Seattle Cyclists

Yesterday I saw a cyclist blow through two four-way stops and two stoplights in South Lake Union. Yes, the same cyclist.

Unfortunately this is an all-too-common occurrence as I’m driving around. Four-way stops especially–most cyclists I see just go right through them.

This frustrates me to no end. First, it’s hugely unsafe. Second, it’s hugely unfair. I respect their right to the road, so why don’t they respect the rules of the road in return? A four-way stop is for all vehicles on the road, cyclists included. Only pedestrians are immune. Would cyclists rather be treated as pedestrians? I doubt it.

So what is up with that, Seattle? Are these cyclists (note: I say *these* cyclists, not *all* cyclists) blind or just douchebags?

28 Comments so far

  1. wesa on June 10th, 2008 @ 8:07 pm

    I saw a vehicle do this on Capitol Hill the other day…blowing through two intersections without stopping, even swerving around a pedestrian. Are those drivers blind or just douchebags?


  2. Chaya (chaya) on June 10th, 2008 @ 8:10 pm

    Douchebags. I’m not saying drivers don’t do it, but I don’t see drivers do it consistently like I see cyclists do it. Plus drivers aren’t always on whiny campaigns about their right to the road. If you want a right to the road, then respect it.


  3. wesa on June 10th, 2008 @ 8:26 pm

    My point was that the vehicle that a person uses doesn’t matter, a person will be a douche regardless of whether they ride a bicycle, walk, or drive a car.


  4. rjl20 on June 10th, 2008 @ 10:22 pm

    most cyclists I see just go right through them

    Most cyclists you notice, maybe. But I doubt that it’s most cyclists you encounter. There are certainly a bunch of douchebags on bikes; I’ll grant that. But I don’t think it’s the percentage that you’re making it out to be. You’re in a car. Unless I’m doing something to piss you off, it’s very unlikely that you’d actually notice me on my bike, even though it’s got a neon yellow fork and stripes. (Or if it’s after dusk, at which point I’m lit up like the fourth of July.)

    And, you know what? As a cyclist who does follow the rules, I was with you right up until your bullshit comment. I don’t want the right to use the road; I have that right. The "whiny campaigns" aren’t aimed at getting that right for myself; they’re aimed at getting you to acknowledge that I already have it. And maybe we wouldn’t be so whiny if you’d pay attention to any of those campaigns, and stop acting like motor vehicles are the only ones with any inherent rights on the road.

    You know what else is unfair? If you were to kill me with a gun, you’d probably lose the right to carry a gun. You might even spend some time in jail. But if you kill me with your car, you’ll be back behind the wheel within a year, maximum. You might have to pay a traffic fine.

    So, in summary: cyclists who blow through stoplights are douches, and so are whiny drivers who think they’re the only ones entitled to use the roads.


  5. wesa on June 10th, 2008 @ 10:55 pm

    I agree with rjl20 and want to expand on this thought. I see more drivers in cars abuse the rights of the road by not using their turn signals, forcing their way ahead of others, cutting people off, doing illegal things while driving, illegally parking, blocking, going straight in a right-turn only, blocking intersections, etc etc etc etc etc. As a pedestrian and cyclist, I can’t tell you how often I observe drivers breaking the rules of the road without even thinking of the potential ramifications of their actions.


  6. jared on June 11th, 2008 @ 6:44 am

    i’m going with douche. as a cyclist and a driver is pisses me off when i see either doing something they aren’t supposed to. i have two proposals.

    1. just pick a light that’s on a major cyclist commuting route and start passing out tickets for jackholes that run the light.

    2. park a cop at 6th and battery and hand out tickets to all the jackholes that a. block the intersection, b. don’t use turn signals to say they’re turning in the go straight/right turn lane, c. go straight at 6th & wall from the far left right hand turn lane.

    by doing this i personally guarantee we would get enough funding to properly mark the road so clueless drivers (and i do qualify that because there are drivers that DO see me when i’m on my bike and recognize my right to be there) have no choice but to notice and recognize that bikes are on the road and they have just as much right as cars to be there.

    but with that right comes responsibility. and what’s this? we have it all outlined for us! http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.61.755 if you’ll notice the rules are exactly the same for cyclists as they are for motorists, except that nasty gray area where some rules for cars don’t make sense for bikes. i guarantee you though, nobody will argue that stop signs and turn signals are appropriate and necessary for both.

    sorry for the long rant, i just hate people on both sides that whine then turn right around and ignore the rules of the road.


  7. ziggity on June 11th, 2008 @ 8:20 am

    These sorts of discussions always seem to attract the "everyone-whose-mode-differs-from-mine-is-doing-it-wrong" comments. Not to say I’m not guilty of that myself, sometimes, but it’s easy not to notice the people who drive/bike/walk normally and safely, well within the confines of the law. It’s just the morons that stand out and make a name for the rest of us.

    Some people won’t ride the bus because of that one time when there was a drunk guy on the bus shouting about socialism. It happens, and nobody does anything about it, but it’s by no means representative.


  8. Sean Bonner (seanbonner) on June 11th, 2008 @ 8:29 am

    Frustrating, yes. Unfair, certainly. Unsafe, well that’s debatable. As a cyclist myself I’ve seen this discussion a few times and I’m sure exactly how I feel about it. I know both arguments well. The problem here lies that in that there’s at least enough info out there that stopping for stop lights and signs while on a bike can lead to accidents (which usually don’t bode well for the cyclist, and are usually caused by people in cars not seeing the stopped person on a bike and hitting them from behind) that many cities around the world have different laws for bikes and cars, allowing bikes more freedom on the roads. The simple fact that this happens gives cyclists in other areas the idea that it’s the right thing and then people start breaking their own laws. In the US mostly bikes are the same thing as cars in the eyes of the law and I agree that people should follow the law, or if they feel the law is wrong work to change it, rather than just breaking it which pisses off everyone else.


  9. tonyb on June 11th, 2008 @ 8:58 am

    So here’s the deal. You saw the douche go through a bunch of stop signs, but didn’t say anything? Please yell at the ahole moron blowing through the stop signs. Shame him into following the rules of the road. I find that this works most of the time (you do have to be careful though the cyclists in this town are a little aggro at times). One of my favorite lines to yell is when I see a cyclist all in their cyclist getup (it’s like a sign that says I AM A SERIOUS BIKER, TAKE ME SERIOUSLY) riding on the sidewalk is "Is your bike a vehicle or a toy? If it’s a toy then by all means ride on the sidewalk, but you think you are a vehicle follow the rules of the road." That gets them all almost every time, also just yelling at them to follow the rules of the road when they are not will usually do it. Also THANK the ones that do, not all cyclists are jackasses, just a lot of them around here.


  10. wesa on June 11th, 2008 @ 9:03 am

    LOL Tonyb, I’ll ride on the sidewalk between Downtown and Capitol Hill when the drivers are being too aggressive. One can ride on the sidewalk as long as one maintains a safe speed (I generally ride about 5mph on the sidewalk) and yield to pedestrians.


  11. thesoze on June 11th, 2008 @ 11:06 am

    I saw a pedestrian crossing the street and I nearly hit him because he was too busy not looking and listening to his iPhone…just acknowledge me so I know what you’ll do or next time I might hurt you by accident


  12. The_Tim (thetim) on June 11th, 2008 @ 12:17 pm

    I was going to come here and say basically the same thing wesa said. I think the percentage of "douchebags" on bicycles is the same as the percentage in cars. The cyclists are just more noticeable because you’re used to seeing car drivers do idiotic things all the time.


  13. seandr on June 11th, 2008 @ 3:36 pm

    Chaya,

    A more important question is, why do you and other drivers care so much whether a cyclist runs a 4-way stop sign? The safety risk, if any, is trivial and falls almost entirely on the cyclist, not you. As far as I can tell, this has no impact on you whatsoever.

    And yet look how irate you are! You’re calling people who are minding their own business "douchebags". Save it for the real douchebags, not some cyclist who decides to conserve momentum by rolling through an empty intersection.


  14. tonyb on June 11th, 2008 @ 4:11 pm

    I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out seandr’s response and I’m a bit baffled.

    seandr,

    I can’t answer for Chaya but, I at least care because I don’t want to kill anyone or have anyone killing themselves against my truck. I also care about the legal ramifications as it seems like even if it’s the bicyclists fault the driver has legal repercussions to deal with that frankly I don’t feel like I should have to deal with for someone else’s stupidity.

    It’s really simple, even a 4 year old knows this rule, a stop sign means stop.


  15. seandr on June 11th, 2008 @ 5:43 pm

    Tonyb,

    Although the Chaya doesn’t mention it, the intersections she describes were quite likely empty. Lots of cyclists blow stop signs when no cars are around, myself included. And why shouldn’t we? Because we might upset some blogger who happened to see it?

    No one cares if a pedestrian walks into an empty intersection without breaking stride. But put that pedestrian on two wheels, and suddenly everyone starts foaming at the mouth. This is just another form of road rage, where trivial incidents are escalated to the point of ridiculousness.


  16. tonyb on June 11th, 2008 @ 7:32 pm

    searndr,

    You are not helping other cyclists here with your arguments, in fact I would say you are giving them a bad rap.

    Whether the intersection is perceived as empty (you don’t really know until you are upon it) is irrelevant. Vehicles are required to stop for 3 seconds at a marked intersection. Most (not all and the ones that don’t are just as at fault as the cyclist who does the same) drivers seem to be able to manage this simple law, while most bicyclists do not. I’m not saying whether or not it’s safer, but we are all considered vehicles and it would stand to reason that the safest thing is that we all follow the same rules.

    No one cares about the pedestrian because they have the right of way. Pedestrians and cyclists do not operate under the same rules and to put that forth is a dangerous idea to plant in other cyclists. It’s not a trivial incident when YOUR idiocy plants itself straight into the side of my truck because you couldn’t be bothered to stop at a stop sign.


  17. seandr on June 11th, 2008 @ 8:49 pm

    tonyb,

    No one driving a car comes to a 3 second stop at an empty intersection. Most people don’t even come to a full stop. I know, the horror.

    Thankfully, most of us don’t even notice these infractions, let alone fly into a violent rage when we witness them. Nor do we get worked up by the motorist going 5 mph over the limit, or who didn’t pay the parking meter, or who has a busted headlight. Sure, they are breaking the law, but who among us isn’t guilty of the occassional minor transgression?

    When it comes to bikes, however, suddenly everyone becomes a self-righteous vigilante. Pedal through a stop sign on a deserted intersection and it’s front page news.

    If everyone here is really that obsessed with traffic laws, then why doesn’t the local press ever treat us to rants about some guy driving his Volkswagen around with expired tabs, or the woman on 99 who (gasp) wasn’t wearing a seat belt? Because that would be every bit as tedious as Chaya’s post.

    P.S. I don’t represent cyclists any more than you represent drivers. In fact, I drive much much more than I bike.


  18. rjl20 on June 11th, 2008 @ 9:09 pm

    3 seconds? It may be a good rule of thumb, but it’s not the rule of law, at least not in Seattle. Not according to the Seattle Municipal Code, King County Code, or the Revised Code of Washington, anyway.

    And, yeah, seandr. Please stop helping. If you’re blowing through a stop sign because no cars are around and a blogger happens to see it from her car, there was at least one car around, wasn’t there?


  19. Chaya (chaya) on June 11th, 2008 @ 9:24 pm

    Thank you, rjl20, that’s just what I was coming here to say. If I was there to see it in my car then it was NOT a deserted intersection. I was waiting patiently to go on my turn and a cyclist just blew past me.


  20. The_Tim (thetim) on June 11th, 2008 @ 9:26 pm

    rjl20, perhaps a better link would have been to the RCW definition of "stop".

    While I do not subscribe to the belief that "everybody breaks the law, so that makes it okay," I do agree with seandr to the extent that car drivers violate just as many laws as cyclists, and it is pretty hypocritical for a car driver (like myself) to get all righteous about a cyclist running a stop sign.

    I hope nobody is seriously trying to argue that car drivers actually break fewer traffic laws than bicycles. Different ones maybe, but not fewer.


  21. seandr on June 11th, 2008 @ 10:38 pm

    Chaya,

    Have you ever pissed someone off on the road? Been pulled over by a cop? Gotten a moving violation or warning? Gotten into an accident? Driven while on the cellphone? Parked illegally? Opened your door and dinged the side of the car parked next to you? Exceeded the speed limit? Missed a stop sign or red light? Failed to yield? Went out of turn? Driven too slow because you’re looking for a parking space? Forgot to signal? Nudged a car while parallel parking in a tight space? Changed lanes without realizing there was another car there? Run out of gas?

    If you answered yes to any of these questions, don’t be too hard on yourself, you’re only human. If you answered no to all of them, then I’m afraid you’re the douchebag.

    P.S. Still not clear from your vague reporting if the cyclist in question actually cut you off or just passed you up.


  22. tonyb on June 12th, 2008 @ 8:04 am

    I can’t believe cyclists are condoning unsafe behavior. What you’ve basically just told me as a driver is that because cyclists are stupid enough to practice unsafe riding habits that it’s OK if I hit them. Fine, looks like it’s open season on cyclists that can’t come to a complete stop.


  23. thesoze on June 12th, 2008 @ 9:15 am

    what is this Digg? let’s try to obey the rules and hope no one gets hurt…but if you do hit a cyclist, just try to make it look like an accident!! :)

    {sarcasm}

    stop this madness!


  24. Dylan (dylan) on June 12th, 2008 @ 11:08 am

    No one driving a car comes to a 3 second stop at an empty intersection.

    I do. In fact, I have never blown through a stop sign in my life on purpose.

    Ever.

    This either means you’re wrong, or I’m no one. Which is it?


  25. hollyd on June 12th, 2008 @ 12:06 pm

    Last week on Dexter near the Swedish Cultural Center, I saw a new silver Jeep or Mercedes ride way to close to a biker, who then pounded his fist on the hood of the car which in turn "forced" the driver to swerve into the biker in an attempt to either run him over, or knock him off his bike. That driver then pulled his car overish taking up the bike lane and half of the road, got out and got in the biker guys face raising his fist like he was ready to blast this guy in the face. The biker guy yelled back gaining the attention of fellow bikers who slowed down to see what was happening.

    The confrontation ended not in violence; the driver yelled some "fuck you"’s and swerved away squealing his tires and making his masculinity known leaving the biker shaking his head before riding away and leaving me relieved that I had not witnessed a violent act at 7:30am in the morning, but wondering who’s the asshole, the biker or the driver?

    Ok, biker, you didn’t need to pound on this guys brand new car hood, but driver, what the hell were you thinking? You swerved hard to the right almost running the guy over. Had you done anything to hurt him I was the only witness who observed the entire conflict. I had your lisence plate number, your description, and a plain view of the incident. This is a big city. Think before you take your road rage out on a guy on a bike. Ugh. Get used to it people, bikers are here to stay. Douchebags or not.


  26. mik (kimberley) on June 13th, 2008 @ 3:51 pm

    Personally, I’d just like cyclists to yell "on your left" when passing me.


  27. alejo699 on June 16th, 2008 @ 4:07 pm

    It’s amazing how these discussions almost always devolve into "us" and "them," even though almost nobody is only a driver or only a cyclist. And of course there’s the tendency to speak in angry generalities. But the bottom line is that everybody needs to be more aware, more respectful, and more law-abiding. This means, seandr, that cyclists need to obey the laws too, and for the same reason drivers do. Because cyclists are NOT pedestrians, they’re vehicle operators. (And by "they" I mean "we," because I’m a cyclist too. And I stop for stop signs.)
    Back to the original question, is the cyclist a douchebag? Yep. But Chaya’s comment that it’s "unfair" doesn’t make a lot of sense, since she’s just as free to break the law and blow those stops as the cyclist is — but I wouldn’t recommend it to her any more than I would him. Accidents suck.


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