Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Despite the name of this column (blog is such an unattractive word) I cycle as much as I drive. After a particularly great week biking, and following several weeks of quality Fords, Mazdas and BMWs, here are some tips for all the 2- and 4-wheeled boneheads out there.


Being alive trumps being right.
Your principles bore us. There will always be lousy drivers cutting you off. Don’t chase them, screaming. Scientific research proves that in the fight between steel and flesh, steel typically wins. Get over yourself and let them be.

Shut up with the bell, already. You sound like an ice cream vendor.
Unless you’re mute, use your voice to warn others that they’re in your way. Better still, Tinkerbell, simply slow down and go around them.

Wear a helmet or forfeit your healthcare.
Head injuries are permanent. Think you look silly in a helmet? Picture yourself in adult diapers. When nervous drivers see bareheaded daredevils taking chances in traffic, they illogically become more nervous and consequently a greater danger to you.


Signal, you putz!
You’ve chosen the lazier option by choosing to drive. But that’s more than lazy when you can’t move your finger to warn everyone else of your intentions. It’s two steps from manslaughter.

Yes, the bike didn’t stop. Neither did you.
Many drivers get irate at bikes ignoring stop signs. (Big shout-out to suburban soccer moms in foreign crossovers!) But it’s really unfair to call out cyclists when you practice the same sins. ‘Stop’ happens when the earth and the sky both are no longer moving. Try it sometime.

You want get to work faster? Move closer to work.
Few joys beat captaining your own vessel through choppy urban waters. But it’s often not the fastest way to work during rush hour. While being rude to other drivers can make you feel right, being rude to cyclists, even when they’re wrong, can make you feel the claustrophobia of the backseat of a police car. Cyclists can skim around traffic obstructions. You can’t. Accept it. You chose to drive.

If you really want to get to work faster, use public transit or get a bike.

Image courtesy of Troy Holden.


12 thoughts on “Can’t We All Just Get Along?”

  1. Good article. Nice to see someone looking at both sides.

    Responses to points:

    1. Agree, though some gentle cursing often calms me down when dealing with stupid drivers.

    2. Agree mostly. Also, pedestrians should listen to you, and avoid taking both lanes of a pathway.

    3. Wearing a helmet is a good idea. However, forced wearing of helmets will simply reduce the number of cyclists, which reduces safety for the remaining cyclists. And in some cases helmets are an inconvenience to worry about at the destination. Would drivers enjoy carrying their steering wheel around at a bar? (Or their helmet, since head injuries are also a good chunk of injuries in car crashes.)

    Also, drivers how are nervous around cyclists will pass slower and give more passing space, right? That is a bad thing how?

    4. Amen brother.

    5. Right on. Also, a very quick and simple way to improve the efficiency (and safety, really) of biking would be to pass Idaho stop laws. Basically turning stops into yields and red lights into stops for cyclists. Efficiency improvements are obvious, and safety improvements stem from less interaction between cyclists and mass groups of cars at intersections.

    6. Or walk. Always the simplest form of transportation.

  2. Until people on bikes start behaving like any other vehicle they deserve no respect! There’s no middle-ground. You cannot blaze through on the right side vehicles and cut across the pedestrian crossing, block pedestrians crossing, cut in front of the vehicles turning right. Police are too lenient on people on bikes. They need to be pulled off the road like any person incapable of following the rules of the road.

  3. Art — there are stupid, discourteous, and dangerous drivers and there are stupid, discourteous, and dangerous cyclists. And from where I sit, both on a saddle, and behind a wheel, a lot more of the former. Every cyclist is aware of them, because you don’t have to ride very far before you have to react to one for your own safety. Drivers thinking that turn restrictions only apply to other people. Drivers who drive, then look. Drivers turning right ? Be honest, how many times have you turned right by “going around” the left side of a cyclist waiting to go straight through? You’d never do that if it was a car in front you, at least I hope not. How would you feel if that big semi behind you pulled the same stunt!

    Bicycles are not cars. They ARE different. There are, thankfully, more and more drivers who are starting to get this, and who do share the road with courtesy and safety. I’ll always try to wave to say THANKS, but if I don’t please know that you ARE noticed and appreciated.

  4. Riding on the the sidewalk used to be frowned upon and contrary to some rules but it seems to me that it’s stupidity to ride the bicycle on the road. If a person wants to die too soon using the road is the way to go.

  5. I take umbrage to your accusation that I have taken a ‘lazier’ option by driving. Perhaps some of us have no choice. Perhaps we have small children that have to be taken to and from school or extracurricular activities. Perhaps we are not medically able to cycle. Perhaps we just live too far. I am sure there are many valid reasons why many motorists drive. You are welcome to retract your generalization.

  6. @Joe Suskin

    Apart from being medically unable to do certain things, people always have a choice – we choose every day 😉

    Small children? The person chose to have small children. Ok, ok, that’s a silly one 😉 but a choice nevertheless. Read on, though.

    Children to be driven to/from school? The person chose to live far enough from the school of their children to make it impractical for them to take transit or bike (depends on children’s age of course, but when I was small, my mum and I took transit to school all the time).

    Children to be driven to extracurricular activities? The person chose to sign up the children for a too large number of activities that are too far spread apart to manage the time to get the child to/from there.

    Living to far away because the big house is affordable there? The person chose to buy a big house far off and not move into a smaller apartment closer to activities that one would like to do.

    Don’t know what other options there are in your region instead of using the car? The person might have chosen to not like certain options categorically, or the person might have been too lazy to spend the time investigating what other options there are, e.g. car pooling, transit.

    Because I live about 20km one way from my work place and have a big hill in between, I usually combine public transit with biking, even though I could save 20minutes each way if I were to take my car. Ends up costing me about the same, gets me some fresh air and exercise, and helps the environment. But that’s my choice 😉 and we all choose differently.

    Just saying we don’t have a choice is inaccurate in my experience.

  7. A good percentage of cyclists are CLUELESS as to the rules of the road. Why isn’t there some sort of licensing system which ensures they know the rules before taking their vehicles on public streets.

  8. And then there’s roller-bladers, the mimes of the bike path (everyone finds them annoying). Whatever form of transportation you choose, it’s hard not to notice that everyone is wandering around in their own mindless bubble of self-absorbtion, so be cautious. It’s not that they’re out to get you, they just don’t give a crap.

  9. Paul B –

    you’re right, i wouldn’t enjoy having a semi truck turn right from my left hand lane. But of course, I wouldn’t pull up on the shoulder of the road while he sat with his turn signal on. One of the biggest frustrations is waiting to pass a cyclist and give them enough room on the road, only to have them pull back in front of you while you wait for the next light to turn.

    If cyclists want respect, they need to give it. If they want to be treated like they belong on the road, they need to act like they do, by obeying the law and treating others with some common courtesy.

    And as has been pointed out already, everyone needs to pay attention, drivers, cyclists, and of course those annoying roller bladers. (the worst is trying to cycle on a path shared with roller bladers – they seem incapable of going in a straight line, and all have forgotten that there is anyone else on the path)

  10. I agree with Cycleboy, there are some simple rules that everyone that uses the roads needs to know. A lot of cyclist don’t know. I ride motorcycles, and we have to take riding courses and then get a road test. This helps us tremendously , although doesn’t make us immune to inattentive drivers in their SUVs and BIG trucks on cell phones!! What it gives bike riders, is a sense of what to expect and avoid, cyclists could use the same knowledge since they share the roads with the same DRIVERS!! Now let us not even go into dressing for the ride, that is another topic!!

  11. Steven, I’ll have to respectfully refute your bicycle bell comment. The reason why cyclists are told to use bells and not their voice is because a bell produces a distinct sound to alert vehicles of their presence.

    If a driver slowed or stopped every time they heard a voice or yell from outside their vehicle, travelling through downtown would be most pain-staking.

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