Bicyclists’ Arrogance Explored

Friday, February 27 by JerryFoster

Cranksgiving 2014 4Let’s face it – many people perceive bicyclists as arrogant. Let’s look at one too-typical letter to the editor, where  someone leads off with the arrogance charge, and see if we can determine the causes and underlying assumptions of this perception.

This letter to the editor of The Press of Atlantic City appeared in June 2012, and reads in full:

“Arrogant bicyclists endanger us all on roads.

It’s that time of the year again. Yup, the bicyclists are out in mass, riding two abreast and showing no respect for anyone’s vehicle except their own. They choose to ride on narrow two-lane roads with very narrow shoulders, which forces them into the auto lanes and is extremely dangerous for all.

Our county, township and state have spent thousands of dollars to construct bike paths for the many cyclists out there, so why do they have to infringe on our roadways?

I know we are supposed to share the road. But it’s not sharing the road when I and other drivers have to slow down and cross the median strip so that these clowns can talk to each other while out for their morning cruise.

If the above was not the norm, I could live with these arrogant bike riders. But most of them ride like they own the road. They actually taunt us to hit them. They run red lights, do not stop for walkers in the crossing lane, and get obnoxious when questioned about their actions.

I know that the police have more important things to do other than policing these bike riders, but something has to be done before someone is seriously injured by these cyclists’ callous actions.”

So, let’s look at the NJ laws that apply to bicycling on the road. Riding two abreast is permissible under NJ law (39:40-14.2) – “Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded…”

Also, bicyclists are required to ride in what the writer calls the “auto lane” – (39:40-14.2) “Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable” where 39:1-1 defines “‘Roadway’ means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the berm or shoulder.” The NJ Supreme Court ruled “a bicycle rider is directed to ride on the furthest right hand side of the roadway, not on the roadway’s shoulder.”

Perhaps in ignorance of the law, the writer believes that cars belong on the road and bicyclists don’t, e.g. “auto lane,” “infringe on our roadways.”

The writer complains that cyclists use the road even though “Our county, township and state have spent thousands of dollars to construct bike paths.” Implicit is the idea that cyclists don’t belong on the road because of the mistaken notion that only motorists pay taxes for bike paths and roads, e.g. “like they own the road.”

Also implicit is the idea that a motorist’s reason for being on the road is more important than the cyclists’ “morning cruise.”

There’s selective perception that cyclists disobey the law, e.g. “They run red lights, do not stop for walkers in the crossing lane,” implying that no motorist would ever do those same things.

The effect on the writer is “when I and other drivers have to slow down and cross the median strip.”

The writer imputes negative intentions to cyclists’ actions, e.g. “showing no respect for anyone’s vehicle except their own,” “They actually taunt us to hit them,” and “get obnoxious when questioned about their actions.”

The writer notes “something has to be done before someone is seriously injured by these cyclists’ callous actions,” perhaps not realizing that it is almost certainly the cyclists themselves who will be hurt in the event of a crash, not a motorist.

Unfortunately, the sentiments expressed by the writer are all too common, and build from ignorance to at least implicitly justify violence, all for the inconvenience of having to slow down and move over to pass. In the event of “serious injury” the writer will blame the victims, since the cause is “these cyclists’ callous actions.”

Perhaps you’re thinking to yourself – “this blogger is one of those arrogant cyclists.” Since we’re looking at calling other people arrogant, for a working definition let’s use “behaving in a way that makes me think you believe you are superior.”  I’ll respectfully suggest that others’ “arrogant behavior” is highly dependent on your own social and cultural values and expectations, and that sometimes just acting equal is enough to be called arrogant – like riding a bike in the roadway. Thoughts?

 

 

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Bike Commuter Journal – Where to Ride

Friday, May 2 by JerryFoster

Alexander Road Bike CommutersLet’s say you’re tired of winter, especially this winter, and you can’t wait to get back into shape for the beach (or whatever). Maybe you want to ride your bike to work to start working off the winter weight, but there’s a dicey road section, perhaps a 5 lane arterial, between your house and work. What are some of the strategies to ride safely?

Strategy 1 – avoidance – do some exploring and you might find a quieter road section, a trail, or a series of linked driveways and/or parking lots. Be aware that driveways and parking lots require 360 degree vigilance, but are generally low speed so you have decent reaction time. Like sidewalks, trails require vigilance at intersections.

Strategy 2 – the sidewalk – it’s legal to ride on the sidewalk in New Jersey, unless the municipality has an ordinance restricting riding on a specific section, typically in downtown areas with a lot of pedestrian traffic.  The sidewalk can be more comfortable if pedestrian traffic is minimal, but care must be taken at driveways and intersections since motorists do not usually look for bikes on sidewalks.

Strategy 3 – the road – New Jersey law grants cyclists the same rights and responsibilities as the driver of a motor vehicle.  Experienced cyclists prefer the road for predictability and getting there faster, but care must be taken to actively manage the traffic around you. This means being aware of the road and whether there are safe places for motorists to pass, and positioning yourself so that you are visible to motorists, both those approaching from behind and those at intersections looking for gaps in traffic.

It’s worth quoting the New Jersey Statute verbatim:

“39:4-14.2. Keeping to right; exceptions; single file

Every person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction; provided, however, that any person may move to the left under any of the following situations:

(a) to make a left turn from a left-turn lane or pocket;

(b) to avoid debris, drains or other hazardous conditions that make it impracticable to ride at the right side of the roadway;

(c) to pass a slower moving vehicle;

(d) to occupy any available lane when traveling at the same speed as other traffic;

(e) to travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded.

Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may travel no more than two abreast when traffic is not impeded, but otherwise shall ride in single file except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.”

The New Jersey Department of Transportation has an excellent website for bike commuters – see the Frequently Asked Questions for good advice regarding riding on the road safely.

A version of this post appeared in On the Move, the blog for the Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association.

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