Why Is Riding Against Traffic More Troublesome Than Running Red Lights?


There has been a discussion on ChainLink which is dissecting the practice of riding against traffic:

Riding Against Traffic……

Posted by El Dorado on November 14, 2012

The Wrong Way Wallop
© bicyclesafe.com

I’ve been seeing lots of bikers riding against traffic. I tried it myself & felt a little safer. I believe cars are more likely to see you & you can see the driver. I could anticipate who might run me over & move onto the sidewalk.

Reply by Joe Schmoe on Wednesday
1. It’s illegal
2. You’re no safer
3. You’re putting law-abiding cyclists at risk who are riding with traffic, and then have to go around you.
4. How are you going to “anticipate” who’s going to run you over? And riding on the sidewalk is illegal anyways.
5. Feeling safe and being safe are 2 totally different things.
6. Ride in the street, with traffic, or don’t ride.

Reply by Anne Alt on Wednesday
No, they’re less likely to see you because they’re not expecting someone to be coming straight at them.

Also, basic physics is NOT in your favor if you salmon. When you and an approaching vehicle are going towards each other, you have less time to react, a lot less time than if a vehicle was approaching from behind.

Just get a mirror and ride with the traffic, please. You’d be doing other cyclists a favor, too, because they have less time to react if you’re coming straight at them. Wouldn’t you it bother you if you seriously injured or killed another cyclist because you were riding the wrong way? I believe that you could be legally liable for that person’s injuries because you were breaking the law.

Would any of our Chainlinkers with legal knowledge care to speak to this issue?

Reply by notoriousDUG on Wednesday
Don’t be a moron.
You are not safer due to the fact that you are now entering intersections from the opposite position people are looking as well as the higher closing speed. If people pay so little attention that they don’t see you as they are over taking you do you think they are more or less likely to see you when the time it takes to close the distance between you lessens?
You are also forcing all of the people who ride as they are supposed to either into the door zone or out into traffic which, in itself, is kind of a jerk move.

Reply by Tony Adams on Wednesday
Salmoning is more prevalent in lower income neighborhoods. That has been my observation anyway. I see a lot of it on the south side, especially in places such as Pilsen and Englewood. I pretty much never see it in Lincoln Park.

Reply by Bill Savage on Thursday
I’ve noticed that most Salmoners are older men, often but not always African-American or Latino. I’ve been told that Back In The Day, when urban cycling was less common, riding against traffic was the norm. That said, I react to salmoners depending on demographics: anyone young enough to know better, I stay in my lane and make them swerve out into traffic (or, occasionally, cut into the cars-parked lane); if it’s an older guy (key details: no helmet, no gloves, often rickety old bike) I take the lane so they can continue in their wrong wrong-ways. As for salmoning myself, it’s situational: the occasional half-block on a one-way when there’s no auto traffic, sure, but in general I’ll go around several blocks of one-ways to avoid unsafe riding.

Reply by Mike Murray 20 hours ago
Well I just had a terrible experience because of someone riding against traffic….It was on Devon Ave just west of Harlem off of a small side street with a red light. I looked right to check if it was safe (no pedestrians) and then left and saw there were no cars coming so I preceded to turn. Right as I turned a cyclist and I collided head on…..luckily I was going very very slowly so noone was hurt including the cyclist and bicycle, but it was really scary…. I don’t believe it was my fault but if someone would have been hurt it would have been terrible…. I learned from that not to ride against traffic. When I ride I have a mirror on my glasses so I can see what is coming from behind without turning my head….This seems to work really well…. My license plates are the new states ones for bicycle education and say FUN2 BK…. The bicyclist continued on and did not stop at all but I pulled over for a moment and took several deep breaths….

Reply by Mike Murray 19 hours ago
Forgot to mention this though….I’m 64 and when I began riding bicycles we were taught to ride against the traffic….so as someone mentioned it figures old riders might not be aware of the current thinking….or sticking to what they learned as a child.

Reply by El Dorado 6 hours ago
I’ve seen Chicago bike cops riding against traffic. Have there ever been real quality studies done to show which is safer?

Reply by WalkThroughWater 5 hours ago
Riding against traffic is a great way for getting hit by a turning car because they don’t expect people biking the opposite direction and don’t really look for it (if they look for bikes at all). Don’t do it.

Reply by notoriousDUG 55 minutes ago
I know this is trolling but it does raise an interesting point:
I have seen bike cops ride against traffic, without lights and in the sidewalk. Do they know the laws?

If you analyze these comments you get the following “truths” about why the practice of riding against traffic (or what ChainLinkers like to call “salmoning“) is frowned upon by the “real” urban cyclists. Sarah Palin is fond of using the modifier “real” in from of the word “American” to identify (in coded form) white GOP voters (i.e. “makers”) as opposed to blacks and hispanics (i.e. “takers”). And in the context of the ChainLink you always have to understand their subtextual code words for themselves. They are “real” cyclists. The very idea that anyone would ask about “salmoning” when it is clear that this is a practice more common in “lower income neighborhoods” (read niggers and spics) is offensive.

Here then are the salient points regarding the practice of riding against traffic:

  1. It is illegal – This is hilarious  when mentioned in this context. Randy Cohen the patron saint of all “real” urban cyclists has given his blessing to practices which are illegal but ethical. And you will find no end of acceptance of this mantra. So who in their warped thinking thought to use this argument is amusing.
  2. You’re no safer – Yes but it is as Randy Cohen likes to point out my skin that is at stake here. So anyone choosing to do this should not be questioned, right?
  3. You’re putting law-abiding cyclists at risk who are riding with traffic, and then have to go around you – This is really delicious. I wonder who these law-abiding cyclists are? Oh, I know, they are the “real” urban cyclists. And by definition they must be law abiding for this argument to make any sense. The very notion that they too might be scofflaws cannot be entertained.
  4. Feeling safe and being safe are 2 totally different things – Oops! He could not have meant this one to escape his keyboard. That reflects badly on the notion of those pretty green protected bike lanes and their ability to actually keep you safe. In Portland the latest and greatest twist on these lanes is the addition of bike boxes, but problems have arisen (see article).
  5. Ride in the street, with traffic, or don’t ride – ChainLinkers hate it when you preach at them about breaking the law. You can get kicked off their site if you write blog entries like this. For them, whatever they  decide collectively, is truth. Make that “real” truth the kind that only white urban cyclists could possibly understand. If you people of color cannot or will not obey the will of the collective then get the hell off our streets.
  6. Also, basic physics is NOT in your favor if you salmon – Of course running a red light is not likely to result in a demonstration of basic physics that turns out to be in your favor either. If you doubt this read this article.
  7. Salmoning is more prevalent in lower income neighborhoods – See as I explained before this is really a thread about the value systems (or mores) of “real” urban cyclists versus those of the niggers and spics who clog up our bike lanes with their antics. What on earth would possess them to do such things?
  8. I’ve noticed that most Salmoners are older men, often but not always African-American or Latino.  I’ve been told that Back In The Day, when urban cycling was less common, riding against traffic was the norm – Now this bit of explanation is delivered by someone who thinks that as a Liberal they probably need to take the edge off the coded language. But hey once you have said what you have been thinking out loud, you have little chance of un-ringing that bell. It should be noted that the teachings being referred to here were exported overseas and to other countries by us. We are now distraught that immigrants from those same countries or blacks of a certain age who were taught our “truths” are making it difficult for us to adopt a new paradigm. One more reason why these “takers” should be banished from our midst. Too bad Romney lost, right? Otherwise we could have a whole lot of “self-deportation” going on.
  9. I’ve seen Chicago bike cops riding against traffic – ChainLinkers have been known to express (how shall I put this delicately) a deep dissatisfaction with the boys and girls in blue. But they do not like to have it brought up that they are likely to behave as badly as the “takers” but then again a lot of them are people of color, so perhaps that explains the problem, right?
  10. I have seen bike cops ride against traffic, without lights and in the sidewalk.  Do they know the laws? – You really have to have been lurking on the ChainLink for quite a while to realize just how brazen a question that second sentence is. You could ask the very same thing of each and every ChainLinker who sees nothing significant in running red lights or blowing stop signs. But you would get a great deal of “blow back” from this crowd, because you have either demonstrated that you are not a “real” urban cyclist or worse yet a (wait for it) “troll”. This particular poster likes to know the pedigree of other posters to actually judge whether they are “real” urban cyclists (see his response here).

Dissecting The Red Light Blow Through

Okay, so we know that these yokels are a bit racist and arrogant and self-absorbed (perhaps I am being redundant?) but they control the ChainLink Forum and if you rub them raw by giving them pushback you can kiss your membership in this select club, “goodbye”. So let’s not judge the merits of their argument against “riding against traffic” but rather dissect the Red Light Two Step they do when venturing through an intersection with at most six lanes. The inside lanes are left turn lanes and the other two outside lanes in each direction are for right turns or continuing through the intersection.

Here is a verbal description of this maneuver:

  1. Without coming to a complete stop with feet on the ground you stand on the pedals and scan left and right to consider when to venture across the two outermost lanes. Most of the cyclist I have witnessed doing this come to a track stand.
  2. If necessary you center yourself first in the rightmost lane and continue to look towards your left before crossing the middle lane.
  3. Once you are centered on the left turn lane you prepare yourself to deal with left turning vehicles from the right. Many cyclists actually turn right and venture into the left turn lane of the other side of the roadway. Some actually ride against the traffic into the left turn lane so as to avoid getting caught by police in the intersection when the light is still red.
  4. If you make it to the left turn lane for the other side of the roadway and middle and far right lanes are not cleared you turn and face in the direction of left turning traffic and wait.
  5. If you eventually determine that the middle and far right lanes are freeing up you can then turn and ride against traffic again until you can safely execute a U-Turn that places you in the right hand lane and then make a right turn through the intersection.

Now I know that my description is a bit awkward and that for many of you “non-real” cyclists this might be a foreign sight, but trust me I have seen it executed too many times to not know that there is someone somewhere who is sharing this technique with “real” urban cyclists. In fact the last time I saw this maneuver executed it was here in my home town in the suburbs, so the practice is widely disseminated.

Now I ask you in all fairness does this maneuver violate any of the points leveled at people of color who are “salmoning” on city streets. If you are honest you will have to agree that not only does it share some of the same failings mentioned in the first analysis, but in many ways is a far more dangerous way to ride than even “salmoning”.

Now I ask again, what the heck makes these tight-assed hipsters so certain that their view of the world is the right one. They choose to get legalistic whenever it suits their purposes. And they readily admit that they associate some scofflaw behavior with “people of color”. Why should I be any more accepting of them than I would be of a GOP spin doctor trying to sell me on the merits of drinking their Kool-Aid?

How ironic that a group like urban hipster is so much like the GOP Faithful who listen to Fox News and worship Sean Hannity and Anne Coulter. All that would be needed is to learn that their next Halloween Party is being hosted by Rush Limbaugh or James BlackHeron and I would be there in a New York minute.

Nothing would please me more than to sit at the feet of Gabe “the south and west sides are shitholes” of ChainLink “bad boy” fame and drink in his “wisdom” while planning to show those suburbanites who are forking over real money to do the L.A.T.E. Ride how to “audit” the ride and exhibit the kind of anti-social behavior that only Gabe knows how to elicit from us all.

OK. I guess my quota of snarky-ness has been reached for this evening. Gotta rest up for the next round of stupid, racist, self-absorbed musings likely to develop tomorrow. And my thanks to El Dorado for providing such a thread to feast upon. You are my kind of knucklehead, homie.