Denver Bike to Work Day 2011: Don't be a dickhead

Categories: Bicycling

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Don't be that guy.
Used to be, the only adults who rode bikes were either weird fitness freaks or those with multiple DUIs. Times have changed, however, and more bicyclists than ever are taking to the pedals and jockeying for road space against drivers in an atmosphere of barely contained and increasing animosity. And the problem isn't going to go away -- last year's Denver Bike to Work Day drew out some 30,000 riders, and this year's event (coming up on June 22) is expected to attract even more -- meaning the only question is, in the immortal words of Rodney King, "why can't we all just get along?" Answer: because a lot of people are being real dickheads about it.

As a daily bike commuter myself, I tend to sympathize with the terrifying, irritating and sometimes just downright confusing situations bicyclists get put into every day -- but I also own a car and drive in the city, so I'm well familiar with how annoying bicyclist's frequent habits can be on the other end. So in the interest of fostering a community of peace and empathy where riders and drivers alike can hold hands and sing songs about harmony and shit, here are a few guidelines for cooperative behavior that people need to start observing immediately, whether their vehicle has two wheels or four.

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This thing has an excellent use!
Use your turn signal
Here's the thing: When I am riding a bike, I'm not occupying an actual lane of traffic; rather, have a few feet of lateral space toward the side of the road. What that means is that, when you're turning right, you're crossing directly into my path. The moral: I really need to know if you're about to turn right. It is imperative. It's nice to know if you're turning left or going straight, too, so I can avoid having to adjust my trajectory.

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Obey.
Don't wantonly run red lights/stop signs
But let's be honest: When you're stopped at an intersection and I'm coming up on your right, there's a good chance I'm doing that because I'm about to run a red light or a stop sign. And it's totally a bullshit habit, I know. There's nothing more nerve-wracking for me as a driver than having a dude on a bike dart out in front of me, so please: I know we don't want to lose that precious momentum and everything, but let's all agree that blowing red lights -- even on a bike -- is bad.

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This is not a parking space.
Look out for the bike lane
There are precious few lanes just for bicyclists, so it's extra infuriating when cars not only take up the six lanes they're already allotted, but feel the need to take up ours, too -- particularly when it seems it hasn't even occurred to them that bicyclists may be using it. Be aware: Check your mirror before you pull out. Better yet, check your mirror before you open your door, too, because a door-check will fuck up your car just as bad as it will probably fuck up the bicyclist -- neither of which you want. And for God's sake, don't park there.

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Oh look at me! I'm having a stupid-ass race!
Don't ride two abreast in traffic
Yeah, yeah, I know it's legal now for cyclists to ride two abreast, but for the sake of maintaining modestly civil relations between the two factions, don't be an ass about it. The same as we want our bike lanes to be for us, regular lanes of traffic are for, you know, traffic moving at the speed of traffic. Bicyclists are slower than cars, and (particularly if there's only one lane in either direction) it's seriously infuriating to get caught behind a couple of leisurely turds on B-cycles when you're in a hurry. Move over and let the car pass, lest you be tailgated.


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5 comments
Peter
Peter

I rode my bike as transportation in downtown DC for 2 years in addition to many years here and elsewhere. Colorado drivers are "peaches" in comparison. I've never gotten the finger, yelled at, or anything else from a driver. The reason is I follow one simple rule: between you and the car, the car always wins. Period. There is an attitude among some bikers that they are hot shit for riding in the city, as if its a tough guy event. It's not. Drivers will do what they do, they generally don't read articles like this, and if you are pissing them off then you are doing something that you shouldn't. As a cyclist, it's your job to be a f*cking ghost. Move in a way that drivers don't even know you are there, anticipate their bad behavior and remove yourself from bad situations (like riding in a car's blindspot), always yield - even if you technically have right of way. Trying to education someone on using a turn signal or whatever is a lost cause, instead assume no one will signal and vary your speed accordingly. It's not a competition, and if it were - you might win the court settlement for your bashed skull, but you really lost.

David Needham
David Needham

Well written article. I do my best to be wary of bicyclists, and like to think of a day where we can both take our respective rides home as a victory. It's shocking how much animosity there is between drivers and riders, even if neither has personally done something to offend the other.

Christopher Weston
Christopher Weston

Great list. Being a bike rider when the weather is agreeable, and driving when it is not, I like the both sides of the argument approach and can sympathize with a lot of it, especially going through red lights on a bike (i do it far too often), and turn signals. I would add to keep your bike on the road and off the sidewalk. Besides the fact it is rude (yelling at pedestrians), it is dangerous and illegal. I know of a few folks who have been clipped by cars coming out of / into alleys and parking lots, but have no recourse because they were speeding down the sidewalk. I know Colfax isn't a nice place to ride, although I feel much safer doing so at night (less traffic, lights), but I get sick of the attitude pedestrians get from all types of cyclists demanding they move out of the way on the sideWALK, when there are bike lanes one block away on the much more quiet 16th street.

Moodeous
Moodeous

SO GLAD turn signals are number one. As a cyclist this is my #1 pet peeve. I know I'm not always in the right either, but if you would use your MFing signal we could avoid a whole lot of BS. So much so that I've considered custom making a patch for my bag proclaiming "I <3 Turn Signals", "Turn Signals are Sexy" or  "Signal Bitches!". Thanks for this!

Spokesperson
Spokesperson

I was confronted by a guy who slowed to a stop in the middle of the road and I stopped behind him.  After I remounted and rode slowly past and said "please use your turn signal" (seriously, no yelling or obscenities, I just said it) into his passenger window...he then sped up and veered in front of me, stopped and jumped out and came at me yelling "WHAT'S YOUR PROBLEM?"  and I stopped, dismounted and said calmly "my problem is your lack of use of a turn signal" and he shouted "JUST GO AROUND ME!" and I said calmly "that's lose-lose for me...I can guess that you're turning left but when I pass on your right I find out that you're backing into that parking space on the right I'll get run-over....or I can guess that you're taking the parking space on the right and pass on the left and when you turn left I'll get run-over... either way I will lose because your car can kill me.  If you use your turn signal, I don't have to guess."

He looked at me totally deflated, walked back to his car, and drove off.

Both drivers and riders need to think.  When either stops thinking, someone's going to get hurt.

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