Friday Group Ride #83

I was at a wedding reception. You always find yourself with a random selection of friends-of-friends at an event like that. I told the woman sitting next to me that I was in the bike industry, and that inspired her to tell me what she thought of cyclists.

Mostly she doesn’t like them.

She doesn’t understand why they run lights. She is afraid she is going to run them over. They’re unpredictable. They’re rude.

The woman sitting across from me knows me well, and we’ve had a litany of conversations about crappy drivers, crappy cyclists, crappy roads, etc. etc. She gave me her knowing smile, and I said, out loud, “She’s not wrong. Cyclists can be very annoying and rude.” I think, in that moment, my neighbor realized maybe she had expressed some slightly-too-candid opinions, and the death rattle of the conversation was drowned only by the obnoxious sound of silverware against glassware as someone rose to give an awkward speech about the bride and groom.

Saved by the bell, as it were.

I try to remain realistic and honest about cyclists. They are my people. It’s true. But it’s also true that some of them (us) behave badly. I’m not quite convinced that a few bad apples spoil it for the rest of us, but mostly because I’m not convinced it’s spoiled. My observations of our species suggest that, perhaps, where there are humans, there is mess. It’s how we are.

Having said that, I know what I think it’s wrong for cyclists to do. But what do you think? What are our worst habits? Pardon the expression, but what drives you nuts about cyclists?


Follow me on Twitter @thebicyclerobot.



  1. Champs

    There’s no excuse for ignoring a red light, but there’s blame to go around for how we got this way. Most bikes insist that the rider approaching a stop must continue to pedal in order to downshift, then dismount. Traffic signals, sometimes even along major Portland bikeways, aren’t triggered by the presence of bikes, so you have to cross on red anyway. None of this encourages proper behavior.

    We could also do without the “race” attitude. Pass with due caution, whether it’s the “slowpoke” ahead of you in a steep, blind corner, or oncoming traffic on multi-use paths.

    Acknowledge courtesy.

    Yield to uphill traffic.

  2. randomactsofcycling

    Firstly I’d like to sate that I think the percentage of ‘bad’ cyclists is probably the same as the percentage of ‘bad’ drivers.
    The think that annoys me the most is the lack of personal responsibility riders take when riding in a bunch…..actually this annoys me about the human race in general but that’s a whole other can of worms.

  3. Dave Moulton

    I have spoken out about cyclists running red lights on many occaisions, and I wish they wouldn’t do it. However, your picture with the headline “Cyclist fined @700 for running a red light” hit home when I was reminded that a local motorist was fined $113 for killing a cyclist in Charleston recently. Kinda rubs salt in the wound.

  4. Ransom

    Unpredictability. Which is true for both cyclists and drivers, and I see it from both sides whichever one I am at the time. Sometimes, it even arises from attempts to be super-polite: When I’m on my bike and waiting to cross a busy/fast two-lane one-way street and someone stops as through I were a pedestrian, it aggravates people behind them, and I’m not excited about now having to roll out in front of them to try to catch the eye of the next lane over…

    Also, riding on streets which are poorly suited, particularly streets with higher speed limits and narrow lanes. I’m firmly in the camp which believes that the cyclist’s right to ride on any street doesn’t suggest that they ought to do so when there is an alternative available. Here in Portland, one of my main aggravations is cyclists in the right lane of a major thoroughfare where there is a “bicycle boulevard” (a quieter street posted as a bike route with a bike lane or sharrows) one or two blocks over. As a driver I find it aggravating, and as a cyclist I dislike the impression I know it’s making on drivers who’ll be driving past me soon.

    There are certainly laws which have yet to be adjusted to reflect the realities of cycling, but I think that we frequently overshoot the civil disobedience of an unevolved rule and start ignoring some laws that aren’t so far out of whack.

  5. Alex

    I think the only really unforgivable sin for any cyclist is to become a cyclo-activist. I´m OK about the rest, even some not-so-noble actions.

  6. S M

    Entitlement. Pretty much sums it up. In my town cyclists seem to think it is OK to ride pretty much any way they want not to mention anywhere. It’s a road. Vehicles “agree” to a common set of operating rules and guidelines. Those that don’t follow them make havoc for the rest of us.

  7. Chris

    What bugs me most, and what I most try to avoid when cycling, is being discourteous (read:dangerous) near pedestrians. I am lucky enough to live near enough my work place that I usually choose to walk, often alongside my wife pushing my son in his stroller. It is alarming to be passed without warning by cyclists who clearly haven’t bothered to slow down at all, and who are unwilling or unable to leave a safe gap when passing.

    I’m sure most of these people are perfectly reasonable for the 23 hours of the day when they are not cycling, but somehow feel that the incovenience of slowing slightly, waiting for safe spot to pass, and then uttering a quick “On your left” is too much for them to bear.

  8. Paul

    Cyclists in a group who insist on taking up the whole road. I usually ride hills, so most of the time the group is strung out anyway, but occasionally I ride with the “flatlanders” in my club, and it appalls me when they ride three abreast on a narrow street with a car stuck behind us. You can yell “car back” all you want and some of the idiots just don’t get it, even though the ride leader said all the right stuff before we started.

    Another thing that bugs me is riders who pass without warning on a descent.

    The red light thing bothers me less provided people stop first and make sure it is safe before they go.

  9. Michael

    The things that bother me about certain cyclists, tend to be the same things that bother me about certain drivers – inappropriate actions, such as speeding, blatantly disregarding rules of the road, failing to consider others, inattentiveness. I honestly cant think of anything unique to cyclists that bothers me. But maybe that is just because it’s time for dinner.

  10. reverend dick

    Yeah, no.

    I’ll ride as predictably/legally as I can, but traffic is not set up for cyclists.

    I will: ride with MY safety in mind at all times.

    I will not: be a dick to other people, regardless of their choice of vehicle.

  11. Ben

    Bad judgement and entitlement as others have stated. I will go through red lights if ther’a no oncoming traffic. I do stop and look. And if there are cars around me, if it’s at all busy, I’ll wait. I know that behavior will still get some folks up in a bunch . And I get it. I’m not saying I’m perfect or won’t change my ways.

    The worst cyclists might be non-cyclists out for a Sunday roll. Bad bike handling, seemingly ignorant of road rules (despite the fact that they drive a car), salmoning up bike lanes, riding on sidewalks, etc. Because it’s a novelty to them it’s as if the rest of the world should just admire the fact that they’re on a bike…most likely a hybrid or cruiser. Ugh. Entitled “real” cyclists are just as bad when they misinterpret they’re rights as being all powerful and having the full-out right-of-way. It’s worse b/c the pedestrians and drivers can tell they’re a real cyclist (spandex w/ pricy ride) and that gives those of us that are using good humble judgement a bad name.

  12. Souleur

    Ransom and Ben mentioned my thoughts very nicely, just because its a road doesn’t mean we must ride it. Some roads at some times are safest not ridden.

    The other I see is the ill-informed cyclist who evidence their lack and never want to change either even when you mention what is best/safest/and even the law. Then, they do it again.

    Drivers….well, thats a whole different issue

  13. Nelson

    As a cyclist…..HalfWeelers

    As a driver……Cyclists riding against traffic. (There’s not a lot of them, but I feel compelled to pull over and say “ride with traffic, run against”

  14. Author

    @Nelson – I also hate it when cyclists ride against traffic. Especially if they’re smoking a cigarette at the same time. I have to say, and I know I’m wrong on this, that I dislike runners coming at me against traffic. I know they’re supposed to be there, but I don’t like being forced out into traffic by anyone.

    Is it me?

  15. specq

    Re: wrong way riders, I’ve taken to telling them “Welcome to America. We drive and ride on the right side of the road here. Enjoy your stay.”

  16. Nelson

    @Robot – I’m with you, i dislike it when they don’t move over. Runners run against traffic so when they see cars, they can step off the road, which only the nice ones do. But the nice ones get a smile and a wave.

  17. Dan O

    I live in the Seattle area, many cyclists here. Riders who blatantly run red lights, during rush hour, bug me a bit. Multiple lines of people waiting in traffic to get pissed off.

    What bugs me more though, since much my commute is on a bike only path, is watching riders pass pedestrians on the path, with just inches to spare. They have feet of open space on the left, yet buzz walkers. I don’t expect it’s being done “on purpose” – they just don’t have a clue.

    Then they probably complain about cars passing too close. Go figure…

  18. John Jorgensen

    Stopping at a red turns a training ride into an interval training session, so not all bad, but not always what is wanted. I can see blasting through a stop sign- kind of, but in my middle age don’t even do that. “typical car drivers” often make a comment if they see me with a bike but not on it, such as at the local Peet’s. They don’t like poor bike driving in their terminology. And I have to agree, the defense is pretty selfish.

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