What? Stop Riding your Bike? You must be Kidding!

My buddy Keith over at thecorch is a pretty cool guy. I read his blog which usually has to do with media or political commentary (particularly when Lost was well er lost, similarly for the liberals in the past election). But over the past few months Keith’s picked up a bike and started commuting, which is awesome. I love hearing how people make the shift from the car to the bike or some other alternate mode.

However Keith’s latest entry hit a topic close to home …. Biking. His latest post is entitled ‘Stop Riding Your Bike‘.

I’m curious, what do Waterloo Region cyclists think of Keith’s ideas?

22 thoughts on “What? Stop Riding your Bike? You must be Kidding!

  1. I agree somewhat with the notion that the bad cyclists harm the law abiding ones, however I believe if every cyclist obeyed every law there was, those same people would find something new to whine about with regards to cyclists.

    Onto his points…

    Wrong way cycling: I live on a busy street with bike lanes and I do see this almost daily, and quite often with cops passing right by. Riding against traffic does bother me, and to be honest the one time I did go against traffic (for about 15 metres) I hated seeing cars coming at me.
    I would argue that we should do what France does and allow two-way cycling on quieter one-way streets. Even Montreal allows this on some streets.

    Cyclists without bells: Honestly one of the more ridiculous laws required for cyclists. I’m not sure what the point actually is when motorists will not hear them and when on multi-use trails pedestrians are too busy listening to their MP3 players or they simply ignore them.
    I have two bells now on my bike and they only time I use it is when I’m approaching my house, I’ll give a little ring for my dog :p
    Oh, the only time I ‘needed’ to use a bell was when I was pulled over by a cop. He didn’t pull me over to check for one, but after my tone changed because of his stupid questioning about why I had a camera with me, the only thing he could think of to try and ticket me on was “do you have a bell?”.

    Cyclists Without Helmets: I think you know very well about my stance on helmets…well helmet laws and promotion at least, however when I read fear mongering such as that, I become even more against helmet use as a whole.
    I honestly will never understand today’s bubble wrap society we are living in…yes even with regards to children. When I went to elementary school (90’s) helmets were rare and people were not dropping dead of head injuries. Go further back to our parents or grandparents day and more kids rode bikes then today and not one wore a helmet. Head injuries were unheard of.
    Something that seems laughable to me are when parents take their kids ice skating now. The helmets, knee, elbow and shin pads they make the kids wear is beyond ridiculous. My school every year use to take one day to go ice skating for fun and the only thing you needed to bring were a pair of skates.
    A helmeted child is no safer then say these two:
    Hatted Up

    Cycling on the sidewalk: Pretty well the first year of riding I would be on the sidewalk. Now I don’t feel safe whatsoever on one. Only time I’ll go on a sidewalk is for those shortcuts between neighbourhoods and shortcuts to stores/businesses.
    Although I’d argue it feels more dangerous for myself, it’s understandable why many believe it is safer to ride on sidewalks. Until cities put in real bike lanes and reduce the speed limits, I generally won’t criticize people who ride on the sidewalk.

    Motorists passing: For the most part I have no complaints as people usually give a safe distance when passing here. Worst experience came in Welland when a van passed me doing 60km/h and gave less then an inch.
    Second worst actually happened yesterday when a utility/garden truck w/ trailer sped up to beat the light and he didn’t take into account his trailer which was a couple of inches away.
    Fortunately when I spotted him in my mirror I knew he wasn’t going to leave much space so I prepared for it.

    Motorists Not Yielding at Roundabouts: No RAB in St. Catharines and quite honestly hope there never is. Two lane RAB seem quite dangerous for cyclists.
    Look at what (almost) happened to Alexwarrior1 in Vancouver this past week:

    Motorists Honking at Cyclists: The “pointless” honk I think has only happened maybe once or twice in 7 years of riding. Of course this isn’t to say I don’t see it occasionally happen to other cyclists who pass my house…It tends to happen to younger, attractive females mind you.

    1. Ryan a well thought out response … A blog post in its own right.

      Very interesting comment on one-way streets, cyclist already do this just need the law to recognize common sense. I happen to live on a very low traffic one-way and ride every day in the wrong direction (as do many other cyclists). Its a great alternative to the busy streets connecting downtown Kitchener to uptown Waterloo.

      1. It would be nice for either cities (or preferably the Province) to pass some sort of legislation allowing this.

        Obviously I wouldn’t recommend riding on busy one-way streets. St. Catharines use to have one-way streets downtown and I couldn’t imagine going against traffic on them.

        Check out this picture (and write-up) from Flickr:
        Montréal On-Street Bike Lanes

  2. I’d say mostly ridiculous. He’s 1 part pedantic two parts oversensitive. Although, I did have a similar post early on in the blog.

    I don’t agree with his stance on sidewalks or bells and while I wear a helmet myself, I don’t necessarily believe it should be mandatory. It may get less useful as our numbers grow. That’s my hope.

      1. Pedantic – overly concerned with minute details.

        It applies all over. I wish people would use it more.

  3. I’d say your friend managed to strike a chord with me. The thing that got me was the commenter that suggested he’d clothesline someone for not ringing their bell. I left a long comment about my nitpicks.

    The more I think about it too, the more cyclists I see that disobey traffic laws tend to look like they come from lower socio-economic backgrounds than most people that have blogs of any kind so I really think a lot of this strikes me as “I don’t like poor people being rude on bikes” especially with the whining about the trail stuff.

    I can’t fault a guy that has never had a driver’s licence for not knowing the rules of the road, it’s not like they teach it in high school. It’s easy when you’re well off enough to have internet access and a good computer at home as well as the training to use the thing, but many people are at a huge disadvantage even in this staggeringly rich society of ours.

    I hate it when a motorist takes a crap on cyclists but I really, really hate it when another cyclist does it with such energy and disdain too… kind of sad.

    (Here’s my entry in case said blogger decides to moderate)
    Consider this an “Open letter to sanctimonious bloggers”

    Do you wear a helmet when you drive? Do you wear a helmet in the shower? How about just walking around? Do you wear motocross armour when you bike? I mean you could have a tumble and get road rash! I stopped reading at this point in your article. How many head injuries occur every year? How many are from cyclists? Do you even know what the helmet standard is supposed to protect you from? Why isn’t your helmet full-face?

    Bells are mostly useless on the iron horse too. Many pedestrians will walk 3 or 4 abreast and ignore the bells. Old folks that are hard of hearing can’t distinguish where it’s coming from. People’s untrained dogs on 25ft leashes don’t listen to the bell either. Many people just don’t give a rip and will “hold the line” forcing you to wait or go around, neither of which bother me too much but to paint all pedestrians as shocked weaklings is a bit much. The path has a “shared” sign posted and that means peds have to be on the lookout and should walk as much to the right as possible. To single out cyclists is really one-sided. (Not that it’s pertinent but I slow to a crawl and just say ‘excuse me’ and go around)

    This entire entry reeks of “cyclist self-hate” and spends way too much time slamming people that have likely never read a cycling blog, never heard about the rules of the road in school (hint: poor guy is not riding that old MTB because he likes it). Society as a whole still thinks bikes are mostly toys and treats people that try to use them for anything but recreation as pariahs and weirdos at best, so cut us a little slack. People will be selfish and self-centred regardless of what form of transportation they choose and BS entries like this do nothing but create animosity and foster ill-will between people. Actually, this whole thing reads like troll bait, and I’m sad that I’m responding to it.

    Personally, I would love it if someone clotheslined me because I didn’t ding my little bell. I love internet tough guy talk as much as the next person but c’mon. Unless you knocked the guy out they’d likely get up and have a few swings at you or worse, have a knife on ‘em and stab you. What a stupid thing to say, and I guess that most folks that talk like that have never been in a fistfight.

  4. While I don’t agree with a lot of what Keith wrote, I think his comments are worth bringing up.

    There IS a culture among cycling activists to deny or downplay any wrongdoing by cyclists, or to dismiss it as unimportant. The argument that bicycles are less of a threat to others that cars may be valid, but they still *are* a threat to others (namely pedestrians and other cyclists) and more importantly, drivers shouldn’t have to suffer the emotional trauma of seeing your brains splattered over their windshield when they didn’t do anything wrong.

    I use my bell constantly and wish other people would let me know (as a pedestrian or a cyclist) when they are passing me. Cars don’t honk when they pass, but cars all have rear-view mirrors (and in some countries, they *do* honk when they pass). Pedestrians don’t have bells, but they are generally going a lot slower and aren’t made of metal. I find it’s easier to ring my bell than yell “excuse me” or “on your left” but the actual bell part is unimportant.

    It’s pretty clear that helmets aren’t the key to reducing cycling injury or mortality rates. These are much lower in countries like the Netherlands where cycling is more popular and helmets are almost unknown. We don’t, however, live in a country like that at present. Automobile-bicycle accidents are far higher here than in those countries, at least proportionally to the number of cyclists. Obviously, in a head-on collision, your helmet is unlikely to save you, but head-ons are pretty rare. Sideswipes and falls are far more common, and in cases of accidents like that that I wear my helmet. I don’t think they should be mandatory, but I do think it’s kind of dumb not to wear one.

    According to the Toronto automobile-bicycle collision report, riding on the sidewalk is the single-most common denominator between accidents. Over 30% of accidents happened because of people riding on sidewalks. It may make you FEEL safe, but it puts you in far greater danger. Personally, I find it kind of offensive when I’m walking along a sidewalk and a cyclist expects me to get out of the way. There are, of course, plenty of exceptions when cycling on the sidewalk does make the most sense, but they are exceptions to the rule, and in those cases, cyclists should behave like a car driving through a crowded public square – everyone else has right of way, so stop if someone else is in your way.

    Most importantly, as someone already mentioned, riding without lights is not only suicidal, it’s a dirty trick to play on drivers who can’t be expected to see you, so I’m amazed it was left off Keith’s list. I think Charles is right, particularly in this case, that most of these people are of lower socio-economic backgrounds (bike lights can be annoyingly expensive, break often, and batteries have to be replaced) so it is rather ridiculous to criticize them a blog like this. On the other hand, they aren’t ALL people of lower socio-economic backgrounds, so maybe it’s worth stating?

    I’m not sure what to say about that argument though. Some people can’t afford to buy a car that without brutal emissions either… that doesn’t mean we don’t regulate it. We should be sensitive to peoples’ circumstances, but not indifferent to their actions, no?

    As for drivers, there’s no particular actions that I see frequently that put me into danger that could somehow be solved with education. Drivers are dangerous when they aren’t expecting cyclists. The only way to make them expect us is to have more of us. Telling anyone to stop biking is clearly not the solution.

    1. Thanks for the response David — I lived in the Netherlands for two years as a young teenager and was hit twice on the bike, once by a ford escort and the other by a moped in a segragated bike lane …. both were my fault due to aggressive cycling habits of an indestrucable youth — there’s a story here somewhere …..

      Ok what was my point — ah yes. In the Netherlands drivers are guilty until proven innocent when it comes to collisions with cyclists so they avoid them at all times. Not all roads in the Netherlands have bike lanes, lots do, but many do not. The other factor is that many more drivers in the Netherlands are also cyclists …. So one is something that could be introduced by legislation and the other is a cultural shift that happens as cycling is made more accessible.

      1. I remember a story just last year where a moped hit a cyclist…the cyclist got up without any issue yet the moped rider suffered more serious injuries.

        I always thought roads without bike lanes in the Netherlands had slower speed limits (between 20-40km/h).

      2. @Ryan – Perhaps in Holland’s city centres and their burbs, but not in the country. The roads are narrow and the speed limits are higher around 80 I’d guess. (I should caveat my comments on the Netherlands as I did grades 9 and 10 (1988/89) in the netherlands. I’m sure things have changed a lot).

    1. I’d say my main problem with your article is that it seems a little holier-than-thou for a guy who is new to the region and by extension, new to cycling in the region. At least, that’s the way your blog reads.

      How is the summer commute going by the way. Are the streets fixed up? Some road crews were out last week on my commute and smoothed a bunch of holes over.

      1. I think Keith moved into the Region around the same time I did – that is, eight years ago. I’d hardly call that ‘new’. And while I may disagree with one or two points, I think his overall premise of “bad cyclists ruin it for the rest of us” is completely valid.

      2. My mistake then. His blog has a post from June about moving here from T.O. and starting to bike to work.

  5. Hi Graham,

    I regularly read Keith’s bog too, but found myself disagreeing more with this one, than the political ones. I do agree with him that some cyclists, just need to stop riding before they make things worse for the rest of us or injure someone. I don’t agree with some of the behaviour Keith attributes to bad cyclists.

    Last week I was driving along Erb Street. I stopped at a red light at King Street. After the light turned green and all three lanes of traffic had made it halfway through the intersection, a cyclist (I hesitate to use that word because of his actions) flew into the intersection from King Street, cut off all the cars, who (fortunately for him) slammed on their brakes and blared their horns. He proceeded to jump the curb and almost sideswiped a couple of pedestrians, as he turned and gave us all the finger. My response was the same as yours – he’s ruining it for the rest of us. To me that guy is a bad cyclist. I think most people would agree with that. To lump that type of behaviour in with not wearing helmets, having a bell or riding on the sidewalk seems a bit of a stretch.

    I always wear a helmet when I bike, so I don’t disagree with you there. I’ve had three falls in which I’ve banged my head over the years, and was wearing a helmet in all of them. One was when I got side-swiped by a car about 25 years ago. Another was mountain biking at the hydrocut a few years back, but the latest was just a careless error I made while biking slowly on a school yard. If someone doesn’t wear a helmet when they cycle, I think they are wrong and taking an unnecessary risk, but that doesn’t necessarily make them bad cyclists.

    I don’t have a bell. I bike mostly on the road, so it would not be very useful. When I do bike on the Iron Horse Trail or the sidewalk (I’ll get to that later) I pass people carefully and say, “excuse me.” I don’t think this makes me a bad cyclist.

    I do ride on the sidewalk, but only very occasionally – maybe 1% or 2% of my riding. I ride on the sidewalk when I feel unsafe riding on the road. This is mostly due to the excessive speed of cars, or aggressive driving. Often it has to due with the close proximity expressway on and off ramps, like University Ave. or Bridgeport Rd. I don’t think this makes me a bad cyclist.

    I think Keith’s mistake was lumping arrogant, dangerous, law-breaking people, like the one I described earlier, together with people making these lesser infractions.

  6. I think Keith’s mistake is being a pompous busy-body… telling people how to raise their kids, deleting posts because he doesn’t like it when someone barks back, calling us that forgo helmets an idiot. Not my kind of people and he’s welcome to say whatever he likes on his blog, but dude is just flat-out wrong on so many counts it’s unreal. I like that his twitter has something about him riding with his dog (on a leash I assume) and he’s got the nerve to complain about other people doing dumb stuff on a bike. Keith’s letter is exactly why I don’t use my blog more.

  7. Both of those pieces cause me to be rather angry, so I will just say this: would those people he wants to stop cycling be any better behind the wheel? That IS the main alternative.

  8. I have to admit that this is going on way too long. Comments are still rolling in on his blog as well as here about this.

    Here’s what I glean from the whole thing –

    I think beginning cyclists usually get a bit of a shock when they see the habits of other, more experienced cyclists. Some may be jerks and daredevils, but maybe the beginner doesn’t have enough experience to see the difference between majors and minors when it comes to infractions. Or, even when it’s actually better and safer to make the infraction than follow the letter of the law.

    I can remember when that was me. Although I probably wasn’t as pompous and arrogant about it.

    He’ll probably lose the attitude and come around to cycle camaraderie in time. Maybe when he’s no longer able to count his trips on the fingers of his hands.

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