Bikes vs. Cars: We Have A Long Way To Go

Nationaal Archief Photo

Allow me to set the scene that I witnessed last week.  I was driving (yeah, yeah, I know driving sucks) down Cedar Ave. in Minneapolis and saw a cyclist up ahead.

The cyclist was doing everything correct, staying as far to the right as possible in the absence of a bike lane, and holding a straight line.  The car ahead of me, clearly unhappy with the cyclist taking his rights, decided to lay on the horn, while unsafely speeding around too close to the cyclist.

At that point I felt like giving the car a little love tap with my front bumper but imagining an insurance bill I managed to stop myself.  The car remained directly ahead of me and I too passed the cyclist, providing as much room as possible and in excess of the required three feet.

I continued behind the angry honker for another block until they were forced to stop at a stop light.  Out of my side view mirror I could see the previously honked at cyclist approaching, figuring some reprisal was due to the car driver.

What came next was the cyclist spitting on the car’s windshield (which judging by the amount of expectorate he had been building up for a while) and a kick to the front 1/4 panel passenger side of the car.

Five years ago I would have cheered these actions, or at the very least been amused by them.  Today, I see it as a problem.  Here’s the thing, when you ride a bike on the street it’s not just you on your bike vs. the cars.  Car drivers see cyclists as one entity, often observing the actions of a single cyclist and in turn making inferences about all cyclists. In this particular instance, the cyclist turned off of Cedar right away and suffered no retaliation, but what about the next cyclist that car passes?

For that matter what about the previous cyclist that the angry honker passed?  How did their actions contribute to this encounter?

Yes, cyclist, you didn’t do anything wrong, and you have every right to be pissed off, but the driver of that car won’t remember that you are fault free, what he/she will remember is the jerk on a bike that kicked their precious car.  Next time they pass a cyclist and lay on the horn they might just give them a little less space, and the time after that even less, until they “accidentally” nudge someone off the road.

I fully expect to receive backlash for this post, however, this issue is too important not to address.

It is with these thoughts that we offer this story from Treehugger it is about ending the war on the car, and describes how to talk/ act on and off the bike.

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9 Responses to Bikes vs. Cars: We Have A Long Way To Go

  1. NatMc says:

    Nearly the exact same thing happened to me yesterday on First Ave. Riding along in a straight line on the right side of the road, SUV passes me so closely that I have to brake to avoid being hit as they cut in front of me. So I caught up to them at the next light and gave them the old expletive-unfused rant about sharing the road and almost killing me, etc. He yelled back. I punched his side-view mirror to knock it out of alignment and sped off. I couldn’t help it, I was so pissed. So, sorry to all you other cyclists that guy will no doubt be retaliating against in the future.

  2. hokan says:

    Ride Big.

    Looks like plenty of road rage to go around here, but the original problem seems to be the biker riding “as far to the right as possible”. Cedar isn’t especially wide in the summer, but gets quite narrow in the winter. When I ride on cedar I ride in the middle of the lane. This doesn’t inconvenience anyone (motorists would have to move into the other lane to properly pass in any case) and make it very clear that I am claiming my lane. In this way I discourage close passing.

    I see a lot of riders who don’t seem to believe that they own their part of the road and ride timidly. They are the ones who get buzzed and doored.

    Ride big. It’s better for us bikers and it’s better for motorists.

    • Julie says:

      Hokan hits it right on. The statute in Minnesota is about ‘practicable’ not ‘possible,’ and if you ride too far right you actually encourage bad behavior from motorists. This is a fundamental of vehicular cycling.

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  4. Berk says:

    I agree with Julie… Here in Seattle, new laws are in-the-making that force cyclists to always ride “as far to the right as is safe”, where “safe” includes variation(s) for the condition of road (broken pavement, manhole covers which are slippery on our wet streets, and so forth), with sufficient space to not win any door-prizes, and what I see is perhaps the most important of all — enough space to occupy the lane.

    I think there’s a fundamental misunderstanding between cyclists and drivers; cyclists often “do their best to stay out of the way of faster traffic”, but in so doing they marginalize themselves to virtual road-obstacles to someone trying to share the lane. I believe the spirit of multi-use means sharing the road, not necessarily sharing the lane – if I’m cycling in the right lane, that lane is therefore OCCUPIED. As an experienced cyclist in a large city, I encourage other cyclists to occupy their lane whenever possible (obviously not when on a 1-lane road). In order for a car to pass, they MUST do it safely by changing lanes at that point — and if they don’t I’m more than happy to snap a shot of their plate with my phone and visit the closest law enforcement office. There’s nothing like a ticket to teach drivers that lanes don’t “belong” to them just because they’re faster and wider than a bike.

  5. Ted says:

    I won’t echo everything I just read, but know that drivers behind you can see you if you are properly lit. With a bright tail light or perhaps two, everyone coming up behind you can see you. If you happen to occupy an entire lane, cars will merge into the left lane if one is present and pass you on the left. They do it everyday to other cars.

    My next point is the one I really wanted to share. I am a young male who used to find myself in the middle of highly confrontational situations seemingly whenever I rode. It didn’t matter if I was headed to the store or to work or for a day-long ride. I would always end up at some point screaming at another young male driving an expensive car. I hated it, and I always headed out with the same warrior attitude. I was in the right, he or she was in the wrong, and I would literally strangle someone if I needed to. Just kidding. Sort of.

    For the last six months or so, something has changed and I feel a lot better about going out. I have come to realize that people make mistakes and/or simply aren’t alert and/or don’t care all that much about my welfare. And guess what? I can’t do anything about it, really. I can get insanely stressed-out and scream and yell to myself, I can punch car doors as they pass, but it’s not really healthy for me or the cycling community. Just take the extra few seconds at every merge/light/yield/stop/crossing to be sure you’re good to go. It’s easier and safer in the end.

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