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Drivers: Treat cyclists like cars and we'll all get along fine...

I ride my bike around Fort Collins, CO a lot. Collins is nice, it's a college town, so by default it's peppered with cyclists. Lately, it seems like cycling is on the rise, and it's becoming cool to have a single speed fixie and dress like a bike messenger.

My problem with Fort Collins drivers is not the usual one of rudeness, it's one of politeness.. When I show up to a busy 4 way stop that's moving smoothly with everyone taking their turn.. and a motorist (who was there first) tries to wave me through, I get seriously angry. This waving exchange takes a good 5 seconds or so, whereas if they would have just treated me like a car and acted normally, traffic would have kept flowing.

Yeah, it sounds like a silly thing to be angry about, but think about it this way. Dumb motorist sits there waving at me.. I do what they say but the one across from them (who thinks it's their turn) doesn't see any of this. That results in me riding to the center of the intersection and getting hit.

The rules of the road are extremely well thought out. There are very few instances where you need to trust a motorist to not do stupid things, you only have to trust that they too understand the rules. If you throw those rules out for cyclists, we are suddenly put at risk because we have to trust that the rules this one polite idiot just made up won't kill us.

This morning I was crossing a busy 4 lane road, The first two were clear, and the second two had one lone truck, followed (at a bit of a distance) by a huge pack of cars.

I crossed the first two lanes, then sat in the center median waiting for the lone truck to pass, intending to cross behind him before the huge pack of cars. The truck stopped in the middle of the road.. and waved me across.. as he did this, he entirely closed the gap behind him I was intending to take. So, he blew the timing and the pack of cars behind him were now (luckily) slowing down for me... I went from having to trust no one and just moving through, to having to trust the waving guy, and whoever shows up in the lane next to him..

So, there it is. Treat us like cars... That means don't hit us, don't try to change the rules for us, if we're in your lane, don't pass us with only a whisker's worth of distance between me and you. Do that and we'll all get along fine. (and more importantly, I'll stay alive)

Comments

2 things:

1) That drives me crazy when I'm on a bike as well, and you have elucidated it better than I ever have: it's a problem of trust. Any deviation from the normal routine requires trust, and trust is not something you should be doing on the road.

2) It's just as irritating for me driving here in Japan, because everyone just makes rules up all the time. The US roads and their enforcement of very logical rules that enhance traffic flow and help avoid accidents should be a source of national pride. Our licensure training is largely a focus on rules and learning not to think while driving. Just follow the rules and everything will be fine. Here, training is a bunch of nonsense about steering and how to squeeze giant saloon cars through S curves. But you get out on the road and it's idiots waving their hands and honking their horns and turning into the far lane (actually, that's a rule here--you always go into the left lane, even if it's a multi-lane road!!! --If everyone followed that rule, there'd be a line from either side of the intersection to get into the left lane). When there's an accident, it's not a simple question of "Who broke the rule?"; it's a question of what percent of the blame goes where, regardless of who broke the rule.

Traffic rules are good. Really, really good. Let's all use them. All the time.

You should also put "cyclists obey the rules like cars". Just now I saw a cyclist went through a red light because there were no incoming cars. And another one just went zooming to the right without stopping (its red light), he almost hit a pedestrian.

Sure, with some exceptions. I'm a fan of the idaho law school of thought:
http://www3.state.id.us/cgi-bin/newidst?sctid=490070020.K
Basically, for bikes, everything is a step down. stop lights become stop signs, stop signs become yield signs, etc.

1. efficiency. when you've got the horsepower of a hairdryer, stopping at all stop signs when no one is there increases your energy output by 40% or so.
2. visibility on a bike, i can see in all directions, and over most cars/obstacles. I CAN clear an intersection for safely crossing while rolling toward it, because I'm not encased in steel.
3. it hurts no one but me. (i'm obviously not speaking to your 'hitting a pedestrian' example, that is of course wrong) I can't do any damage with my bike or generally speaking, injure anyone but me. Riding with self preservation as my prime directive doesn't do any harm to anyone else, and probably.. 80% of the time, it's in line with the law.