June 14, 2012

When a bicyclist shouts "to your left" — it's dangerously ambiguous.

In Arlington, Virginia, a man yelled "to your left," causing an 80-year-old woman, Ita Lapina, to step to her left. She was struck and killed.

Around here, they shout "on your left," not "to your left," but I'm not sure that clearly avoids the ambiguity. Basically, shouting at a pedestrian from behind is startling.

Bikers, think of Ita Lapina, and get a bell. People instantly understand what it means, and they don't have the confusing experience of suddenly finding someone yelling at them. Quite aside from the safety issue, it's irritating to be yelled at. I bike on bike trails often, and I know exactly what's happening when I hear "on your left," but on a sub-rational level it feels rude.

Also, when you're passing a pedestrian — especially an older person or a child — go slowly and give them a really wide berth.

ADDED: In the comments at the link, someone says: "I'd have no problem with banning full suspension bikes from multi use paths. Not because they're fast, but because cheap ones have handling issues and are too often ridden by poor cyclists." I don't know anything about whether that's true, but I see in the article that the bike was a Next Powerclimber. That bike costs $88 at WalMart. That's amazing. They'll even ship it free at that price.

113 comments:

David said...

Good advice. In New Jersey a bell is required by law.

Michael said...

It's been a while since I last rode a bike, but when I did, I would always try to say "passing on your left" when approaching someone from behind. While a bell certainly indicates a bicycle is passing, I don't strongly associate it with a side.

rhhardin said...

Bike paths are a bad idea for a thousand reasons, one being highly mixed traffic and no traffic conventions.

Walk and ride on the road, and everything's safe.

Xpatish said...

What a tragedy.

But, according to the story, "He yelled “'to your left' and rang a bell" so there is that.

Also, FWIW, that is a Wal*Mart bike ridden by an older dude. I am willing to assume that if he hit someone and endo'd and only had minor injuries that he probably wasn't going all that fast, even though it was downhill.

Personally, my experience is that the only thing worse than pedestrians and bikes is dogs on leashes and bikes.

-XC

RazorSharpSundries said...

Go slow! Man, use some common sense bike-Nazis. I love to ride bike. But I can't stand those speed tyrants dominating walking paths and roadways. It's called situational awareness.

Dan from Madison said...

No serious cyclist, such as myself, will ever have a bell on their bicycle.

That said, when on paths and coming from behind with pedestrians, I go slowly and pass without saying anything. The "on your left" thing just causes confusion and people start running all over the path.

With cyclists, however, typically if they have the gear and look the part they usually know the verbal cues and it works. And it always works in a racing or pace line situation. Ymmv.

Christopher said...

Bikers in the DC area where this happened also say "on your left" so I don't know if the reporter got this wrong or the biker used those words.

Tens of hundreds of comments on area blogs have erupted over this sad story. "On your left" is understood by most bikers here but lots of people feel a bell, sans narration, is the best way to go. Worst of all would be "to your left" which sounds like a command core ting that startled person into the biker's path. The underlying problem is that multiuse paths in this area are used by wide varieties of people with very different expectations of how to behave.

Matthew Sablan said...

This is something I hate about bikers. I rarely get "to your left" or "on your left;" I usually just get "Left!" So, naturally, I move left while turning around to see what's going on, then have to move again.

It would also help if they gave a warning when they're further than say, five steps behind me. You can see me for a good long time; try saying something when there's time to actually respond without having to jump.

Christopher said...

Meant to say above that to your left sounds like a command directing someone to the left. Damn autocorrect.

On your left works for most bikers but lots pedestrians don't get it, of course. But bells are only a little better... They also merely distract or startle many of the self-absorbed and headphone-wearing pedestrians. On those rare occasions I use the close-in MUPs, I usually just give as wide a berth as possible without any words, bells or noise simply because that is the safest thing to do around here in my experience.

Jimmy said...

Is it better to just ring a bell and say nothing at all?

The biker in Arlington claims he shouted and rang his bell.

The accident occurred on Four Mile Run Trail. It is a "multi-use" trail. Bicyclists should expect to see pedestrians on the trail.

There is no speed limit for bicyclists on the Trail, however shouldn't a bicyclist have a duty of care, such as to overtake pedestrians at a safe speed and distance, and allowing for the possibility that a pedestrian may not hear a warning (what if Ita was deaf?) or may not understand it?

Why should this biker not be charged with criminally negligent homicide?

Triangle Man said...

The federal government should require all bikes to have a noise making device installed. A simple playing card in the spokes will do, but an amplified electronic pod racer sound will also be acceptable.

But seriously, when riding a bike one should slow way the hell down around pedestrians. Pedestrians should know to move to the right when a cyclist approaches. It is what they would do if a car was approaching.

Bushman of the Kohlrabi said...

This really isn't that difficult. Just stay to the right. I would never veer across the path based on someone yelling from behind. The person passing has both a better view of the approaching situation and a responsibility to move around the slower traffic. I appreciate when a biker let's me know he's approaching but I would never trust him to guide me to where he wants me on the path.

Leon said...

Has it occurred to anyone that the biker was entirely to blame. Shouting or not, bell ringing or not he ran into an old woman with his bike. It was a bike not a train. It could turn and brake. He was either too fast or too close or both.

Ann Althouse said...

"No serious cyclist, such as myself, will ever have a bell on their bicycle."

Your idea of "serious" is, ironically, a failure of seriousness.

Ann Althouse said...

"That said, when on paths and coming from behind with pedestrians, I go slowly and pass without saying anything."

I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that it is illegal to pass pedestrians without a warning in Madison.

Ann Althouse said...

I used to walk to work here in Madison for many years, but I quit because of bikes passing me on the sidewalk. I switched to driving because these bicycle jerks ruined the experience of walking.

Rusty said...

Christopher said...
Meant to say above that to your left sounds like a command directing someone to the left. Damn autocorrect.

On your left works for most bikers but lots pedestrians don't get it, of course. But bells are only a little better... They also merely distract or startle many of the self-absorbed and headphone-wearing pedestrians. On those rare occasions I use the close-in MUPs, I usually just give as wide a berth as possible without any words, bells or noise simply because that is the safest thing to do around here in my experience.


You could always ride your bike on the highway.

I try to avoid the bike paths around here-Fox Valley,on the weekends because all the Lance Armstrong wannabes think they're in the Tour de France.

Oh. Yeah. Just because you own a bicycle doesn't mean you have to wear spandex.

Ann Althouse said...

"Has it occurred to anyone that the biker was entirely to blame. Shouting or not, bell ringing or not he ran into an old woman with his bike. It was a bike not a train. It could turn and brake. He was either too fast or too close or both."

Yes. He wasn't charged with a crime though. (Not yet, anyway.)

We don't know how far she may have leapt at what she heard as a sudden command.

I wonder how close he was when he shouted.

The article says she turned around too, so she didn't have time to move away.

Triangle Man said...

@Dan

Define serious. Seriously. I have a bell on my fancy road bike. If I never rode on paths shared by pedestrians I might not, but since I do, I do.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Shouting or not, bell ringing or not he ran into an old woman with his bike."

-- I agree. He was acting like an idiot. But I see bikers bike against traffic and weave on and off the sidewalk in the D.C./VA area all the time. My favorite day was when I saw a cop actually pull a biker over and ticket him for running a red light the wrong way while on the street.

Ann Althouse said...

"There is no speed limit for bicyclists on the Trail, however shouldn't a bicyclist have a duty of care, such as to overtake pedestrians at a safe speed and distance, and allowing for the possibility that a pedestrian may not hear a warning (what if Ita was deaf?) or may not understand it?"

Pedestrians and runners often have earbuds plugged in and are listening to loud music.

X said...

odd. cyclists usually are screaming for negligent homicide charges in a bicycle related fatality.

rhhardin said...

I put 8,000 miles a year on a $159 bike, and have ridden much cheaper.

High price is overrated.

Paco Wové said...

I like the bell. I dislike shouting at people when I'm riding, and the bell, when properly used (i.e., rung when 4 or 5 seconds distant from pedestrian obstacles) gives said pedestrians time to shake themselves out of the reverie or conversation that is occupying their attention, and move themselves to the right.

The 4 - 5 second interval also gives enough time to brake, should the pedestrians be such insensate clods as to not ever realize, even with warnings, that a bike is bearing down upon them.

Martin L. Shoemaker said...

When I drive my car behind a bicyclist, I pass with plenty of space where possible. Preferably a full lane.

When passing with adequate space is impossible, I slow down until it's possible. I'm driving the faster, more dangerous vehicle, AND I'm coming from behind so I can see them better than they can see me. If I absolutely must pass in close proximity, I pass at roughly their speed, so there's less chance of an impact.

What I would never do is just honk my horn to alert them and then zip by at full speed and close proximity.

It seems to me that the bike riders should do the same. Give the pedestrians a wide berth; but if you MUST pass close to them, slow down to their speed to do so.

rhhardin said...

I also run red lights and stop signs all the time.

They're not safety devices. They're traffic flow efficiency devices. If anything they makes things less safe, albeit more efficient.

How do you know if you have a green that the other guy has a red? How do you know if you don't have a stop sign that the other guy does? Yet you act as if you have right of way. That's the efficiency part.

Curiously, against all bureaucratic instinct, states began allowing right on red in the 60s and 70s, allowing that people might be able to tell if there's a car coming.

Christopher said...

I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that it is illegal to pass pedestrians without a warning in Madison.

Entirely possible! Off the top of my head, I don't know if it's required in Northern Virginia where I do most of my riding. What I know is that I will not follow rules that place myself and others in more danger than the alternative.

SGT Ted said...

One of our customers at the Harley shop has a bike bell on the handlebars of his 1340cc Big Twin.

I love ringing it on the test ride after a service.

Bicyclists are the Rude New Yorker of the transport world.

jess1wichita said...

@Althouse
I used to walk to work here in Madison for many years, but I quit because of bikes passing me on the sidewalk.

If you wore a shrike outfit while walking, I bet that bicyclists (and other pedestrians too) would give you right of way.

Hagar said...

I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that it is illegal to pass pedestrians without a warning in Madison.

After this, they will probably also pass an ordinance making it illegal to pass witha warning.

Kenneth Burns said...

Often when I said "on your left," pedestrians looked back over their left shoulder and, seemingly as part of the same movement, started walking to their left and into the other lane of the bike path. That wasn't the desired effect. So I bought a bell, which works much better.

AllenS said...

Last Sunday, I was in Rush City, MN. When I came home, instead of using the freeway, I decided to take old Highway 61 south. Unfortunately, there were hundreds if not a thousand bike riders using the road. There is a large bike lane on the right side of the road that is probably 5 feet wide marked off with a large white stripe. There were paper signs all along the route saying "single file". I can't tell you how many times I had to slow down and move into the other lane because of the bikers in the road. They will vote for Obama. Every last one of them.

Ken said...

Bikers on walking paths and sidewalks are assholes.

MadisonMan said...

The convention on the SW multi-use path, that I use every day, is to pass on the left. Sometimes I say on your left, fairly quietly. If they've earbuds in, why bother?

When I'm in pedestrian mode, why do bikers feel the need to pass me with just inches to spare when there's an entire lane on the other side of the dividing line? Going all the way over the line isn't going to add that much distance/time to their ride, after all.

Bicyclists in Madison are the most coddled of species. We got a mailing yesterday; the proposal to light the path is back. Let's spend $250K just so some weenie who lives out by Odana doesn't have to buy a $15 light.

Original Mike said...

"Basically, shouting at a pedestrian from behind is startling."

Yeah, no kidding. As well as ambiguous. I've taken to freezing in place when I hear this "on your left!". Seems like the best course of action (short of knocking them off their bike).

Sharc said...

Pedestrians on dedicated bike paths can be assholes too. Just sayin'.

Ken said...

rhardin,

I put 8,000 miles a year on a $159 bike, and have ridden much cheaper.

I used to think so as well. I had a $189 bike that ultimately crapped out on my. For my next bike I ponied up $400 and I was shocked at the difference. The bike was just all around better and well worth the additional $200. It was lighter. The gears were more solid and changing gears much smoother.

I'm not super into biking, but if you are, I think spending $1000 may be worth it. I haven't ridden that expensive of a bike, but for those who do regularly, particularly competitively, that price may be a bargain.

However, if you're riding for exercise, it seems like a cheap bike may be the way to go. You'll have to work harder to get where you're going and end up burning more calories.

Balfegor said...

Bicyclists in the DC area (including Arlington) are the worst. They are an absolute menace. They try to speed through clusters of people on the sidewalk. They don't obey the traffic signals and speed right on into the crosswalk even though the light (for them) is red. I have never once seen a bicyclist dismount on the sections of walking paths where the signs specifically direct them to dismount (e.g. because there's a tunnel that is only wide enough for one person). I've almost been hit by one speeding through the narrow space between a bus and the curb when the bus had stopped and I was trying to get off.

It's unfair, I suppose, to tar all DC bicyclists with the negative impression left by years and years of having to jump out of their way all the time. I'm sure there are decent people who love their families among them. But to me, they are monsters with no consideration for other human beings. Oh, how I detest them!

Henry said...

I'm a cyclist and I don't like the "on your left" yell. If you have plenty of room to pass, then pass. If you don't, slow down. A bell might help on a bike path, but I'm not sure it would do much good in a city.

My current ride is through downtown Boston so the idea of "on your left" is laughable as is the idea of "warning every pedestrian." Jaywalkers swarm in every direction. It's like dodging through a flock of starlings.

So I go slow until I don't need to. It's not that hard.

Balfegor said...

Re: Matthew Sablan:

-- I agree. He was acting like an idiot. But I see bikers bike against traffic and weave on and off the sidewalk in the D.C./VA area all the time. My favorite day was when I saw a cop actually pull a biker over and ticket him for running a red light the wrong way while on the street.

Oh, that would have made my day.

Harsh Pencil said...

AllenS,

With all due respect (because I like you): screw off. We have almost everyone here saying bikes shouldn't use the multi-use paths (commonly referred to as "bike paths" at least around here) but instead should use the roads. But when we use the roads, you complain about , horrors, having to slow down to pass us. Bikes have a right to the road, period, and by using the road, they aren't running into old ladies on the bike path. So you have to slow down, wait for the right time to pass, and then pass leaving wide berth. Big deal.

(And by the way, I avoid multi-use paths for the most part. When I do use them, I go slow generally, and very slow when passing pedestrians, kids on bikes or roller bladers. Fast bikes should just generally avoid multi-use paths.)

Original Mike said...

Speed is really the problem. And riding on sidewalks. Bicyclists rail against cars, and then they turn around and terrorize pedestrians.

BillP said...

Lots of comments about bicyclists overtaking pedestrians - on most multi-use paths I've ridden on, pedestrians are supposed to walk on the *left*.

Facing traffic.

Just like on a street without sidewalks.

Most of the paths have multiple signs that make this clear.

This convention reduces the need for this whole "on your left" business

EMD said...

I could be wrong, but I am under the impression that it is illegal to pass pedestrians without a warning in Madison.

It sounds like it's illegal to do a lot of shit in Madison.

AJ Lynch said...

I tend to use the "bike on your left" warning and slow down especially if there are kids among the pedestrians. But many times people have head phones etc and they can't even hear your warning.

Balfegor said...

With all due respect (because I like you): screw off. We have almost everyone here saying bikes shouldn't use the multi-use paths (commonly referred to as "bike paths" at least around here) but instead should use the roads.

I don't care if you use the walking paths around DC, just slow down when you're on the sidewalk with pedestrians, give pedestrians a wide berth, don't try to speed through crowds, and obey signals and signage. And when you're on the roads obey the traffic laws. As a pedestrian who does not drive, I care mostly about you not running into me on the crosswalk, but I'm sure drivers have their own peeves about bicyclists.

AllenS said...

Harsh Pencil, bite me. The taxpayers spent a lot of money putting down pavement for the "bike lanes." Stay in it. I live on a very narrow county road. Bicycle riders have no choice but to use the roadway. I understand that and move over. What part of "
single file" don't you understand?

Dan from Madison said...

"No serious cyclist, such as myself, will ever have a bell on their bicycle."

"Your idea of "serious" is, ironically, a failure of seriousness."

Oh thanks. Those tens of thousands of miles (quite literally) under my belt happen to disagree.

I am on paths all the time in the summer all around Madison, and in my experience saying "on your left" has not been the best approach when approaching pedestrians from behind. Most of the time people just get flustered and you get unpredictable responses. Not optimal.

As I said, simply slow down, pass on the left and everything seems to work. YMMV.

Dan from Madison said...

I will add that a bell doesn't mean squat when people have ear buds in as others have pointed out in this thread.

Jay said...

"I'd have no problem with banning full suspension bikes from multi use paths.

I'd have no problem banning bikes from roads.

I love how serious these bikers take themselves too. Shouting "on your left" to someone with an iPod does little good. When you don't move (because you can't hear them) they act like you just killed their chance at winning the Tour de France...

rehajm said...

I switched to driving because these bicycle jerks ruined the experience of walking.

The dirty big secret of the bike movement. Also, bicycle jerks ruin the experience of driving. And living in an urban setting.

Jay said...


When I'm in pedestrian mode, why do bikers feel the need to pass me with just inches to spare when there's an entire lane on the other side of the dividing line?


Because they're assholes.

Jay said...

No serious cyclist, such as myself,

HA HA HA HA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HAHA HA HA

!!!!

Shanna said...

What an awful story. I walk on a shared path and sometimes the bikers come so close to you you want to knock them over.

I don't care if you use the walking paths around DC, just slow down when you're on the sidewalk with pedestrians

This was a huge problem when I lived in DC as well. You shouldn't be blowing through a Gtown sidewalk at 30 mph.

Kit said...

The taxpayers spent a lot of money putting down pavement for the "bike lanes." Stay in it.

I'm one of those 'coddled' Madison bicyclists (and from the Odana Rd area, no less)...and I do stay in my bike lane, but what am I supposed to do when cars weave in and out of the bike land or drift over...both of which, happened on the way in, this morning? (nevermind the ass who passed me, on my right, in the parking lane a couple of weeks ago - all of this on Segoe Rd - which has dedicated car, bike and parking lanes)

Boy, that 'weaver' was a genius - I caught up with him at the red light (that he was trying to avoid) and gave him 'what for'. The drifter, I just yelled.

As for yelling, 'on your left', I sometimes do it. I am concerned about spooking peds (bells seem to spook them just a readily). Mostly I just give them a wide, slow berth. If I'm walking and hear this, I head a little to the right, to the edge of the asphalt.

Shanna said...

"to your left" which sounds like a command

Indeed it does, which is why everybody hates bikers. There is a natural flow of traffic on paths, bikers are going much faster than walkers and should be watchful of them. Instead, they issue what comes off as an annoying command to someone to do what they are already doing, which is generally walking on the right. It never occurred to me someone would misinterpret it, though.

JMS said...

Dan said: "No serious cyclist, such as myself, will ever have a bell on their bicycle."

I felt the same way. But after commuting on the bike paths for several years, I got a bell.

For whatever reason, squirrelly pedestrians (is there any other kind?) react more predictably to the bell than any verbal warning. I did not expect that.

Strelnikov said...

I always say "Passing on your left", which does away with the problem. Easy, peasy.

tim maguire said...

"on your left" is not very informative; I don't think it carries enough meaning even to be considered ambiguous. I always say "coming up on your left."

And I slow down.

And I have no patience for ignorant jerks cluttering up the comments with crap like "bike-Nazis" as though there were such thing, as though crummy behavior were any more common among bicyclists than it is among pedestrians and drivers.

prairie wind said...

Walking/biking paths are full of people doing all kinds of things other than walking or biking. Families out with strollers, toddlers toddling, kids on skates, friends who want to walk two and three abreast so they can chat, dogs on leashes, dogs on those retractable leashes... There is so much more than simple walking and bicycling going on. Children often don't know right from left, and if you are pushing a stroller AND wrangling toddlers AND keeping the dog in line... you are a danger on the path. I'm not saying you don't have the right to be there, but please recognize that you make things much more complicated for people approaching from behind.

The most frustrating for me was the couple who heard my "passing on your left" and politely turned and stepped to their LEFT to let me pass. Smiling, too. I recognized that they were trying to be helpful in some way but I stopped and lectured them (helpfully, of course) about the dangers of doing something unexpected.

The signs tell us to announce ourselves by saying "on your left", but the signs also tell everyone to stay to your right.

edutcher said...

Bikers seem to be a rather self-centered lot (I realize there are exceptions).

And they certainly expect people to make allowances for them, instead of the other way around.

Paco Wové said...

"I stopped and lectured them (helpfully, of course)"

Bet they loved that.

Jane said...

1) Any sensible biker on a multiuse path should slow way down upon approaching a pedestrian.

2) When a pedestrian at the last minute moves unexpectedly, accidents happen.

3) A bell and some well-understood conventions, please -- pedestrians on a multi-use path have as much an obligation to understand a convention of "move to the right to let a cyclist path" (especially if you're with others and taking up the whole width of the path) as a biker does to "signal upon coming up to a pedestrian."

4) A "serious" cyclist ought to be serious enough to choose less-popular times.

5) While we shouldn't ban the hard-of-hearing from multi-use paths, neither should the sound-of-hearing listen to music in a way that blocks out all other noise; that's not safe in any case.

In other words, "can't we all get along?"

Original Mike said...

"and lectured them (helpfully, of course)"

Of course.

Shanna said...

please recognize that you make things much more complicated for people approaching from behind.

And bikers blowing through a shared path at high speeds make things much more complicated for the walkers. I often see bikers riding in pairs rather than single file as well, and they take up a hell of a lot more space than walkers.

I love how serious these bikers take themselves too.

The funny thing is all these serious bikers (at least around here) never come out until the temperature rises. They are no where to be seen in the winter, but in the summer, man do they want to take over the paths!

Shanna said...

A "serious" cyclist ought to be serious enough to choose less-popular times.

One more thing, if you are about to get on your bike and ride 20 miles, is there some reason you need to park close to the path? You are riding something with wheels. Park in the back.

Original Mike said...

"The most frustrating for me was the couple who heard my "passing on your left" and politely turned and stepped to their LEFT to let me pass. Smiling, too. I recognized that they were trying to be helpful in some way but I stopped and lectured them (helpfully, of course) about the dangers of doing something unexpected."

If 25 years of teaching have taught me anything, it has taught me that there are a hundred ways to look at anything. If you provide an "umambiguous" statement to a group of 10 people, they will devine 12 different meanings to it. Anything other than slowing down, and having full control of your bike so that YOU can react to their actions, is simply irresponsible.

argasdoc said...

There are as many rude walkers/runners as there are bikers. I stopped biking on multi-use paths because there is no standard rule that works to avoid potential collisions. Some of the most rude are people walking dogs that allow the animal to wander laterally despite warnings of upcoming bikers. Unfortunately the road is also filled with equally rude motorists that put myself & other bikers in danger of bodily harm. A no win situation for bikers in general whether one follows the rule or not. I am a strict rule follower when it comes to traffic rules.:(

Balfegor said...

Re: tim maguire:

as though crummy behavior were any more common among bicyclists than it is among pedestrians and drivers.

My experience, as a pedestrian walking to and from work every day and walking about town on weekends, is that "crummy behavior" is much more common among bikers than drivers. Much more common.

I can't really say re: pedestrians since I am one. I have seen pedestrians dart out into traffic or ignore the crosswalk signs, which is a danger to drivers who have to swerve or stop suddenly to avoid them. And that's inconsiderate of them, but I don't know how frequently that happens. It seems like DC pedestrians are better about that than other cities (e.g. New York), but that may just be my regional bias.

The two pedestrian classes that create the most irritations for me as a fellow pedestrian are joggers (who pose some of the same speed issues as bicyclists on sidewalks) and large groups of pedestrians who walk five abreast and take up the entire sidewalk. But those are just irritations; they don't pose a particular danger to me, and only the groups walking five abreast are really being inconsiderate of others.

MadisonMan said...

Park in the back.

Ah yes. The people who HAVE to park close to the door at the Gym. They're bike riders too?

prairie wind said...

Bet they loved that.

Yes, they appreciated my helpfulness as much as I appreciated theirs.

Anything other than slowing down, and having full control of your bike so that YOU can react to their actions, is simply irresponsible.

Exactly. This is why I was able to slow down and stop to have a conversation with them. People who step to their left need to understand that it is dangerous--to them and to others. If my telling them so helps them keep to the right, even if they mimic my lecture and roll their eyes every time, then my discussion with them did some good. They don't have to like me--I'm sharing the path with them, not marrying them.

MN Mom said...

Allen S - last weekend during your drive home was the MS150 event. Sorry about your delays .... but there were alot of folks there who are not used to riding bikes or who were riding somewhat in teams and coordinating rest breaks, etc and those were oblivious to car traffic.

For that weekend, at least cut some slack .... I wouldn't characterize the political bend of bikers in a charity event. My

MN Mom said...

missed the rest of my comment ...

My brother was biking in the race with a bunch of friends he went to business school with. They were certainly not of the "liberal" bend.

Ann Althouse said...

"It sounds like it's illegal to do a lot of shit in Madison."

Not only do you have to say "on your left," you have to be on the left.

prairie wind said...

On the Christian path, they shout, "Left behind!"

Ann Althouse said...

"I am on paths all the time in the summer all around Madison, and in my experience saying "on your left" has not been the best approach when approaching pedestrians from behind. Most of the time people just get flustered and you get unpredictable responses. Not optimal."

Which is why I recommend a bell. You say because you're somehow officially "serious," you won't have a bell. I don't find that serious. And I think it's weird, if you are serious, to call yourself "serious." It seems unserious!

shirley elizabeth said...

I've used the "left" or "right" tactic while running, and you can always tell who the newbies on the trail are. With running though it's just a matter of convenience and not safety. Although, you won't find many old ladies (that don't know what's going on) on the bike/running trails here in AZ. And if you don't know trail etiquette and cause a biker to slow down at a critical time you've cost him a lot of energy, and that's not very cool in the heat. Most bikers I see will briefly stop at the top of each hill and survey the trail ahead.

Bender said...

This happened about a half-mile from my house. On any given day, the trail (which is built on an old railway line), is filled with people walking and stopping, including little children and seniors. It also has a great many bicyclists who treat the trail like a roadway, going as fast as they can and expecting pedestrians to get out of their way, often without any due care whatsoever, not only being rude, not only not slowing down, but not taking into consideration that the people walking might suddenly turn to the left and into the path of the bicyclist. (And since the pedestrian technically has the right-of-way, the bicyclist must be prepared to stop and yield.)

We have even had a number of negligent bicyclists hitting cars while zooming across intersections of trails and roads, including one time when a guy on a bike crashed into a cop car stopped at one intersection.

Moreover, Arlington is a hot-bed of "traffic calming," installing speed bumps and narrowing the roads all over the place. In like fashion, they really need to put speed bumps on these trails, which are incredibily inconvenient for cars and would be equally annoying for bikes on the trails.

Dan from Madison said...

"Which is why I recommend a bell. You say because you're somehow officially "serious," you won't have a bell. I don't find that serious. And I think it's weird, if you are serious, to call yourself "serious." It seems unserious!"

Others have already pointed out that a bell doesn't do anything when people have earbuds in.

As far as me being a serious cyclist, I guess if you don't think I am, that is fine.

I would encourage you to go to a bicycle race someday (or even a major ride such as the Wright Stuff) and count how many people at one of these events have bells on their bicycles. Assuming you call these people serious cyclists (which you need to be to either compete in a race, or think about finishing the Wright Stuff Century) I will let you decide for yourself the bell issue.

Carol said...

Old people don't usually have ear buds...I notice that middle aged women really, really appreciate the bell and nearly always thank me for it.

ElPresidenteCastro said...

This is a pretty good example of why I hate people. Pedestrians have a thousand interactions with cyclists and remember exactly one. Cyclists have thousands of interactions with pedestrians and remember exactly one. Drivers and cyclists have the same story. The result is "All XXX are jackasses."

Whether your hoofing it, riding or driving just don't be an idiot,

ElPresidenteCastro said...

Dan, A bell is not an indicator of seriousness on a bike. Competitive cyclist pay thousands of dollars to save ounces; of course they aren't racing with a bell on their bike.

Bender, I can clear any traffic calming device at full speed. The wider you make it the faster I have to go.

Original Mike said...

"And if you don't know trail etiquette and cause a biker to slow down at a critical time you've cost him a lot of energy"

Awww.....

ElPresidenteCastro said...

Althouse on a Bike: On your left.

Hippie Pedestrian: I doubt it you fucking Fascist.

Dan from Madison said...

Castro - I also encourage you to go to a difficult ride such as the Wright Stuff or Horribly Hilly (where there are many people not racing) and count the number of bells you see on the bicycles. it might be one. Maybe. Assuming you think they are serious riders (and I would hope you would think so, since these events are quite challenging) there is a bit of a corrolation there.

This doesn't mean that a serious rider will never have a bell, or that a more recreational rider won't, I am just saying that a certain subset of bicycle riders never will.

Rusty said...

Yeah.that's great, but the bicycle path isn't a race.

Original Mike said...

I'm not getting the "serious riders are too prideful to have a bell" argument.

Dan from Madison said...

It isn't a matter of pride. It is a culture, performance and aesthetic thing.

prairie wind said...

Original Mike, how about the "pedestrians listening to music won't hear it anyway" argument?

I don't care one way or the other but find it interesting to hear so much support for bells. The reason the ting-a-ling is appreciated is because it stands out. There are more bikes without bells than with bells. People also like the sound because it is evocative of childhood. If and when all bikes have bells, pedestrians will pay just as much attention to the bell as they do to the shouting.

Harsh Pencil said...

AllenS,

I went back and read your original comment and the response that there was an EVENT going on. Bikes have the same rules as cars. Single file EXCEPT WHEN PASSING. I adhere to this. But there are million bikes out because fellow taxpayers are biking in an event. So yes, you have to slow down when you come across. Boo frickin hoo. (If bikers were riding tandem, and not one passing the other, then you have a legitimate complaint).

But again, the reason I got angry is that if a biker bikes on the bike trail, he's an asshole for going to fast, and if he bikes on "your" road, he's an asshole because you have to slow down. Sorry, bikers have an obligation to follow the rules, I agree, but it isn't your road. They do have the right to use it, even if it doesn't have a bike lane and even if it inconveniences you.

Simon Kenton said...

Well, what I dislike is meeting horses when mountain-biking on a combined pedestrian- bike-equestrian trail. A 1500-lb prey species, a huge recalcitrant lump of flesh with the instincts of a rabbit, topped by an infatuated female at a dubious psycho-sexual development level. You have to stop. Get off your bike. Get off the trail. Hold still. No noise, especially not bells. And above all, not let the horse hear you muttering "viande de cheval," lest it melt down, go apeshit, and faceplant its riderette.

Dan from Madison said...

@Simon - lol! Got that t-shirt too!

Matthew Sablan said...

On seriousness: I assumed a bell was a normal piece of safety gear, like reflectors/lights.

Original Mike said...

Dan:
culture = prideful
performance = fast = meance on the path.
aesthetic = prideful

Prarie Wind, I don't care either. I'm just amused by the "serious riders" line. Personally, I don't walk on the paths for exactly this reason. I don't want to get mowed down. My problem is with the sidewalk riders.

Dan from Madison said...

Original Mike -
I do agree with you on the no bikes on sidewalks thing 100%.

Original Mike said...

I've had two sidewalk "garble, garble, left! ZOOOOMMMM!!! episodes walking home in the last couple of months. You're left standing there, heart rate at 180, contemplating what might have happened (like death). I didn't even know, until today, there was an "ettiqute" to moving to the right (or is it left?). I was just trying to walk down the damn sidewalk.

And bicyclists wonder why there's such animosity.

MadisonMan said...

It is a culture, performance and aesthetic thing.

Aesthetic? How does that explain the garish clown outfits that bikers wear?

Is there anything sillier than seeing a dozen well-into-middle-aged men in matching orange/black lycra?

10 Pounds of flour in a 5-pound sack.

Dan from Madison said...

@Madison Man - I see cycling isn't your hobby.

Shanna said...

performance = fast = meance on the path.

Indeed! As others have noted, it’s not the tour de france. It’s a bike path with kids and little old ladies. Slow down when you see them.

I didn't even know, until today, there was an "ettiqute" to moving to the right (or is it left?).

The etiquette is that bikes should NOT be on the sidewalk. They do it anyway. What people on here are talking about is generally walking/bike paths, where you (at least around here) generally walk on the right and bikers pass on the left.

Synova said...

I stepped out in front of a biker and wiped her out.

She called something like "on your left" and the person walking behind me, to be sure I heard, said, "Mrs. Pascal!" and I took one step to my left and pivoted to look to see what he wanted.

Biker lady wiped out. I know she blamed me and I felt bad... for a while. (My default is to feel like I ought to be able to solve everything.)

But on reflection it just makes me super mad.

At what point does passing pedestrians at speed ever sound like a good idea? At what point is it something that you "get" to do?

My "biking" experience has been on mountain bike trails, not two lane paved tracks. The "rules" are far far different and no biker expects to keep on about their business when encountering hikers. You slow down, waaaay down. You might even dismount, depending. The hikers will probably step off the trail, but NO ONE would think it was their fault if you ran your bike off the path or ran into someone.

Bah!

MadisonMan said...

I see cycling isn't your hobby.

True. I only do it an hour daily.

But I'm not "serious".

John Lynch said...

How about licensing cyclists?

Register bikes like cars. If you don't own a car it's free. Children don't have to register.

I live in a town with many bikes. It seems to me that they should pay a use tax to help pay for all the bike lanes and bike trails. Also, I think having a license plate would make them more accountable for the traffic problems they cause.

ALP said...

I would argue that the Seattle spandex crowd is just as bad as DC and Madison. For a recent school project, I was knee deep in bicycle master plans from cities across the US, in addition to attending community meetings regarding planning and "healthy communities" (an experience that caused me to roll my eyes so frequently, I'm amazed they didn't get stuck leaving me blind!). I knew planners and community activists were a pain in the ass going in, and this experience confirmed my pov.

One poster above really nailed the issue: cyclists bitch about inconsiderate drivers, then turn around and act like inconsiderate morons on the trail - and they are blind to the hypocrisy.

In terms of speed, the hierarchy of travel options is:

Car
Bike
Feet

A cyclist on the trail is the "motorist" of that environment, in that they have the advantage of greater speed. As such, they need to listen to their own whining and bitching about boorish motorist behavior - and model their own behavior after how they believe motorists should act towards cyclists (slow down when necessary, obey the rules, give pedestrians a wide berth).

But many don't - and they fail to see the contradiction. Its not the fact you are a cyclist that irks the rest of us non-hardcore bikers. Its the hypocrisy.

John Lynch said...

Cyclists complaining about cars leaves me completely unsympathetic.

I drive for a living, and every day I see cyclists breaking traffic rules. I don't mean like drivers do, I mean almost every cyclist I see. Running stop signs, running stop lights, blocking traffic, etc.

Then they yell at me for pulling up into a crosswalk to see around a corner... I'm not driving for fun, I have a job to do. There's really no reason for most of the bicycle traffic on busy streets other than pleasure riding, which doesn't seem very fun from how angry they seem to be.

Almost all the offenders are male, and it's all about ego. It's not really about bicycles at all. It's about making the world do what they want. There are a lot of excuses, like exercise (do it at home) or the environment (since you aren't actually going anywhere, it doesn't make any difference), but it's just ego. Cyclists are wannabe Hell's Angels.

Dan from Madison said...

"True. I only do it an hour daily."

Well good for you. I am surprised that you would make fun of anyone wearing lycra/spandex then.

jimspice said...

And some people tend to look upwards when you yell "heads up!"

MadisonMan said...

@Dan, someone is dressing up clownishly and I am not supposed to make fun of them?

You overestimate my self-control

Delayna said...

Jerks like this are why I seldom ride my bike, because it is illegal to ride it on the sidewalk, and suicidal to ride it on the streets where I live. Maybe if I were 30 years younger and in better condition...

nope, no matter how much you exercise, you're never in good enough shape to crash your bike into an SUV.

As it is, when I ride, I ride on the sidewalk. And I ride slowly--the only threat I present is having heart failure on the last hill going home.

Balfegor said...

Re: ElPresidenteCastro:

This is a pretty good example of why I hate people. Pedestrians have a thousand interactions with cyclists and remember exactly one.

Haha. You think it's just one? I've had two incidents with cars where I thought they were clearly in the wrong, that I can remember. I have an incident with a bicyclist speeding through a crosswalk in front of me at least once a month -- maybe twice? (I've never counted, but it happens quite regularly). And I'm not even crossing paths with a bicyclist every day. Maybe once a week or so?

John Lynch's words right true to me:

I drive for a living, and every day I see cyclists breaking traffic rules. I don't mean like drivers do, I mean almost every cyclist I see.

This isn't a once or twice thing.

Balfegor said...

Ring true. They ring true to me. Cor, my fingers just run on autopilot these days.

6c6df646-b67c-11e1-8b29-000bcdcb8a73 said...

"It's not really about bicycles at all. It's about making the world do what they want. There are a lot of excuses, like exercise (do it at home) or the environment (since you aren't actually going anywhere, it doesn't make any difference), but it's just ego." So you complain about cyclists wanting to make the make world do what they want, and in the next sentence suggest they just stay at home...which is making the world do what YOU want. What beautiful hypocrisy.

Also, just so I have this straight:
Cyclists on the road = Get the eff out of the way of my driving!
Cyclists on MUPs = You're going to kill somebody!
Cyclists on bike specific paths = God, why did we spend all this money on a path for those stupid cyclists?

When I ride on MUPs I say "on your left", and I say it loud. Given the huge number of people with headphones/cellphones, along with those who are just clueless and oblivious, bells are marginally useful at best. Loud is the only way to get consistently noticed and keep people from treating the path like their personal swerve space. I don't have much sympathy for the "you'll startle people!" argument either. You want to use a public road/path of any sort, know how it works and how other users (who may be on a different/no vehicle) are supposed to behave.

John Lynch said...

Please keep making my point. It's all about ego, nothing else.

The only reason bicycles cause problems is when they break the rules. If this didn't happen all the time, every day, I wouldn't bother writing about it. Nor would anyone else.

Again, this isn't a traffic problem, it's a behavior problem. It's so pervasive that I can write about it from my home in the sticks and city people can relate to it.

If you can't follow the rules, you don't deserve any respect at all. If you can't follow the rules, please stay off the road because it's dangerous. Bad drivers lose their licenses and can't drive anymore. Bad cyclists just keep causing problems.

There's no hypocrisy in saying that.

6c6df646-b67c-11e1-8b29-000bcdcb8a73 said...

What is your point, John? That making the world how you want it is all that matters? God forbid somebody enjoy being outside instead of inside. You're right, there's no hypocrisy in saying terrible cyclists should stay off the road. (Claiming that cyclists can't be punished isn't quite right - they can, it's just a lot harder to enforce). But that wasn't what I was pointing out as hypocritical. It was complaining that cyclists want to shape the world in their image, and then immediately suggesting that cyclists "stay home", because you apparently know how everybody should exercise and what methods of transportation are best for everybody in all cases. I ride because it's good exercise, it's cheaper than driving, and in some cases it's actually faster. Clearly, this makes me an egotistical prick.

I won't stick up for cyclists who do stupid things like run red lights and make life miserable for autos (I try very hard not to annoy motorists when on my bike and do a pretty darn good job of it). But this attitude of "motorists only do it occasionally, cyclists do it every day" is complete bullshit. This week in my car (I drive for work too, so don't try and use that excuse) I've had a guy run a stop sign at 30 MPH (I only avoided being t-boned because my spidey-sense tingled), a guy who didn't understand how to stay in his lane in a left turn (wife got sideswiped due to that behavior a few months ago), a guy who thought it was OK to swerve all over the road at 5 mph in a large park, and a guy who thought it was OK to just stop his car in the middle of the road in the same park. You guys who claim cyclists cause trouble more than motorists must either live in a place with incredibly polite drivers, or incredibly stupid cyclists. Here in Denver, CO, I can't remember the last time a cyclist got in my way while driving. Bad drivers are pretty much daily occurrence. (Maybe because Denver has a good path system and cyclists don't need to use the road much!)

I'll also add that the "on your left is bad" mentality prevalent in this thread is far from universal. While riding, a small percentage of people are startled by my proclamations, but quite a few people wave as thanks too. This week I've had somebody complain that I said "on your left" too loud (really!) and somebody else thank me for being the only cyclist of the day who gave them fair warning. Dammed if you do, damned if you don't.