Sunday, January 24, 2010

Hey spitting cyclist...

The other night, a friend of mine was spit on by a cyclist. If this doesn't totally surprise you, you must also live in NYC, land of the special breed of asshole bikers. He had the right of way, was walking across the street and when he didn't run to get out of the way (so the bike could run a red light) the guy on the bike responded by spitting on him, like some kind of evil human-visitor hybrid child.

Hey spitting cyclist, is this your mom?

In response to this incident he made a great point, saying something like: 'Until bicycle advocates can get these kind of people under control, they're not going to get very far with their cause.' I couldn't agree more.

Morons who run red lights, ride the wrong direction and break other traffic laws on bicycles undermine everything that we bicycle culture advocates work for. He's justified, I think, in wanting to lobby for stricter bicycle legislation after this incident.

I also think part of the issue here is that NYC doesn't have a positive, shared cycle culture. There is a cultivated rebel-attitude with some cyclists. They're against the grain and against the world - and thereby also against traffic laws and pedestrians and everything else that stands in their way as they hurtle down the dark streets at night, with no lights paying no attention to where they're going.

I'm not one for laws, but traffic laws make a lot of sense. You have, on the one hand many-ton masses of metal hurling down the road, then you have all these delicate packages of bones and flesh walking across the roads, and then you have some more delicate packages of bones and flesh precariously perched on two temporarily balanced wheels flying down the road as well. Without traffic laws, and car/pedestrian/bicycle friendly infrastructure, that combination is a disaster.

But in a society where you have strong bicycle infrastructure and culture, the asshole who rides the wrong way on a bike seems as crazy as someone driving a car the wrong way down a street - and he'll get called on it.

Rush Hour
Danish cycle infrastructure/culture at rush hour.

Cycle culture is a beautiful thing, as you dear readers know, one can even ride safely while drinking a beer.

I've written before about the delivery guys who ride the wrong way, without lights, in bicycle lanes and act shocked when they encounter you going the right way. I've written about the run-red-lights-or-don't debate, these are persistent problems. And NYC keeps building these beautiful but limited bicycle lanes that run for small stretches or aren't segregated from car traffic or are removed because of neighborhood complaints, but it doesn't seem to be getting any better out there for cyclists or pedestrians.

So, what's next, what do we do? Do we legislate the bicycles, register the cyclists, enforce the traffic laws, increase penalties?

Hey spitting cyclist, is this your mom eating lunch?

On the one hand, traffic laws must apply to bicycles, on the other hand, there are so many places where you can ride in a bicycle lane and it suddenly ends or turns into a sidewalk, at which point you find yourself unintentionally breaking the law. So how do we enforce traffic laws when there isn't a bicycle infrastructure to enforce them within?

What's the most important thing we can do to move toward building a solid bicycle culture in this city? I argue it's infrastructure, other ideas?

At the least, I hope we can all agree that the spitting cyclist is an ass and he should have his cycling privileges taken away, along with his ability to salivate surgically removed...


Richard said...

Last year a friend of mine died in a bicycle accident.
Had he been using bicycle turn signals this accident would not have occurred.

Every safety bicycle expert agrees that having a $40 turn signal would save countless lives and thousands of terrible injuries.
I purchased mine at


Beth B said...

I have to agree with you on this post too! I always follow the traffic signals, and I think it's awful that so many cyclists don't. We ask drivers to share the road with us, so why can't we share the road with them?

At the same time, I hate that pedestrians don't respect bikers as vehicles either. I've seen people run to cross a street when they don't have a walk sign - causing me to have to brake at a green light. In a car I would honk my horn, but a bike bell hardly does justice! I'm not going to spit on somebody though. That's just shitty.

I guess wrapping that up would be that we all need to respect each other. Cars - don't be dicks and hog the road. Bikers - act like you're in a car, even though you're cooler for riding a bike. Pedestrians - watch where you're going. I think that covers everything! :)