Today’s Edition of “S#!t We Put Up With Every F@&%ing Day”

The woman on the left had a little too much to say.
The woman on the left had a little too much to say.

The latest in our ongoing series, “S#!t We Put Up With Every F@&%ing Day,” reminds us of Mom’s old rule: “If you can’t say something nice to someone trying to defend street safety, keep your mouth shut.”

I was reminded of my mother saying that when I saw this brief video posted this morning on Twitter by Bike Commuting NYC.

The action is fairly (and unfortunately) commonplace: The cyclist gets cut off on the First Avenue bike lane just north of E. 49th Street by a livery cabbie, takes a picture (presumably to report the cabbie), sidles up to the window to discuss how the driver put the cyclist in grave danger, and is ignored by the cab driver.

Pretty standard stuff — until a random woman on the sidewalk decided to lecture, you guessed it, the cyclist.

“You cannot go on the side?” the woman asked facetiously. “You cannot go on the side? You’re being ridiculous. You could have just gone on the side without being a bitch.”

The cyclist points out that bike riders are given five feet of street space, compared to dozens of feet on most avenues for drivers, and that everything works fine when cabbies remain in their space so cyclists can remain in theirs. Left unsaid, of course, is that the manuever being recommended by the yenta on the sidewalk — swerving around the illegally parked cab — was exactly the last thing Madison Lyden did on a bike before she was crushed earlier this month by a garbage truck driver, the ninth cyclist to be killed this year.

“It’s just about being a New Yorker and being polite and going on the side,” the woman says.

“He shouldn’t be blocking the bike lane,” the cyclist says.

“You’re just being a bitch,” the woman concludes before walking away.

Later, Bike Commuting NYC reflected on the incident.

“It was just bizarre to have the random woman lecture me about ‘being polite,’ she said. “I was trying to ask the driver if he could move over out the bike lane (he ignored me), and she just decided to jump in.”

Only in car culture, kids, only in car culture.

  • JarekFA

    We’ve all experienced this indignity at one time or another. I remember one time I was heading north on 5th ave in Brooklyn in the door zone bike lane and the car that was just a head of me (I was near it’s rear tire) was slowing down and maybe planing to turn (which would’ve been given me a right hook). I tooted my whistle — not like a long sustained whistle — but just gave a couple chirps so he’d hear or see me. He slowed down and I went straight and he then made his right turn.

    Later up in the block — a lady in a minivan pulls up alongside me, as I’m riding and tells me I need to be more patient. I’m like that guy could’ve given me a right hook when I had the right a way.

  • Andrew Cushen

    I think this behavior is due to the public perception of cyclists as entitled jerks….which is not helped by the small minority of us that run reds when there is traffic/peds, go the wrong way, buzz pedestrians etc.

  • 8FH

    It’s not a small minority, and we shouldn’t pretend it is. It’s also not out of the ordinary compared to rule breaking by pedestrians and motorists.

    All modes need to behave better and it’s unfair to single out any one as worse (or better) than the others.

  • Joe R.

    Andrew mentioned the minority who run red lights when there is cross traffic, either peds or motor vehicles. That’s definitely a minority. Sure, a majority by far of cyclists run red lights when nothing is there, me included. However, most will wait if something is crossing, if for no other reason than self-preservation. I even make sure to yield to pedestrians when turning (and regularly get oblivious motorists behind me honking).

  • Joe R.

    I think a better response would have been to ask the woman on the sidewalk how she might feel if the taxi decided to park sideways on the sidewalk, blocking all of it except maybe 1 foot between the car and the buildings. That’s essentially what happened here.

    As an aside, why is it seemingly not politically incorrect for one woman to call another woman a bitch, but if a guy does it, all hell breaks loose? The woman on the sidewalk was the one being a bitch. I wouldn’t have hesitated to let her know that in no uncertain terms, political correctness be damned.

  • AMH

    It’s incredible–motorists think nothing of blasting everyone within earshot, but make yourself heard with your voice or other small attention-getter and you’re the asshole. I’d like these self-appointed experts on patience to lecture the drivers who honk at pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Andrew

    How it might feel to walk past a police station, you mean?

  • Andrew

    For some reason, a lot of pedestrians are simply unable to accept that so much of what motorists do is illegal. As a pedestrian, I’ve been reprimanded countless times by other pedestrians when I accept the right-of-way that the law grants me and force motorists to wait for me (while turning, and at stop signs, and at crosswalks at unsignalized intersections).

    It probably doesn’t even occur to such people that it’s illegal for a motorist to block a bike lane. If she’s fine with putting up with motorists who break the law, then what are you complaining about?

  • Joe R.
  • jeremy

    This makes me mad and want to move to copenhagen

  • Andrew Cushen

    Joe R. has answered part of what you’re saying. As for the rest, I completely agree, drivers do far worse and more dangerous things than cyclists, and pedestrians need to behave better as well. I wasn’t the one who singled out cyclists: that was the pedestrian in the article. I was just offering my thoughts on why pedestrians might react the way she did.

  • Andrew Cushen

    Yes. Unfortunately, complete lawlessness by everyone, drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, has become normalized in the city. And it’s been this way a long, long time.

  • djx

    “political correctness be damned.”

    Yeah, it’s so sad that as a white man you can’t use a full range of insults. It’s really rough, huh?

  • Simon Phearson

    Ho boy.

    I was once biking on 31st Ave’s bike lane through Jackson Heights, when I came upon a truck parked solidly in the lane under the BQE. The driver was, moreover, outside the vehicle, with the driver’s door wide open. Getting around it required a full merge into car traffic, but this driver didn’t want to let me. I merged anyway – turns out Miss Entitlement wasn’t going fast enough to box me out – but then she pulled up alongside at the next light and yelled at me for not stopping. I guess I was supposed to come to a complete stop and wait for a break in traffic? I dunno, something completely idiotic.

    Another time I was riding on Vernon, NB through LIC/Astoria. There are marked sharrows NB, which is good, because the bike lane is constantly blocked. But some dude buzzed me, yelling sometching indecipherable at me as he passed, and proceeded to slow down right in front of me – again, typical driver doesn’t understand that I can match their speed – and made some kind of motion pointing to the bike lane. Turns out he thought I should be using the protected-but-not-really bike lane on the other side of the street. Claimed it was “unsafe” to ride where I was. I pointed out that it was “unsafe” only because of drivers like him. He said, “get real,” before veering around slower traffic, driving against oncoming traffic and across a solid double yellow line, in order to prove something, I guess.

    Ferdinand likes to peddle this silly theory about how everyone is watching what we do, as cyclists, and judging us, so we should endeavor to comply with the law. But I can’t say that any driver has ever yelled at me for doing something illegal, or complimented me for doing something like stopping for a red. No, I get yelled at for asserting my rights. A close second has been drivers complimenting the fact I can keep pace with them. I don’t have the heart to tell them they’re the ones slowing *me* down.

  • Adrian Horczak

    The pedestrian is such a hypocrite telling others to be polite while she’s the one being rude by calling the cyclist a bitch.

  • Joe R.

    Either nobody should be able to use an insult, or everyone should. This has zip to do with race, either. It’s about gender. Why is it seemingly OK for both sexes to call a guy a dick?

    Not a fan of Trump in most areas, but if nothing else he’s helping to end all this PC nonsense which has people walking on eggshells worrying if something they said is offensive to some group out there.

    BTW, I’m of Italian ancestry, which strictly speaking isn’t white in the WASP, “privileged white people” sense. Despite that, I can still laugh at typical Italian stereotypes instead of getting insulted. I think the whole country should lighten up.

  • Joe R.

    Your last sentence really rings true, especially when you encounter a pack of cars trying to get started after a light goes green. A pack of rhinos could get moving faster.

    A corollary of “typical driver doesn’t understand that I can match their speed” is drivers trying to pass a cyclist regardless of their speed. I recall a number of years ago descending Union Turnpike right where it goes under GCP. Here’s the spot:

    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7365086,-73.7430425,3a,75y,63.49h,63.23t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1s-StULQTqjXbY6EgNR2IJgw!2e0!6s%2F%2Fgeo2.ggpht.com%2Fcbk%3Fpanoid%3D-StULQTqjXbY6EgNR2IJgw%26output%3Dthumbnail%26cb_client%3Dmaps_sv.tactile.gps%26thumb%3D2%26w%3D203%26h%3D100%26yaw%3D199.78438%26pitch%3D0%26thumbfov%3D100!7i13312!8i6656

    Anyway, this was in the winter when you often have major winds blowing eastbound. So I had like a 25 mph tailwind, plus the nice long hill. I was probably doing well in excess of 30 mph before even hitting the downgrade. On the downgrade I got up to 55 mph or thereabouts in the right lane. I saw a few cars passing me in the left lane. I’m sitting there thinking WTF? How on this planet am I impeding these people such that they feel the need to pass me when I’m already going a good 25 mph in excess of the 30 mph speed limit. Or maybe it was 35 or 40 mph in that location at that time. Either way, I’d love to know what was going on these driver’s heads. I probably could have been doing 100 mph and they still would have tried to get by.

  • Like every other bicyclist, I have received plenty of invective from over-entitled drivers for simply asserting my legal rights. This is a symptom of a culture that is deeply diseased.

    Yet I have on a handful of occasions received thanks for stopping at a red light. (One elderly lady actually told me that I was setting a good example. I wanted to hug her.)

    But there will always be crazies who denounce us for no good reason. We can do absolutely nothing about these people; they would exist even if every single bicyclist were to follow the law 100% of the time.

    We live with the ugly phenomenon of driver hegemony, of drivers’ interests being ingrained in the norms of society. Every single American is indoctrinated into this point of view; those of us who reject it have had to consciously act to unlearn it.

    This puts the pro-bicyclist side at a profound disadvantage in every discussion about bicycle infrastructure. So we need to make sure that we don’t make our struggle worse than it already is, because even our “friends” will desert us if the haters and the goofballs yell loudly enough. (Hi, Van Bramer and Rodriguez.)

    The existence of a permanent set of bike haters who reject the very legitimacy of bicyclists using the road does not excuse carelessness about giving these people free ammunition.

  • Joe R.

    Back when I used to regularly stop and wait the full cycle at red lights I never had anyone once thank me. I did on numerous occasions have drivers screaming at me when the light changed to get the f*ck out of their way so they could either turn or accelerate faster than I was. I also had stuff thrown at me while waiting at lights, was called the derogatory f-word for homosexual simply because of my choice of vehicle, along with tons of other stuff. “Why don’t you go riding in the park?” was pretty common.

    So I decided not to make myself a sitting target and do what most other people on bikes did, which was to treat reds as stops or yields. I highly doubt this turned anyone against cyclists who was previously for them. It was all upside for me. I even felt more relaxed on rides not worrying about trying to make lights. I figured if I miss a light, I usually just need to slow down a bit, look, and go. It was also nice having the road mostly to myself after passing the red light, at least until the pack caught up with me.

    As for Van Bramer and Rodriguez, remember politicians are at best going to be fair weather friends. Few have the character or backbone to say or do what’s right. That’s one of the reasons I admired the late Senator McCain. Van Bramer’s and Rodriguez’s desertion probably had nothing to do with complaints about cyclist behavior. Rather, they probably figured they would get more votes siding with drivers. If we failed here, it wasn’t due to our behavior. Rather, it was failing to put forth a case showing that our numbers are good enough to win elections. Those supporting the status quo are likely already well into their 60s. In a few years most will be in nursing homes crapping in their pajamas. This isn’t a constituency politicians should worry about losing. Mass motordom is slowly but surely heading into irrelevancy. Anyone who plans their future otherwise will surely be left in the dust bin of history.

  • Simon Phearson

    Save it, Ferdinand. I’m not paying any more attention to your crackpot theories or things that happened when you were on another one of your imaginary bike rides.

  • William Lawson

    This is almost exactly where a yellow cabbie almost left hooked me a couple of years ago. I had to swerve suddenly and make the turn with him – we came up side by side and I smashed right into him. I rapped on the window and yelled “are you crazy, what are you doing?” One of those NYPD cops on patrol across from the UN comes running over and says “don’t worry you can go” to the driver, and proceeds to tell me that it was my own fault for cycling too fast (I was on a CitiBike doing about 12mph) , that he “had the right to make the turn” (not without giving way to a cyclist in a bike lane he didn’t) and that he could easily “write you a ticket for rapping on his window like that” (I would make such a fool of him on court).

    I’ve also had these little anti-cyclist interjections from pedestrians during traffic disputes. It’s really no mystery – an ignorant driver has found themselves without their car, and is making up for lost time by attacking cyclists on behalf of other drivers. These people are mentally ill and the sooner we recognize that officially the better.

  • Daphna

    Any discussion about bicyclist behavior has to end. Pointing fingers at supposedly “reckless” cyclists as a reason that others have a bad view of cyclists is detrimental to the unity and cohesion that bicyclists need.

  • Lauren Bertrand

    I’d be with you, my friend, if Copenhagen-ites were biking purely out of choice.

    But they aren’t. Most of the young people on two wheels don’t have money for four. And while I’m not saying they all are secretly car-infatuated and being oppressed by the Nordic countries’ low consumer purchasing power, it’s pretty clear that all those bikeways and bike traffic aren’t purely based on people making a sacrifice for the greater common good. (Sure, they voluntarily pay high taxes. But they also voluntarily get cars when they have money for it, which generally happens 20 years later than it does in the U.S.) In short, the bicycle culture has much to do with after-tax take-home pay and what people in Denmark have the wherewithal to purchase. It’s rare for a family of four to afford a second car; even rarer for a twentysomething to have a car of his/her own.

    No doubt the biking chauvinists at this site think this is a dream come true, but it would be a lot more idyllic if people were biking because of genuine interest, rather than born out of necessity due to the general unaffordability of life in Copenhagen.

  • What is detrimental to bicyclists’ interests is not the act of calling out bad behaviour, but rather the behaviour that is being called out.

    No matter whether you deny it, the ugly truth is that people tend to notice bicyclists’ lawbreaking more than they do drivers’ lawbreaking, and that they get angrier at bicyclists despite the fact that the drivers are deadly and the bicyclists are harmless.

    This is not fair, and it is certainly not rational. But it is reality. We must keep this sad reality in mind if we want to minimise the obstacles against winning legislators’ support for more and better bike infrastructure and for reforms such as the Idaho stop. Our enemies already outnumber us; so it behooves a concsientious cyclist to take these strategic concerns into account when deciding how to present himself or herself.

  • qrt145

    Drivers just think of bikes as stationary objects. That manifests itself both in the need to pass or honk at a cyclist in front of them regardless of the speed, but also when a driver thinks it’s OK to turn immediately after passing a cyclist, neglecting the fact that the latter is also moving.

  • qrt145

    Individuals in Copenhagen make rational decisions based on how expensive it is to drive, sure. But that is in large part because they, as a society, decided to implement policies that make driving appropriately expensive, by making drivers pay for the negative externalities, for example with taxes on cars and gas. Also, they pursued policies which make cycling a more viable choice, by investing in infrastructure.

  • qrt145

    Have you ever received compliments for stopping by _drivers_? I have received compliments from pedestrians, but never from drivers.

  • Jesse

    Even if what you’re saying is true, it’s not as if the choices we make in the U.S. are made in a vacuum. The high car ownership rate in the U.S. is affected by the fact that most of the U.S. built environment requires you to own a car just to get around. This is true even for people who really can’t afford the expense.

  • Andrew

    It’s really no mystery – an ignorant driver has found themselves without their car, and is making up for lost time by attacking cyclists on behalf of other drivers.

    In many cases, I think it’s simply a pedestrian who’s gotten so accustomed to compensating for motorists’ ongoing assaults that he really believes that motorists can legitimately do whatever they like.

    Of course, the police take this to another level. Any police officer who parks his own personal car on the sidewalk or in the bike lane or at the bus stop every day can’t possibly believe that pedestrians or cyclists ever have priority over motorists. They may be aware that, technically speaking, pedestrians and cyclists may occasionally have priority, but to them this is merely a technicality.

  • Lauren Bertrand

    All very true, and I don’t deny this, as indicated by what I wrote in parentheses.

    But Copenhagen and Amsterdam are outliers, and their distribution is just as much a byproduct of necessity (limited land and a lot of people) as it is policy. We won’t all just be lemmings who fall into line with the latest fiat that was brought upon us by our representatives in Parliament. The world isn’t that top-down, and other political parties exist because, across the world, we co-exist with a multitude of worldviews within a soveriegn nation. Nearly all the Danes you see on bikes are young. As they get older and are less physically able to use bikes for a commute in often inhospitable weather, they tend to purchase cars…when they can finally afford them. Yes, there’s transit, but for point-to-point transportation, a train is worse than a bike and far worse than a car.

    I personally love riding my bike to get places, and I’d do far more if my city had the infrastructure and culture to support it. But it doesn’t, and I’m a distinct minority, and the lack of political will (because there are so few people like me) means I have to suffice with something that is a far cry from Copenhagen and always will be. And, in compensation, at least a car is much more affordable in my sprawling metro than it is in Copenhagen.

    If we get a culture that is suspicious of bikes in the country’s most densely populated city–and, as this article proves, we clearly do–we have to accept that even under the most amenable of conditions, we aren’t ever going to morph into a facsimile of Denmark. We’re just not communitarian like they are…which has distinct disadvantages, and some powerful advantages too.

  • On a few occasions drivers have said things like “That’s the first time I have seen a bicycle stop for a red light.” I can recall this happening on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan and on Willoughby Avenue in Brooklyn. I just played it off, responding in each case with some variation of “We all have to follow the rules.”

    But more often the comments came from pedestrians, who expressed gratitude. The lady who actually said that I was setting a good example was the most rewarding instance.

  • J. Geoff Rove

    The best retort by the biker would have been “Are you from Jersey ?? I’m from Jersey ! “

  • We are all brainwashed. I ride a bike every day and do not own a car, but still I wrestle with my own thoughts and how they have been inured to inevitability of cars (and car-related catastrophes). And I am still probably on the reasonable end of the spectrum. People who do not ride, or do not have loved ones who ride have no reason to ever think outside their small minds about cars being a discretionary thing. To people like this old sidewalk woman, cars are as inherent or natural to the world as the air or the clouds or even the ground they walk on. They are that small minded. She probably thinks the cyclist is a lunatic for trying to demand respect from a car.

  • Next time consider falling behind the turning vehicle and merging to its right. Sorry to digress from the topic but everyday I see cyclists racing to try to beat cars to the intersection, and every time I wish for a better way. After a car has already begun turning strikes me as an insane time for a cyclist to assert his/her right of way but everyday I see what appear to be very reasonable people doing exactly that.

    In a mixing zone, I always merge into the lane and wait til its safe to pass to the right. To me that feels a thousand times safer. More civilized too. That is to say, right of way should not be treated as a front of the line pass.

  • Joe R.

    I think what William is describing isn’t the cyclist trying to beat a car to the intersection. Rather, it’s a car moving very fast right past a cyclist approaching an intersection, then hitting the brakes and turning right in front of that cyclist. This happened to me a few times. I wasn’t even aware of the car turning right in front of me given their rapid approach, often coupled with no turn signal. All I could was exactly what William did—hit the brakes and turn with the driver. Fortunately, I never had a collision in these instances but it certainly highly possible.

  • Miles Bader

    Nearly all the Danes you see on bikes are young

    I don’t know about Denmark, or what social factors are at work there, but in Japan bicycles are hugely popular amongst the elderly. Being old does not make you suddenly incapable of using a bicycle, though you might ride more slowly. Of course, there’s a feedback loop: riding a bicycle keeps you more fit, meaning you’re better able to continue riding it.

    Obviously this is helped by a good public transport network: in places without decent public transit (perhaps you live in one), you might end up needing to use private transit for longer trips, and that could push some people over the threshold where a bicycle feels too impractical.

  • William Lawson

    Victim blaming at its finest. I was not “racing” to beat anyone, I was simply cycling at my normal speed, and a taxi overtook me and turned into my path suddenly. You know what, I am sick to the fucking BACK TEETH of people’s almost instinctive knee-jerk tendency to lecture cyclists (even fellow cyclists) on “where they went wrong” in an accident. Try this for size. The car was LEGALLY AND MORALLY OBLIGED TO STOP AND WAIT AND YIELD BEFORE TURNING, and the collision was ENTIRELY his fault.

  • Miles Bader

    “rule-breaking” is not a good metric.

    “The rules” in modern America are largely structured for the benefit of cars, without much regard for pedestrians or bicycles, and probably bicycles get the short of the stick even compared to pedestrians.

    So given an equivalent level of “reasonableness” (e.g., level of safety/threat to others, transportation efficiency etc), pedestrians and especially bicycles will inevitably end up “breaking more rules” than cars, even though they’re not behaving in a more unreasonable manner.

    Moreover, because of the extreme danger they present, and the large amount of space they take up, the cost to society of a car “breaking a rule” is far higher than that of a bicycle or (especially) a pedestrian doing so.

    Rules are not an end in themselves, and we should not treat them as if they are. They are a tool we use to achieve more concrete results (e.g. public safety, transportation efficiency, etc), and it’s the latter we should pay attention to.

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