Bicyclists’ Arrogance Explored

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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2 Responses to “Bicyclists’ Arrogance Explored”

  1. Chris Scherer says:

    The argument that so much money has gone to ‘bike paths’ could also be applied to bus routes, trains, and sidewalks, all of which surely have billions of dollars behind them. In fact, why shouldn’t motorists be pushed to use bike paths, too? Similarly, who is to judge the ‘reason’ bicyclists (or motorists, for that matter) are out on the road (i.e., ‘for their morning cruise’? My bet is that many more millions of miles are attributed to short or long trips for mere pleasure or, better yet, trips that could have been taken on foot or by bicycle. As for breaking the law, bicyclists are subject to tickets, as are motorists who pass too closely (PA has a four foot law; the NJ State Assembly passed a bill ( for a four foot law, pending Senate and Governor approval before becoming law). The concern about doing something ‘before someone is seriously injured by these cyclists’ must also apply to motorists. In the US, there are over 30,000 traffic fatalities annually, of which >600 are bicyclists (627/17 in NJ and 1,286/11 in PA for total/bicyclists in 2011). I’m just guessing, but will bet that the vast majority of the total are caused by motorists. While anti-bike-ism is strong in the US, other societies have learned to embrace them and feel all sorts of benefits: less pollution, better health, less expense on cars, and (dare I say) closer knit communities and happier people.

  2. Sam Bunting says:

    I agree 100%. I would also point out that although some cyclists undoubtedly break the law, cyclist error contributes to a disproportionately small number of roadway collisions. Enhanced enforcement against cyclists therefore has no basis in statistics. Letters advocating crackdowns against cyclists are therefore not just misguided, but representative of hatred against a vulnerable, minority out-group. My opinion is that these letters should not be considered acceptable. As long as cyclists are being injured and killed on roads that were designed with cars in mind, and as long as people walking or cycling cannot assume the protection of the law, we should challenge the mindset that it is somehow the fault of ‘arrogant cyclists’.



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