“You Would Just Love to Lob Something at Their Heads”

The troubled relationship between cars and bikes is an old topic, but that hasn’t stopped it from being a hot one on the Streetsblog Network and around the web in general this week. And it’s not going to go away any time soon.

315234532_8217647d81.jpgWhat it looks like when everyone tries to do the right thing. Photo by bicyclesonly via Flickr.

This week the hostility that is so often simmering beneath the surface came to an ugly boil in Detroit. Deminski & Doyle, shock jocks on local radio station WCSX, broadcast a segment in which they ridiculed a new law in Colorado requiring that drivers give cyclists three feet of clearance on roadways.

They seem to have gotten the idea to talk about this from a USA Today article that mostly portrays cyclists in Boulder County as overprivileged recreational road hogs (bike commuters in this often bike-friendly part of the world get nary a mention).

We first heard about the Deminski & Doyle segment from Bike Portland‘s Twitter feed, which linked to this conversation

about the episode on the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition Google group, which in turn links to plenty of related material, including ways to contact station management to protest. If you want your blood pressure to go up pretty rapidly, you can listen to the radio piece here. If you’d like to spare yourself the stress, here’s a choice excerpt:

How many people have seen a bicyclist and you would just love to lob something at their heads. Because — no, seriously, I’m not condoning it, I’m not saying that we do it, but I’m just saying, hasn’t the thought gone through your head? Because seriously, how selfishly do some of these people ride their bikes?

One of the DJs also refers to wanting to "go Grand Theft Auto" on cyclists, quickly covering himself by saying that, of course you can’t do that. Unless, of course, you do.

You can just imagine the drivetime crowd listening to this stuff while they’re stuck in traffic, pounding the wheel and shouting "Hell, yeah!" Dangerous stuff. And it’s nothing new — Bike Portland fought this battle a couple of years back. The same hateful rhetoric springs up on newspaper websites every time a cyclist is killed by a motor vehicle.

But it points up the reality that all cyclists — recreational and commuter — are increasingly having to reckon with. We are getting more legal protections. Our numbers are growing — to the point that we can create our own traffic jams occasionally. The absurdity of a petition drive like the one in Iowa calling for the banning of cyclists on farm-to-market roads is more evident. And as our status as outlaws and weirdos slowly changes, as more bike infrastructure is built, our riding habits are coming under increasing scrutiny.

The hate-filled spew of Delinski & Doyle and their ilk is truly loathsome. But we have to face the reality that bicyclists who ride with reckless disregard for the law only feed the beast.

  • s

    Their tunes will change very quickly when gas goes back up over $4 a gallon. Heck, at $5 a gallon every shock jock will become a bike commuter.

  • FYI, the photo in the post does not show everyone doing the right thing. It shows the motorist violating 34 Rules of the City of New York Section 4-12(p)(2)–entering a bicycle lane to pass an obstruction “in such manner as to interfere with the safety and passage of persons operating bicycles” in the bicycle lane–while my son is abiding by 4-12(p)(1), by using the bicycle lane.

  • bc

    “The hate-filled spew of Delinski & Doyle and their ilk is truly loathsome. But we have to face the reality that bicyclists who ride with reckless disregard for the law only feed the beast.”

    I understand the point, and agree we need to accept some responsibility, but I absolutely hate that an article about people wanting to assault us for no reason chooses to close on such an apologist note. Just as you were discussing the psychological effect on listeners, your article has one on readers as well, and to close in such a way implies a culpability that has no bearing on extremist nutjobs like these idiots.

  • I guess I have to eat my words in comment #2 above–my report on the event in the picture at the time it was taken is that the driver was yielding, not racing into the bike lane ahead of us. He yielded a bit late, but the better late than never!

  • I hope each and every cyclist who gets something lobbed at his or her head, or who gets Grand Theft Auto-ed, files a nice fat civil lawsuit against those two idiots and the station.

  • s

    I have to agree with bc. It’s a bit of a “blame the victim” mentality. While it’s true that there are cyclists who are rude and deserve to be ticketed or fined, or at least yelled at, the point at which things escalate into threats of physical violence is the point at which the original source of the complaint no longer matters.

  • It seems like the radio talking heads have a business stake in the matter. Since cycling is becoming popular, and cyclists don’t listen to the radio while moving, radio personalities are losing influence.

  • I \v/ NY

    It seems like the radio talking heads have a business stake in the matter. Since cycling is becoming popular, and cyclists don’t listen to the radio while moving, radio personalities are losing influence.

    plus the fact that the radio station is based out of the motor city where their livelihood is based on people buying detroit made clunkers. and afterall the government is giving people money to dispose of their worthless motown junk.

    btw all the more reason to wear a bike helmet, i’d also suggest having a camera when you ride preferably a lot like those video cameras they have on transit vehicles.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Since cycling is becoming popular, and cyclists don’t listen to the radio while moving, radio personalities are losing influence.”

    I bought a “bicycle radio” and used it for a few months until the bracket that held it to my bicycle broke. I wrote to a couple of manufacturers asking that they put a better model on the market, which I would buy if it were available.

    I didn’t listen to idiots who appeal to selfish bigots, however, so your point stands.

  • MyrtleGuy

    Is it more selfish for one person to take up a 3 ft wide portion of the public right of way or 8 ft of it? Everyone would agree that it’s worse to take up more space. The arguement, therefore, is not about the amount of space but what is “acceptable” use of the street.

  • “plus the fact that the radio station is based out of the motor city where their livelihood is based on people buying detroit made clunkers. and afterall the government is giving people money to dispose of their worthless motown junk.”

    Indeed, I hope the conflict of interest (?) is becoming more transparent to the average person now.

    Larry,

    Didn’t know they had bicycle radios. Is the noise intrusive though? Car noise is bad enough.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Didn’t know they had bicycle radios. Is the noise intrusive though? Car noise is bad enough.”

    In fact, I just searched for it and Sony seems to have come out with one. Thanks!

    As for the Pyramid one I had, here were some places where it was hard to hear. The main problem was (to protect from rain) the speaker pointed down. Ideally it would be directed up to a narrow area near your head.

    Perhaps I’ll try to buy the Sony. The key is the bracket, not the radio. You have to be able to take it off and put it on every day, so it won’t get stolen.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Check that. Sony used to have it and now they don’t. So I’ll keep looking.

  • Chris

    So are you guys really saying you have loud open speakers from your bikes?

    I have to say I read streetblogs a lot less often than many because of all the pro bike stuff. But if you’re trying to tell me its ok to have speakers playing the radio in an outside environment like an unenclosed bike, you’re the same kind of bikers that don’t stop at stop signs or red lights or ride wrong way up a one way avenue and the like. And if that’s not you, its those guys that make people seethe when they think of the NYC biker. Not that attacking them should even be joked about.

  • I have to add I’ve encountered a few bicyclists recently with blaring radios attached to their bikes and it did not enhance the quality of my ride. There is too much noise pollution in NYC already and this trend should be nipped in the bud.

  • bc

    I think we took a wrong turn and have strayed from the point

  • I don’t think they were seriously talking about physically assaulting cyclists. Do you take everything people say literally? On another Streetsblog site there’s a guy who says he wants to slap someone for bad policy. Was I supposed to take him literally and believe he wanted to physically assault people?

    Come on. Take a joke once in a while. It was a stupid rant about cyclists taking themselves too seriously. I think this blog posts prove they were right in some respect.

  • This is a fancy trick known only to the highest guilds of comedy, Spokker, where you preemptively accuse the planned target of your jabs of taking itself to seriously. Then, heap abuse upon the group you have identified. Finally, claim someone in it is “proving your point” by complaining about whatever the negative generalization happens to be.

    But these jedi comedians do not bother to return to this theme at any point in their hilarious reaction rant to something they read in USA Today. Mostly, they want to commiserate with everyone on the impossibility of passing a bicycle without possibly clipping it, and share their ignorance over how roads are funded and complain about their … auto insurance. This pathetic act is not so much dangerous as stupid and annoying, but if you want to run around the internet telling people that complain about it to stop taking threats to their lives so seriously and get in on the hilarious comedy, you’ve got your work cut out for you.

  • If you really think this clip was a threat to your life, you need, well I don’t know what you need, but you need some kind of help.

    I like to take out my frustration on drivers by lobbing grenades at cars in Grand Theft Auto. Does it mean I’m going to do it in real life?

    I hear people all the time joke about how transit is for losers. The Onion once joked about a Greyhound bus crash that killed 20 miserable people, if I recall correctly. Because I take mass transit and because I’ve had to take Greyhound in my life, does that mean I should get angry and angry post to the world about it? Should I think that The Onion wants buses to crash and myself to die? No, I don’t take myself that seriously. It’s comedy. If you don’t think it’s funny that’s fine, but dangerous it is not.

    In other words, get over yourself.

  • Never mind, let me just add cyclists to the list of groups you can’t poke fun at.

  • Marty Barfowitz

    Except that crap on the radio wasn’t funny like The Onion and it wasn’t obviously pretend like Grand Theft Auto.

    Over here in real life cyclists find themselves harassed and endangered by sociopathic motorists on a daily basis. Hell, there was an incident in Asheville, NC last week where a local firefighter SHOT a cyclist IN THE HEAD — with a gun — because he thought the cyclist was in the wrong simply for riding in the street with a child on the back of his bike. Quite a way to look out for a kid’s safety, eh? But that’s, unfortunately, the kind of logic that prevails on the streets of most U.S. cities when it comes to biking. Personally, I’ve had bottles thrown at me, guys lean out their windows and shout “fag,” and trucks try to squeeze me in to the curb for no particular reason other than I happened to be on a bike on a street that people in cars think is only for them. The American motorist’s sense of entitlement is absolutely stunning.

    So, you can go ahead and poke fun of cyclists all you want. But getting on the radio and urging listeners to incite violence against people on bikes is stupid and flat out dangerous. You sound like the kind of guy who’d argue that Hutu radio DJ’s were just kidding around when the urged Rwandans to go out and slaughter Tutsis with machetes back in ’94. Who knew those crazy Hutus would take that stuff so seriously!? What, we’ve become so politically correct in Rwandan society that we can’t get on the radio and urge people to hurt and kill other people anymore? Get over yourselves, you Tutsis! You need some kind of help.

  • Spokker

    “Except that crap on the radio wasn’t funny”

    Subjective. I got a couple of cheap laughs out of it because I didn’t take it seriously.

    “Over here in real life cyclists find themselves harassed and endangered by sociopathic motorists on a daily basis.”

    High profile incidents cloud your judgement of all motorists. Most of just working people who want to get where they are going. 99 percent of drivers would not shoot at a cyclist, much less throw something at them.

    “But that’s, unfortunately, the kind of logic that prevails on the streets of most U.S. cities when it comes to biking.”

    No, it isn’t. The man who shot the cyclist was clearly deranged, and I have a suspicion that it wasn’t even about the cyclist. I think the guy would have snapped sooner or later.

    “Personally, I’ve had bottles thrown at me, guys lean out their windows and shout “fag,””

    I was called fag on a daily basis when I was a kid. I wasn’t even on a bike.

    I also see a lot of comments from cyclists who, somehow, have never been involved in bike/car confrontations, or bike/police confrontations for that matter. I wonder what they are doing differently…

    “But getting on the radio and urging listeners to incite violence against people on bikes is stupid and flat out dangerous.”

    That’s all well and good, except that they didn’t do that. If they were seriously telling their listeners to pop cyclists with bricks, I’d be right there with you in your outrage.

    “You need some kind of help.”

    To equate genocide with a silly radio shock jock bit… sigh.

  • t

    Don’t feed the trolls…

  • Doug

    Spokker and Barfowitz are nitpicking this to death, and the original discussion is obscured. You can have a bullet-pointed list of the previous commenter’s points and explain why each one is invalid — some bikers are jerks! everyone gets called a fag every now and then! it’s just like rwanda! — but those individual cases and extreme examples, do not change what the problem with these kinds of comments are.

    It boils down to this:

    Urging people to commit violent acts upon another is indefensible, even if when the defense is “it’s only a joke, lighten up.” Is that the level of discourse we feel best advances any agenda, ours or even those we don’t agree with? If a radio host wants to give cogent reasons for why cyclists don’t belong on certain roads, go for it. It’s like the current health care debate: their may be legitimate reasons to oppose the president’s plan, but shouting down congressmen and hanging them in effigy is a startlingly shocking example of low, even dangerous, discourse. Same here. Don’t encourage bad behavior and then back away from it by saying you were only joking. Let’s talk like adults.

    There is a disturbing lack of intelligence at play on talk radio, made all the more disturbing by the fact that these hosts probably know exactly what they are doing. “I’m not saying to go out and hurt someone, I’m just saying that’s what a lot of people feel.” So, if some nut listens to these radio hosts and then lobs a brick at a cyclist, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they are responsible, but I wouldn’t say that they aren’t responsible either. Somewhere between guys like Barfowitz and Spokker lies the meeting point where intelligent debate can occur.

  • “So, if some nut listens to these radio hosts and then lobs a brick at a cyclist, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that they are responsible, but I wouldn’t say that they aren’t responsible either.”

    They absolutely are not responsible.

    Anger is part of the discussion. I’ve wanted to hit people before. So have you. I guarantee it. But I don’t do it because I’ve got a brain in my head. If it wasn’t a stupid radio bit, and these hosts were genuine, then yeah, they were honest in that they feel frustrated on the road. They aren’t going to do anything about it but talk, and that’s a good thing.

  • The Opoponax

    As someone who both bikes and drives (and walks, and subways, and…), all I have to say is this:

    Don’t be a salmon!!!

    When I’m driving, the only time I ever get frustrated with cyclists is when they are riding against traffic. Especially if there’s a lot of other stuff going on (construction, pedestrians, other cyclists doing it correctly, other drivers being obnoxious, approach to a bridge or highway, etc) – there are so many variables on the road that having to be extra vigilant about your ass makes the world a much more dangerous place for everyone else.

    Please, guys. Take that extra second to use the streets properly – going “salmon” might shave, what, two blocks off your commute? Not really worth it when you consider that it could easily get someone hurt.

  • The thing is, who is a cyclist and who isn’t? Just because you ride a bike doesn’t mean you are knowledgeable about bike laws. Some are guys who recently got a DUI and can’t drive. Some are people who are on bikes for economic reasons. Some are just kids.

    That’s a big problem to me. You’ve heard of drivers ed. I’ve never heard of bikers ed.

    Where I live, Orange County, CA, there is hardly anyone on bikes who has helmets, orange vests with reflective tape or headlights.

    Just now driving home I saw a bike lane filled with tons of cars that were parked. There was even a sign that said no parking. I might go out and get a picture of it and post it.

    But what went through my mind is this. Are cyclists not cycling here because of drivers who park in bike lanes, or are drivers parking there because there are never any cyclists? I’ve lived here for half a decade and I rarely see anyone in that bike lane. But I do see people riding on the sidewalk.

    I don’t know the answers to these questions.

  • lee

    I used to ride a mountain bike with a helmet, and people use to throw bottles and McD trays, etc. at me, yell & holler constantly. People would run up and punch me, etc. This is in Baltimore, MD – lots of street gangs, etc.

    Then I switched to a beat-up old rust-brown upright dutch bike with a full chaincase and dynamo lights, and I stopped wearing my helmet and only wear regular clothes… now nobody ever bothers me at all! It’s amazing, no harassment whatsoever, couple years now. Apprearances are everthing.

  • s

    I agree that anger is part of the discussion, but there’s a big difference between using your radio pulpit to say, “These bikers make me so angry!” and “I’m so angry that I want to kill someone.” Depending on the context, the latter would indeed make you responsible if someone followed your words with an attack. Yeah, lots of people say, “I could kill you” figuratively every day. I do it all the time. But it’s the context that matters.

    Look at O’Reilly and the comments he made about Dr. Tiller. He is not directly responsible for the actions of a nut, but he contributed to an environment — from a very large pulpit — where that behavior is, if not encouraged, than at least accepted. Words matter. Free speech is paramount, but people should have the intelligence to use that freedom for just causes in responsible fashions.

    We need to have smarter discussions about our anger on the road!

  • Well, on another Streetsblog site a popular poster said:

    “The next transportation engineer who even brings a pro-car pseudo “will of the people” argument up is just going to get slapped.”

    And no one said anything about it. Why is that okay to say you’re going to slap transportation engineers but what these radio hosts said is not okay?

    Because he wasn’t being serious just like these radio hosts were not being serious. Violence against anybody is wrong, whether it’s a driver, a cyclist or a transportation engineer.

  • It’s also my experience, lee, that you can avoid bearing the brunt of negative stereotypes by reversing them in some obvious way. But even if you and I escape the immediate effects of “biker rage”, we’re all in the same boat with respect to 3-foot passing laws and bicycle infrastructure. Ginned up anger against those cyclists getting in the way of your car, laced with spiteful caricatures how “all but 3” cyclists look/think/behave, isn’t good for anyone. Fortunately, it’s well behind the curve of national culture and transportation reality.

  • Deminski & Doyle talked about cycling again this week and had on Paul Alman of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition.

    http://dd.wcsx.com/?p=4324

  • CycloChemist

    I live in Ann Arbor and am a board member of the local advocacy group, WBWC, same as Paul Alman. In my opinion, these radio hosts DID cross the line with their diatribe against bicyclists. Complaints have been filed with the FCC. The FCC will now be the arbitrators of whether, in fact, these radio personalities violated the tennants of their license.

    This would have been a serious issue at any time, I think … and I will NOT lighten up about it!! … but it’s especially poignant here in the Ann Arbor area since only a few weeks ago a cyclist was killed in a crash with a car. The driver hit the cyclist from behind – excessive speed and/or alcohol was not involved. It would appear from the public accounts that the crash was completely due to driver distraction. Our community is grief stricken with this needless death; and then these radio guys blab on about violence against bicyclists! Bad taste! Bad timing! and I think illegal as well.

  • Their speech was not illegal and the FCC will file the complaints with no further action.

  • john

    Harassment of cyclists in its many forms has been a long tradition in Missouri. The chopping down of STR signs, arresting/jailing cyclists for riding w/o license plates (St. Louis), the throwing of beer cans, etc. got so crazy that one small college town in central MO (Columbia) introduced (and finally passed) an ordinance. That battle also brought out the crazies who hate STR and the state still doesn’t have reasonable road rage laws:
    http://mobikefed.org/2009/06/columbia-bicyclist-harassment-ordinance-brings-out-the-bicycle-haters.php

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