A Culture War With Cyclists

Background Reading


Bicyclist illegally riding on the sidewalk.

Bicyclist illegally riding on the sidewalk.


We have already had StreetsBlog journalists ask the question whether riding on the sidewalk on Michigan Avenue was such a bad thing. It is. And given the outrage that cyclists display when their bike lane is violated by motorists, you would think they might be overly sensitive to behaving in a similar manner towards pedestrians. But they are not.

The justification for disobeying laws runs the gamut from:

  • “Who makes these dumb laws? Corporations, my friend. I do not obey corporate laws.”
  • Bicycles are different than cars so stop lights and stop signs should not apply to them.

The Double Standard

Every day African-Americans run the risk of being killed by police officers who pull them over for traffic violations and find themselves staring down the barrel of a gun. And yet whites on bikes are evidently immune to this sort of thing. About the worst that occurs is that they get a ticket for sidewalk riding. Or in the case of physical assault on a bus driver, they simply flee the scene and have their fellow white bicyclists try to make the case that the incident never even happened.

The Modest Proposals

The author of the article made these points:

These modest proposals and ordinances would protect all citizens. All lives matter, not just those of reckless bicyclists.

  1. Bicyclists should be forced to take a 40 hour course on the Rules of the Road and a riding test before being allowed to ride in public. They should be retested every five years.
  2. Cyclists should be issued a Bicycle Owners Identification Card (BOIC) upon passing the test. They must carry this card with them at all times while riding or in possession of a bicycle.
  3. Bicyclists should be limited to purchasing only one bicycle at a time from licensed bicycle shops. The selling of bicycles anyplace else will be prohibited.
  4. Bicycle dealers will be mandated to keep meticulous records on all bike and parts purchases.
  5. Bicyclists will be subject to enforcement of all Rules of the Road. Fines will start at $250.00 for minor infractions up to $1000.00 and a year in jail for major infractions, such as riding on sidewalk, failing to stop at red lights or stop signs, causing accidents, etc. All city employees will be empowered and encouraged to write citations to any and all bicycle lawbreakers.
  6. Bicyclists will pay to park their cycles on city streets, utilizing the parking boxes. They will pay the same rates as drivers.
  7. Bicycles will only be allowed to park in bike racks. The use of lamp posts, city sign poles, and other implements to chain bicycles will be forbidden. Cycles illegally parked will be subject to confiscation. In order to get the bicycle back, cyclists would need to present their BOIC and pay  a $500.00 fine.
  8. Bicyclists will be mandated to buy bicycle liability insurance and carry proof of insurance with them while riding their bicycles. This will ensure safer streets and compensation for injuries from reckless cyclists.
  9. All cyclists must wear a helmet, glasses or goggles. Bikes must have operating head and tail lights, turn signalls, and emergency sound device.
  10. All bicycles must be equipped with brakes.

These are merely modest proposals, subject to debate. The money generated from fines can be utuilzed to maintain bike lanes. It can and should be used to remove the blight and litter of ghost bikes, the illegal memorials to dead cyclists.

Most of these proposals make sense to me. I would strongly suggest that we entertain the notion that cyclists be educated. Much of what passes as conventional wisdom in the Urban Cycling Community is hearsay. And much of the hearsay is simply gibberish.

The Propaganda Storm

In a civil society it is expected that everyone learns their role in that society. Bicyclists have a great deal of learning to undergo. They are clearly of a mindset that they are the ‘bottom of the food chain‘ when it comes to transportation. They are not. That dubious honor belongs to people of color who are pedestrians.

We need to be as mindful of the pedestrians as we want motorists to be mindful of us. But clearly we have a misconception that when we behave badly in society our lack of mass makes us non-lethal. Nothing could be further from the truth.

No only can we do serious damage to pedestrians when we cut through their crosswalk rather than obeying the rule to stop when they are present, we can injure them without even going fast!

Bicycling Advocates Are A Waste Of Space

Unfortunately the folks who should be the most vocal in getting cyclists to understand their rights and responsibilities are among the worse at encouraging their ‘bad behavior‘ in the name of ‘forwarding the movement‘.

If they are to receive special tax breaks and be eligible for funding from governmental sources there needs to be some review of their behavior. What they say matters. If bicyclists feel that becoming part of the wider society is what will lead to their movement’s demise they are unlikely to be cooperative.