Monday, January 10, 2011

The Mary Poppins Effect?


There has been some discussion in the comments lately about whether drivers display more courtesy when cyclists ride upright bicycles and dress in "regular" clothing. One reader wrote that "the uprightness [is] more visible and [the clothing] maybe less offensive to your average driver... The images generated revolve around Mary Poppins. Only a monster would do anything mean to Mary Poppins" (Christopher Fotos, December 10, 2010). Do you agree?

When Bike Snob NYC poked fun at the Tweed Ride last week in his typically colourful manner, I related to the associations he made with colonialism and Civil War re-enactments: I never found Tweed Rides appealing for precisely those reasons. But I disagree with his conclusion that nice clothes on a bike are generally "not traffic calming." It's one thing to be dressed in what appears to be period costume, joined by dozens of others who have done the same while taking a joyride through the city. It's another thing entirely to be cycling to work in a suit and a wool overcoat, because that is what you normally wear to work.

Speaking solely from my own experience, I'd noticed as soon as I started cycling for transportation that drivers are nicer to me when I dress "normally." And since having begun to ride a roadbike recreationally, the difference between how I am treated on the roads when on a bike with drop bars, wearing "sporty clothing" and my hair tucked away, in comparison to how I am treated when on an upright bike in "city clothing," with my work bag in the basket and my hair visible, is noticeable. The majority of the time, when a driver is rude to me or impatient with me, I am on my roadbike - which is odd, since I am faster on a roadbike than I am on an upright bike, and thus should be less "in the way."  To me, this just confirms that drivers' perceptions of how annoying a cyclist is, are entirely subjective. You can be going 10mph and this will be okay, or you can be going 25mph and they might still be annoyed.

In part, I think the idea of not wanting to harm Mary Poppins is valid - in the sense that a cyclist dressed "normally" looks more human to the driver. The way people process each other visually and emotionally is governed by a complicated system of simulation and self-recognition (this is actually my research specialty, so I've spent a lot of time thinking about it!). And from that point of view, it makes sense to speculate that the more "I am human! I am you!" signals we give off when cycling, the more empathy a driver will feel towards us. Dehumanisation, on the other hand, makes it easier to cause harm to another human being - because we fail to simulate their emotional state and relate to their suffering. And dehumanisation is facilitated by things like uniforms (one reason it is easier to kill soldiers and war prisoners, than civilians), or anything else that obscures individuality and hides signs of humanness.

But in addition to the Mary Poppins effect, I think that there are also implicit right of way rules that are present in the driver's mentality, from which "normally" dressed cyclists benefit. I am not suggesting that this is justified in any way, but I get the impression that drivers are enraged by the associations with leisure and recreation that a road cyclist's attire evokes. The cyclist is on the road because they are going for a ride. The driver, however, is on the road because they need to be somewhere. So the reasoning follows, that the person who needs to be somewhere clearly has more valid reasons to use the limited road space than the person who is going for a ride, which is why the presence of the road cyclist causes annoyance. On the other hand, when the cyclist's appearance suggests that they are also engaging in transportation and need to be somewhere just like the driver, their presence on the roads seems more justified. This is just a theory, but the fact that drivers will shout things like "Get a job!" to roadies, but will ask me "How long does it take you to get to work?" at red lights when I am dressed up, gives it some plausibility. They associate the "normal clothes" look with going to work, and they associate the sporty look with recreation.

All of this is, of course, entirely speculative and none of it is to say that cyclists should strive to dress in any particular way in order to secure the driver's compassion. Only the certainty of criminal prosecution can reliably deter a driver from causing harm to a cyclist, and I hope to see that become the norm in the US in the near future. Until then, let's hope that drivers can find a way to see Mary Poppins in all of us, whether we are dressed in lycra, tweed, or something in between.

102 comments:

  1. Hi Velouria,

    I think there is something to this reasoning. The mountain bike I normally ride for my commute does not have a particularly upright posture, but I do commute in my "regular clothes" - jeans, shoes, and shirt or jackets appropriate to the weather - and I've only been hassled a handful of times in the two years I've been commuting this route. Admittedly, having never habitually commuted in cycling-specific attire, this isn't a controlled comparison - but I have heard complaints about harassment in the same region on a local "roadie" listserv I listen in on, so maybe clothing is a factor. (Time of day, route, and behavior are other possible factors.)

    I went on my first multi-day bike tour last summer. I did wear bike shorts and "underarmour" style athletic shirts during that adventure, but from the gear I was carrying on my bike (sleeping bag, full panniers, etc.) it was surely evident I was traveling, and I had several outright positive driver interactions over the course of the trip (including red light questions such as "where ya headed?"). I sure didn't look like Mary Poppins and was clearly not headed to work, but I think the same principle of perception applies - rather than being dismissed as just another bike in the way, I felt that folks recognized and respected my right to use the road as a traveler.

    Cheers,
    Jim

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  2. Interesting theory! I think there's something to it, though all my bad interactions with drivers here in Portland have happened while I was wearing "regular" clothes. And just like Jim, when I've toured I've often worn bike-specific clothes and have barely had any bad interactions out on the road. So I guess I'm not a good test subject.

    And I'll put my neck out there and say that I actually enjoy the Tweed Ride!

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  3. I've thought about this some as well, as visiting forums of discussion such as BikePortland, I hear a lot about the aggression of people driving towards those on bicycles, but I honestly almost never experience it - maybe 2-3 times in the last three years. Maybe that partly has to do with the fact that I live in the main part of the city and not towards the outskirts or in the suburbs. Maybe it partly has to do with the fact that I try to avoid main arterial streets if at all possible. I don't know. I don't really ride recreationally - I will occasionally just hop on in my normal clothes and go riding around the city just to get outside and maybe do 20 miles in a day overall - but I don't go on long recreational rides between cities or anything.

    It is still the case that the majority, or at least a very large percentage of people who ride bikes in Portland ride with drop bars and with some kind of outdoorsy or sporting gear on, especially in non-summer.

    Now, Portland is a fairly rainy, and a fairly outdoorsy city, and so people do wear brightly colored rain jackets and polar fleece and such as part of their "normal" clothes, but most people aren't walking around in full bright yellow rain suits with helmets with rain covers on and goggles and funny looking clicky shoes. I'm not saying nobody *should* wear those, I'm just saying, to the average person, that's a bit of a weird look. Just like to the average person, someone with a spiked mohawk, dozens of piercings, and a body covered in tattoos is a bit of a weird look. It's not that there's anything objectively wrong with it, most people just don't identify with it, as you said.

    I think the idea that people treat those who they feel are like themselves more humanely can be seen all over the world and all throughout history, it seems like it could easily apply here as well.

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  4. If the theory were valid, wouldn't that suggest that wearing a helmet invites harassment, everything else being equal?

    Might not an alternate hypothesis be that you ride different streets when you ride your road bike and that accounts for any difference.

    FWIW, in the honking project, I did not detect any inkling of worse treatment when wearing "gear" versus not during commutes, nor on the road bike versus the cross bike.

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  5. Oh I love it! I am going to train my brain on this more pleasant image... when I'm on the bicycle particularly dressed up or tweedy, I invariably recall Ms Gulch: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_dCVwtSQMPpA/SsOgOnhu5cI/AAAAAAAABcs/TozRLYuWbo4/s400/gulch.jpg

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  6. Steve - I ride the same streets on my way out of town when going for a ride on a roadbike; there is no other route. Any negative experience happens in the city and on the same streets where I ride for transportation, not once I am out of the city.

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  7. As an interesting aside, I have found that allowing a good look at my (premature)full head of gray hair makes drivers give me more space when they are passing me- no one wants to run over their Grandma...

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  8. I don't think anyone is saying this is a universal thing - as in, in every situation if you dress one way you will be treated better by every single possible person who could be driving nearby, just that it might suggest a general rule.

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  9. In the same vein, I feel like drivers are more courteous and aware on sunny days rather than overcast or rainy days. I'm more visible (and let's face it: adorable) when the sky is blue, whereas on days with nasty weather I'm more focused on just getting to work and not putting my personality and enjoyment out on display.

    The majority of my commute is on small residential streets and alleys, and even when I am have to take main streets there are enough beachy-cyclists around that I'm not a lone wolf!

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  10. My take: an upright cyclist is in a position of "strength" relative to a walking or standing human being, so humans who don't ride get it. "I'm upright, that person is upright, so it's ok." We are one, or at least more one than...the crouched over, "submissive" sport cyclist. "Look at him go, all fancy and aggressive. This combo of feelings really chaps my hide."

    A road cyclist also wears more form-fitting clothing vs. a billowing skirt or wool coat, adding to the skinny = weak perspective.

    Just some tedious socio-psychological ramblings from
    Jim

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  11. Personally I have found that it's more about the attitude you exude while on a bike - then the style of bike or clothes. I'm equally as happy,chipper & smiley on a road bike as I am on any of my upright bikes. I find that I'm treated fairly the same {in terms of honks and comments} from motorists.

    I do agree that cars allow me more passing space when I'm on an upright bike - but that's mostly due to the fact that my h'bars are upwards of 44cm wide making my presence on the road much wider then on my narrow 36cm road bars.

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  12. What about Elmira Gulch in The Wizard of Oz? She was dressed in her street clothes... Same kind of bike as Mary Poppins too. And couldn't have ridden more upright if she tried.

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  13. This definitely has been my experience.
    I think it also has to do with the symbols of authority coded in "dress up" clothing. Despite the overall shift to casual clothing, people who are dressed in suits, skirts and other "professional" clothing are likely to have the resources (financial resources, credibility in the legal system) to pursue redress for careless driving.

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  14. Jim 1:34 - Just to throw a wrench in your hypothesis: Some recreational roadcyclists around these parts wear tights clothes but are decidedly not skinny by any means!

    Eva - 36mm dropbars, that's narrow! My preferred width is 42mm (the narrowest Nitto Noodles).

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  15. mmm ... anecdata backed up by confirmation bias. I don't know if this will stand up to a submission into Bicycle Quarterly ;)

    personally, for my commutes, I tend to switch between 'civilian' and 'bike-ist' clothing fairly regularly, where civilian would be usch things as long wool coats or sweaters, plus cotton or wool trousers, and 'bike-ist' would be nylon, reflective rain jacket and visible tights. In all cases I have a helmet.

    Sometimes it's on the ANT with drop bars, sometimes it's on the more upright Raleigh.

    I don't get a sense that I've been menaced any more or less depending on my outfit or my bike.

    I do get more close calls if I am more aggressive in my riding style, which tends to be more frequent when I'm wearing tights and the wind jacket since that whole setup has better ventilation and makes going faster more comfortable.

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  16. cris said...
    "... anecdata backed up by confirmation bias"


    Precisely : ) So relaxing to write a blog an not an article for a peer reviewed journal!

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  17. I noticed this shortly after I started biking for transportation: If I was wearing a skirt, especially with colorful knee socks, people stopped to let me cross busy streets more often.

    And this whole discussion is part of why I don't like wearing jerseys. I am amassing a small collection of technical wool, and I do wear bike shorts, but the shorts are easily covered by "normal" shorts/pants/a skirt, and the wool looks like normal clothes. People really do seem to treat me more like a normal human, both on and off the bike (I hated doing touristy things during the day while wearing a jersey).

    BTW, wanted to let you know you're a bad influence (okay, not really): I'm heading down to Clever Cycles later today to buy gloves, but I plan to try on those pants from a previous post, and maybe try riding a few Dutch-style bikes while I'm there.

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  18. Oh, and in terms of the Tweed Ride: I love the Tweed Ride because I am the kind of person who loves dressing up, especially in period-specific clothing or costumes, for any reason at all. (I even used to go to events put on by the SCA, a medieval-reenactment group. And I've worn an outfit or two from those days on my bicycle! Tricky but do-able with some modification.)

    Portland, as The Snob loves to point out, is filled with people who want any excuse to get dressed oddly and ride bicycles together. So, I think I live in the right place. :^)

    Last but not least: It's highly ironic for people to yell "Get a job!" at roadies, considering how expensive their bikes/gear is...

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  19. Since almost no-one here knows who I really am and those that do don't seem too judgmental, I'm going to admit something here. Even though I ride alot, I'm not always kind to cyclists when I drive. I NEVER crowd them or honk(maybe a little beep if they're daydreaming at a light) or strafe them but sometimes I find myself being, uh, uncharitable. Anyone who looks as though they deviate from the way I dress, the type of bike I would ride or takes a different approach to moving with traffic automatically gets lumped into the category of "people who have no freaking business on the damn road!". I've wondered about this but can't explain it. My wife says it's because I can be sort of an "elbow" sometimes but that obviously can't be it.

    I'm not like this very often but when I am I don't know how much affect the specifics of what people wear or ride would have. I do know that if the rider seems aware of me and makes even fleeting eye-contact or seems to be careful to not do anything dumb(like turn left without a signal or ride down the middle of the lane for 2 blocks)I find that I respond with much more patience and maturity. I think as cyclists we just have to be engaged with everyone we're on the road with first and worry about the psychology of things second. I'm not sure how far trying to manage the reactions of a "bunchofelbow" drivers will get us. Maybe more than I suspect.

    Having said all that, perhaps the ideal riding outfit would be a black dress or overcoat and breeches, tall black boots with striped socks and a tall pointy black hat. Although, unless you were also cruising along 4 feet off the street on a broom, some drivers still wouldn't notice you till they heard the "thud" and you landed on their windshield...

    Spindizzy

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  20. Spindizzy - There is nothing about cyclists that makes them any more special than non-cyclists. There has been many a time when, as a passenger in a car, I have mentally shouted "you f*cking idiot!" when a cyclist would suddenly veer in front of our car, or blow a red light nearly resulting in us hitting them, or ride in the dark entirely without lights or even a reflector, in all black clothing. When I talk about drivers being courteous to cyclists, I am assuming that the cyclists follow road rules, etc.

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  21. Interesting statement that fits in with the results of an experiment I once read about. Un fortunately I do not remember the where, when and details. In short: a camera was fixed to both a male cyclist and a long haired woman. There was a difference in clearing of passing cars, the average clearing in case of the woman being significant more.
    Arie

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  22. I don't ride in "special" biking clothes, but I do notice better treatment when I'm wearing a suit and/or tie, as opposed to casual clothing.

    I'll also second eva.lu's observation: a lot of it has to do with the way you carry yourself. On a bike, your body and face are much more visible than they are in a car. When I first started riding, I think I looked confused and vulnerable, but I've since perfected my upright posture and serious, piercing, but neutral stare. If you act like you belong exactly where you are, people will generally go along with it.

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  23. .I have not noticed any deference from drivers when I ride in a skirt. As mentioned, there are many confounding variables here In fact, the safest time to be on the road in either a car or on a bike is during morning and evening commutes. Drivers and bikers are habitual about their routes, traveling in the correct lane ready for their turns and feeling "part of" the group of fellow travelers.

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  24. Hmmm, I take your point, although I was talking about my reaction to cyclists who weren't doing anything wrong when I blundered on them. My wish for them to evaporate immediately was based on something other than their actions. I'll decide wether to adopt your position once I've figured out if makes my behavior more or less that of an ass.

    I wonder if this is going to get better or worse as bikes become more common on our streets. Will familiarity entitle us to more of drivers regular stock of patience and goodwill, or will the remaining drivers see us as the ever increasing tide of a growing lower-class threat to their mobility and privilege. I'm not looking forward to a world where giant SUVs have a pod on the roof for coachmen with whips to sit and clear the streets of filth such as I.

    Spindizzy

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  25. Darn, this is confusing.
    I'm still thinking about "The Solace of Open Spaces"

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  26. Spindizzy - Ah okay. In that case you are very bad! But seriously, if you are a cyclist and feel this way as a driver, just imagine how non-cycling drivers feel about bikes...

    Dave - What's confusing? Mary Poppins needs open spaces to fly through. Obviously!

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  27. I've commented on this issue here as well as on my own blog. But I'll reiterate: I am given a wider berth, and am generally treated better, by motorists when I'm in "civilian" clothes. And, within that sartorial genre, I'm given more leeway when I'm in a skirt or dress than when I'm in sweats.

    I also noticed a difference (for the better) in motorists' attitudes when I cycled in civvies back when I was the "before" photo. Then again, when I was a guy named Nick, I didn't dress as well as I do now. I never wore a suit (except to interviews, weddings and funerals) after I left the corporate world. I rarely wore even a tie or dress shoes in those days, which now seem like a lifetime ago even though only a few years seperate me from them.

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  28. I might be over-thinking this one here, but here's two points:

    1)I understand why we're trying to rationalize behavior, i.e. trying to understand why a person would react a particular way in a situation. My worry that rationalization can lead to justification of these behaviors and actions. Humankind has had that tendency over the years.

    I guess I take issue with the normal/weird dichotomy that's come up. I think I'm pretty normal, but others may think I'm weird, particularly in my dress. Normal is subjective, and at this point in my life I'm beyond really worrying if I come across as normal or weird to others. Should this now be something I worry about in my bicycling excursions around town?

    2)I'm all for rational dress on the bike, and wear "normal" clothes in my day-to-day cycling. But I worry that this talk leads to thinking there's a "right" and "wrong" way of doing things. I know that for so many years we've been told that serious (i.e "real") cyclists wear spandex, clipless shoes, carbon bikes, etc. A lot of this attention to riding bikes with normal and even dressy clothes is a reaction to the standard line of thinking. And this has been good. But does it have to be so black or white? Will I only be accepted now if I wear business attire on my upright European city bike with briefcase strapped to the rear? is this the "right" way?

    I realize that no one is saying there's a right and wrong here, per se, we're mostly talking about bias. Yeah, I'm over-thinking this...

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  29. If you think you get good treatment with a "Mary Poppins" look, try riding around with kids (either in a box bike or just riding in a bike seat): drivers give you wide berth and often smile!

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  30. adventure! said...
    "... trying to understand why a person would react a particular way in a situation. My worry that rationalization can lead to justification of these behaviors and actions."


    Can't agree with that one. Trying to understand how a process works or what causes a specific reaction is not the same as justifying that reaction. It's like saying that seeking to understand the mentality of a murderer is similar to condoning it. I am oversimplifying of course, in the interest of time.

    As for right/wrong way, I agree with you. I try very hard to talk about my own experiences and my own preferred way of doing things without making it seem as if I believe them to be somehow the "correct" way of doing things. I am for personal sovereignty above all else. At the same time, the way I dress on a bike is frequently and maliciously attacked among cyclists and not infrequently explained by frivolity, and to be honest this takes a toll on my nerves. So I am presenting a (not "the") point of view that at least explains why mine is a rational approach.

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  31. adventure!: I definitely don't think that a person's perception of another person gives them the right to bully that person - I was just trying to make the point that people view things they don't understand or personally relate to as weird, frightening, threatening, etc. As I said, there's nothing objectively wrong with having a lot of tattoos or piercings, but the much larger group of people who don't have a lot of tattoos or piercings is going to view that as something "other".

    I'm personally not trying to rationalize behavior in order to excuse it, but to better determine what to do about it, how to confront it or work around it as needed.

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  32. I kind of like the whole idea of Civil War Reenactment on bicycles, but the muskets are really hard to balance.



    Corey K

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  33. Velouria/Portlandize--Thanks for responding. I may have fumbled my first point a bit (it was hard for me to get it our with clarity), so to clarify, I'm not saying people here (i.e. Lovely Bicycle and its lovely commenters), I'm talking more about society at large. And people DO act out against those who they think are different. They may or may not justify their actions in their heads, because they're possibly going on base emotions and such.

    As someone who's gotten picked on/bullied in my younger years, and who sometimes (though very rarely) gets an epithet shouted out from passing vehicles, the whole normal/weird thing stung a little.

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  34. I have never ridden a bike with a child seat on the back but wonder if drivers are more courteous and give more space to such bikes ?

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  35. Corey - Maybe we should get together with April for a little a fixed gear samurai archery.

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  36. Peppy (the child seat riding cat)January 10, 2011 at 5:56 PM

    Steve--I heard from somervillain that it does, and even before we talked about that, I have long suspected that a fake (or real) child seat on your bike is the best safety device ever. One with a doll in there would work even better. From what I understand that's not illegal, just really, really weird. :)

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  37. Interesting post and comments. Unlike some I never think poorly of a cyclist unless they are 1. riding on the sidewalk, or 2. riding on the wrong side of the street (into traffic). Personally, I'm anti Lycra. Even when I ride with the LBS guys, I look like a runner on a bike, cause thats the only sport specific clothes I've ever purchased. Otherwise I'm in street clothes. If I can ask something related... Since we don't have many cyclists in my mid size town in Kansas, I'd like to encourage any I see. But what is the best way to do that? I don't want to honk, it'd probably be taken the wrong way. Ideas?

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  38. The jerks in my town don't discriminate. I've been honked at, flipped off, yelled at and lectured to while kitted up and while wearing work clothes. One woman complained that she couldn't see me "except for those (2) flashing lights and (6) reflectors" on my bike and clothing. Another woman laid on the horn as she came up behind me, complaining that I should be riding next to the curb. Obviously she was unaware that cyclists risk being doored when they ride close to parked cars.
    By contrast, when I'm driving I always make eye contact with cyclists, and never fail to give them a "thumbs up" when we pass.

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  39. Yes it's only my perception, but I've noticed a difference, which I blogged about a while back:
    http://sheffieldcyclechic.tumblr.com/post/458975175/sittingupstraight

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  40. i only own one bike so i can't compare attitudes toward a sportier bike and upright (i will say that sporty cyclists seem to hate me and try to pass me all the time without success, because we can go equally as fast in city traffic).

    and i don't know if it's chicago or what, but i've never had a motorist talk to me (plenty of honking though). i've only had 2 interactions while on bike: once on a windy day when another cyclist told me to ride safe after waving me through a 4 way stop and another when a pedestrian yelled a racial slur at me as i rode by.

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  41. @Steve, drivers do give me a wider berth when I have my little boy on the back of my bike. I have heard parents are sometimes harassed and told they shouldn't ride with children, but I have never experienced this.

    I have rarely had problems with actively aggressive drivers, but have tons of problems with their passive-agressive behavior, meaning their lack of care and courtesy --double parking in bike lanes, etc.

    My most casual clothing is probably very formal by a general US standard, so I am perhaps not useful for data points. It has been my experience, though, that the more formally I am dressed, the better I am treated. I am ambivalent about excessively, good treatment, though. Kind of like how too much chivalry can make one feel controlled . . . or something.

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  42. i guess i'd better start wearing a flowered hat, long skirts and booties

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  43. My experience has been similar, although plenty of drivers feel free to be abusive toward me, no matter how pink my helmet, long my hair or voluminous my skirt. I'm starting to think Chicago drivers are especially horrible, but my memory of Boston drivers is pretty negative, too.

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  44. Here is the original research article that I think Arie Dekker was referring to above. Actual measurements of car bike interaction distances in England suggest that drivers give more passing room to cyclists who are: 1) closer to the edge of the road, 2) not wearing helmets, 3) appear to be female. No test of the Mary Poppins hypothesis, but drivers do appear to alter their driving behavior based on the position, clothing, and appearance of the cyclist.

    Walker, I. (2007). Drivers overtaking bicyclists: Objective data on the effects of riding position, helmet use, vehicle type and apparent gender. Accident Analysis and Prevention, 39, 417-425.

    "Abstract::
    A naturalistic experiment used an instrumented bicycle to gather proximity data from overtaking motorists. The relationship between rider position and overtaking proximity was the opposite to that generally believed, such that the further the rider was from the edge of the road, the closer vehicles passed. Additionally, wearing a bicycle helmet led to traffic getting significantly closer when overtaking. Professional drivers of large vehicles were particularly likely to leave narrow safety margins. Finally, when the (male) experimenter wore a long wig, so that he appeared female from behind, drivers left more space when passing. Overall, the results demonstrate that motorists exhibit behavioural sensitivity to aspects of a bicyclist's appearance during an encounter. In the light of previous research on drivers' attitudes to bicyclists, we suggest drivers approaching a bicyclist use physical appearance to judge the specific likelihood of the rider behaving predictably and alter their overtaking accordingly. However, the extent to which a bicyclist's moment-to-moment behaviour can be inferred from their appearance is questionable, and so the tendency for drivers to alter their passing proximity based on this appearance probably has implications for accident probability."

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  45. Well, I'm so glad I had a second to drop by tonight! To be quoted by one of my favorite bloggers is a sweet surprise.

    (But I'll tell you, I was so tired when I commented that day I actually did say to myself, if V ever cites that she's really going to have to edit it.)

    My own anec-data relates to a particular road where, laws be damned, a sane cyclist has no sense riding during rush hour. When I see the occasional lycra warrior there, I unfortunately project all kinds of less than positive thoughts. When I see something like an Ant or Velouria's Pashley, I feel pity.

    I am sure these sensations have no bearing on how I drive.

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  46. i am really horrified to hear my suburban friends bash on the lycra roadie types. suburban roads are popular with racers, because you can go a long distance without stopping so they're good for training. i don't really understand the hostility either because from my point of view, their lanes are wider and less congested and you could easily pass them.

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  47. Yep, similar experience. People are nicer to me when I'm in a skirt and heels. Strike up conversations at the light or smile and wave. Actually, I had the same experience when I drove a 2000 VW Beetle. Much friendlier than when I was behind the wheel of a Honda Accord. I think it has to do with mental and emotional associations that come up for people.

    I was a bit confused by Bike Snob's Civil War reference. I grew up in the south, although I'm not a southerner by family or birth. When the KKK was standing on the front porch of my elementary school at the end of the day, that reminded me of the Civil War; that and conderate flags flying from the rear of a pickup trucks; and the black kids who were automatically assigned to special ed classes. It was really icky.

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  48. I’ve been riding pretty steady for over 25 years, most of it as a lycra-encrusted roadie, and some of it in a more “civilian” configuration on a DL1 doing grocery runs and wandering about town in irrational exuberance.

    I think you are probably right about the Mary Poppins effect, although because she is “perfect in every way” she is also vulnerable to some amount of ire from motorist meanies who find her annoying.

    When riding in a group with other roadies it sometimes seems to incite some amount of motorist agitation and even belligerence, whether we are impeding traffic flow or not. My god a lot of people hate roadies.

    I have noticed that when I ride with my children that motorists always give us a very wide berth compared to anytime I’m on my own or doing a group ride. So if this means motorists can be perfectly safe and extraordinarily considerate when they want to then there’s probably a lot more blatant disregard of my safety and well-being going on out there than I realize. Incidentally, the vast majority of roadies are not Lance Armstrong wannabes. Most simply enjoy distance riding, like me. It’s not a crime and certainly not deserving of sociopathological behavior.

    When I pass ANY cyclist in my car I think of them as brothers and sisters, really, because I am of course a cyclist and understand what they are trying to do and am sympathetic. But I imagine many non-cyclist motorists have complex notions and dread or resent our image and presence on the road for a thousand reasons. How they act out their ambivalence or negative connotations varies hugely as well. People are weird.

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  49. "At the same time, the way I dress on a bike is frequently and maliciously attacked among cyclists and not infrequently explained by frivolity"

    I'm curious who's doing this! I mean, I live in Portland, and therefore kinda live in a bubble, I've never seen this attitude.

    Oh, and just today I saw a cyclist behaving badly (not dangerously, just in a way that wasn't polite to the people driving) and I was so frustrated that I made a comment to another cyclist I was standing next to at the light. (To that anonymous person: Auugh, did you not see that the first two cars had right turn signals on? That's why they were hugging the right-hand curb--to keep cyclists from being on their right. You know that the cars are backed up for blocks, but your deciding to jump to the crosswalk and make them wait meant that only two cars got through on that light. Which meant *everyone* else had to wait another light cycle. Including the cyclists who decided to stop behind the two cars signaling their right turns.)

    kfg: LOL!!! Yeah!

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  50. My adult experiences involving bicycles and traffic have been on a Pashley in London in the 80's and now in Brooklyn and Manhattan on my Azor Oma. I've had no bad incidents (with drivers, anyway. I do get endlessly lost, for which I blame Google), and my biggest complaint against cars double parking in bike lanes.

    The shouts of "Mary Poppins!" though rendered tiresome by their frequency, can hardly be construed as negative. And what can I expect wearing Yakkay helmet and riding an Oma? Even more frequent are admiring questions (and even a few photo requests) from pedestrians, cyclists, drivers and even people with no interest in bikes.

    Frankly, I find it hard to imagine an interaction more grueling, tiresome, and painful than what I experienced chauffeuring a non-driving, car-hating, bicycle 'activist' boyfriend/friend/pain in the ass who, rather ironically, needed lots of rides. The tedium induced by listening to to his running litany of the evils of cars and drivers and the threat they/we are not just to cyclists, but life as we know it is defies description. My car runs on vegetable oil, I bicycle in the city no matter the weather, and I compost with worms - in my kitchen. Yet I nearly rebelled, and began entertaining fantasies of building a DIY home toxic waste site/nuclear power plant.

    I know negative encounters with drivers happen. They're scary and unfortunate. But my positive experiences, overexposure to tiresome 'evil driver' rants, (and being lumped in with said evil drivers) as well as seeing too many bicyclists who pay no apparent heed to anything but their own path (usually against traffic, often during rush hours), make me pretty sure that drivers aren't always or exclusively at fault. And (why can't I use a teensy weensy font for this sentence) make me wonder if the frequency and severity of some accounts of bully drivers aren't a bit over-exaggerated by a vocal minority.

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  51. Here in Plymouth, I have had the exact opposite experience. I get way more respect and courtesy while engaged in obvious sport with full kit. When wearing regular clothes on a commuter bicycle they hate me. They hate the red bike more than the black bike as well. They are slightly more respectful if I add a helmet on occasion, but barely. Must be the area and the fact that most cyclists who ride for utilitatian purposes here are forced to, it is not pleasurable for them, nor would they choose to do it. I am sure it is changing, or I just hope it is, but that is my experience. The terrain here is just hilly enough and the traffic fast enough to discourage new riders. It is not perfect for riding a heavy, fully equiped commuter, especially just starting out and being somewhat nervous riding in traffic. So, sport is king here. I would have hoped that maybe ebikes would have brought more people out (no, don't boo me, some people need it), but my one experience with a woman on an ebike was insane. She passed me going up a hill while I was sleeping, never went any faster going down and coming up to an intersection with a 4 way stop, moved to the left side of the road way before the stop (she didn't), took a left and rode down the left side of that road until she could move to the right again! This is an easy intersection to navigate while acting exactly like traffic on the right side of the road - not busy. Then there are the summer people who ride anywhere they want, including the wrong side of the road and the sidewalk. No, drivers here like the sport type better and some days so do I.

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  52. I agree completely with the observation that drivers extend more courtesy to people in pedestrian clothes as opposed to those in full road-cycling "kit".

    However, I disagree with reason you propose, specifically your notion of degrees of "humanness" and individuality. Many cyclists in their road kit may feel that their outfits are indeed an expression of their own individuality. And by the same token, a "normal" person who dresses in pedestrian clothes is not necessarily more expressive of his or her individuality (is wearing jeans and a GAP sweatshirt really a statement of individuality???). C'mon.

    Rather, my impression, both as a cyclist and a driver is that a person in full cycling kit riding aggressively on a road bike is more aware of his/her movement in space and the movement of objects immediately surrounding him. He is more "capable" at protecting himself than the vehicular cyclist in pedestrian clothes on an upright bicycle. Of course, this may or may not be true, but I suspect that drivers are constantly processing these visual clues, and the phenomenon of risk compensation influences their reactions to the cyclist. The compensation here being that they need to be more careful around the plain-clothes cyclists because there is more risk that the cyclist may not be confident in their control of the bike, whereas the roadie is in full control. Again, this is not necessarily the case, but I think most people would process those visual clues as such.

    I don't express my individuality by the way I dress any more on my upright bikes than I do road bikes (I ride my road bike in mostly pedestrian clothes). Yet, I observe the different reactions of drivers. This confirms my suspicion that it's more about the driver's perception of the cyclist's ability to "take care of himself" than any kind of "identifying" with the cyclist through the cyclist's choice of clothing or any kind of camaraderie of "humanness".

    There may also be an identification with aggression at play here. As a male, I know that when I encounter an aggressive behavior (roadie on a road bike), my tendency is to kick up my own aggression a notch; the flip side is that when I encounter non-aggressive behavior (regular clothes, upright bike), it has a calming influence on me. This seems to apply much more with motor vehicles, but this mutual influence may also be at play with respect to the interaction of drivers and cyclists, and I don't think it has anything to do with them being less "human" and therefore worth less consideration.

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  53. somervillain - in this context I meant individualising physiological features, not anything beyond that. Maybe I should change the wording!

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  54. @Lisa, your comment made me laugh and I couldn't agree with you more. My experience mirrors yours, and I relate to a lot that you describe.

    The general way people talk about riding a bike in NYC alienates me, I just don't experience the added IT'S NEW YORK SO IT'S HARD-EFFIN-CORE, PEOPLE. I see cyclists who ride that way all the time, and it's just UGH. I understand that drivers can be dangerous and I support strict enforcement and consequences for drivers who injure cyclists or pedestrians or break traffic laws, but I worry sometimes that demonizing cars and drivers is more about getting to experience the thrill of participating in a "dangerous" activity than it is about changing transportation for the better. And of course this is doubly ironic, given the stats that bear out how safe cycling is.

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  55. I participated in the No Pants Subway Ride on Sunday. (Hence the photo). Maybe (or not - too much like lycra?) this sort of dress would foster nicer behavior.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/eithel/5341922256/in/set-72157625663462817/

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/eithel/5341312159/in/set-72157625663462817/

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  56. "his running litany of the evils of cars"

    The emerging thought trend is that cars aren't the problem, it's all that evil metal. That's why, for the first time, you are seeing so many wooden bike projects when there is not only no shortage of metal, it is more plentiful and cheaper than ever.

    I'm not sure that getting rid of cars at the same time bikes get extra crappy is going to be a winning strategy.

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  57. @ neighbourtease, I really want to go to the Fix Your Bike classes Times Up holds, but keep procrastinating due to my concern over the "IT'S NEW YORK SO IT'S HARD-EFFIN-CORE, PEOPLE," factor. (thank you for an absolutely perfect description of what I couldn't find words for!).
    I NEED to learn to fix my bike, and surely the people are perfectly nice and rational. And I admit the odds are high that I'm guilty of some sort of profiling here based on one experience (the memory of which is probably a horrible exaggeration due partially to the fact the Mr. Hard-Effin-Core NY dumped ME).
    My latest excuse is to wait until Friday's (do they do it if it snows?) Critical Mass ride is over - so as not to be thought rude if they expect you to show up. I doubt I could keep up with them on my heavy bike, anyway!

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  58. I by chance saw the Peloton of the Giro d'Italia coming through Utrecht (which I always had thought to be located in The Netherlands, not in Italy, but maybe I was wrong about that ...) last year, and found the riders almost indistinguishable as individuals in their uniform racing equiment - they kind of looked like Androids with only small alterations in the color scheme of their dress.
    And most people riding road bikes here in Germany tend to imitate the equipment of professional road racers and wear spandex, a helmet (I do wear a helmet too, so there's nothing wrong about that) and of course sun glasses which conceal their eyes. All of this gives them kind of a de-individualised appearance, and above this, quite a number of those guys love to show the world an extra-cool attitude which seems to tell us 'normal' people that they belong to some kind of extra-human species.
    Even more, many of them seem to think that traffic rules don't apply to them in principle, because they are keen riders, and if a dangerous situation is caused by their acting against the rules of the road, they tend to yell at the other person(s) involved to take more care ...
    So I guess that the public image as reckless professional road racers those guys want to evoke really kind of works out - but I doubt that this approach is very helpful for the idea of cycling in general, and even less so for the distant ideal of a partnership of cyclists and drivers on the road...
    I say this as somebody who never owned a car and rides frequently for commuting and for pleasure, but always in 'plain' clothes, and who loves to go fast by bike.

    As far as the potential positive effects of child seats on bikes are concerned - they are very popular here nowadays, and I do not have the impression that drivers take special care when they see somebody with a child on the bike, so maybe this turns out to be a mere question of numbers in the end ...

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  59. "IT'S HARD-EFFIN-CORE"

    They say the same thing about riding fixed, and yet I have to wonder, if it's so "core," how come they're what we give two year olds to learn on?

    "Mr. Hard-Effin-Core NY dumped ME"

    Obviously you shouldn't have proved how evil you are by giving him so many rides.

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  60. As far as the potential positive effects of child seats on bikes are concerned - they are very popular here nowadays, and I do not have the impression that drivers take special care when they see somebody with a child on the bike, so maybe this turns out to be a mere question of numbers in the end ...

    But Anon, you are neither a motorist nor a child-seat cyclist, are you? As a cyclist who has racked up many hundreds of urban miles on various bikes with child seats, I can honestly attest that a child seat makes a HUGE difference in the attitude of drivers, at least here in the U.S. With a child seat (regardless if it is actually occupied) attached to my bike, I am treated like royalty. Drivers pass me with care, giving me a wide berth, and they don't aggressively tailgate behind me when I'm taking the lane.

    The same applies with my tandem. When I ride the tandem with my six year old, I get similar (if not even better) treatment as with a regular bike + child set. In fact, most people who see us on the tandem give us smiles and waves, including drivers.

    If anyone wants to experience the shift in driver attitude that I've experienced, just throw an old child seat on the back of your bike. I'd be surprised if you didn't notice an immediate difference in attitude.

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  61. @Lisa, Ah yes, there is nothing quite like being dumped by someone you later realized you should have dumped :) There is at least one female bike mechanic who teach classes in the city, I think, though I can't remember who she is? I think she's in Williamsburg, though, IIRC.

    You're at my subway stop in that photo. I can't believe you got your Oma down those stairs!! And without pants. V impressive :)

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  62. Interestingly, Dr. Ian Walker, (who carried out a study on the distances which motorist pass cyclist) found that if he was wearing a wig so that he looked like a female from behind, motorist gave him far more room.

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  63. @ Somervillain: Right, I am neither a motorist (although I own an veteran motorcycle) nor a child-seat cyclist (as you put it), but I ride quite a lot in different german and european cities, and I am very much interested in all things bike, so I think I have at least some kind of loose overview as far as some bigger cities of the northwestern part of Europe are concerned. And as you will have read on several occasions right here in Velourias wonderful blog, the situation in these parts of the old Continent is very different from that in the US - it is by far more commonplace here to cycle every day and everywhere. And so is cycling with child seats and child trailers - it is (or rather has become during the past decade) quite an ordinary thing, and therefore it causes neither special positive nor negative reactions anymore (although there are still negative sentiments about cyclists among motorists - I found cyclists that continue to cycle under those harsh Berlin winter conditions marked as 'organ donors' (without adding 'potential') in the comment section of a well respected Berlin newspaper. But as a frequent reader of this blog, I have no doubt that the situation in the US is quite different, and that cyclists will make quite different experiences in your country (just to mention it: the reality for cyclists in the UK also differs totally - I am doing my PhD in Glasgow, and although I think I may consider myself kind of a keen and experienced cyclist, I would rather not take to biking there, because cycling seems to be something exotic and consequently dangerous in Scotland - drivers simply don't reckon with the possibility of the existence of cyclists on the road. Hm, maybe a child seat would be helpful there, too ...).

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  64. Interestingly, Dr. Ian Walker, (who carried out a study on the distances which motorist pass cyclist) found that if he was wearing a wig so that he looked like a female from behind, motorist gave him far more room.

    So this begs the question: do those motorists consider a female more "human" than a male, or do they sense something else which is driving their behavior? I suspect the latter, especially given that in that study, there was no difference in the way the cyclist was dressed; only the presence or absence of the wig. I still maintain that it is drivers' perception of the cyclists level of control of the bike that drives the behavior, at least partially.

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  65. I have found that on a more upright bike that I do get more favorable treatment vs a race-style bike. But having pink handlebars and adding a flower to my commuter i think has helped. I think anything that does "humanize" you and to which drivers can relate helps. I also now wear a pink-print fleece balaclava, so maybe that perception of me as a woman on the bike helps... sometimes...

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  66. @Kim. It depends. Motorists may have given him "far more room" because they saw him as a guy riding a bike in a woman's wig. Hey its possible.

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  67. Well...I ride a sporty street fixie--that has fenders and a rack. I'm lean and ride in a sporting posture, but always wearing wool gabardine knickers and non-bikey clothes (from my own inventory at Bicycle Fixation). Maybe the mashup of styles keeps them confused as whether to be angry or admiring....

    In any case, I experience very few nasty interactions with drivers even here in LA, the Ground Zero of Carmageddon. I've been riding for transportation & pleasure in this town for 45 years and feel at home on the roads; having a body language that's both non-aggro and non-apologetic helps.

    But I do hear & read nasty jibes directed against roadies in kit, very often correlating tight clothes on men with homosexuality. There are still plenty of homophobic atavists out there who are looking for any excuse to hate. Seen comments (on blogs & in online papers) about hipsters "wearing their sister's jeans" too.

    The insecure are always looking for a scapegoat. And yes, it is harder to scapegoat someone dressed like you (or at least a lot like you).

    My knickers aren't "mainstream" but they are office-compatible in lots of places and reference tradition anglo-american styles of years past (not just Revolutionary days but the 'tween-the-wars era, especially in UK), hence don't seem to bother folks as much as race kit.

    Tweed maybe goes too far, but apparently some kind of dressing up does defuse driver imbecility a little.

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  68. Somervillian,

    +1 on tandems garnering more favorable treatment. Mel Gibson and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could ride a tandem past B'nai David in Pico-Robertson on a Saturday night and probably get a few smiles and waves.

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  69. I haven't had time to catch up on the comments, but the Mel Gibson and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad image made my evening!

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  70. I think in this attempt to understand driver behavior we're presuming (or at the very least there's a deep-seated desire to believe) that people choose to like/dislike other people for some "reason." We want to believe they've gone through a rationale to arrive at a conclusion. Or, failing that, we take refuge in the hope that there's at least some sort of rational third-party explanation, i.e. some set of rules or body of knowledge, to which an individual's behavior conforms, or in terms of which it can be explained.

    We would so very much like for that to be the case, since it helps us maintain our sense of the world as an orderly place with rules, a "cosmos" in the Greek sense. Whereas it seems to me that it's at least equally as much (and lately, increasingly) a "chaos," where the decision of "friend or foe" happens instantly, for trivial reasons, or no reason, and you might personally end up dead (or getting a hug and a flower for that matter), for that trivial reason or lack of a reason.

    You don't look like they do
    You do things they don't do
    You're richer or stronger than they are (thereby stimulating their jealousy, or their submission)
    You're poorer or weaker than they are (thereby stimulating their sense of power, or their pity)
    You're wearing too much pink
    You're not wearing enough pink
    You're wearing black
    You represent our species's ability to reproduce (women, children)
    You look like their damn no-good ex-husband/ex-wife
    You look like a supermodel, or someone they might like to impress/have sex with
    They're having a "bad day"... or a "good day"
    They're not even paying attention... they're texting

    You could die today because of any of these. Ignoring it sure feels warm & snuggly but it's still the truth. So what's the refuge when you suddenly realize this? Well first of all, you also might get a job, meet the love of your life, be handed a $50 bill, or a pie, or get on a game show, make a friend, whatever, for these same reasons. But it's all just too goddamned distracting isn't it? I generally just return to myself. Focus on what you're doing. You're here to do what you were put here to do. Whatever that is. So go do it. If they have scrape me off the pavement someday, I'll be wearing whatever I'm wearing, which generally speaking, is whatever's comfortable for the trip, and/or meets the dress code of the destination. I ain't out trying to please hataz.

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  71. I can back up this. I started by waiving to every driver then wearing a roadworkers flouro shirt to give the impression I was just another normal person who could be one of their workmates.
    I ride in totally ordinary clothes now and upright and without the helmet which is risking a fine here. I still keep the flouro vest though.
    For here, on the outskirts of Melbourne, this is a look that has not been seen for a long time.
    Along the main route I ride I used to feel I needed to apologise for being there but I think the subtle change I feel is due to looking more normal.

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  72. Hi there

    To add a further take on this discussion we have just completed a 6 month cycle tour from Spain to Istanbul. We ride fully loaded bikes and wear a mix of casual baggy cycling and outdoors clothes.

    We have cycled through some big cities along our way London, Florence, Sarajevo, Belgrade and big daddy Istanbul. Whether its the size of our bikes or the style of dress drivers are much more courteous on my touring bike than they ever were on my daily commute.

    I could maybe hazard a guess that the perception of a loaded touring bicycle by car drivers is "I don't want to hit that huge heavy thing". Alternatively maybe its our cheery disposition and constant waving to passers by that sets the drivers at ease.

    Nice blog post to get the mind thinking!

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  73. Nice post, may I ask you the authorization to translate it in french for my blog http://velociteenagenais.blosgspot.com
    ?
    Thank you for your answer.
    Denis

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  74. Denis - You are welcome to translate and re-post this. Just please give credit to "Lovely Bicycle" with a link to the original text here.

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  75. Bike Snob is amusing perhaps, but his associations to the Tweed Rides are greatly misleading.
    All you have to do is see pictures of the participants from the various locales or of the organizers of our Southern version, the Seersucker rides, to see that racial issues are not an issue. Nor are the connections made valid at all.
    It is a motley group of people with a shared interest in the bicycle dressing up and enjoying themselves. They are not lowering themselves to shallow judgement calls of society falsely attributed to their clothing choice.
    It is an unfortunate and pretentious attitude which spreads gross misperceptions keeping others from participating in something enjoyable and good natured...and welcoming to all bicyclists.

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  76. david...no the other one!January 12, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    I have not thought about this subject before, generally because of my choice to think of discourtious drivers as being as#h*les, sorry.
    I do believe some drivers do become agressive towords quicker cyclists, it may not matter concerning bicycle type, loop or diamond frame, if you are quicker than traffic than you must be delt with.
    But after considering the posting and all the responces, I'm thinking that drivers may wish to see others, reguardless of their being on a bicycle or as a pedrestrian, nicely dressed. Consequently if they see a woman finely dressed, certainly they will slow, being a male they wish to enjoy the view, a female will be concerned with saftey generally.
    Didn't our mothers tell us, "Dress to impress", surely it would apply when we ride, or maybe it's something else?

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  77. " . . . pretentious attitude . . ."

    So, basically what you're saying here is that he doesn't advertise himself falsely?

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  78. Alrgh, I have no time to read through the comments! If you have asked me a direct question somewhere here and I seem to have ignored you, please bear with me and I will reply over the next couple of days, as I have a chance to read through everything.

    Forrest Lee Causseaux - I see your point, but the way I interpret BikeSnob, is that his style of mockery is basically gentle and good natured. He is not really making fun of the Tweed Ride. He sees himself in all aspects of "bicycle culture" and pokes fun at all of it equally - essentially mocking himself along with the rest of us.

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  79. Real men wear red top-hats and get attention both in traffic and when they're inflating funny stuff http://goo.gl/S0TKe

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  80. As an experienced bike commuter, I've never had a positive experience talking to a roadie when waiting at a red light. My attempts to say "hi" when wearing normal clothes (on my bike) to a roadie only get the cold shoulder, and they avoid eye contact.

    Saying "hi" to other normal people on bikes, however, almost always gets a positive response, even if just a smile. I've been bike-commuting daily for about 7 years now.

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  81. Peppy (the antisocial cat)January 21, 2011 at 11:31 PM

    Some cyclist said "hi" to me today while I was waiting to merge onto a street. I think he said it because it had been snowing and there were few cyclists out.

    Anyway, I yelled back "what??" and then "oh... hi" when I processed what he had said. I hope he didn't think I was rude, but sometimes people don't expect strangers to talk to them, unless it is urgent or is a question.

    Anyway, maybe I'm just grumpy.

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  82. I am a woman who rides in many different "costumes," on a roadie, and on a Mixte, and I always notice that with my child trailer, all types of humans are the most patient and fun...bikers, pedestrians, and drivers. If they peek in the trailer and see the case of bourbon, people are usually even nicer.

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  83. More discussion on the 'Mary Poppins Effect' for those still reading comments:

    on London Cyclist

    on Let's Go Ride a Bike

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  84. Thanks Lovely Bike, your theory is my theory and I've seen it in action. To me it's also about attracting more people to biking, which will also make me safer. A lot people don't want to wear the racing outfit. Sometimes the racing folks don't look like they're having much fun, either. To attract more people to biking, it needs to be fun and normal.

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  85. I find that on my commute, which I've been doing almost daily for over 5 years now, I do get more deference from drivers with the "safety geek" look. I have incredibly bright front and rear lighting (helmet and on bike), wear neon yellow or orange jerseys or jackets, and ride far right and courteously. I ride predictibly, signal, stop at stop signs and lights, and sometimes yield to cars when I'm not required to. My motto is "Safe, legal, courteous, fast -- in that order." Riding like you're pretending to be in the Tour de France on closed roads is not the way to be safe.

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  86. There was a study measuring distances of overtaking cars from bicycles using video camers and ultrasonic sensors. They found cars were more courteous to female cyclists.

    http://www.drianwalker.com/overtaking/overtakingprobrief.pdf

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  87. I would put the aggressive reaction to cyclists on racing bikes being because they are often seen by motorists to be riding through red lights and otherwise "cheating" the road rules (often because their shoes are cleated in), whereas more often than not riders commuting in work clothes don't have to unclip and are happier to stop and dismount at lights etc.
    On another angle, I've been a car driver for 30+ years and still think like a driver when I cycle, being cautious and alert: I don't believe many cycle riders in cities think like that. Jeff

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  88. From years of being both a cyclist (casual/recreational) and a car driver, 15 of which in Colorado where it felt like many roadies tried to behave as if they were Olympic trainees, it seemed that having been intimidated on curvy roads by bicylists tended to make other drivers downright nasty! I never felt comfortable riding on a road there because of the potential of a driver being hacked off at the other guy. I know I could have been in a dress and heels in town, but it would make me an easier target

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  89. I didn't read every single comment here, so pardon me if this has been said already.
    Don't forget that drivers yell at and harass other drivers all the time.
    I also think riding faster is more annoying for the driver. Faster=longer time to pass, more car-like and thus more annoying to the driver.

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  90. I started wearing ordinary clothes when cycletouring because of interactions off the bike in country towns. Then I found it worked in the city. (Melbourne, Australia). However the bigger effect, in my experience, is purposiveness: I seldom have problems when my presentation makes it clear that I am headed somewhere specific. This may be the problem roadies face if their priority is, or appears to be, travel speed rather than destination. I am surprised by the data in the Walker research about overtaking distances. However I would still prefer to ride further out because it gives far more room to move over if motorists do crowd you. - John Harland -

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  91. I think everyone is missing the point. Mary Poppins never rode a bike. True story everyone.

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  92. I just wrote about this in Swedish and used your photo to illustrate. Hope that's okay!

    Bilister ger mer plats åt kvinnliga cyklister - Ecoprofile

    Google does a decent translation to English

    You might want to look at the Florida study on this (PDF).

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  93. The opposite of teh Mary Poppins Effect would be the "lycra effect" maybe motorists are more hostile to cyclists in racing duds because it's the equivalent of someone pulling up behind you in a NASCAR racing machine, dressed in a Nomex jumpsuit, helmet,etc. and insisted on drafting you for a block before slingshotting around you to beat the light. You'd be thinking - Hey buddy, this is a street, not a race track - what are you trying to prove?

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  94. I have often had this debate with a non-lycra anti-roadie friend. He equates all cycling specific attire and thin wheeled bikes as being part of the "spandex wearing #*&#$" club. For his defense, he cites that in his area the roadie pelotons ride 3-4 wide for miles regardless of traffic and rarely look back. Perhaps both sides are in the wrong, however because he has also said unashamedly to buzz said or even use the wind from his big rig to unseat.

    On my personal observations, I have noticed a huge difference between hair up and hair down as well as pink/purple coat or yellow/red/black coats regardless of skirt or lycra pants.

    Confidence without arrogance is important as well. It is one thing to own a lane when it is needed, but another to take it any longer than needed.

    I should also add that I am an average build male XC racing mountain biker who rides commuting on the same bike daily.

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  95. I wonder if you would get the same effect by installing a child sea and putting a dummie into it. I'm sure drivers would be much more cautious if they though you had a baby on board.

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  96. Looks like I'm pretty late to this party, but I just wanted to add that I've stopped wearing sunglasses when I ride for this very reason. I noticed that honest to goodness eye contact with drivers and pedestrians alike provides contact between two humans, not just some jerk on a bike. My eyes may tear up on a fast descent, but I'll take that over a dirty look or being completely ignored any day.
    -Marc in California

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  97. I wonder if you would get the same effect by installing a child sea and putting a dummie into it. I'm sure drivers would be much more cautious if they though you had a baby on board. commercial playground

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  98. Love the blog! I'm not annoyed by bikers of any kind for reasons stated above. I'm annoyed because I've hit two of them with my car - by no fault of my own - and just don't feel it's safe for drivers and bikers to share the road. As a biker, I choose to ride on rail trails and in parks for recreation and don't bike for transportation. I don't trust drivers enough for me to bike in their vicinity!

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  99. I embrace driver-hate and have for over forty years of bicycling. I assume that every driver is subhuman, with inferior eyesight, hearing, attention span, and excessive territoriality and aggression. I ride on roads with cars--but am under no illusion that the drivers of those cars are, like, human. Keep the hate-stay safe!

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  100. hi, greetings from europe

    we have a problem with so called "bicycle road rage" in England and Germany. (not in italy or the netherlands.. people there cycle with normal clothes in a very laid back style)

    People "Dressed up" like racers for the Tour the France. But very agressive, and a PITA for everyone because they jeopardize themself and everyone else.
    "Im wearing an Helmet... nothing can happen to mee... ja heearr!"

    Possible this "Cyborg-like" dressing has an psychological impact to Car-drivers...
    but it seems to affect many cyclists too.

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