Please Ride Legally

Having spent my lunch reading over the spew that is the Seattle Post-Intelligencer comments board, I’d ask that the hugger readers take at least a few of these car-focused comments to heart. Let’s not blow red lights. Let’s at least make an effort to stop at stop signs. Let’s be safe when/if riding on the sidewalk. There are a lot of people working very hard to improve the position of the cyclist in the roads, so please make their job easier by following the rules - even just a little bit.


I’m with you, Andrew, and I’ll do my best to be good. Sheesh…the spew is really making my stomach churn. I just can’t see what motivates so much hate.

Lately I’ve mellowed my riding style just a little in order to seem less aggressive to cars. This means most of the time I will wait behind the cars in front of me at a light rather than scooting up to the front (what is the legality of that anyway?), and I usually assume any car that passes me is going to turn and cut me off with out signaling, so I back off it a little just to prevent conflict, even if they are supposed to be aware of me.

I’m by no means the perfect rider, but I try to prevent the situations that seem to really piss drivers off (even if the cyclists are within their rights). This is my personal response to those “if cyclists want to be treated like traffic then they need to start following the rules…” comments that are the primary comeback to any issue of cyclist safety/rights.

I really don’t see that many cyclists who blatantly run lights and cut off traffic, etc., but I think the little things (such as catching up to a car at a light that just passed you) add up in drivers mind to create this mentality that “most” or “many” cyclists are out there ignoring the laws, running over pedestrians (I mean really, does this ever happen?), and intentionally impeding traffic.

I’ve taken care to read and heed the Illinois traffic laws as they apply to bicycles. This still pisses off some motorists who just go nuts at the sight of a bike (never mind the sight of a bike in the left turn lane), but it’s probably safer all the same.

I’m with you too…and I got a good reminder of how much I’ve gone on autopilot about stop signs.  I always stop for lights.  Haven’t blown a light in years.  Stop signs on the other hand…

I rolled through a stop sign by my office the other day.  It’s the one next to occidental park in pioneer square.  At 8 AM, that place is almost always emtpy.  So I roll right through there on a daily basis.  Last week, I happened to do this right in front of a moto cop, who proceeded to roll up next to me and as me if I know what a stop sign meant.  I had to sheepishly answer that I knew what it meant.  I didn’t get a ticket, but I definitely felt stupid about it. 

It’s even more stupid because I’m a total hypocrite about it with the red lights.  I’ve yelled at people for riding stupid through traffic and blowing lights…I can do that cus I stop for lights right?  Nevermind that I’m horrible about stop signs… 

Although…I did get a bit self righteous with a hipster two weeks ago.  He pulled up next to me at a light riding a old converted singlespeed with steel rims and only an old weinman centerpull brake installed on the front.  No helmet…blew through the light.  I caught up with him later and told him he was nuts for riding a bike like that through traffic.


It takes very little effort to wait at a light.  If you take a sec to smile at a driver - chances are you’ll go a ways at improving bike/car relations by showing them, “hey - look at me obeying the law”.

I also make an effort to get left in the right lane at a light to make room for right turning traffic - but only those who signal, because they don’t signal - screw ‘em :).

Tim K,

I find that no matter what the topic (bikes, environment, religion, etc), anonymous internet posting (ironically, like that I am using right now) has created a frenzy really nasty, personal-attack-based commenting. I also literally feel ill after I read some of that back-and-forth, and as a result I almost never wade into the PI feedback forums anymore (not that it is exclusive to the PI by any means).

It makes me lose faith in the power of the internet to provide forums for civil debate and cross-flow of ideas. Instead each side seems to be building their “fortress of truth” and attacking anyone who dares disagree.

I’ll try harder on the stop sign thing too.

BTW, one thing I’ve got pretty decent mileage out of lately… I wave and smile (W&S) at anyone who treats me with respect when I’m on the bike.

That includes people who don’t pull out in front of me when I’m heading down an arterial with the right of way, people who wait instead of making a right hand turn in front of me, and people who let me into traffic. Basically if someone has the opportunity to kill me and they don’t, they get the W&S.

Most people seem surprised and pleased bythe positive reinforcement. I can’t help think the good feelin’ will pay off for the next rider they run across. Who knows, that rider might be me!

Ha! That’s funny, I was about to mention my “Thanks for not killing me wave.”

Like most commuters, I’m often in a rush to get home. I’ve blown my share of stop signs. I’ll officially do my part to make the world a better place for my fellow cyclists by trying to be less of a jerk on the road. (It’ll be hard, I’m not that much of a jerk, but I’ll do my best :-) ).

Andrew, it’s always good to be courteous in traffic but waiting at a traffic light is actually very strenuous if you add in the effort it takes to get up to speed.

Here’s a link with quote:
“For example, on a road with stop signs every 300ft (100m), 500watts of power will result in the same speed as 100 watts would get on a road without stop signs.  Since 500watts is far higher than all but racing cyclists can produce, bicyclists on road with stops signs must slow dramatically.”

A consultant told me that each stop increases required effort equivalent to lengthening the ride by 80 meters, assuming a flat road and a speed of 20 km/h.

On top of that, consider that many traffic lights are set up in green waves for motorists going at 50 km/h or so. In city traffic that means cyclists see a lot more red lights than motorists.

So again, be courteous, but don’t say the rules are fair, because they’re not.

Erik - I get your mechanics comment conceptually, but who said anything about traffic laws needing to agree with conserving kinetic energy?  Good luck explaining that one to an angry motorist or judge.

Andrew, traffic rules need to accomodate the needs of road users. Having the green wave favor motorists sometimes goes against that. It doubly penalises cyclists, making it slower _and_ more work.

Sure bad cyclist behaviour works against bicycling campaigns. But admonishing people won’t help unless you acknowledge that the game is rigged from the start.

Like this: the first step to changing the rules is to follow them.

Are you recommending round-abouts then or something?  I like those - save momentum for cars and bike alike.  I’m sure the work penalty for stoping and starting a car is far worse than for a cyclist.

Who said cycling wasn’t work anyway? :)

Amen brother,
I drive and ride a bike.  I am constantly aware of how much we need to share these roads and give deference to bikers when I am driving.    My biggest gripe is riding the wrong way on a one way street.  A big issue here in Brooklyn.

Thank you for posting this.  I just got done reading the “Bike Master Plan” article in the Seattle Times. Maybe not everything we could ask for but pretty good all the same. Then I made the mistake of reading the comments.  Ack…

It’s hard for me to imagine the anger that is out there.  I’ve luckily had very few incidents on the road while riding but to read those comments its as if we’re riding through some sort of war zone every morning.  Fear is a scary thing!!!

I also employ the “thanks for not killing me wave” and it’s funny because I did it this morning and thought, “wow I should mention this in our blog”.  Good to know that we’re thinking the same way. 

I must respectfully disagree with you all.  While I will make an effort not to antagonize anyone, I will not start obeying a traffic law I feel was written without me in mind.  Just as almost every pedestrian and every driver does, I will continue to follow only those laws I feel I need to without harming others or getting arrested.

There is a balance between activism and practicality, and I feel that we can advance our cause without needing these types of measures which so diminish the usefulness of the bicycle as transportation.

That said, I appreciate your symbolic stand on this issue.  This is simply my stand and I would not discourage anyone from stopping at all stop signs and red lights if they feel it is the right thing to do.

As much as I’d like to respect your right to self-governance, it’s the cyclists that run red lights and blow stop signs that creates animosity towards those of us who wait out the lights.

i don’t think blowing stop-signs is what’s pissing people off. what’s pissing people off is their perception that that cyclist in front of them is slowing them and their beemer down in some kind of significant way. i was sideswiped by someone attempting to pass me on lakeview - the part with the physical lane barrier - and shattered my wrist. since then, i’ve been assertive about taking the lane when i don’t feel comfortable with people passing me (or where it’s illegal), as this is a right that the law affords cyclists. this makes for intensely mad drivers, and on some occasions, extremely close and aggressive passes, and even threats of violence at the next stoplight (which i stop at), all because they had to go 20mph for a block.

i think i understand where you’re coming from, that cyclists need to respect the rule of law, but i disagree intensely with your hypothesis- what problem drivers want (and that’s who we’re talking about appeasing) is not for us to “obey the law,” but to have us out of their way as soon as possible. obeying traffic signals is just something they can call foul on and hide what they really mean behind the cloak of law- “get a car!”.

If you read much of the comments - the crux of their argument is that cyclists are lawless car-haters.  Car-Hater - sure, but I do my best to follow the rules.  I’d rather not arm them with that argument.  What you describe about taking the lane IS LEGAL.  If they want to blow their horn about it - I’ll gladly discuss the legality of such actions at the next light.  Passing on the right? - I’m all for it since it’s LEGAL.  Blatantly blowing a red light, even if it’s “safe” to do so, isn’t going to make me any friends, and I can’t very well argue my point on that one.

Angry drivers are just angry - not much we can do to help them with their rotten upbringing and small unit issues, but I’d rather stay on the right side of the law for the rest of them.

Drivers seem to want the cyclists to follow every law to the letter, while the drivers fudge a little here and there.

Cyclists seem to want the drivers to follow every law to the letter, while the cyclists fudge a little here and there.

I suspect the same holds true for pedestrians as well.

We’re all hypocrites to one degree or another.

(Preemptive snarky comment: If you’re one of those rare individuals who follows every traffic law all the time, then the above does not apply to you.)

The reason I, as both a driver and a cyclist, get so angry about cyclists disobeying the law (or just doing stupid things, like lane-splitting in 5 o’clock traffic while texting or drinking coffee or both) is because it scares me. I’m terrified that I’m going to either run into/over someone myself or be forced to witness the death/serious injury of another human being—these are things I really do NOT want to spend my time or energy dealing with.

And if I -did- hit a cyclist while in/on a motor vehicle, I’d stop, call 911, and administer whatever first aid I could, though I’d probably be yelling at them the entire time for their stupidity.

My anger doesn’t stem from hate for cyclists, nor do I think that as someone utilizing an internal-combustion engine I’m somehow superior/more deserving of the road—it’s all an outgrowth of the deep fear of having to watch someone get themselves killed.

(In the interests of full disclosure: I ride a scooter, which is nearly as bad as riding a bike for having drivers of cars and trucks ignore you or treat you like you’re not supposed to be on the road.)

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