Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Pedestrian Walking Their Bicycle is Still a Pedestrian

Lately I've felt some hostility from drivers when crossing the street while walking my bicycle. Is it the holiday spirit setting in? Either way, it's as if drivers see the bicycle and are incapable of processing me as a pedestrian, even though I am walking. The reactions have ranged from impatience at crosswalks - including honking, presumably so that I'd cross faster - to downright continuing to drive as if I were not there, even when I am already in the process of crossing the street. I have seen it happen to others as well.

A pedestrian with a bicycle is still a pedestrian. They are not any slower than a person wheeling a shopping cart or a baby stroller, so there is no reason why they should be any more "annoying." Does the mere sight of a bicycle enrage some drivers so such an extent, so as to warrant the extra hostility? That would be a sad state of affairs.

39 comments:

  1. ". . .there is no reason why they should be any more "annoying" to drivers."

    They are particularly annoyed at someone walking a bike because "They think they can turn into pedestrians any time they want."

    No. I don't get it either.

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  2. I've never noticed this, to be honest. Though I sometimes hold my bike by the saddle and push it into the lane ahead of me, when cars don't seem to want to stop.

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  3. lyen - That's good that you haven't experienced it! Are you in Boston or elsewhere?

    kfg - I also think that the sight of a bicycle may be automatically activating certain expectations of speed, even though it is being walked.

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  4. I haven't noticed cars around here being upset by people walking bikes across crosswalks, but I have experienced them honking at me while I'm in the bike lane or swerving into the bike lane right next to me. It's really frightening, but it doesn't happen too often. Definitely not often enough to make me drive instead of bike to work!

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  5. I usually just wave and smile.

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  6. Weeeeeeeell, in a left handed sort of way, I suppose, in that you are in their way and they want you out of it; but that's what they want when you are traveling at speed and in their way as well, innit?

    I think this one is at least as much related to the feeling of many drivers that cyclists are somehow "cheating," or "getting away with something."

    And it can piss them off no end.

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  7. Velouria - Boston. I see the hostility you describe towards pedestrians *without* bicycles. I just haven't noticed any extra for those pushing bikes.

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  8. oh the holidays. everyone stuck in a car is in such a bitchy mood.

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  9. @ meligrosa:
    They are probably saving up their good mood for Christmas. :)

    Nico

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  10. Peppy (the bourgeois pig-cat)December 11, 2010 at 2:33 AM

    I think this antisocial behaviour happens frequently during peak commuting times. People getting to and from work are on edge, (dissatisfied with the consequences of their choices?) and frustrated. Any additional delay causes anger, which is either contained by fear of punishment or gives to rage. If it is at all within your power, don't be out when the hoi polloi shuttles to/from places of employment. :)

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  11. It's a Boston thing, you just happened to encounter the typecast Boston driver.

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  12. What Iyen said. I haven't seen too many examples of car drivers being patient for pedestrians to cross at stop signs - some, but not the majority, sadly. Generally, they demand to take the right of way away from the rightful pedestrian traffic when they are turning right on green (and aren't much better when turning left), and I think a study showed motorists honoring pedestrian right of way at unsignaled crosswalks was 3%.

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  13. i can't honestly say i've experienced any hostility while walking my bike. then again, i'm rarely walking my bike.

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  14. oh, and on a tangential note, you should see the reactions i get from motorists when i'm riding the tandem with my 6-yo daughter. in contrast to the expected hostility and impatience, i am greeted with smiles and happy waves as we cruise through intersections. it's euphoric. it's also funny to consider that, while creating the same inconvenience to motorists as a lycra-clad roadie, motorists' moods can flip instantly upon seeing images of utter cuteness.

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  15. Unfortunately many drivers have the mentality that streets are exclusively for cars to drive as fast as possible in and anything else is committing 'trespass in a roadway'. While scofflaw bicyclists and I-Pod/texting zombies/otherwise clueless jay-walkers can present a constant source of frustration for drivers, there always seems to be some sort of enraged underlying sense of exclusive entitlement to the road held by most drivers. It could be a societal thing or perhaps, even more likely, a side effect of driving on highways, where in fact the roads are exclusively for high speed automotive traffic and they don't have to share space with other forms of transit.

    On that note; someone should make a comparison between cars and trucks having the exclusive use of high speed highways next time someone complains about bicycles getting 'exclusive' or preferential treatment with bike lanes.

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  16. somervillain said...
    " then again, i'm rarely walking my bike."


    That would be a good way to avoid it : )

    I haven't thought about it much since summer, but now it's happened to me several times in the past couple of days, so it was fresh on my mind. The scenario where I walk my bike involves say, a square with one way streets, or arriving to a location from one direction, and needing to be across the road.

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  17. I walked my bike yesterday to cross the street a few times, but I did not experience any hostility, nor in the past. But, then again where I live (southern nh) drivers and traffic patterns are not as anxious and congested/busy. I did get a few strange looks from drivers though because I was all bundled up and riding my bike in cold weather. But, I also experienced a few kind gestures from drivers - letting me have the right of way, and received a few smiles. So, it all evened out.

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  18. I'm a multi-modal commuter. I don't think its the bike, just an excuse. Driving, I've had cars behind me honk and "tail-gate" because I've stopped for a pedestrian in the crosswalk. Drivers complain that cyclists run red lights and then I saw a driver harass a cyclist for being stopped at a red-light with a no-turn-on-red sign. (Driver wanted to turn on red even though the cyclist pointed out the sign to him.)
    Walking, I've had cars nearly miss me and one driver yelling because I made her hit the brakes because she expected pedestrians in the crosswalk to wait for her. I've also seen pedestrians wander into traffic without noticing cyclists or car. Riding home last night, nearly hit a woman who ran into the bike lane from between 2 cars. She was talking to her friends on the sidewalk and not looking where she was going.
    I've probably done a lot if stupid things as a walker, cyclist, and driver, but in my own universe I am perfect.

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  19. To comment on Brooksie re: the highway comparison. I've already been doing this so of course I agree.
    It may make you feel good to know that that did happen during one of the meetings on the East Arlington Mass Ave project. People who hate project kept saying the cyclists already have a bike path. Other commentators reminded them that the cars also have Route 2 and don't need Mass Ave :)

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  20. I was just having this discussion with my mum. Not quite as specific as pedestrians walking there bikes, but here in Toronto I would agree that the mere site of a bicycle seems to enrage drivers more than the sight of a pedestrian sans bicycle. We were wondering because we have a plague of these 'e-bikes.' not electrically assisted bicycles, but tiny mopeds that the province has legally dubbed 'bicycles' so they are forever zooming past me in the bike lane within an inch of my life then hopping onto the sidewalk to avoid traffic. However, drivers seem to have no problem with this mode of transportation.

    My theory of why drivers hate cyclists more so than any other mode of transportation is the site of one triggers some sort of latent guilt - guilt about their impact on the environment or that they are just sitting there not getting any physical activity or i don't know!

    Happy riding!

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  21. Honestly, I think there are two main reasons.

    1. They are trying to get somewhere quickly and anything slowing them down is fodder for irritation.

    2. They have been ticked off in the past by bikers (with or without lycra) exhibiting the following habitual driving violations: red-light blowing, illegal lane changes, illegal passing, failure to stop at stop signs, driving the wrong way, and failure to yeild.

    It's enough to get anyone ticked off. Unfortunately, we are all guilty by association.

    Sadly, I don't ride with any of the local bike shop groups here because of two reasons: a) they tend to be "Nascar" bicyclist and want to get somewhere as fast as they can go without any interest in the beauty along the way or social interaction during the ride, b) they continue to be habitual violators of traffic laws, which I will not do. Groups like this have been the dominant bicycling groups (in the U.S.) for a number of years. I'm thrilled to see it beginning to change in a lot of cities. Velouria, blogs like yours are helping bring about that change. My hat is off to you!

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  22. Where I live, it is often the case that motorists want to treat me as a pedestrian when I am ON my bicycle. This in particular tends to happen at 4 way stops and sometimes marked cross walks where I intend to enter the roadway. I used to decline the preferential treatment, but not I often just go to keep everything moving.

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  23. "now it's happened to me several times in the past couple of days"

    I went most of the year without being right hooked even once, but I guess they were running on a bus schedule, because then they all showed up at once.

    "where I walk my bike involves say, a square with one way streets"

    Yeah, I often have a choice between riding a twisty several blocks or just walking straight across one or two. The place where I'm most likely to overtly annoy a motorist while walking is when I'm in the way of one of them - going the wrong way down a one way street to save going around.

    They seem to think that doing it really, really fast makes it OK.

    They also seem to think that I shouldn't be allowed to just turn into a pedestrian any time I want if they can't.

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  24. I live in New York and, oddly, my experience reflects that of Amanda. In the scenario she describes, pedaling through is the best thing to do. More than anything, most drivers don't like to be slowed or stopped, especially when they're going home from work or going shopping.

    I also want to second something Steve said. In my admittedly limited experience of cycling in Boston, I have found drivers in that city to be more impatient and, at times, simply more reckless, than their counterparts in the Big Apple.

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  25. It's as if drivers see the bicycle and are incapable of processing me as a pedestrian

    Even when I obey all the rules of the road, I notice that many drivers tend to have difficulty processing a person on a bike as a human-being. It can be a sad state of affairs.

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  26. Trust me it isn't just Boston and I don't think the bike plays into as much as you think.

    I have left boot prints on more than one car that attempted to roll a right turn on red on me when I had the pedestrian right of way.

    Funny thing is I am basically non confrontational in most other situations.

    Aaron

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  27. Until the states afford the same protection to cyclist that they do their road workers, with fines/jail, drivers will not change a thing.

    Look at how many road workers had to get killed by speeding motorist it took before states got tough with brain dead motorist to get some idea how many cyclist will die before we get the same respect for our lives.

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  28. I drive a lot again now (but usually really, really short distances) after a longish hiatus, and I noticed a complete change in the driver-cyclist dynamic compared with--say--three years ago.

    Let me try to put into words the vibe I get from observing my surroundings. It's just my opinion, I am making a generalization of sorts here.

    It was (from the point of view of driver): "oh what is this--person on the road--I need to be someplace."

    Now it is: "oh no not another cyclist--they are everywhere--let me teach him that he must also wait his turn."

    I see an increase in passive-aggressive behaviour towards cyclists in Boston.

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  29. ^^^ (a continuation) It's everything, from the fact that neighborhoods are removing bike lanes (Charlestown), and Arlington trying to prevent bike lanes going up on Mass Ave (because cyclists have it "too good" now) to stuff I hear spoken at work and out in public.

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  30. I have not been behind the wheel of a car since we moved here. But as a cyclist, I have to say that I feel considerably less endangered by drivers than I did 1 1/2 years ago. Not because drivers have gotten nicer, but because they seem to be more aware of protocol. When I first started cycling, some drivers seemed to be genuinely surprised and concerned to see me on the road. I've even had a middle aged woman roll down the window and yell "Oh my Gosh sweetie, get out of the street, you'll get killed!" - right after she squeezed past me with 2mm to spare without changing lanes. Oftentimes, drivers just genuinely seemed not to know what to do. Now that has changed and they know what to do around cyclists, more or less. But that doesn't mean they're not annoyed about it. I guess I would rather have them annoyed at me, but knowing the rules - rather than meaning well but not knowing how to behave when I am on the street and crashing into me with the best of intentions...

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  31. velouria said "But as a cyclist, I have to say that I feel considerably less endangered by drivers than I did 1 1/2 years ago. Not because drivers have gotten nicer, but because they seem to be more aware of protocol."

    i think that may be partly true, drivers are more aware now than three years ago, but i think it might also be that you are a more confident cyclists now than when you were just starting out a year and a half ago.

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  32. I have an opposite issue. People (yes, they are people, just like you and I) driving cars mistake me for a pedestrian when I'm riding my bike. In my state we have a law that says cars must yield to a pedestrian in a crosswalk. People will see me on my bicycle stopped at a cross street waiting to cross and will come to a screeching halt just to wave me across. I never do it, because if they get rear ended, I could be seen as being at fault for being in the intersection. This pisses the driver off who's waving me across because they want to feel like they're doing something good when they stop to let a bicyclist across the street. It's very annoying when someone can't tell the difference between a pedestrian and a bicyclist.

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  33. Doug - Oh of course drivers are people. I don't dislike drivers as a category, that would be absurd. What I dislike is behaviour such as intimidating me when I am on a crosswalk. By the same token, I dislike it when pedestrian push each other to get to the front of a queue. And I dislike it when cyclists do things like pass me on the right and blow red lights. We are all people, that goes without saying. But some behave thoughtfully towards others, whereas other behave selfishly.

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  34. In the words of a wise old black faggot, "Some people are shits, darling."

    Fortunately there are still a few Johnsons.

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  35. You mean to say, "This planet could be a reasonably pleasant place to live, if everybody could just mind his own business and let others do the same."?

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  36. "You mean to say . . ."

    Something like that. :) At the very least it might be better than a nation of finks. All right, let's see your arms.

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  37. I've experienced a totally different dynamic in Minneapolis, which is to say that most drivers are also cyclists, so, for the most part, the drivers (those at least that live in the city and aren't suburban commuters) are VERY aware of cyclists. We have a lot of bike lanes and recently the city put in dedicated stop lights for the cyclists as well. Additionally, with the addition of the cycle hire scheme started last year, drivers seem to be mostly alert to everyone on the road.


    Now, riding my bike in the suburbs is a completely different, more terrifying experience. This Fall I nearly was run over by a SUV while cycling back from the store (she was pulling out of a side street and I was riding down the street down the main street, complete with giant, flashing LED spotlight and side lights on my bike). She came within a foot of my right leg, and it was only my screaming that caused her to stop the car in time (after which she quickly drove away without acknowledging me). After that experience, I've been very resistant to riding in the suburbs. The drivers there aren't used to seeing bicycles at night because the only people that seem to ride in that area are spandex-clad daytime road bikers.

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  38. When motorists get bent out of shape, I try to have a bit of compassion. After all, I tell myself, they're stuck in a cage. Sometimes I'm better at this than others.

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  39. MFarrington - Oh yes. Riding in the suburbs and countryside is a whole nother issue. In my experience, it can be radically different depending on the town/area, and I have stopped trying to predict what a given area will be like to cycle in. We have cycled on narrow, winding, hilly roads along a cliff in Maine with a 40mph speed limit and it was absolutely fine - drivers just seemed to know what to do. And we have cycled on ver roomy, quiet roads in some areas near Boston that have not felt safe at all. I wish there was an online resource where cyclists rate and review different routes.

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