists to maintain 3 feet. Also signs about riding with traffic and not against it being the law. That would at least make motorists and cyclists aware that cyclists belong in the street and educate them about the most basic rules of the road.

      Baby steps first.

  13. Paul Etherington says:

    My personal view as a cyclist and a car driver is that most drivers don’t wish us any harm, and infact genuinely believe they give us enough room. I think it all comes down to poor spatial awareness. Maybe one way forward would be to add practical hazard awareness to driving lessons, instead of just as theory. The Highway Code ( i live in England) states that a car should give a cyclist the same amount of room as if they were passing a stationary or slower vehicle. The reality is however a little different!

  14. willy in pacifica says:

    I rode PBP in France a couple years ago and it was amazing how much patience the drivers had. Then again the riders were very considerate and most all of them obeyed the laws. The drivers would even signal as they went around us then when they returned to their lane.

    A funny story I tell about the ride is when I got up from one of my naps and started riding about 3am in the POURING rain. Most controls were at the top of some hill for some reason so when you left a control you headed down hill. As I got to the bottom of this particular hill there were a bunch of riders stopped at the intersection. I figured they were trying to figure out which way to turn. So there I am sitting in the pouring rain at 3am waiting for these guys to figure out which way to go when all of a sudden the light changes to green and they all take off. They were waiting for the light to change is all.

    I think the mutual respect between the drivers and riders is why eveyone in France gets along. I have a feeling it will never be that way over here in my lifetime. Maybe the trick is to move to France!!!!!

    • Paul Etherington says:

      I think one thing certainly that your experience illustrates to me is the difference between cultures where bikes are still held in high regard, and occupy a much higher staus in the national psyche. France does after all have arguably the worlds most famous bike race! I think it’s a real shame that as modern society has moved toward motor vehicles as primary transport and a status symbol, we move away from the purity, pleasure, and simple economy of cycling as a mode of transport. Clearly countries like France, Holland, and even China have much to teach us in this respect!

  15. kurt says:

    Okay Henri,
    I attended the Miami Bicycle Summet last night. The mayor was in attendance as was other city employees of various responsibility. I must admit, the plan was pretty comprehensive and will be quite an asset to the city if… let’s just say… when it is executed.

    I managed to avoid opening a discussion on licensing and forwarded the following suggestions on the education topic:

    More police riding bikes
    Find a way to actually get the commuting contingent the government rebate and use that interface time for education.

    You will be happy to know that signage is in their plans.

    I couldn’t help but daydream the words, “build it and they will come…”, while listening to their plans. Because if Miami is able to execute said plan with sharrows, bike lanes, bike corridors, signage, special space in front of cars at the stoplights, special green lights for cyclists, and more, it will be difficult not to know what to do.

  16. Bluey says:

    Just be thankful you don’t ride in Australia where we have the worlds worst drivers. They text and chat on their cellphones while they drive. Despite increased police testing they drive while drunk. And they are some of the worst speeders in the world. All this and they still don’t think bikes belong on the roads. Last week they published stats showing that cycling has the highest death rate of any sport in Australia.
    I ride 7 days a week and I can tell you, it’s all true! Pathetic.

    • That’s sad to hear. I’d have expected Australian’s general good nature to make the road situation better, not worse than over here. Looks like we’re all going to have to move to France following Willy’s advice.