Cyclists Ignorance and Indifference Is Dangerous!

Background Reading


A cyclist zooms past the "look bikes" signage at Dearborn and Madison streets in Chicago on July 25, 2013. (Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune)

A cyclist zooms past the “look bikes” signage at Dearborn and Madison streets in Chicago on July 25, 2013. (Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune)






I found the Tribune article very refreshing. Everyone needs to have a better grasp of their responsibilities as well as their rights. But as the author puts it bicyclists do things on their vehicles that no sane driver would do given the same circumstances. Why is that?

Cross Education Is Necessary

Yes, having cyclists and motorists see the road and its challenges from one another’s perspective is essential. But I feel there is one missing ingredient and that is licensing. And in this instance I mean not just getting a piece of paper or a card that says you are allowed to drive, but also some means of visibly identifying the driver of any given bicycle in the same manner as is possible with an automobile.

The most important reason that motorists do not cross intersections on red lights (in the manner routinely adopted by virtually every cyclist I know) is anonymity. Not only are cyclists ignorant of most of the Rules of the Road but quite often ‘that ignorance is willful‘.

We spend far too many man-hours over beers establishing untruths that eventually solidify in the minds of the ignorant. Take for instance the notion that should a cyclist venture out into an intersection against the light that:

I am a conservative driver and more so as a cyclist.copx0 I do not see it as being hypocritical that I roll stop signs and will cross a street against a red light IF I see there is NO traffic coming. I would not do this in a car. Here is my reasoning, I will NOT kill anyone with my bike, my car could be lethal.

This paragraph reflects one of the cardinal fallacies of the cycling world:

Cars Kill, Bicycles Don’t

It is as if we have slept through the past several years of trials and deaths of pedestrians at the hands of cyclists without missing a beat. Bicycles do kill and we have the scalps to prove it!

A Simple License Plate Could Make All The Difference

All you have to do is visit a thread in the Chicago ‘Whine and Jeez Club’ Cycling Forum to realize that cyclists view their most lethal weapon against drivers as being their ability to take advantage of their enforced self-identification. That each legally operated vehicle has to carry a license plate is a plus for cyclists who want to report activities that they find disturbing.

But there is no simple means of ever identifying a cyclist. Ride with a hoodie or a beard or even a pink dress and witnesses to something you did are clueless as to who you really are. In fact if you hide the brand name of the bicycle you are riding under tape not even that fact can be used against you by a motorist, pedestrian or even a fellow cyclist to bring you to justice.

And so long as you feel empowered by this anonymity you will no doubt continue to do dumb things that hurt everyone including yourself. If you for instance misjudge an ‘empty intersection‘ during one of your numerous daily red light infractions and cause a motor vehicle to slam on its brakes and hit another car which in turn is thrown into the path of a pedestrian who ends up being crushed, none of the players in this drama will have a ghost of a chance of identifying who you are.

Urban Cyclist "Idaho Stop" Two-Step Variation

Urban Cyclist “Idaho Stop” Two-Step Variation

And worst yet, if you get hit during these Idaho Two Step maneuvers and die from our injuries every cyclist in the city will descend upon the driver as the villain, not you. But it will have been your silly and ignorant actions which set the ‘ball in play‘.

In fact had you been weaving in and out of traffic for the past several miles before you untimely demise no one would have been able to get your license plate number and help the cops piece together the mayhem you were wreaking along the way.

Cyclists Have An Edgy Relationship With Pedestrians

So here is the elephant in the room observation.
Pedestrians. I cannot for the life of me figure out what has happened. The simple rule that I grew up with of looking both ways before crossing a street has kept me safe.
In IL now all traffic should stop when a pedestrian enters the intersection. The issue I have as an autobobile driver and as a cyclist is that pedestrians have adopted a very dangerous and false belief that a perceived safety or sense of entitlement that nothing could go wrong by just continuing to walk as though no intersection existed.
As both a cyclist and as an automobile driver they are not often in clear view because of buses, trucks, larger cars and other cyclists.
The first 8 feet or so from the curb seems to be the real threat yet there is no more teaching of looking both ways. There are more cones and signage than you can shake a stick at but common sense that a mother could teach no longer seems to be required.

Joe like many other cyclists is appalled at the re-establishment of pedestrians as the ‘most vulnerable users‘ of the roadway. I view this as a good thing. Because pedestrians actually do die at a higher rate than cyclists they do in fact deserve the attention that everyone else should be giving them.

But more importantly cyclists have to within their own group decide whether they believe that the Pope of Bicycle Heaven is right or wrong on the issue of Jaywalking. He dismisses it as a construct offered up by motorists to help relieve them of their duty to be mindful of others. I think cyclists are finally beginning to see that the ‘shoe‘ of being mindful of others squeezes a bit more when it is on their feet, too.

We are so used to being cast in the role of the most vulnerable that we have almost forgotten what it means to Share The Road. As long as that conversation is merely between cyclists and motorists we feel confident that public opinion will remain on our side. But our actions as a class of user has ripped the blinders off of the general public as regards our lethality.

We can and do kill. And if pedestrians are to ever survive they are going to have to bring both motorists and cyclists alike to heel on the issue of their sovereignty in the crosswalks of our country. I applaud this new position carved out by legislations on their behalf.

I am a full of scorn for cyclists who feel ‘bummed out‘ that they cannot have to be mindful of pedestrians who:

have adopted a very dangerous and false belief that a perceived safety or sense of entitlement that nothing could go wrong by just continuing to walk as though no intersection existed

What they are doing is legal. When cyclists behave illegally by employed the Idaho Two Step maneuver they are not being legal. So I say, let’s collectively get over ourselves. We should pull up our ‘big boy pants‘ and join the ranks of motorists who have to be mindful of the people in the crosswalk. And for that matter who cross between intersections as well.