Just Food for Thought Mar 24, 2009

Everyday I have similar experiences, except mine aren’t 12″ of room between their sideview and my bars, mine are more like people pulling in front of me, getting out of the car, calling me “faggot” as they try to tackle me off my bike. People don’t like it when you pass them as they sit in gridlock and many take out their frustrations with congestion on cyclists.

Even in the bike lane, especially in South Williamsburg, along Hasid way, I’ve had mini vans come as close as a foot off my rear wheel going as fast as I can and then pull ahead only to slam on their brakes… I wasn’t alone one time. There were at least 5 other people who were with me.

What will it take to get drivers to respect our presence? Tickets? Probably not. Most tickets are thrown out of court. If we had curbed / barricaded bike lanes, we’d be safe(r). The only thing that will get drivers to respect us is when they are the ones on the bikes. Driving in the City isn’t a right, it’s a privilege and one that should be taxed. There’s no reason why subway riders should cope with higher fares when the drivers in this City get away without any tolls.

Bottom line is, keep your wits about you. It’s getting warmer out, which means more cyclists, which means more angry drivers. Take the lane if you have to. Wear a helmet, wear lights and be safe. If you’re in a compromising situation, get their plate number, take a picture and call the Police.

  • matts

    word is bond. i hook’d my ride with about 3 lights/some blankman shit ‘goin on

  • http://lockedcog.com kris

    It seems to be getting increasingly ridiculous on the streets. Traveling in the left lane of a one way street with no bike lane doesnt warrant a “get out of the road before you get run over”…with the only other option being to ride on the pedestrian littered sidewalk. Wouldnt be so unusual…if the hecklers werent three motorcycle cops in no hurry and with no intention other than making an off-base point.

    Share the road.

  • Andrew

    I’m really glad you brought this video to everyone’s attention, but what’s the bit about taxes for motorists?! That’s ridiculous. It’s not like people who pay the toll would say “oh, man, I better watch out for cyclists now”. The only people the toll would hurt are the lower income folk who still have to drive every day to work (laborers, the elderly or disabled who have difficulty getting onto a bus or bike, people in sales, etc). It’s not like we’d see the budgets getting taken care of with taxes/tolls either. They’d spend the money just on the prospect of new revenues. Higher taxes is never the answer.

  • http://theradavist.com prolly

    Andrew… Look at this picture

    It’s quite simple. Driving into Manhattan creates congestion. Most of these drivers should and could take the subway, but instead, they choose to drive in their cars. Granted, if they were car pooling, it’d be less of an ordeal, but the number of single-drivers I see as I pass is staggering. Albany, the city where laws are passed for NYC is filled with “businessmen and politicians” with their own self-interest in mind. Rather than taking the transit, they feel more comfortable driving their cars into NYC and parking illegally [I can pull up resources showing you].

    As long as there’s that disconnect, Congestion pricing will never get passed.

    Do you live in NYC? How do you know they are “elderly”. They just look lazy to me. Very few of them are old and most of them are driving their cars out of convenience. It IS a luxury; a car in the city. If you are driving in the city, it’s expensive. Because you don’t need a car in NYC like you would in LA. There is no reason why the LOWER CLASS citizens you are defending, but in the wrong context should have to pay an additional $.50 for a subway ride. A fare hike like what the MTA is proposing will fuck over more people than a bridge toll…. 10 million a day move through NYC via the subway.

    Not taxes, but tolls. There is a difference. If the MTA charged a toll on the Burrough’s bridges, they’d generate enough revenue to keep the Subway rides under $2. If people are dissuaded to drive in the city, they’ll be in the subways. When they’re in the Subways, they’re on foot. When people are on foot, they encounter asshole drivers and begin to shift their perceptions about how to make the City safe.

    get it?

    Holland has the population density that is staggering in comparison to NYC and yet everyone rides bikes or takes the train…

  • Noope

    This is exactly why one should always carry their bike lock. U lock>car hood.

  • patleeman

    Well said Prolly. It’s ridiculous how drivers treat bicycle riders. Like you said, it’s unfortunate that people don’t know what it’s like to be on the receiving end unless you ride a bike yourself.

    I was so happy when they introduced congestion pricing, I had hoped for less congested streets in manhattan, and hopefully extra money to fix the broken down subway system. But no, people are afraid of change, and it’s so much easier to drive as a single passenger than it is to take a train/bus/ride a bike. Americans are lazy, and unfortunately everybody pays.

  • anon

    Yeah, I got a boxers fracture last week punching out a LI douche’s dad’s Merc. Normally never a problem, but this dick tailed me for a block, honking, then cut me off before a red light. I rolled up next to him, sarcastically told him that he beat me to the light, and if he would race me to the next one. He called me a fag, of course, so I tagged his dads car with my fist and told his pussy ass to get the fuck out and do something instead of aim his car at me, he got out and didn’t do shit (he called the cops instead… so I GTFO). Drivers don’t realize how dangerous a car is, and how jacked up on adrenaline most urban cyclists get riding in traffic. I don’t know any cyclists that have aimed for pedestrians, or harassed them. There’s nothing to do about it, and the only way to limit confrontation is to forget about it – a bike won’t win.

  • http://theradavist.com prolly

    Agreed. Hitting a car with a lock just makes drivers even more pissed off at cyclists.

  • patleeman

    Whats worse is that the fucking cops don’t do anything either.

  • Andrew P

    Patleeman: I’m not sure that saying Americans are lazy is correct or helpful. I think that Americans are very habitual creatures and take things for granted. So much, in fact, that’s ingrained in the fibres of their existence.

    I don’t think that riding a bicycle/walking/taking the subway is hard; I think it’s unfamiliar and as such, is perceived as difficult.

    If there’s one good thing that comes out of this economic collapse/difficulty/bump in the road, it’s that people who would otherwise drive will be humbled into alternate modes of transportation around their cities. Many will realize they never needed cars, hopefully a good portion will realize they don’t even want them. If we’re lucky, the rich West will adopt a similar approach as Denmark or the Netherlands to cycling and infrastructure.

  • chris

    this shit sucks. on my way into work today some taxi cut across 3 lanes in front of me and pulled to a stop just to pick some guy up, who was clearly a little upset as he watched all this. then the guy in the mini van starts honking it up behind me as he also had to come to a complete stop in the lane for this taxi and me. as i cam around i hit the trunk, not hard but just to let him know i was there. after the van pulled around he apologized and said he was honking at the cab. then the cab speeds up runs comes next to me half in my lane laying on the horn and running me out almost into the back of a parked box truck. i fucking love new york.

  • Spencer


    re: your comments about not making drivers pay “taxes”, a few comments…

    1. Taxes have to be the answer some of the time. They are the government’s income and without them our infrastructure would not jsut be crumbling, it would be non-existent because the country would have no money to spend.

    2. Transit is forced, as a general rule to pay for their own infrastructure hence fare hikes. People who sell cars are given a free infrastructure form the government under the auspices of “national defense” (read a history book). True, people who drive pay a gas tax but it is minimal and does nothing to discourage people form driving. Nor does it come close to covering all road and highway related expenses. As Prolly points out, charging a congestion tax is generally considered a way to discourage driving and force people on to transit, raising transit revenue. There are some reasons why this argument isn’t a complete answer here as a solution to congestion, but is is generally accepted that drivers need to pay more to use a road, be it a much higher gas tax or a mechanism such as a congestion charge.

    Next time don’t have a knee-jerk reaction to taxes. Without them you wouldn’t have a country to live in.

  • Andrew

    John: I totally get your initial point: mass transit is more responsible and would help the greater good. I just think it’s wrong to impose more taxes (a toll is a tax) and regulations when the government could offer incentives for those who take mass transit or carpool. I don’t live in New York City (I live in Milwaukee and Chicago) but I’ve been there enough times to understand how things work. Like any large city, there’s going to be people driving, there’s going to be people biking, there’s going to be people taking mass transit. Just because you don’t like the people driving, or the fact that they drive, doesn’t mean you have the right to start imposing new regulations and taxes on them. Likewise, it would upset a cyclist to hear they’re imposing a new tax on cyclists to pay for the racks in which they lock up your bike (or the road that you seem to forget you ride on).

    This opinion isn’t coming from a driver who hates cyclists. I’m an avid cyclist, for pleasure and transportation, but there are days when I need to drive. I can’t go on a sales call in the burbs or lug a part 100 miles away on a bicycle or train. Thanks to taxes and regulations all mass manufacturing has left metropolitan Chicago and Milwaukee. Luckily I would be able to afford a small tax on driving, but as I mentioned earlier you’re not taking laborers and other low(er) income folk who would take a larger hit on what may seem to you or I a reasonable toll. You see, you must consider the downsides of all taxes and regulations, and understand that just because they may benefit most people, and you’re not effected by them, doesn’t mean everyone isn’t effected by them.

    Also, I live in a state where our politicians have been promising to roll construction costs back into the sales tax/income tax budget rather than open road tolling (Note: Rod Blagojevic ran for Governor on these terms, then did a 180 when he got into office and doubled tolls). After doubling tolls (to get into the city I pay roughly $3 each time) he spent a speculative revenue income on education. Unfortunately, it caused sales taxes and income taxes to go down (lower income people had less to spend) and the budget had to take a last minute cut. I’m not even going to touch on his corruption charges and his back door deals with the transportation department.

    The point is this: bigger government with more regulations and taxes is never the answer. It gives the worst people in the world more power. People are motivated just as well with taxes as with incentives. I for one stand on the side of incentives.

  • Andrew

    Spencer: I understand that utilities and infrastructure costs money, and revenues come from taxes. We already have the income tax, gas tax, sales tax (in Illinois I have to pay ~$36 of my income to fed/state taxes, 12% to sales tax, and an additional $.60 per gallon of gas). Those are all very dynamic with the markets. If people/businesses make more money, and people/businesses spend more, there’ll probably be more driving, and there’ll be more revenues to pay for infrstructure. If state budgets were balanced when the Dow was at 6,000 and unemployment rates were at 7% like in 1993, then why are states going bankrupt today? It’s because with new taxes comes new spending that never coincides with the public’s greater interest. If and when the city and state governments can balance their budgets, pay for infrastructure with the already hefty tax system in place, and our economy is in the green, I would consider a new tax pending there’s checks on where differential funds are spent. Otherwise it’s just a new way for (in Chicago’s case) corruption to run rampant.

  • kale


    I vote for coffee and a bagel with each Metrocard swipe, and the right to smash the windows of any car parked in a bike lane for cyclists. That aught to be some incentive.

  • Lucy

    I think drivers respond to female cyclists differently. There’s less aggression and more sexual harassment. These two kids got super close to me once, and the one in the passenger seat leaned out and smacked me on the ass. I got their license plate number and filed a police report because it pissed me off so badly, but nothing came of it.
    And there are cat calls every single day.

  • http://thebottombracketblog.blogspot.com Robot

    I’m for helmets and humility. I ride for fun, and I like to go fast, but I don’t own the road.

    Here in Boston, things really seem to be getting better. I get hassled MUCH less than I used to. Of course, I much just be less aggressive than I used to be.

  • http://dadarobotnik.blogspot.com DBR

    oh man I’m so jacking that transit photo of how much space it takes to transport people! Amazing!

  • Elton


    I don’t think curbed or barricaded bike lanes can be just as dangerous. While I do agree that to a certain extent we are protected from the vehicles, us as cyclists need to work on respecting each other.

    I live in Montreal and we do have a couple of barricaded bike lanes that cuts right across the downtown core and I’d rather be on the road imposing myself to drivers because I feel safer that way. Sure, the drivers get all pissed and yell at me but at least I’m not trapped in a lane with a bunch of cyclists who have no clue about their surroundings in an ignorant bliss thinking they are invincible because they wear a helmet and are in the barricaded lane reserved for bikes.

    Bottom line: Look out for yourself and the everyone else who share the road.

  • Andrew

    Kale: Hey, as long as the coffee and bagel can be paid for without raising taxes, I’m right there with you.

  • savage

    You guys should all try and ride in South Africa… you have it so easy over in america its nuts!
    you are all talking about road tax and this and that…we have informal minibus taxi’s, 75% of them dont have a legit drivers license and almost the same amount are illegal immagrants and all the minibuses arent road-worthy and have no obligation to follow the rules of the road!
    you guys get away with hitting bonnets of cars and all this crazy shit, if i hit a car or swore at someoone they will pull a gun or knife on you, or just run you off the road, stop get out and fuck you up! and the police are worse!
    your laws are so strict, yet you all think they are so lax, come here and try and survive on a bike everyday!
    you have 30000 people show up for a critical mass, we have 30!
    you are the most privileged and protected nation in the world!
    a month ago an 18wheeler truck road over 3 cyclists…it was terrible!
    so go get on your bike and pedal as fast as you can and just ignore the rest of the world! AND HAVE FUN:)

  • what

    I’m sorry you have it so bad in South Africa, but saying “deal with it” isn’t going to solve the problem that more cyclists are getting involved in unnecessary accidents. Accidents which could have been avoided if the driver followed the law correctly. I’m sorry your country doesn’t enforce any laws but here in the U.S. we try to handle that differently.

  • http://theradavist.com prolly

    there are NO accidents. it’s ALWAYS negligence… just remember that.

  • Nate-or-die

    For sure Prolly. I got hit by a truck doing an improper left at a four way stop. I had stopped and waited like a good law abiding cyclist.

  • dontcoast

    to “what”…
    enforce laws correctly?

    yeah, bike cop pulls over 2 cyclists for slow rolling an empty T intersection (no cars, no peds) and request backup…minutes later, SUV guns it through the same stop sign making peds jump back on curb, cops don’t look twice. passerby notes the irony, cop replies “it’s not my job to deal with cars right now” (bike cop was probably terrified of cars, he always rides the sidewalks)

    or the time I got arrested for getting hit by a car and yelling at the negligent driver.

    or tackle happy nypd guy vs. critical mass…

    or mass arrests at critical mass…

    or messengers slammed to the ground and cuffed by cops for “not making an audible signal while exiting an alley” or “riding with headphones”

    and how many cyclists have been mown down and killed by cars, with witnesses present, and no charges filed against the driver?

    etc. etc. etc.

    fuck the po and their so called “enforcement” of “laws”

  • savage

    its funny how we say that the cars do this and the cars do that, but dont we blast through intersection, jump stop streets, ride on the wrong side of the road, hop onto pavements, weave through cars, etc etc…isnt that breaking the law the same way as the cars?
    its not the case of having it bad in SA, if anything i love it more than ever, it makes u so much more aware and makes u ride faster to get away from the buses and taxis:)
    im all for bicycles, no doubt! but i think we also need to stop pointing fingers.
    i agree fully with prolly, its negligence.

  • http://theradavist.com prolly

    Running reds in my opinion is no worse than jay walkers. We’re still pedestrians. Lane splitting isn’t illegal and speak for yourself, I don’t ride on the sidewalk or the wrong way down streets.

  • d.matt

    It’s getting bad out here in a rural/suburban area as well. It’s been a wonderfull 2 years so far which has seen a bunch of new riders (both commuting and for fun), but it’s also been wrought with sketchy-ness. It totaly perplexes me hearing that you urban types have to deal with whacked-out drivers in an area where bicyclers are more or less common place. Out here people (read:drivers) simply have no experience sharing the road and coexisting with cyclists. I commute a good 13.5 miles to and from school allong a shoulderless 55mph single lane road. My life has flashed before my eyes more than once. When i lived/biked in DC, it was the jerks that caused problems. Now, it’s people that just do not know any better. How can they be expected to know about bikers rights when they might only even see one or two in the span of a month, and even then its the “just for fun” weekend types. *sigh*. What it HAS taught me though, is to adapt. If the drivers and the city that supports them continually neglects our plight, we can only bitch for so long i suppose.