In Re Bikes

The other night I got into a taxi at the Caltrain station, and as every Westbound taxi departing that taxi stand does, the driver began his journey by making an illegal u-turn across four lanes of traffic. As the cab arrived in the opposite curb-side lane, a bicyclist carefully moved from the bike lane into the traffic lane to get around a car illegally parked in the bike lane. My cab driver didn't have to slow down for this, but had to delay his acceleration by perhaps eight seconds.

"Fucking bikes!", he exclaimed. "I hate them!"

You have a nice day too, Sir.

Previously, previously, previously, previously.

(But it's ok, I'm sure that a bicyclist mildly inconvenienced you while you were driving a car once. Be sure to tell us all about that in the comments.)

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49 Responses:

  1. NelC says:

    My sympathies are with the cyclist in this case, but I do have to overcome a slight irrational bias I feel ever since I witnessed a cyclist run full-tilt into a middle-aged woman on the pavement (or sidewalk, if you prefer) in Cheltenham one summer's afternoon a good few years ago. And then there's the one who I nearly ran over one night the other week, who was cycling up the wrong lane of traffic on the main road outside Tesco's. And the one last week who was wearing dark clothing and had no lights an hour after sunset. And the many who 'avoid' red traffic lights when turning left by cutting across the pavement corner.

    I find it hard not to dislike those guys, but otherwise I try not to let my bias become a prejudice as regards other cyclists who haven't done anything notably illegal or dumb in my sight. Just as with taxi drivers, really.

  2. raptros-v76 says:

    Let me preface this by saying that it is not a complaint at all about being inconvenienced by the bicyclists in question. As the story takes place in New York City, no such complaining can be allowed; you must remember that for any you, mobile or immobile, animate or inanimate, are most likely inconveniencing hundreds if not thousands of others engaged in all manners of actiivity all the time. Indeed, to get behind the wheel of an automobile is to upgrade oneself from a two-legged inconvienience to a four-wheeled inconvenience.
    Having set the stage, let me point out the most brave, most foolhardy, most suicidally insane bicyclists: the deliverypeople who gamble with their lives by riding against the flow of traffic. At the end of the day, they are most inconviencing themselves - death would tend to inconvience most activities, and death is very likely in this time and place of distracted and aggressive drivers. It is not clear that anything can be done to discourage this behavior, so it persists. So remember, when you see a bicyclist going the wrong direction in traffic, carrying a delivery, take care, don't panic, and take comfort in the fact that this delivery is probably far more productive and important that anything you're hoping to do in the near future.

    • sushispook says:

      "and take comfort in the fact that this delivery is probably far more productive and important that anything you're hoping to do in the near future."

      I'm not sure how you quantify that? Is that due to the constant near-death factor, or the delivery factor? If it's the latter, we'd similarly venerate UPS and FedEx drivers, and... I just don't see that as likely.

      (Not trying to be a prick - just wondering how you got at that conclusion)

  3. Lloyd says:

    A colleague of mine was on a trip to London, and taking photos in Trafalgar Square. A cyclist hit him, knocking him over. Faceplant. A year of reconstructive surgery to rebuild his face followed; the landing had shattered both cheekbones. Titanium implants. The camera was ruined, too. The cyclist? She was fine.

  4. Barry Kelly says:

    What puzzles me is the US restrictions on U-turns. Here in the UK, you can do a U-turn pretty much anywhere there is an dashed center line. Of course, you have to look and be sure the way is clear first. Puzzled me the first time I rode (on a scooter) in SF. Mind you, that thing is able to do a quick U-turn within a single lane of traffic, so it's not like it's either dangerous or an inconvenience, so long as you look.

    • Adolf Osborne says:

      In the States, it varies on locality: By default, --in Ohio-- U-turns are simply permitted as long as they do not interfere with traffic.

      I use them from time to time when it makes sense, and occasionally get an odd look from a cop (mostly just because it is a somewhat unusual maneuver, I think, and he's looking to see if carnage results), but never more than that.

      Even more localized laws can change that, though. In Columbus, Ohio, I was recently very annoyed by a sign that said something like "No U-Turns, City-Wide Ordinance," at a time when a U-turn would've been very handy indeed.

      Meanwhile in Toledo, Ohio, U-turns are simply a way of life, since many of the larger surface streets are divided by a concrete barrier: If you want to get to a shop on the other side of the road, you just proceed to an appropriate intersection and make a U-turn. (I've even seen lanes designated as "U-Turn Only".)

      So, I guess my point is that it's not so much a US restriction, but a selective restriction which can (and does) vary from place to place depending on how the roads in that place tend to be laid out.. There are no all-encompassing Federal laws that I am aware of which restrict the use of U-turns, since mundane traffic laws are generally left to the individual States to figure out.

      (I have no idea how this plays out in SF, or the State of California, since it's quite far away and I've simply not yet driven there.)

      • jwz says:

        I sincerely doubt that a u-turn from the taxi cut-out on the curb-side eastbound lane directly to the curb-side westbound lane on a 4 lane road is legal anywhere, and that's the maneuver that every cab performs that we're talking about here.

        They do this because otherwise, one-way streets add 3 blocks to the westbound trip. That doesn't make it legal or safe.

        • Lloyd says:

          They're saving their customers money. Time and money.

          Why do you hate capitalism so much?

        • Adolf Osborne says:

          As to legality, again, it depends.

          Looking the ORC, just now, it appears that this particular move might be legal here:

          4511.37 Turning in roadway prohibited – exceptions.

          (A) Except as provided in division (B) of this section, no vehicle shall be turned so as to proceed in the opposite direction upon any curve, or upon the approach to or near the crest of a grade, if the vehicle cannot be seen within five hundred feet by the driver of any other vehicle approaching from either direction.

          (Section B just says that emergency vehicles can turn however they want, wherever they please.)

          So, in Ohio, it'd be a legal move as long as terrain/visibility permits, and of course barring any local restriction.

          This is, obviously, not the same as saying it should be done, or that it is a safe maneuver on a busy street with pedestrian/bike traffic.

          Personally, I restrict my use of U-turns to instances where there is either approximately zero traffic, or there is a traffic signal that makes it specifically easier and safer. And even then, generally only in my little 325i -- the turning circle on my other cars is comparatively huge.

          I don't think I'd be making very many U-turns in a Crown Vic.

  5. Hub says:

    I dislike taxi drivers. The worst drivers ever. Here (in Vancouver) they blow light on a regular basis, horn at drivers that don't go fast enough for them. I'm not a bicyclist, but they also hate pedestrians in sidewalks (not j-walking).


  6. Heitoh says:

    Hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate hate. Omg.

  7. Jed Davis says:

    Can't help you there — the only times I've been inconvenienced by bicyclists enough to want to rant on people's blog comments about it, I was also on a bicycle, not driving a car.

  8. As a relatively fast bicyclist in the Netherlands, I hate pedestrians, other cyclists and cars all around. In my experience, doing annoying stuff that makes me have to slow down, or put someone into a situation that might have easily gone wrong is in no way limited to any specific kind of traffic participant.

  9. Joe says:

    I think that if it is your job to drive, e.g. truck driver or taxi driver, then you should be expected to uphold the law and be model drivers, and that any violation of driving laws should be treated more seriously with stiffer penalties.
    How about spending some of the homeland security money to help prevent the carnage within our borders? Most drivers routinely break traffic laws and have little respect for other drivers and even less for bicyclists and pedestrians.
    But in a way that doesn't turn us into a police state. Someone figure out the details please.

  10. Piku says:

    I nearly squashed a cyclist between my car and a bus in traffic the other day, but then I also cycle like a maniac myself... because if I don't I'll die under the wheels of some moron driver that isn't looking in their mirrors.

    I cycle down the middle of the road and go around roundabouts as if I were a car. It really pisses people off when they have to give way to me :) I also figure it's better to smash their windscreen and dent the bonnet if they hit me, rather than harmlessly bouncing onto the pavement head-first.

    Oh the dualities of life.

    • TJIC says:

      > because if I don't I'll die under the wheels of some moron driver

      This is the same logic that allows asshole Harley owners to take their mufflers off: "loud pipes save lives".

      No, actually, your lawbreaking (a) makes stuff worse for everyone else on the road, (b) tars your group with the "asshole" label.

      • tkil says:

        No, actually, [Piku's] lawbreaking

        Where are they lawbreaking, exactly?

        Most larger cities have adopted the tenets of "vehicular cycling", meaning that bicycles are indeed allowed to do everything they explicitly mention (middle of road, roundabouts as a car), especially if there's not enough room to stay to the right and leave safe room to pass on the left...

        (All USA-centric, FWIW.)

        On the flip side, I'll bike like that when I have to -- but I'll also pull over and stop, if I have to, to let people go by. I do the same thing in my car, if I'm being slow and holding up other cars. As others have pointed out throughout this thread, courtesy/rudeness comes from pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, cars, taxis, and trucks. (The fact that "damage sustained by the person being courteous/rude" goes down as that list goes on means something, but I'm not sure what.)

  11. TJIC says:

    I bike commuted for several years.

    I saw tons of terrible car behavior (folks trying to run me off the road, cops telling me to ride on the sidewalk, etc.).

    I've also seen a fair bit of bad cyclist behavior. Perhaps 75% of "serious" cyclists that I see (serious meaning "looks like they're either commuting to work or training for a road race) blow red lights.

    A pox on both their houses.

    • raptros-v76 says:

      Yeah, something about getting on a bicycle getting behind the wheel of a car being a human being makes people act like real moronic assholes.

      • No, I think being on a road does increase asshole behavior for some reason. The overall asshole population is 27% (that's the proportion that votes Republican no matter what - a good marker). On the road, by whatever mode of transportation, it seems more like 50% to me. It's a mystery. Perhaps asphalt fumes are psychotropic.

        • A theory I’ve heard is that we’re going much faster than our sensory perception has evolved to handle, and that this floods us with adrenaline, making us more aggressive. But this was from a rabid bike-nerd who I once saw run screaming to kick a moving vehicle who had taken our right of way as pedestrians.

          • 205guy says:

            I don't have any scientific proof, but that whole "how can we bike 20 mph or drive 70 mph when our brains evolved to run at 8-10 mph" is bogus. Ever try trail-running? Bike paths and roads are nice and predictable, whereas trails are not. I bet we can only handle so many inputs/outputs per second, and whether they happen 10/sec at 10 mph or 10/sec at 70 mph is the same.

  12. hans says:

    I'm always amused at the grouping of all cyclists as terrible law breaking monsters. Especially from someone sitting behind the wheel of a motor vehicle which as a group killed 32708 people last year (2010 in U.S.).

    Here's an interesting article on projection bias that might explain some of the behavior of drivers:

    Projection bias, highway hegemony, and why cyclists rent the road, they don’t own it

    And a choice quote:

    According to psychologists, projection bias is a defence mechanism whereby one ‘projects’ one’s own thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else. And it’s not just cyclists who get tarred with this Freudian brush, anybody not the motorist risks being an offender.

    • This is in really poor taste, but let’s try to get those last 60 people this year, shall we, motorists?

      • Tkil says:

        [motorists] as a group killed 32708 people last year (2010 in U.S.)

        ...let’s try to get those last 60 people this year, shall we, motorists?

        *golf clap*

        +1 internets to you.

        (Although 59 would let us save a bit.)

        (Also also wik, apparently LJ doesn't want to play OpenID with this blog anymore...)

  13. Aaron says:

    But it's ok, I'm sure that a bicyclist mildly inconvenienced you while you were driving a car once. Be sure to tell us all about that in the comments.)

    Amazing how many commenters took this literally.

  14. It's Christmas! I love taxi drivers, bicyclists and jwz!

  15. I remember this one time, I was in a car, and another car did something illegal and stupid, and it backed up traffic a whole lot.

    And then there was this other time, on a freeway, during rush hour, and some cars made it slow for other cars.

    I blame the cyclists.

    on a side note, John mentioned something about his trip to NYC that blew my mind. Parking Protected Bike Lanes. so get this, that corridor, where one-ton dinosaur-powered steel death boxes prowl... well, they put a barrier of sleeping death boxes between the hunting ones and the bike lanes. Imagine that, a method that prevents dooring, keeps bikes out of traffic, and takes up no more space than the bike lanes in SF!

    • 205guy says:

      And they made space for passenger doors? And where do you go while some nanny unloads her double-stroller into the oh-so-convenient extra-wide pedestrian space?

      Also, is jwz trying for ratings now?

  16. Many car drivers complain about cyclists doing illegal activities.
    I'll bet every single one of them breaks the speed limit nearly every time they drive.

    And this one time, cars drivers killed 3000 people in a month, and they they did it again, like very day for like 20 years. Damn cyclists.

  17. Q says:

    When I drive a car, I get annoyed at bikes. When I drive a bike, I get annoyed at cars. It's almost like hurtling along at high speed makes me a jerk.

    Luckily, Portlandia is pretty bike friendly, except for the fact they still allow cars to spew exhaust into my bike lane. I'd be happy to cede some of the bike lanes on major roadways if they closed some parallel roads for bikes. Biking all the way downtown along an exhaust-free roadway would be awesome.

    I grew up in Texas, where being a pedestrian/bicyclist is considered some kind of shortcoming for anyone old enough to drive a car. It is pretty much up to the pedestrian/cyclist to preserve themselves from cars. Here, it's more like the pedestrians are the most important people on the roadway, with bikes given at least a little respect. Once I got used to it, I started enjoying walking a lot more.

    Using a ~3000lb. hunk of metal fueled by poison-producing chemical reactions to move around 150lbs. of flesh daily doesn't even sound like a sane activity, but people (myself often included, although I try to carpool/bike when I can) do it everyday.

    • Joe says:

      I'm sure you have the statistics on bicyclists whose deaths have been directly attributed to this so-called highly poisonous car exhaust.

      • Q says:

        Perhaps you're new here. I didn't claim anything about bicyclist death, I said I didn't like exhaust fumes in my bike lane, where I'm forced to breathe them in, and they stink.

        And exhaust fumes aren't "so-called highly poisonous", they ARE poisonous, read up on carbon monoxide some time.

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