Friday Group Ride #387

Friday Group Ride #387

It’s not fun to drive around Boston. The road system is circuitous, indirect, and overloaded. The drivers are impatient, inattentive, and aggressive. I have spent the last few days ferrying some customers around, from hotel to office to restaurant to airport, the most time I’ve spent behind the wheel, in and around the city, in a long time.

It was awful, but also pretty eye-opening.

What I saw was that people drive badly. Some of that is cell phone distraction, but most of it is just carelessness, I think. Everyone is so frustrated by the inability to get places efficiently that they have sort of given up driving well. They just don’t really care. Whether it’s worse now than it was 5 or even 10 years ago, I couldn’t say definitively.

The other thing I saw was more cyclists, and I can understand why. I can imagine some tipping point in the zeitgeist of city driving when the masses cotton onto the fact the bike, despite the effort involved, is just a lot more efficient. These folks won’t be saving the planet or investing in their health. They’ll just be getting to work more quickly. Cycling, they may finally see, is easier.

And what I noticed about the cyclists I saw is that most of them are riding better, following the rules more, behaving more predictably, and that fewer of them seem interested in conflict with drivers. This may contribute to the tipping point (my apologies to Malcolm Gladwell) I mentioned above.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how do the cyclists ride where you live? Do they follow the rules, by-and-large? Or are cyclists compounding their conflicts with traffic by ignoring the rules and riding erratically? Am I completely wrong in thinking a big change is coming?

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  1. Lyford

    Where I am, most of the commuter cyclists and solo road riders seem to ride responsibly and well.

    The road riders in groups ride like jerks. I like group rides for the social aspect and for learning new routes, but the bad behavior has discouraged me from participating.

    1. Winky

      I find the opposite. The groups of roadies are disciplined and courteous. Commuters tend to be more unpredictable and “flexible” with the rules in the downtown (where roadies scarcely venture). I am both a roadie and a commuter. Here in BC cyclists’ rights are severely restricted by law. We must ride single file all the time, and as far to the right (i.e. in the gutter) as is practicable. This means that group rides are, in fact, mostly illegal. There is no legal passing distance; enforcement (and education) regarding safe passing behaviour is non-existent. Speed limits are advisory-only and never enforced. This compounds the contempt felt by many drivers towards cyclists who are seen by many as having no real right to any road space.

  2. Aar

    I was stopped on my bike at an intersection marked 4-way stop. As the car facing me started to proceed, another “cyclist” came up behind me and, without stopping or signaling, turned left in front of the car which had to stop short in order to avoid hitting the cyclist. I suggested to the cyclist that they had broken the law by not stopping at the stop sign. In return, I got an earful of “justification” about the motorist that had passed his daughter too closely a week before. That about sums up Greensboro, NC cyclists.

    1. Winky

      After chastising a driver for being on their cell phone while driving, I was abused by the occupants of the following car who asserted, that as a cyclist, I had “no rights”. Verbatim: “You’re a fucking cyclist. You have no rights.” Fortunately, this doesn’t sum up anyone.

  3. Michael

    I am afraid I see a mix of law-abiding and a small minority of law-breaking cyclists, perhaps similar to the proportion in the motorist population. The cyclists who are law-abiding seem to be taking greater pains to be visible, with vests and lights, though. I also see more cars giving us more room. The good actors are better than ever before, but the bad actors are the same as ever.

  4. Brian Ogilvie

    Most of the cyclists I see on the roads in the Amherst-Northampton area of western Massachusetts, and rural points north, east, and west of those towns, are generally law-abiding and predictable. I’d say that most of us treat stop signs as yield signs, which is illegal but predictable. There are a minority who behave badly—not holding a straight line, ignoring stop signs and lights, or riding the wrong way. On multi-use paths, though, especially evenings, weekends, and holidays when the weather is nice, it’s a different story: the folks who ride their bikes a few times a year show up, and they’re often completely unpredictable.

  5. Les.B.

    Here in Torrance (SoCal) the roadies negotiate the roads skillfully.
    It’s the deep urban riders on cheap bikes who are on a suicide mission.

  6. Jeff Dieffenbach

    I commute in Cambridge. My recreational riding now skews much more to off-road than road, but when I do ride road, it’s often in the Metrowest suburbs. With both groups, bad behavior is in the minority. The problem, though, is that the bad behavior is so damn visible. All it takes to nullify the good behavior of 99 law-abiding cyclists is 1 rule-breaking cyclist.

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