Cutting One Another Some ‘Slack’

Background Reading


Three generations using the footway to avoid cycling on a rough cobbled surface with rat-run drivers.

Three generations using the footway to avoid cycling on a rough cobbled surface with rat-run drivers.

Footway cycling is such a hot topic in the UK – completely out of proportion to the danger it poses – whereas here in Berlin it seems pretty much accepted.

Maybe it’s because the demographics of who cycles are so different here – a footway cyclist in Berlin is more likely to be an old woman with shopping than the UK’s stereotype “yob in a hoodie.”

It doesn’t help that nobody under the age of 8 is legally permitted to cycle on the road, however quiet that road may be. How the German lawmakers expect parents to cycle with their young children, I don’t know.

Also, like the UK, the authorities sometimes put up a sign permitting cycling on a footway, for no discernible reason. This, like the under-8 rule, accustoms people to cycling on the footway.

I expect the main reason for this rule is that those responsible for designing Germany’s streets don’t have to consider the needs of children. And it shows.

The main roads in Berlin are fast and hostile, while many of the quieter residential streets are surfaced in horrible bumpy cobble stones with huge tyre-swallowing gaps between them. (And this isn’t just historical – these stones are renewed.) And very few streets are filtered, meaning two-way through-traffic uses the back streets as a short cut.

So every time you see someone cycling on the footway, instead of cursing the person on the bike, contact your local representative asking why there is nowhere safe to cycle.

Nobody cycles on the footway because it’s faster, or smoother, or more convenient. It’s not, it’s usually slow and inconvenient and fiddly. People only cycle on the footway when the conditions on the road are too unpleasant.

To stop footway cycling, we have to create the right conditions away from it.

The people in these photos aren’t criminals. They’ve been let down by a criminally negligent government that has failed to provide somewhere safe and attractive to cycle.


Cyclists are a very clever lot. They always manage to frame the problems of the world so as to position themselves as ‘victims‘.

The Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez Club’ Cycling Forum has a thread labeled: Cars in the bike lane. It is part of the classic whine-fest that goes on nearly once a week or more when someone driving an automobile invades their space.

So in an effort to dissuade criticism of us for unlawfully using the sidewalks this is the sort of excuse that is presented:

So every time you see someone cycling on the footway, instead of cursing the person on the bike, contact your local representative asking why there is nowhere safe to cycle.

It Certainly Sounds Great!

When the Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez Club’ Cycling Forum discussed the situation where pedestrians were using the bike lane, these were some of the responses given:

Are pedestrians allowed in the Kinzie bike lane?
Posted by Christine Price on October 22, 2012

On the East bound side there is no sidewalk for a portion of the lane, but there is a sidewalk on the other side of the street. Sometimes there’s pedestrians there; this morning it was a person with a water bottle getting their power walking in.

I’m I correct in thinking that she should have been on the other side of the street, on the sidewalk? Or are pedestrians welcome in the protected lane?

… and what’s the legality of lance-mounted tasers? Because I totally want one now. Ugh.

Reply by notoriousDUG 12 hours ago

They should not be there but they are entitled morons too lazy to cross to the other side of the street where there is a sidewalk.

The part that I think is interesting is how few of them would walk out in the street in car traffic but feel perfectly OK walking in bike traffic; only self preservation prevents ignorant behavior.

Reply by Cheryl 12 hours ago

Yes. And I always find this so interesting in light of all of the wailing by pedestrians in the comments to any bicycle news item about a friend’s aunt’s cousin who was hit and killed by a bicyclist.

Reply by h’ 11 hours ago

I don’t see this lane on a typical day, but if this is a regular occurance I would take it to mean the same thing that it means when you see cyclists riding on the sidewalk– that there’s an infrastructure need that’s not being met.

The problem is that cyclists have no idea of the Golden Rule of Cycling:

The Golden Rule of Cycling

The Golden Rule of Cycling

In fact the subject of ‘preachiness‘ came up this past week:

Controversial Opinion: we cyclists are too preachy

Perhaps the thread should have been titled more along the lines of ‘who do we think we are being critical of motorists for doing what we do‘? That is the crux of the issue that I have with my fellow cyclists.

We are evidently the universal gene pool for ‘whining‘. Our cultural musical appetite should be centered around listening to the ‘Blues‘. Nothing that happens to us is our fault, it is always the fault of either the local government that is deemed ‘negligent‘ or the fault of automobile drivers who frighten us into ‘bad behavior‘.

But we both know this is a load of crap. The AlleyCat races and Messenger versus taxi cab videos that we make are all about our ability to conquer the hated automobile. We don’t seem to really need a 3-Feet Law because we can ride hanging onto any vehicle we choose to ‘hitch a ride‘ on. We love to filter between vehicles in congested areas as if they were docile elephants that we had to wade through.

Contrary to our protests we find it exhilarating to ride against traffic when we conduct Critical Mass Rides and our Idaho Two-Step Maneuver belies our supposed fears that red lights are not obeyed:

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

We manage to get away with all this ‘bad behavior‘ because we cultivate ‘little lapdogs‘ who are willing to do our bidding. It is a bit like the GOP which has managed to convince the Average American that it was Obama and not Bush who presided over the Great Financial Collapse. This group of political hacks is of the opinion that if you tell a lie often enough and with the greatest fervor it will be believed.

And you know what, they are right?! Cyclists are on a mission to lie their way through any episode of ‘bad behavior‘ by blaming their lapses on automobiles or pedestrians. It really does not matter which.

What matters is that the blame never come back to haunt them. Arrogance is the byword of our community.