Car Vs. Cyclist

Listen to this 'Talk of the Nation' topic

What about you? Did you bike to work?

hide captionWhat about you? Did you bike to work?


This may be terribly un-NPR of me, but I just can't bike to work. D.C. is a tough city to navigate under any circumstance, and even after 7 years here, I just can't get my head around doing so on two wheels. I've seen too many bus drivers fail to notice cyclists, too many cars in designated bike lanes, and too many accidents at the intersection right outside my window. But, as I'm sure is true for many, my feelings about bicyclers are complicated. While, ideologically, my sympathies lie mostly with them, there are few words adequate to describe the rage I feel when "Share the Road"-ers blatantly disregard the rules of said road, riding opposite traffic, through red lights, and on what I adamantly assert (in my head, anyway) are sidewalks. No group in this scenario — walkers, drivers, cyclists — is blameless, and I think we all make a lot of assumptions. For example, I always assumed the cyclists were doing something, intentionally or not, that's pretty good for the environment. You know what? Even that rationale's got some doubters. But with gas prices still insane (that's a technical term), it'd be pretty hard to argue that cycling doesn't make economic sense for the rider, even if it doesn't in the big picture. So as the numbers of two-wheelers grow, so does the interest in making our cities more bike-friendly for commuters. Where do you stand — or sit — in the intersection of cars, bikes, and walkers... or of fuel economy, safety, and the environment?



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Thanks, Sarah Handel, for that objective introduction. Many of these topics generally aren't. Many times when cyclists are mentioned they are spoken about as if they were ambassadors of good will. Cyclists are simply people like everyone else. Some are responsible and some aren't---the same applies to drivers of motor vehicles. Functionally, I do think cycling in cities without the appropriate infrastructure makes it more dangerous for everyone---but I think we should all have a right to cycle if we wish to do so.

Sent by SIM | 2:55 PM | 8-26-2008

My husband rides his bike to work every day. Though we live in a progressive eco-friendly midwestern town, he encounters agressive or careless drivers nearly on a daily basis. He has been run off the road as drivers chat away on their cell phones, drifting over the white line. He's thumped a few rear windows in warning, which often has the effect of escalating the situation. I am sure there are agressive and careless cyclists as well, but for environmental, economic and health reasons, I applaud the people who commute via bicycle.

Sent by Heidi Alward | 2:57 PM | 8-26-2008

Please stop the "war" rhetoric. Wars involve intentional destruction. The vast majority of crashes and injuries on the road do not involve anyone trying to hurt anyone else.

I have used bicycles for basic transportation since 1973, in several cities. Given how frequently bicyclists basic bicycle safety rules, I find bicycle crash and injury numbers remarkably _low_. With education and enforcement to curb wrong-way riding, riding at night without lights, riding on sidewalks, and running red lights and stop signs, bicycle commuting will become even safer.

It goes both ways - the low law compliance by bicyclists mirrors the low law compliance by motorists. We need to do better enforcing speed limits and traffic signal compliance. If we can wrap our minds around treating each other with patience and respect, the roads will be safer and more convenient for all bicyclists and motorists.

Sent by Barry Zalph | 3:02 PM | 8-26-2008

I ride my bike to work, and I also get annoyed by cyclists who ride the wrong way or otherwise break traffic laws. They're making life hard for themselves AND for me! I'll also say that the vast majority of drivers I encounter are polite and well behaved. Some don't do the right thing, but it's clearly more out of ignorance than antagonism.

But here's the bottom line: A cyclist who breaks the law irritates others and endangers his own life. A driver who breaks the law or drives inattentively can take lives.

Sent by Shannon | 3:08 PM | 8-26-2008

LET'S FACE THE FACTS: the world, the US, and California is becoming more populated by the day. This is a conflict over space in the streets. Going forward, in most areas, we will need to allocate space to other forms of transit besides private cars if we wish to preserve environmental sustainability and efficient mass workforce transportation for good economic development.

Sent by Critical Chris | 3:11 PM | 8-26-2008

I think this quote says alot

"It takes two lanes of a given size to move 40,000 people across a bridge in one hour by using modern trains, four to move them on buses, 12 to move them in their cars, and only one lane for them to pedal across on bicycles."
-- Ivan Illich, Energy And Equity, 1974, p.62

Sent by Patrick Walker | 3:13 PM | 8-26-2008

I currently live in southwest Florida (Fort Myers / Naples area) and there is essentially nothing in the way of public transportation. And bicycles are the sole means of transportation for much of the labor force here. Older drivers (who only have to renew their licenses every 7+ years), inattentive drivers, road rage and the lack of bicycle lanes makes it a matter of taking your life in your hands to bicycle here. While some efforts are being made, the current situation is criminal.

Sent by Hollis Wright | 3:13 PM | 8-26-2008

as a former pro cyclists, I would love to comment. please contact me if you choose

Sent by jed schneider | 3:15 PM | 8-26-2008

I have never had a negative encounter with a cyclist in any of the many cities I have visited including the tens of thousands found in Amsterdam. I have had many troubles with cars and they cause a million deaths per year -and cars really should be banned for intra-city use in most cities within the fairly near future. They lives they cost in oil wars is an additional cost to the million + direct deaths per year.

Sent by Elliott | 3:17 PM | 8-26-2008

Sarah - if you are interested in bicycling in DC I suggest you take an "Effective Cycling" training course. Many of the difficulties new cyclists encounter cycling in a busy place like DC result from trying to bicycle like a pedestrian. Once you realize you need to bicycle like a vehicle, a lot of the problems go away.

I often bicycle to my meetings when I am visiting in DC and find it very pleasant. On the other hand, I find it horrible to drive there. It's a lot easier to navigate around by bike.

Sent by peteathome | 3:17 PM | 8-26-2008

Bicyclists are agressive but the car drivers are more agressive. They don't stop for stop signs either. The pedestrian is the looser. More traffic circles in my opinion. Bikes are better than cars hands down. Even better than mass transit in energy usage for any trip you can physically handle. No pollution but methane.

Sent by Lawrence Rhodes/san francisco car/electric/bicycle/electric moped rider | 3:19 PM | 8-26-2008

As a commuting cyclist, I find that what really seems to bother drivers is not that cyclists break the law, but that they are perceived as behaving unexpectedly and/or not being considerate on the road. Cyclists who swerve in front of drivers or dart through red lights may get the horn treatment, but so do I when I'm riding peacefully and steadily down the middle of the lane. While we need to teach cyclists the rules of the road, we also need to teach drivers what they can reasonably expect.

Sent by Tim | 3:19 PM | 8-26-2008

Rob Anderson has called some cyclists "Luddites". Actually, that description seems to fit someone like him who wishes to maintain the happy motoring illusion into the 21st Century. I hope he becomes familiar with Peak Oil, the destruction of the cities during the last 100 years, the cheapening of America by strip malls and the obscene idea of an SUV used to transport a 90 pound woman three miles to the grocery store.

Sent by Richard Thornton | 3:19 PM | 8-26-2008

The gent in San Francisco sounds motivated by some bad experiences he had as a pedestrian with cyclists. That's too bad.

What's missing in the whole discussion is a critique of the language we use around bike lanes. Many assume bike lanes are for bikes. They aren't. They are for automobiles.

Sounds crazy? Let me explain: Bike lanes remove bicycles from the roadway. We assume it is for bicycle safety but it isn't. The real purpose of bike lanes is to remove bikes from the on-road, sharing equation.

The single most annoying thing to drivers isn't all the "illegal" actions of cyclists... rather I think it's being slowed down by ANYTHING in the roadway.

Add to that jeoulousy over the cyclist navigating traffic that has the driver at a standstill. The resentment grows behind the windshield.

All the stuff about breaking the law is ridiculous when we accept that everyone is responsible for obeying the law. Just on percentages I am willing to wager that each of us breaks the law more behind the wheel than behind the handlebars.

Are some folks simply making an excuse for a frustration they don't quite understand completely?

We've lost our way somewhat on the purpose of the roadway. If it is not a controlled access freeway - it's automobiles who by law are the "visitors." It's why drivers must be licensed... back in the day before auto's were introduced we had horses and yes bicycles on the road. Licensing became mandatory for automobile drivers so they could learn to operate on the road safely without killing the things that were already on the road and using it.

So I have mixed emotions about sharing the road vs. a bike lane. I don't assume bike lanes are safer because many times in my experience - they aren't. I'm not sure I support segregation of the legal forms of transportation.

I am sure that about 80% of the drivers I come in contact each day appreciate our mutual respect and courtesy. That other 20% needs some robust driver's training... and maybe a better career or cup of coffee in the morning.

Sent by William Knight | 3:19 PM | 8-26-2008

San Francisco is indeed too small and the streets too narrow for bike lanes. My idea is that instead they should enhance further the fine public transport system, have bikers ride from outside of town to bike-n-ride stations, and they'd get a card that would allow them to ride the public transport for free or for a discounted fee. That would keep both cars and bikes from congesting the downtown area.

Sent by Marcio | 3:22 PM | 8-26-2008

I think it's sort of funny to hear bicyclists blame drivers and drivers blame bicyclists for problems on the road. We've had lots of letters to the editor along this vein over the years in my ostensibly bike-friendly town. Much of the time, it's probably the same people behaving carelessly, whether behind the wheel or behind the handlebars. Like many people, I bike sometimes and drive sometimes--and I do my best to do both cautiously and politely. I'm grateful for the extensive system of bike paths and lanes in my town.

Sent by Kathleen | 3:22 PM | 8-26-2008

San Francisco is not representative of the thousands of other towns and cities in the country, including mine -Rochester, NY.

Terms like "Luddite", "Critical Mass", "Boorish behavior", "arrogance", etc. simply don't apply here in Rochester or most other small to mid-sized cities.

The majority of commuting cyclists in my town are like me - middle class, middle aged professionals who just want to get to and from work safely.

This discussion is, so far, big city centric. It just doesn't apply to most other mid and small sized towns and cities in the US.

Sent by Chris | 3:22 PM | 8-26-2008

Hi Lynn,
As a bicyclist of 30+ years and a road racer for much of that, I can see why a pedestrian also sees cyclists in an antagonistic way. I have seen too many cyclists flout traffic laws with impunity and nearly cause crashes and injuries. We cyclists are bound by the same traffic rules as other vehicles on the road. Ps: Under most state and community rules, riding on the sidwalk is actually illegal.

Sent by Mike Chua | 3:23 PM | 8-26-2008

Many people don't know that the roads in the U.S. were originally paved by the efforts of the League of American Wheelmen (now the League of American Bicyclists). What is going to change the American psyche about cyclist soon the road is education! Beginning with the questions on the driver's test. We own a bicycle shop in NE Ohio.

It is NOT okay for cyclists to disregard traffic rules, by the way.

Sent by Diane | 3:23 PM | 8-26-2008

Japan is an awesome example of bike integration to roads. The thing is that Japan has smaller cars and less cars. These are the key factors smaller and less cars. Without these the problems will continue. WHile in Japan I saw many of what I call, "Bike Lots" which were nothing more than piles/rows of bicycles. A lot of this also is defined by how dense a population is. Sidewalks can be divided.

Sent by Alex | 3:23 PM | 8-26-2008

My wife and I were thinking of a vacation to San Francisco. I now know that I will not be visiting such a small "minded" city any time soon with someone like Rob Anderson city government.

More cars is not a solution.

Politicians hate bikes because they are such an economical solution, no room for pork or graft.

Sent by AG | 3:25 PM | 8-26-2008

We recently took a vacation in Chicago - leaving the car at home for a week of walking and public transportation. While cars, busses etc. were more likely to obey traffic laws than in our hometown - bicycles were almost exclusively without consideration to others. There is no license tag - no way to identify these people who nearly ran us and others over cutting through cross walks, bouncing on and off sidewalks - ignoring right-of ways, lights, etc. If you want to ride your bike in city streets - maybe we should licesnse them and hold them accountable to the rules of the road.

Sent by Darren Magady | 3:25 PM | 8-26-2008

As a former competitive cyclist, current recreational and commuting cyclist I encourage everyone to follow safe and legal use of a bicycle on "suitable" roads. As a 25 plus year bicycle commuter and activist in bicycle related planning I also encourage everyone to take a look beyond where organized cycling advocacy seems to be taking us.

Not all streets are suitable for bicycle use due to numerous factors. High traffic volumes, high speeds and potential street conditions sometimes make "share the road" impractical and even dangerous.

In visits to other cities like Denver, Boulder, and Tucson Az. cyclists navigate well on secondary streets with accommodations and a complex network of paved trails routed through intersections not at grade level, but below grade. All of these cities look to create a comprehensive master plan of bike routes. Many cities seem to want to do its plan piece-meal designating this road or that one, expecting every road to accommodate a cyclist whether it is practical, safe or desirable for use.

I'm not sure the best interest of the cycling community is served as it seems most of the advocacy groups are positioned to this extreme. Cyclist like me, are interested in practical solutions geared not just to the ill informed cyclist willing to risk his/her life on high speed/high traffic roads, but to the reasonable rider who values their life.

Most cities need a comprehensive and well planned "SYSTEM" or network of bike routes. The routes need to be chosen based on good solid planning practices including, public input, traffic studies, road suitability, connectivity, and include bicycle accommodations (bike lanes, slots, etc).

Why is it that organizations, special interest groups, and government agencies can't see beyond the end of their nose? For once I'd love to see a bit of cooperation and creative thinking. You might actually get a few things accomplished for the end user.

Sent by Chris Ludwig | 3:25 PM | 8-26-2008

I began riding my bike to work a few months ago, and it's been enormously beneficial for my emotional & physical health. I must admit to some self-righteousness as I cycle along amongst the cars, but I'm very careful to use turn signals, acknowledge drivers who are courteous to me, & not assume because I'm on a bike that everyone else should give me the right of way. I hope we can all learn to ride together & be considerate of one another.

Sent by Pamela Williams | 3:26 PM | 8-26-2008

I think this discussion is important, and the planning is an important part of the issue. But I think we need to take this topic a bit further, because when it's car versus bicycle, the car ALWAYS wins. I live in Tallahassee, Florida and 3 cyclists have died in less than one year in car-versus-bicycle accidents. There are more cyclists on the road and both drivers and riders need to be educated on how everyone can remain safe on the road TOGETHER.

Sent by Rebecca White | 3:26 PM | 8-26-2008

I used to think there was a kinship between cyclists and pedestrians, until I was strafed in my crosswalk, by a cyclist running the red light!

Sent by Lloyd | 3:26 PM | 8-26-2008

I live in Wyoming where there's more than our fair share of "motorheads" and "rednecks". However, I've had very few problems with them. Use hand signals, be courteous, etc. and bike commuting is enjoyable. The worst offenders are soccer moms on cell phones in big Urban Assault Vehicles. The US military could have invaded Iraq much easier and cheaper if they would have dropped a bunch of big SUVs with "My Kid's on the Honor Roll" bumper stickers and cell phones and issued each soldier a bike. I know that combination makes me invisible.

Sent by Mike | 3:27 PM | 8-26-2008

As gas becomes more expensive, there will be many more Americans commuting to work and school on bicycle.

The problem is that our city streets are designed to favor the automobile. So we will need some major infrastructure changes to help the transition.

A city like Portland is a great example of how this is done. Here is a great story about the wonderful facilities in Portland has built over the last decade and how they have made a real effort to "complete the streets" so all modes are equal.

Sent by Brian | 3:27 PM | 8-26-2008

Bicyclists must expend a lot of energy to get going from a complete stop, which is why many of them try to pace themselves to hit the traffic signals as they change. Someone driving a car simply steps on the accelerator.

Sent by Linda Hart | 3:28 PM | 8-26-2008

Can the hostess of this show please stop her personal interjections, personal annoyances towards cyclists. A host should be an objective 3rd party.

Sent by Sigh | 3:28 PM | 8-26-2008

I grew up in my family's bicycle shop and I try to commute primarily by bicycle. In the progressive Midwestern city where I live, I've been yelled at for riding on the road and on the sidewalk. I try to be polite to drivers, and most of the time they are polite to me. One has to assume that cars don't see you, and plan accordingly. Wear a helmet, use a mirror and be aware of the traffic around you. Drivers and bicyclists need to be aware of each other (and the rules of the road) at all times.

Our society is far too dependent on cars for transportation and trips of under five miles. I would challenge everyone to try to replace at least one car trip a week with a bicycle trip or walk. The environment, and your body, will thank you.

Sent by Heidi | 3:29 PM | 8-26-2008

Lynn, I respect you as a journalist but today you seem to be coming down heavily on the side of drivers. If you've ever tried to ride a bicycle in any major city you'll understand how threatened cyclists feel by aggressive drivers. When you feel that people driving two-ton machines are constantly trying to intentionally run you down and your life is in danger, you lose a certain degree of respect for what would otherwise be the rules of the road.

Sent by Jesse from Portland | 3:29 PM | 8-26-2008

I live in San Jose, California, and we have had a spate of recent bicyclist deaths here in the Bay Area. Many of them have been caused by careless drivers, but just as many appear to have been caused by careless cyclists. In my own neighborhood, I have nearly hit or been hit by bicyclists speeding down sidewalks or the wrong way down the road, darting in an out between parked cars.

I would very much like to see more stringent traffic enforcement for bicyclists. Educational programs are readily available, but I think there should be a bit more force behind them.

Sent by Bill | 3:31 PM | 8-26-2008

I am an avid cyclist and former professional racer. It was my job to prepare properly for my races on the roads, As such, the road was my office. As with everyone else, I tried to make as good of an office environment as possible. As a result, I tried to be courteous as possible to drivers and also be a good ambassador for cycling as a whole. I cannot describe how angry it would make me to see many "weekend warriors" out on the road, making bad decisions with regard to cars around them and, in some cases, retaliating against cars that they perceived weren't respecting their rights. But they go home at the end of the day and don't come back out until the following weekend whereas I would have to deal the fallout of their behaviour - angry drivers, etc. - every day.

Sent by Ryan | 3:31 PM | 8-26-2008

This is a very important topic.I live on a small island with narrow streets and roads. It is extremely frustrating when I come to a 4 way stop, completely stop my vehicle and check for traffic, begin to go forward only to have a cyclist shoot through the 4 way stop without slowing down. Also I often see bicycles at night without reflectors or lights. I am doing my part constantly checking my mirrors looking for cyclists, why do so many refuse to obey or educate themselves about traffic laws? Also frustrating are cyclists who do not use bike paths, my community has spent millions of dollars building bike paths throughout the island and yet many cyclists ignore the bike paths and ride on the road.

Sent by Janice | 3:32 PM | 8-26-2008

Sarah, you are very one sided. The cycling activist sited many studies while you cite your opinion which were all negative against cyclist. When a cyclist brakes the rule they hurt themselves and when a car becomes aggressive they kill someone else! I know what many are saying about cyclist not obeying traffic rules and that is correct, but retaliating by running cyclist off the rode and causing serious injury or death is out of control.

Sent by Tom Goodrich | 3:33 PM | 8-26-2008

I was interested to hear a biker say he runs stop signs because it is "quicker." As a driver, it would be quicker for me to run stop signs, but I worry too much about hitting irresponsible bikers.

Sent by Chip | 3:33 PM | 8-26-2008

I'd just like to point out that some traffic lights can't be triggered to change by a cyclist.. There are 2 traffic lights on my commute to work alone that would never change to green for me unless a car comes along and triggers the light. I can't afford to wait an indefinite amount of time for a car to come along and trigger the light so I can get to work.

Sent by Richard Menger | 3:34 PM | 8-26-2008

This debate is ongoing here in Salt Lake City, UT. I am a cyclomuter, and have many opinions on the matter, but one point I'd like to comment on is that ***most cyclists don't want to die while riding***. There are some cyclists who take extreme risks in the name of saving time, but there are also some drivers who drive drunk. (I'd be interested in knowing how the numbers compare.) I admit that I have run stop signs and stop lights, but I assure you that I will not die due to that fact. No one else is going to die or be injured (or even have to slam on their brakes), either. I often feel that the only danger from me rolling through a stop sign, or passing a line of stopped cars on the right (either in a bike lane or in the shoulder) is that drivers are angered (possibly jealous).

Sent by BykMor | 3:34 PM | 8-26-2008

Pooor bicyclists who lose momentum and time by stopping at stop signs. Besides that legit gripe (some aggressive ticketing might help stop that practice), I have another -- bicyclists riding side by side down narrow roads/streets. I have hit the brakes to avoid these folk on many occasions. I've also had them swing out in front of me (back on the brakes). Even better, I've seen bikers going through construction areas where there are no shoulders and in heavy truck traffic. I can't afford one of these high priced bikes and frankly stopped allowing my kids to ride bikes on roads because I didn't trust them and don't trust drivers. Until we get separate bike lanes in most places, my advice is to stay on bike paths. It's safer for you and the motorists.

Sent by Lynne | 3:34 PM | 8-26-2008

As a cyclist, one of the problems I have with drivers is that they pass too closely and they are unaware of cyclists. I have lived in both Holland and Germany, and my experience there was that drivers gave cyclists more room to manuever.

Sent by Stuart Curtis | 3:34 PM | 8-26-2008

My wife and I bicycle commute everyday even in the winter. It's the most pleasant part of the day. We ride and talk. 90% of our ride is on a Bicycle path. I encourage everyone to give it a try.

Rob Anderson sounds like he won't like it if the study doesn't support his desires.

Sent by Lars | 3:35 PM | 8-26-2008

Don't forget motorcyclists in this discussion of the evolution of transportation. My husband recently traded the work truck for a motorcycle, essentially for fuel economy. Where he was spending $40 - 80 weekly on gas before, now he puts $5 in the bike 3 times in 2 wks. And since he started riding, I've certainly begun to notice how blind most drivers are to motorcyclists. In all of this, the issue boils down to consideration for one another getting where we need to go.

Sent by Bethany Clayton | 3:36 PM | 8-26-2008

Can any of your guests tell us how many, if any, motorists were harmed last year or any previous year, by a cyclist actions.

Sent by Brad | 3:36 PM | 8-26-2008

As an avid cyclist, I can say that the guest from NYC isn't doing us any favors by saying that stop signs are an inconvenience. I think the main beef that drivers have against bikers is the fact that we don't always obey red lights and stop signs. (I nearly always do myself).

Oh, and you Critical Massers. Just STOP. You're NOT HELPING.

Sent by John T. | 3:36 PM | 8-26-2008

I wonder if bicyclists would be willing to accept a tax tag and license system in order to pay for the road improvements they're demanding. This system already ensures motor vehicle drivers know the rules of the road, pay for the services they receive, and are held accountable by police when they behave dangerously. Why are bike riders exempt from the same responsibility?

Sent by Steve Koenig | 3:37 PM | 8-26-2008

So far, the radio discussion has been centered on "the problems" of sharing the road with bicycles. What about the health, social, and environmental benefits? Why should Americans be feel compelled to drive big cars just because they do not feel safe on a bicycle?

Sent by Henry | 3:37 PM | 8-26-2008

As both a driver and bicycle commuter in Denver, I can say that bicycling is dangerous and harrowing. People who drive and do not bike often have little empathy toward bicyclists, and act accordingly: inattentively, and then rudely/angrily when they have to pay attention. These folks pay a lot of lip service to bicyclists "breaking traffic laws," but I for one feel that applying standard traffic laws to bicycling is preposterous. Aside from the myriad small differences that set cycling aside from driving is the big one: bicyclists, unlike drivers, have no real space in which to move. We cannot ride on the sidewalk, and, mirroring the subject of the show, have few bike lanes. And, of course, we can't ride in normal traffic lanes, unless we want to die.

That cyclist have to ride on the side of traffic lanes is the big problem; it makes cyclist feel endangered and disenfranchised, while stressing drivers out who do not know how to behave around bicyclists in traffic. Let's see some lanes!

Sent by Jef Otte | 3:37 PM | 8-26-2008

As a cyclist that rides 2000+ miles a year nothing scares me more than an inattentive rider or driver.

Just because it's legal to ride side by side on the road doesn't make it wise...sometimes it just doesn't make sense! And can't always see what was in the path of the cyclist that made him come out into the road.

Everyone needs to relax and remember that they aren't the only ones out there.

Sent by Boise | 3:37 PM | 8-26-2008

Our small town of park City Utah just passed a 15 million dollar bond to make our streets safe and connected for cyclists and pedestrians. It all started with a small group of residents who were unhappy about how unsafe it was for our kids to ride or walk to school.

Sent by Carolyn Frankenburg | 3:38 PM | 8-26-2008

I recognize that what works for Boise might not work for larger cities, but I think that Idaho has the right idea on applying traffic laws to bicycles: the traffic code here states that, if there is no cross traffic, bicycles may ride through Stop signs. At red lights, cyclists must come to a full stop, but may proceed through the intersection if there's no cross traffic. In essence, Idaho cyclists can treat a Stop like a Yield, and a red light like a Stop sign.

Sent by Marty | 3:38 PM | 8-26-2008

Can the hostess of this show please stop her personal interjections, personal annoyances towards cyclists. A host should be an objective 3rd party.

Sent by Sigh | 3:28 PM ET | 08-26-2008

Yes, I agree. The host was clearly biased against cyclists.

Sent by John T. | 3:40 PM | 8-26-2008

Three quick notes. I now live in Boulder, CO and we have been bicycle friendly for the 25 years that I have lived here. Not too long ago our neighbor was biking casually and was hit by a 16 year old who was tuning his radio while driving. Our friend spent 5 months in a coma, but is now out and functioning. My point is not just the driver who's life has been ruined in many ways. My main point and my biggest problem is that our friend was not wearing a helmet and all the doctors said that this would have made a major difference. I cannot understand why people do not wear helmets and set a good example for their children while protecting themselves with what we call "brain buckets". Other point is that when 50 years ago, our school required that we all take a bike safety course before we were allowed to ride our bikes to school

Sent by Pamela Lessing | 3:41 PM | 8-26-2008

I think that area's considering bicycle lanes and laws should first consider the area and culture of that area. I live in the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Area and I can tell you it is very difficult to commute to work or get around on public transportation and/or by bike if you don't live where you work which most of us do not. I live in Oakland and work in Redwood City (South San Francisco) I have to cross a bridge to get to work and I drive 40 miles one way. This would be a near impossibility for me to bicycle to work. I feel bicyclist have the attitude that theirs is the only mode of transportation without taking into account people's individual problems that may make bicycling impossible like a long commute, or even a disability. I have had several encounters with the critical mass bicyclist and I can tell you they are rude and menacing. I even asked them if they could let me by I was trying to get to my child's daycare in time so I would not have to pay a penalty and they all laughed and reprimanded me for being in a car. This was a Friday evening, I was tired as I work and attend school, and I did not have money to add to the cost of my day care. This put a very bad taste in my mouth for bicyclist and their plight. Respect is a 2 way street.

Sent by Genea Paden | 3:41 PM | 8-26-2008

Slightly off topic, but motorcyclists have been sharing the road with autos since the early 1900's. As an instructor for the Motorcycle Safety Foundation, I know that education on both sides is essential to safe motorcycling. Perhaps we should cosider a similar program for bicyclists, as well as the car drivers who need to be aware of them, and share the roadways.

Sent by Michael Rubner | 3:44 PM | 8-26-2008

Two thoughts. I'm surprised Davis, California isn't mentioned as a town that has done it right for over 30 years. In the 1970s bicycles were the dominate mode of commuting. There were bike paths and bike lanes everywhere. And there were bicycle police to insure that bicyclists obeyed the laws of the road.

I wonder if the reaction against cyclists is partially driven my how miserable car commutes are. Dr. Mitch Baer did a study of commuting in the Northern Virginia suburbs of DC. He found that car commuting was the worst time of day for nearly everyone. In contrast, bicycle commuters and those who walked to and from work found it to be one of the best times of the day.

Sent by Tom Dietz | 3:44 PM | 8-26-2008

As an experienced cyclist, I feel there are some negatives about bike lanes. They encourage motorists to believe that cyclists do not belong in the traffic lane, which, in all 50 states, they're permitted to use. They also discourage inexperienced riders from using the traffic lane to turn left, and can cause a cyclist to get hit by a car turning right. Statistics prove that cyclists that take the more of traffic lane rather than hugging the curb have a much lower chance of having an accident.

Sent by Tom | 3:44 PM | 8-26-2008

Berlin has bike lanes galore although it is a busy city. There is a lot more space for pedestrians and bike lanes than say, in New York City. Also, drivers are used to looking before they turn or pull out of a parking spot. Bikes have to have bells and lights. One doesn't have to get a license, but children get instruction in elementary school. Bicyclists do commit traffic crimes, but everyone is more aware of what's going on, and the vast majority of bikers yield if a car has right of way. Some small towns around Germany have reduced accidents by banning traffic signs in the city center so that no divers get distracted.

Sent by Ryan Harty | 3:46 PM | 8-26-2008

The "Talk of the Nation" segment on bicycles was unbelievably one-sided.
I have cycled over 4000 miles in the past year; to work, to the grocery store, the bank, the hardware store; everywhere. I see many many more auto drivers breaking the law than cyclists. I see auto drivers exceeding the speed limits, running red lights, failing to yield when required to, failing to signal for lane changes, driving on shoulders to bypass standing traffic, following too close, etc. etc. etc. I see auto drivers talking on cell phones, eating & drinking and not paying attention to their driving. And every day I encounter auto drivers ignorant or dismissive of the fact that I have the legal right to cycle on the road. "Share the Road" is not a request- it is the law. When auto drivers clean-up their own acts, THEN they can compain about others on the roads. Otherwise it is simply hypocracy

Sent by Max | 3:48 PM | 8-26-2008

Here's a link to information on the BikeEd course available across the country.

And here's an article about the classes.

Sent by Karen Dunnam, Effective Cycling Instructor since 1980 | 3:48 PM | 8-26-2008

The program seemed to focus on the bicycles as the problem not as a problem of bikes and cars. On just bicycle commute this morning I had to avoid two cars that the divers were illegally driving while on their cell phones. Oversize cars driven too fast on narrow roads, cars parked illegally and people in too much of a rush, all make for hard bicycle commutes. There was also no coverage of the very high profile car assult on the cyclists in Los Angles. I found the show very shallow.

Sent by Gordon Masor | 3:50 PM | 8-26-2008

If it seems that drivers think they "own the road" it's because WE DO! We pay a gas tax to maintain roads, An annual Driver's License fee, Registration fee and a fee for license plates. Not to mention the sales tax we pay on our vehicles. Which, by the way, keeps many Americans employed. When bikers and pedestrians start paying their fair share they can say they have as much "right" to be on the road as drivers!

Sent by Vicki | 3:51 PM | 8-26-2008

The failure of many cyclists to obey road rules and stop signs & lights was thankfully highlighted in today's Talk of the Nation discussion, but another important behavioral issue and attitudional problem on some cyclists' part was omitted. This is the 'not uncommon' failure to properly illuminate themselves & their bikes when riding the streets after dark. Under such circumstances they can be impossible to see until the very last minute and any motorist who accidently hits them ... essentially because of the cyclist's own failings ... is left facing years of undeserved guilt for the injuries and even deaths resulting! Yes, some motorists possess bad and unhealthy attitudes towards sharing roads with cyclists, but such arrogant and uncaring attitudes on the part of some cyclists do not help either!

Sent by Tom Dixon | 3:54 PM | 8-26-2008

I am a cyclist who has lived and biked in San Francisco for 40 years and I also drive a car in the city. I am greatly dismayed at the attitude of some cyclist and some of their advocates that obeying traffic laws such as stopping at stop lights and stop signs is "inconvenient". Injury and death are much more inconvenient as well as reinforcing the perception of drivers of the self righteous attitude of some cyclist as being above the law because of their enviromentally sound approach to transportation. As long as both drivers and bikers maintain a "partisan" attitude as has been displayed in our government we will unfortunately reap similar "rewards" in attempting to forge a progressive transportation system in our cities. I think we need a "Barack Obama" figure in the bicycle community who can represent the needs of bicyclists in a mature and collaborative way with the rest of the transportation "society".

Sent by Ramiro Moncibais | 3:55 PM | 8-26-2008

I ride about 3500 miles a year, most of it on public roads. I have ridden in large cities around the world. I also stop for every stop light or sign, and yield where required.

I hope that your having Noah Budnick on the show explains your repeated emphasis on the bad behavior of cyclists in your questions.

I think the problem is that everyone seems to form their points of view from observing only bad apples - whether cyclists or motorists.

From that angle, I can only observe that a guy on a 20# bike is going to pay disproportionately for his bad behavior OR that of a motorist as long as cars outweigh his bike by a factor of 100-200.

A better explanation of the common sin of too many drivers AND cyclists is that BOTH assume the normal traffic laws don't apply to bikes.

That lets the cyclist run reds rather than build up his quads by starting and stopping. It also allows a guy in a truck going uphill and around a corner on a two-lane road to cross a double yellow line to pass a bike.

There IS no "bicycle exception." If everyone doesn't follow the same set of rules, more people are going to be killed. Most of them will be cyclists - BUT remember that, as fuel becomes more scarce, the cyclist you run over is more and more likely to be your son, sister or uncle. Perhaps one day, even YOUR life will be endangered by a car on the road.

"Same roads. Same Rights. Same Rules."

Sent by Dante Lanzetta | 3:56 PM | 8-26-2008

I'm convinced that knowing how to ride safely and comfortably in traffic is not common sense. That's why San Francisco's effort to teach vehicular cycling to its citizens is laudable. I encourage anyone who thinks cycling on the roadways is unsafe to educate themselves.

We don't expect newly minted motorists to use the roadways safely without some education. Why should it be any different for cyclists?

Sent by David Allen | 3:57 PM | 8-26-2008

Oh Vicki!!!!! I own a car or two (all with plates) and we all have to have some sort of ID (Drivers License) and I pay taxes just like you. It is my right to ride on the road.

Sent by Mike | 3:58 PM | 8-26-2008

Janice, it seems that you don't know that in all fifty states, cyclists have the right to ride on the road, of course, as long as they're obeying the traffic laws. Yes, running the stop sign is wrong, but just because there is a bike path does not make it mandatory for a cyclist to use it.

Sent by Alex | 3:59 PM | 8-26-2008

I would not ride a bike in Baton Rouge. I rode one in Portland over 30 years ago and I rode one sometimes in New Orleans. But it is just too dangerous.

Sent by Ted Michael Morgan | 4:01 PM | 8-26-2008

I have been riding for 30+ years. Nothing much has changed. Car drivers have come very close to hitting me many times but I have not had a car-bike crash due to my hyper-awareness, and I follow ALL laws. I also help motorists get by me on narrow roads, even to the point of stopping and letting them by (some cyclists think that is showing some kind of inferiority complex. I just am willing to admit I am smaller than a 2-ton death-machine!).

But the vast majority of cyclists ignore laws completely (I have had more problems with cyclists running stop signs than motorists!)and they need to be held accountable. In a recent letter to the paper a motorist said they felt "no moral obligation" to watch out for cyclists since they don't follow the laws. That's scary.

But the big problem to me is that motorists usually get off with literally no consequences for hitting cyclists. There needs to be heavy consequenses for motorists hitting cyclists when it is the motorists fault (and we can't allow them to get off with the "accident" nonsense anymore). As it is now, the law is heavily biased towards motorists; a motorist just has to say "I didn't see them" and they will call it "just an accident" and most likely not be cited or charged with anything. A driver in Santa Rosa, CA did just that and got away with crippling a cyclist. No citation for anything, and the cyclist was in a marked bike lane. A motorist has to be dead drunk, it seems, to be cited or charged with anything these days (in our town in two incidents two pedestrians were hit while in the cross walk and no citations to the drivers!!).

I too am looking at small video cameras for my bike because I am 99.99% certain that if a car hits me it will be the car drivers fault, not mine, and I want to be able to prove it.

Sent by Tim | 4:01 PM | 8-26-2008

Lynn and Sarah,

I am a long time cycle commuter and my main problem was more weather issues than motorists. My commuting route was on rural roads with not too much traffic most of the time. Sometimes I found cars didn't pass with enough room but this was not common. I only had a few stop signs to deal with on my route. While I didn't always come to a complete stop I always checked.

I think that "Share the Road" is the right approach. Bicyclists have to behave as the vehicles that they are with proper lane position and signaling, etc. Naturally, bike lane markings or at least a wide, smooth shoulder would help. Also, in most states bicycles are allowed on most roads except expressways and limited access highways, etc.

Sent by Paul Swinburne | 4:02 PM | 8-26-2008

In Phoenix a massive light rail project is nearing completion, streets have been torn up and have been totally revamped to accommodate the rails but in many cases no bike lanes have been incorporated. In a city of this size with its significant pollution but with very good bicycling weather about half the year, it seems inexcusable to discourage bike use (not to mention the plight of the utterly neglected pedestrian) by not planning for bike inclusion in every new road project. In Chicago I know many who would like to bike more but are simply afraid of the congested streets with no room for bikes -- Milwaukee Ave being a perfect example with lots of traffic including many bikes added recently but with an afterthought of a shared bike lane, which boils down to no room for bikes or cars or buses. Bikes are small, clean, healthy, efficient, and less dangerous to others and should be given renewed priority.

Sent by David | 4:06 PM | 8-26-2008

I live in a very bike friendly town, Fort Collins, CO (FTC). We've got bike lanes, bike trails, a bike coop, bike library, bike week, the "Tour de Fat", bike to movie nights at New Belgium Brewing Company and a city bike coordinator, DK Kemp. Check out our city website for all that Fort Collins has to offer.

My husband and I bike everywhere, to work, concerts, dinner, sporting events, etc. I mostly stop at lights although some of them aren't triggered by bikes. I often breeze through stop signs where there is no traffic. I'll have to say I see just as many cars disobeying traffic laws as bikes. In FTC speeding, racing through red lights and coasting through stop signs seems to be the norm for a lot of automobile drivers. It would be much easier to cross some of the major roads if folks weren't going so darn fast.

All in all, I love living in a community that celebrates biking and views it as an acceptable mode of transportation.

Sent by dc | 4:07 PM | 8-26-2008

"...If it seems that drivers think they "own the road" it's because WE DO"! We pay a gas tax to maintain roads, An annual Driver's License fee, Registration fee and a fee for license plates. .."

Using that line of "logic," I should not have to pay real estate taxes to the local school district because I do not have kids. I am 100% in favor of paying only for what I "use," be it roads, schools, parks, etc.

Are you?

Sent by Max | 4:11 PM | 8-26-2008

Please don't sterotype all bicyclist as green loving hippies. They come from all walks of life, from the alcholic who lost their license, students riding to campus, republicans and democrats, working class to the wealthly. We actually own SUV's too! There are multiple issues involved here: road rage is on the increase due to congestion and cyclists are an easy target. Lack of enforcement for cyclist who do not obey the law (riding at night without lights!-give me a break- they deserve a ticket and a fine), lack of education on bike handling and road laws, and last but not least poor planning and engineering designed by non-bikers. How dangerous biking is depends on three things: the road you are on, the time of day and who you are riding with. Most people are resistent to biking because they have yet to learn or experience the joy of exercise (hence the increasing obesity rate).

Sent by Laura | 4:19 PM | 8-26-2008

A fairly biased discussion. One hopes you'll do a program that isn't slanted against bicyclists from the start. Rob Anderson is notable for one thing: filing a lawsuit to block a sensible public policy. He has no experience or credentials in transportation planning. Yet his comments frame the entire conversation.

Automobile collisions kill more than 40,000 people in the U.S. each year, and hospitalize many more. Add to this safety hazard the other public health impacts of automobiles, such as noise and emissions. Clearly, motorists are the real danger on public streets. And you're concerned about bicyclists endangering pedestrians?!? Give me a break.

Sent by Paul Dorn | 4:21 PM | 8-26-2008

Long and short, bike commuting is good for the environment and your body. Not everyone can ride or walk and that's fine. I can't ride all the time, I had to drive today as a matter of fact. Everyone here has good points. We all must obey traffic rules, bad bike riders (and bad attitudes) are screwing it up for all of us. Much needs to be done to make it work for both sides. In the meantime, I wish everyone here Happy Trails on your bike or in your vehicle and keep an eye out for each other.

Sent by Mike | 4:23 PM | 8-26-2008

The idea that gas tax pays for roads, so only cars belong there, is nonsense.

Over half of the funds for all roads comes from the general fund - sales, income tax, etc. So give that one up.

Not only that, there is a right of travel that applies to all citizens. You cannot impede the general right to travel just because someone wants to use a different mode of travel. People have skateboarded across the country for chris' sake!

Sent by Tim | 4:23 PM | 8-26-2008

I was looking forward to today's segment on TOTN for a balanced discussion of an important issue.

I was very disappointed.

The choice of inviting Rob Anderson as a lead off guest was sophomoric. Mr. Anderson is not a transportation expert, he is not currently, nor has he ever been, or ever will be in San Francisco City government. He is just a particularly loud anti bike zealot who happens to be one of 22 candidates for one of San Francisco's 11 Board of Supervisors districts. Leading with Mr. Anderson for a discussion about Bicycle and Car transportation issues makes about as much sense as interviewing Rocky J. Suhayda (Chairman, American Nazi Party) to open Democratic National Convention coverage.

It took me only seconds to find Mr. Andersons blog. Does NPR do any research, or do they leave that to FOXNews now.

Sent by AG | 4:27 PM | 8-26-2008

While it is true that many cyclists ignore or are unaware of driving laws and cycle road safety, I have found that vehicle drivers are also often just as careless and unaware of those same laws as they pertain to cyclists. What I find confusing is that cyclists are often treated neither as vehicles or as pedestrians. Education would seem to be the best way of making all road users aware of safety regulations and applicable laws, but I have never seen any mention of them in the media.

Since my only mode of transportation is either public transit or by bicycle I have learned to ride defensively all of the time

Sent by Charlie Birosel | 4:54 PM | 8-26-2008

I've been a courier in San Francisco for 15 years, both on a bike and behind the wheel. I've driven a delivery van 9+ hours a day for the last 9 years. I almost never drive when not working, choosing to bike instead. Speaking as a driver,I can say from experience that bikes on city streets are far from the problem that many drivers make them out to be. I find that near 100% of the problems I experience in traffic are the result of inattentive or impatient drivers who make poor or risky decisions. I can count on one hand the number of narrowly averted collisions I've had as a direct result of a cyclist. On the other hand, I have to avoid poor drivers on a daily basis.Congestion on city streets is almost never a result of bikes on the road, Critical Mass excepted.
Speaking as a cyclist, biking in San Francisco is often a life or death experience. I've been the victim of a couple of fairly serious accidents, both the fault of the driver. I was run over accidentally by a dumptruck in broad daylight as a result of the drivers inattention, and purposefully by a street racer running a stop sign. That said, I still use my bike as my main form of transportation when not on the job and the disdain of drivers towards cyclists is almost physically palpable.
Sadly, I think Critical Mass and a handful of overzealous bike lane advocates may do more to sour bicycle/automobile relations than they do to help them. Critical Mass may have started out with good intentions, and as a former participant they used to be quite fun. The tone of the monthly event changed during the Willie Brown administration though, partly as a result of the actively anti-cyclist policy of city hall at the time. The ride changed from a good-natured fun ride home to a sort of protest march with a handful of riders making a bad name for the rest of us. In the past aggravated drivers stuck in the mass were treated with respect and patience, given an explanation of what was going on and dealt with in a purposefully congenial manner. Over time the response changed to active baiting of frustrated drivers, leading to a few well publicized incidents of road rage with fault on both sides. Drivers stuck in traffic during Critical Mass don't discern between the rude guy who cussed him out while stuck in traffic and the messenger at work earning a living. Consequently, there is misdirected aggression resulting in even more incidents of road rage, the cyclist always on the losing end. I've had several friends die in traffic over the years, some as a result of road rage, some inattention. Neither way is good.
Bike lanes aren't the panacea that many activists see them as either. In many cases they are just a good place to get doored. Some are put in poorly thought out places, Cesar Chavez, for example, where it makes no sense for a cyclist without a death wish to ride. Many cyclists view them in much the same way that many pedestrians view crosswalks; assured protection from traffic. A painted line is not a force field and will not stop a several thousand pound vehicle no matter how much perceived right of way you have. Many drivers also feel disdain for the lanes, considering them irrelevant at best, a violation of their rights at worst. Regardless of what many cycling advocates say, bike lanes are not an alternative to developing competent riding skills, learning how to ride in traffic and, above all, Paying attention to your surroundings. I still ride though, and will continue until my legs fail to push me up the hill. I will continue, also, to run the odd red light. Despite what many people think, it often is safer, while biking, proceed on red if there is no oncoming traffic, than to battle with a bunch of impatient, inattentive or overly aggressive drivers racing off on the green.
I think much of the problem lies with the "us or them" attitude on both sides of the debate. The media usually doesn't help counter this much either. Neither cars nor bikes are going away anytime soon. Perhaps we should take a look at how places like Holland deal with the situation. They've got one of the highest percentages of cyclists in the world, no helmet laws, the lowest incidence of bicycle related injuries anywhere and road rage isn't in their vocabulary. They're obviously doing something right that we're not.

Sent by Phil Cox | 5:06 PM | 8-26-2008

So, let me get this straight... A man who does not drive or ride a bicycle is chosen to be the first guest on a piece to discuss bicycle vs. car issues? Huh??

The repeated citing of the tiny "Critical Mass" fringe group of rogue law-breaking cyclists did not do cyclists -or- motorists any good, especially given that most cyclists and bike commuters obey the laws just fine.

All NPR has done is draw more attention to the bad apples out on the road at the expense of the law abiding cyclists. I don't think this piece met NPR's usual high standards for fairness.

Sent by Arthur | 5:15 PM | 8-26-2008

I currently drive a gas guzzler that costs me too much to run (10 mpg!), but yet there are no affordable fuel-efficient cars available. I even test drove a scooter yesterday - I am now weighing my own personal safety against what I can afford to drive. I have to find a solution soon, but where? Everyone talks about electric cars, hybrid cars - but where are the CURRENTLY AFFORDABLE investment options? Where??

Sent by Jennifer Dale | 5:16 PM | 8-26-2008

The argument that bike riders should not be afforded the same rights as motorists because they don't pay gas taxes is absurd. If we removed cars and trucks from our roads they would last indefinitely; it's the constant pounding of 2-ton vehicles that destroys them. In any case, a very large majority of bike riders also drive cars.

Sent by AB | 5:16 PM | 8-26-2008


Your comments about "own the road" is very dangerous and wrong on so many levels.

Bikes have the same rights and responsibilities on the road as everyone.

Taking the attitude that you "own the road" makes you a menace to all other; cars, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Most streets and roads are "owned" by cities, counties or other local government entities that receive almost none of the funding you mention. Even highways are only partially paid for by car taxes. The majority of road funding comes from; property, income, and general sales taxes. I pay orders of magnitude more of these taxes than; registration, gasoline tax, or any other taxes that can be tied to a car.

Do you have any idea how expensive roads are? The few thousand you may spend per year in car taxes might buy you enough road to park on. You can park on the road you "own", I will be out exercising my rights, riding all over on the road we all "own".

Vicki, when you park your car on the road you "own", get out of the car and experience the world around you.

Sent by AG | 5:21 PM | 8-26-2008

Interviewing Rob Anderson on transportation issues? Choosing to interview some uneducated clown because he is controversial is called Tabloid Journalism on this planet. One expects more insight and thoughtfulness from NPR (and the WSJ for that matter).
Rob is, at best, a small thorn in the tire of the bicycle movement in San Francisco, and his lawsuit will surely result in the City and State re-examining the usefulness of "Level of Service" (LOS) as a measure of the environmental efficiency of a thoroughfare.
Meanwhile, the popularity of cycling is growing rapidly in San Francisco, and we who support the bike network are anxious for San Francisco to again move forward with our bicycling infrastructure so we can again, despite the topography, be one of the nation's bike-friendliest cities.

Sent by Rob Bregoff | 6:00 PM | 8-26-2008

If bicycles were the only vehicles on the road, would it be necessary to have stop signs and traffic signals?

Sent by hurricane harry | 6:36 PM | 8-26-2008

We vacationed in Durango Colorado this summer, it was totally amazing to be able to ride and not be cursed at, swerved at, but accepted as a normal and expected occurrence. Most cyclists (not just people riding a bike) that I know and ride with obey traffic laws. I see way more drivers talking on the cell, speeding, making sudden lane changes etc on a daily basis than cyclists running red lights. I am sorry the host had such a bias and negative view of cycling, it was obvious to all Lynn. We are just trying to exercise and I don't know a lot of places that have 40-80 miles of bike lanes so until then, please share the road and don't try to kill us.

Sent by DG | 6:43 PM | 8-26-2008

Colorado is, within reason, a bike friendly state that requires cyclists to respect traffic laws, but I've witnessed numerous occasions in which cyclists blatantly disregard the traffic laws -- and then no doubt complain that motorist don't respect their right to the road, which is pure hypocrisy on their part. On the other hand, my personal experience is that about 90% of motorists regularly break traffic laws as well, regarding speed limits, turn signals, crossing solid lines -- you name and they break it. So, a plague of both their houses.

Sent by Erik | 6:56 PM | 8-26-2008

I like bikes. I don't think we need this kind of "Off Balance" discussion.

Lots of bike riders and car drivers regularly break the law - fingers pointing both ways. Cars, with drivers behind the wheel, kill people due to their mass and speed. Generally people are pretty polite, but those aren't the ones we end up frustrated with.

I think we need a new paradigm for city transportation in the US. One where respect is primary. I think when people are unhappy they get angry quicker. Slow down, respect each other and learn the rules that govern your chosen mode of getting around.

Sent by Paul | 7:03 PM | 8-26-2008

On my ride to work this morning, I passed by several other bike riders all heading to various destinations and not one among them was riding legally. All were riding on the wrong side of the street, on the sidewalk (or both). This angers me to no end - not just because I make a point of riding legally - but also because it perpetuates the notion that a bike is merely a toy, rather than a vehicle. This situation needs to change.

Something to consider here, though: cars kill where bikes merely annoy.

Would you rather have careless road users on bicycles, or put those same careless individuals behind the wheel of a potentially deadly chunk of steel?

I run a bike shop for a living and I can tell you that my most careless and legally ignorant customers are currently riding because of DUI convictions. We WANT them riding bikes.

Perhaps a bit more diligence on the part of law enforcement and "education through citation" is in order. Perhaps if traffic cops would cite bike riders for things like: riding after dark without lights, riding against traffic, riding on walkways, ignoring traffic signals, etc. we might see a decline in complaints against the bike community.

Maybe Cyclists and Motorists alike need to be taught to view the bicycle as the vehicle that it actually is.

Sent by Erik | 7:38 PM | 8-26-2008

I've been an avid cyclist for more than 3 decades, but I wouldn't want to ride on DC streets either. One alternative for DC area people is to connect with the significant number of bike paths that don't allow care traffic.

Check out the trails:

Sent by Jim Travisano | 9:05 PM | 8-26-2008

Rob Anderson? That's the equivalent of inviting Fred Phelps to share his ideas on gay marriage.

Nice job NPR!

Sent by Joshua Daniels | 9:25 PM | 8-26-2008

One problem of perception in this discussion seems to be that motorists and cyclists are mutually exclusive. I suspect that most people using bikes for transportation or recreation also drive cars. So if many cyclists are "scofflaws" on the bike, are they also doing so in their cars? Probably not.

The fault, as I see it, is in the adult driver education and testing system. It is probably time for drivers of vehicles to be required to be trained and tested for bicycle driving as they are for motor vehicle driving. You would have to bring your car and your bike to the testing center. Licensed drivers would need to complete a written test before getting their license renewed, showing that they understand proper bicycle driving and road sharing. That would have the double effect of ensuring adult drivers of bicycles have understanding of rules of the road for bicycles and will raise sensitivity on their part when in a motor vehicle to use of the road by those on bicycles. It would further require state transportation departments to accommodate multiple vehicle type use. I do not know if this means that persons who only bicycle need to be licensed to do so. It would depend on the volume of persons riding bikes and the likelihood of causing injury because of inadequate knowledge and skill in operation. Each state would have to make that determination. At one time, there was no licensing for motor vehicle driving. It is certainly time to begin thinking along these lines. It is already time to have bicycles registered through state managed programs.

Sent by Roger Retzlaff | 10:20 PM | 8-26-2008

I have commuted by bike, off and on, for 45 years. I average 3500 miles a year on my bike. I have driven a car for 37 years and average 20,000 miles a year.

Some comments:

Cyclists run stop signs since they are often used for traffic calming not traffic control. We are not speeding and we hear and see better than cars.

Cyclists usually come out the worst in bike/ped collisions. We always lose in bike/car crashes. I carry the appropriate insurance. It is called medical insurance.

Gas taxes do not pay for the total costs of roads. Other taxes, which cyclists, pay are also used. Given how much road a cyclist uses, they are paying their fair share of the taxes. (18 wheelers and peds are the ones who come out short in this discussion.)

If I shoot a bullet six inches off your elbow, the judge won't buy "I was just having fun." Cars are as deadly as bullets.

Some cyclists are jerks. Some drivers are jerks. If you take responsibility for the jerk drivers, I will take responsibility for the jerk cyclists.

Sent by Gerry in Naples FL | 10:34 PM | 8-26-2008

I have been a cyclist here in the midwest for the past 30 yrs. Mostly racing and training with the occasional club ride.I have managed over 60,000 miles without a serious incident,but have had more than my share of close calls.The newest threat that seems to be emerging is that of the 2-foot long extended right side rear view mirror! A driver of any F-350 pickup with dual wheels can pass me,thinking he has plenty of room until...

Sent by martin j. kline | 10:53 PM | 8-26-2008

I agree with other listeners who were disappointed in the evident bias displayed by Lynn Neary against cyclists. There are clearly rude, dangerous drivers just as there are rude, dangerous cyclists, and they don't constitute the majority in either group. The difference is in the amount of damage that can be caused by a vehicle vs. a bike.

Sent by Cindy | 11:11 PM | 8-26-2008

Rob Anderson has some personal problems that have nothing to do with bicycles. His argument is that bicycles cause more pollution. OK, let's eliminate bikes; what's next, small cars are in the way of big cars? Sooo, sooner than you know, everybody should be driving big trucks. Is this the kind of ideas NPR is suggesting? Pathetic!

Sent by P | 11:12 PM | 8-26-2008

'If it seems that drivers think they "own the road" it's because WE DO! We pay a gas tax... When bikers and pedestrians start paying their fair share they can say they have as much "right" to be on the road as drivers!" Vicky

Vicky, Vicky, Vicky,
If it worked that way my part of the army & reserves would be erecting windmills in Iowa instead of being shot at and killing and torturing innocent people in Iraq. My part of the president-select's day would be spent writing letters of apology and turning himself over to the Hague, and the part of the road I've paid for would be absolutely off limits to the sort of homicidal drivers, epitomized by your remarks, that I face every day commuting by bike. Fortunately it doesn't work that way. We all pay taxes for the good of all. The sooner conservatives and rageful drivers get that the sooner we can have our civilization back, and get on with the job of getting ready for the oceans to rise as Greenland melts.

Cyclists ride for many reasons. Some are to help reduce your taxes by reducing road wear and tear by cars and by reducing your health care costs by staying healthy. Another is to save you your part of the $3 trillion this war for oil is going to cost us, and the $7 trillion the next one will. No need to thank us or pay us; all we ask is a little sliver of macadam and relative peace in which to enjoy the play of muscles and the whir of gears. You might be surprised at how open and up a mood one reaches after an hour of cycling, and tomorrow after my ride I may even be able to think of you with warmth and forgiveness.

Sent by Jeff | 12:14 AM | 8-27-2008


Do you feel a similar type of "rage" when you look out your window and see people driving in ways that scare you away from being active? Afraid to cross the street? Afraid to ride a bike with a child to the park?

I get upset when I see anyone doing dumb things on the road. But, I'm pretty impressed with the bias NPR seems to have brought to this story. Do you change your opinion of a person based on which vehicle they chose when traveling?

The reporting I saw on NPR today and your lead on this blog suggest an answer.

Thanks for your typically good show. Please stop raising tensions on our streets. There are enough problems already.


Sent by Raged at what? | 12:19 AM | 8-27-2008

If it seems that drivers think they "own the road" it's because WE DO! We pay a gas tax to maintain roads, An annual Driver's License fee, Registration fee and a fee for license plates. Not to mention the sales tax we pay on our vehicles. Which, by the way, keeps many Americans employed. When bikers and pedestrians start paying their fair share they can say they have as much "right" to be on the road as drivers!

Sent by Vicki | 3:51 PM ET | 08-26-2008

Such a hackneyed argument. Go look at how roads are funded; while each state has a different method, federal matching funds make up substantial portions of any road funding. Federal monies do not come from sales taxes, licensing fees, or the like.

However, using your naive logic, I own that road, too. I have two cars which I dutifully license and maintain, despite the fact that I put more miles on my multitude of bicycles in any given year than on one of my cars.

Sent by Chris | 1:05 AM | 8-27-2008

Just have to express my disappointment at the host and her obvious bias and misunderstanding of the issue. Her prodding of her guests to lead them towards the idea of the "self righteous" cyclists and the impression that cycling might not be all that environmentally friendly and maybe we should look at our transportation system as moving cars and not people (walkers and bikers).
It's good to see a discussion of cycling issues on NPR but this was a poorly put together presentation.

Sent by Shane R. | 9:03 AM | 8-27-2008

Pretty funny: "drivers say cyclists are arrogant, and ignore the laws; cyclists say drivers intentionally try to run them over"

Really? You think that's a fair characterization of the debate? Which cyclists did you talk to, because most of the cyclists I know are much more concerned with driver inattention, speeding, unfamiliarity with the laws, poor road conditions, etc, etc, etc...

The absolute *last* thing cyclists worry about is that drivers intentionally try to run them down.

Very poorly researched piece.

Sent by ibc | 9:39 AM | 8-27-2008

Gas and cars are just too expensive. Public transportation is also too expensive. My only choice it biking. I ride a bike 12 miles a day to get to and from work. I stick to the least busiest roads. So far, I have not had a problem with cars. But then again, I'm always on the look out for accidence waiting to happen. Before going around a parked car on the side of the road, I look behind me. At busy intersections I don't bike my way through. I hop off my bike, go the cross walk and wait for the light to change. It is much safer. My only advice is; follow the rules of the road. Stick to the right side like glue and ride with the traffic, not against it. Stay off the sidewalks. In most places, riding a bike on sidewalk are against city and town ordinance. Following the rules of the road has kept me safe. This applies to bikes and cars. I have also seen too many bicyclist (and cars) not following the rules of the road. I think a lot of Bicyclists are unaware that the same rules for cars applies to bikes. Now a note to those of you who drive!! Please use your signals!!! Many don't and I can't tell if they are turning on not. This is dangerous. If I'm crossing an intersection believing its safe because the cars appear to be going straight when in fact they are not, I could easily get plowed into. I'd be happy to yield to a car that is turning. So Please use your signals. Thanks

Sent by Arwin | 10:00 AM | 8-27-2008

I completely agree with Sarah's closing wrap-up statement:

"So it seems like what we're hearing over and over again Daisuke, uh, is uh, that uh, maybe uh... maybe uh, a little politeness on the part of both drivers and bicyclistses are uh uh, is in order, as well as maybe some training and education. So that might help."

At the very least it is a good start for public relations.

I think education of both law and best practice and as early vehicle operator's training in elementary, middle, and high schools, such training as part of health and safety instruction would indeed help considerably.

Since it seems the level of knowledge and practice in the general population regarding best cycling technique on roadways is woeful, I think large gains could be made with education and training.

Maybe I'm an optimist.

For little kids, knowing how vehicles and pedestrians are supposed to and (mostly) do interact at crossings is important and becomes more relevant as they age.

Is safety training a routine budget item for schools? Automobile driver training is quite similar to bicycle driver training since the basic principles are the same.

Where does one find the curriculum materials and lesson plans for grades K-8 regarding traffic and safety including cycling?

What cyclist organizations are providing and promoting such education resources?
Are they coordinating their efforts?

Sent by Ray | 10:03 AM | 8-27-2008

With the increased popularity of cycling, it's unfortunate that the media is focusing on conflict rather than cooperation. I'm a League of American Bicyclists certified instructor who has bicycle commuted for over 10 years without major incident. Another instructor and I have accumulated hundreds of hours of video showing that when we act as drivers of vehicles, then we are generally treated as such, as demonstrated by the techniques in this four minute video: (also available on the CyclistLorax channel on YouTube). Perhaps a discussion of such positive experiences could be the topic for a future show?

Sent by Brian DeSousa | 10:26 AM | 8-27-2008

Sure, some cyclists may break the rules a bit when it comes to the road, but the majority of cyclists in my area are day-laborers who have no option, but to ride their bike to work. They ride in sleet, snow, and rain, wear garbage bags as panchos...So if they don't follow some of the traffic laws, so what? They are obviously trying to get to work as quickly and cheaply as possible. To ask them to follow all bike-related traffic laws seems a bit patronizing at that point.

Sent by Ann | 11:03 AM | 8-27-2008

Washington D.C. is a cartesian grid with numbers on the x axis and letters on the y axis. At the center is the capitol. "hard to navigate?" Please.

The substance of this article is poorly conceived, researched and presented. We expect better from NPR.

Sent by JB | 11:16 AM | 8-27-2008

First comment: I concur with the above comments about the presenter's bias. Truly disappointing.

Second comment: I bike to work at least 4 days per week in a large city. Yes, I see bicyclists run red lights; yes, I myself occasionally roll through a stop sign when no cars are present. I also see cars/drivers turn left on red light, speed through lights turning red, make rolling stops, fail to use turn signals, fail to look for oncoming traffic before opening a door into the street, turn right on red while failing to LOOK right for pedestrians in the crosswalk... I could go on. When motorists obey the rules of the road, then they can gripe about bicyclists. Because in the end, as others have pointed out, the consequences of automobiles flaunting the law are of greater consequence and potentially life-threatening to those with whom they are supposed to share the road.

Sent by CZ | 11:22 AM | 8-27-2008

As someone who uses a bicycle as his primary mode of transportation I was excited to hear TOTN was doing a segment on bicycling. I should have known, given the continuous Clinton v Obama focus of your election coverage that this story too would be focused complete on the excitement of warring factions. Still, I was slack jawed listening to your host expound on uppity, law-breaking, self-righteous cyclists who screw up traffic and endanger everyone around them. Once the show moved in the direction of "finding solutions", a lot of lip service was paid to the value of education. We sure do love talking about education, don't we, but we really are not much into changing the way we do business. In Denmark and other European countries children are taught from day one in school about bicycle safety. Their entire families ride together every day so they learn first hand from their parents. Their governments consider bicycles an integral part of the transportation network. Here in the US? We consider bikes toys - something to be traded in for a car as soon as you hit 16. As long as we consider bicycles as nothing but toys (at best) or annoyances (at worse) I guess your host will have to contend with uppity, self-righteous bicyclists out there.

Sent by Todd | 11:24 AM | 8-27-2008

An integrated transportation system is the solution. Its not just about bikes, cars, buses etc. The key is getting everyone to work together. The integrated system will help prevent economic recession as the city is solely dependent on a single form of transport. A car heavy society is doomed to failure as the car is limited by the realities of the fuel situation.

Boston has a very good system, the buses and trains are bicycle friendly. As a bike commuter, I agree that there is an elitist attitude among certain cyclists, however these people represent a very slim minority. Most bicycle commuters actually respect the law and ride within the system.

The reality is that there will be more and more cyclist on the road, we should look at Berlin and Copenhagen for ways of making our cities more friendly to all forms of transport.

Working together to make our cities nicer places to live is the real solution.

My two cents!

Sent by Dan | 11:48 AM | 8-27-2008

I think everyone should come ride for a day in Los Angeles. Try a bike lane, bike route, 2-4 lanes traffic road, etc. You'll wake up the next day thanking (insert your religion) you are still alive. Now add the aggressive drivers who want to plow you down if you slow down anywhere below 25mph.

It's pretty ignorant of you to think that cyclists should be a reflection of a vehicle. Last time I checked, a car doesn't become paralyzed or dead because a person ran into it.

Sent by 333 | 12:25 PM | 8-27-2008

I live in Oregon, & enjoy commuting to work (about 13 blocks) by bike during 'clemment weather.' I tend to use secondary neighborhood streets, & stop at stop signs (no lights on my route), cross one parking lot with a wide sidewalk (intended for both bike & foot traffic), try to be respectful of pedestrians, & let drivers know what I'm doing. I'm a massage therapist, so have a good rack & panniers for the linens I transport to & from work daily, & a headlight for evening travel.
I lived in Corvallis about 30 years ago, & loved all the bike routes there! Some streets had bike lanes (more now), & many side streets were marked as bike routes, esp to the schools, so kids were encouraged to ride! McMinnville is much less bike aware - but more & more of us are riding. Bike RACKS - or lack of them, is one issue. The local "buy local" & Green awareness movements include attention to providing more bike racks. Our office is currently in process of deciding where to put one. Downtown car parking is limited to 2 hours on our main streets, & there are some racks in place.
& helmets! My grandkids constantly observe that most adults don't wear helmets - tho they are required to: "That's not SAFE!!" I do wear a helmet when I ride.

I recall an American Wheelman brochure & map from the early 1900s, republished in the 60s or 70s, giving elevations & length of many of the rural roads in Oregon, & mention of the 'debate' whether cars or bikes would be the main means of transport in coming years!! I wish more of the rural roads had bike/hiking lanes offset from the road, as the long 'path' N of Monmouth does - so much safer for all1
I can only listen to the radio while driving, so caught Tue's program during a longer commute :) Thanks for airing the discussion!

Sent by Nadya | 2:03 PM | 8-27-2008

Dear NPR,

Does Lynn not subscribe to NPR's objective and unbiased policy? This was a disappointing piece of reporting, with thinly veiled bias and unintelligent discussion. Not what I would have expected.

Sent by Andy | 2:47 PM | 8-27-2008

I am an avid recreational cyclist. I have been yelled at, "buzzed", and had things thrown at me from cars.
That being said, I find the attitude of some "roadies" to be arrogant and snotty.
Not wearing bright colored clothing and/or a "safety" vest. Why is it that a vast majority of roadies think black is the way to go? Also, not having blinking lights on the front and the back of their bicycles to increase their visibility? These things are seen as beneath them, why is that? And don't give me the "they add weight" to the bike, puleeze!
And a mirror is seen in the same light by these being beneath them.
Why won't the cyclist take some personal responsibility for enhancing his profile in traffic, thus making it safer for cars and bikes?
I have had many car drivers actually thank me for having blinking lights on (yes, in the daytime)thus enhancing my visibility).


Sent by Lynn | 2:55 PM | 8-27-2008

I have a lot of experience on this issue of cyclists and drivers. I commuted to work both in a car, by foot and by bicycle for nearly 20 years. When my 2 children were young, it was impractical to commute by bicycle, since I needed to drive them to and from daycare and school around my work schedule. 10 years ago, I was hit by a car while I was riding my bicycle. I was seriously injured with a shattered left leg, broken teeth, hurt back and concussion. The driver was 89 years old and never saw me. The only reason she stopped was that my bike was under her car. So I have had my own bike/car incident. I have also been forced off the road, sworn at, had cans thrown at me, shouts endured by rude and reckless drivers.

In our county in western Washington, there have been many incidents of drivers running cyclists off the road on roads where there is little traffic. So I'm not sure that added congestion is the only factor contributing to road rage against cyclists.

Cyclists are already vulnerable to the tonnage and metal of cars on the road, so cyclists really cannot afford the luxury of "acting arrogant" or not following the rules of the road.

Road bicyclists can be very arrogant and ride as if they "own the road" and everyone else can just wait or adjust. This attitude doesn't help this cyclist versus driver tension.

I think cycling is a great activity on many levels - recreation, transportation, exercise and should be encouraged by cities and transportation planners. But both bicyclists and drivers need to ride/drive safely and courteously. I applaud any efforts by cities to develop bike lanes and paths and reminders to share the road!

Sent by Brooke Wickham | 4:31 PM | 8-27-2008

Cyclists "breaking the law?"

Can we please have equal time to discuss how so many drivers roll through stop signs, chronically speed, double park illegally, don't user turn signals, follow too closely, drive aggressively, drive while intoxicated, drive while revoked, etc. I almost never see drivers come to a complete stop at a stop sign--- and many roll through red lights while turning red. If you have ever driven on the freeway outside of rush hour, you realize what a rarity it is to drive the speed limit (and how dangerous and rebellious it is). Many vehicles have equipment problems, like broken tail lights, bald tires, etc. A hefty proportion of drivers are distracted by their cell phones, or are reading, applying make-up, or whatever.

Yet a few bad apples among cyclists raises such ire? You would think the roads were clogged with bikes. Last I checked, it was motorized vehicles creating traffic jams.

I really don't get it.

Sent by fsweep | 5:35 PM | 8-27-2008

Here's an idea- just big picture. The details may seem daunting but I think the safest thing to do is have a street, side walk, then bike lane. The bike lane would have more protection if the sidewalk was in the middle of it and the road.

Sent by L.J. | 5:43 PM | 8-27-2008

As one of the call-in speakers, I have several more thoughts than time permitted yesterday.

First I find, on the surface, that Rob Anderson's views are acutely inconsistent. He fully accepted an environmental impact study as proper for his neighborhood street redesign, yet he scoffed at the work of "experts" that look at actual data. Since impact studies are done by experts, engineers and scientists, they are of equivalent validity to traffic studies. Looking deeper, Mr. Anderson is actually consistent with an underlining pattern, and that is obstruct and only accept what fits what he believes is "fact". Hopefully S. F. District 5 will not wind up living with such a case.

For every arrogant act by a bicyclist, there is one by a motorist. I vocally critique pedestrians, cyclists and motorists when I see actions that hurt one of these groups. Several others have commented here about earning respect as bicyclists. That's true for all using public roads. Something in life can counter two tons of steel as the "Might is Right" rule of the jungle, I hope. It's very easy to say "they did it to me" to erroneously excuse one's own bad actions. Every such action hurts all of us since it reaffirms the mindset of "they don't belong on the road".

One poster here referred to the nomenclature of bikeways. The American Association of State Highways and Transportation Officials has thorughly documented these. Bike Lanes are part of a roadway that is signed and striped (painted) for bicycles where Bike Paths are separate from motor vehicle roads. A problem exists if a Bike Path is adjacent to a roadway and a cross street has no protection (e.g. traffic lights) for cyclists. The motorists have no clue cyclists are coming and cyclists too often barge into traffic. In other words, grade crossings for bicycle paths have all the dangers of grade crossings for railroads. Over- and underpasses are the solution.

I sincerely hope that all the new and returning cyclists will avail themselves of education. As I said on the air, I learned more in the classes I took than I had learned in the previous 45 years of on and off cycling. Classes are available from Noah Budnick's Thunderhead Alliance in New York and from League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructors throughout the US and Canada. Good bike shops either provide classes or can refer you to local classes.

Gene Holmerud

Sent by Gene Holmerud | 7:43 PM | 8-27-2008

I have commuted to work on a bicycle since 1983 and riden a bike since I was six years old (1955). In the thousands of miles I have riden the only time I had a problem was a few years ago when I tried to out run a dog and he ended up colliding with my front wheel causing me to crash. The other crashes have all been my fault or that of other cyclists I rode with at various times (I don't ride in groups very often as a result of these experiences).

I believe the reason I haven't had bad experiences with motorists is that I pay close attention around me and always assume approaching motorists don't see me. I wear bright clothes and use very bright lights at night. I chose routes that are bicycle friendly. There are some streets here in Tucson, despite this being a very bicyle friendly city, that I will not ride on because they are too narrow or too busy but there is always a nearby alternate if you look for it.

I agree that more bicyle riders need to obey laws and avoid riding the wrong way, running stop signs, and riding on sidewalks. Cyclists need to behave just like other vehicles, signal their turns and be courteous.

Also, I would highly recommend that anyone riding a bike take a bicycle safety course, even experienced riders can learn, or be reminded of, how to ride safely.

Finally, motorists do need to be educated more thoroughly that bicycles have a right to be on the road. All states and cities need more rigorous laws, and enforcement, regarding safe passing by motorists.

Sent by Roger | 7:50 PM | 8-27-2008

I find your attitude toward "roadies" to be arrogant and snotty. The way you've painted them all with the same brush is a prime example of bigotry.

If you don't ride after dark, you don't need to own lights. If you prefer to look over your shoulder, there is no need for a mirror.

I'm a big advocate of lights - after dark - and other safety precautions (like helmets). Calling people arrogant for not using safety lights in the day time (gasp!) is beyond absurd. That's like chastizing a driver for driving 45 in a 45 zone because 35 would be so much safer. Expecting everyone to
take precautions well beyond any legal requirement is not realistic.

If you want to ride in a safety vest and flashing lights in the daytime, that's up to you. But don't you dare try to impose your paranoid precautions on everyone else.

In the end, if someone manages to run you down in broad daylight, they weren't paying attention. No safety vest can save you from that.

Sent by Erik | 8:02 PM | 8-27-2008

As a person who uses a bicycle as my primary mode of transportation I feel the wrath of the car and SUV driver on a daily basis. But my experiences may differ from others for the fact that I am a woman. Tuesday I was on my way home from my last college class waiting at a stop light in a completely un-obtrusive way when a car with two men in it yelled, "Get out of the road whore!" I get sexually harassed by men regularly as well as having to deal with drivers who just cannot share the road/are not paying attention because they are on a cell phone OR are just plain bad drivers. I am not a "careless" cyclist. I use hand signals, ride attentively and use head/tail lights at night, and those who do ride recklessly make me nervous because car drivers are so aggressive in this city. Even when I am in a bike lane I ride as close to the right as possible because cars intentionally speed past me veering into the bike lane, the reason why they do it? I'm not sure. I do think it has to do with the fact that many able bodied people that are still driving in this city (St. Louis) are just in a certain mindset about life and the way things should be and people who have discovered the freedom of thinking/acting for themselves make them uncomfortable/ We have a good public transportation system, and a rail service called the metro link and we have rideshare programs popping up all over the city so the reason that many people are still driving is unknown to me, especially when universities and many places of employment offer incentives/discounts for public transit or biking to work/school. Bicycling is great. It makes you feel good, keeps your body in shape, the most efficient and environmentally friendly way to travel as well as being a great opportunity to see your city. Adding bike lanes and driver/cyclist education is vital in these times as more and more people rely on the bicycle as a way to get around.

I am glad this topic gets so many people talking, because it disparately needs to be discussed.

Sent by Simiya | 10:50 AM | 8-28-2008

Dear Erik,
If you will read my post carefully, I think you will see I didn't use a "broad brush".
And anything one can do to make oneself more visible, Day or Night, just makes good sense to me.
I also ride a motorcycle, and always have my headlight on, day or night.
Once again, anything I can do to make me more visible is just common sense.
And no, I am not naive enough to believe it will prevent all accidents, but once again, anything I can do to make myself more visible makes sense, even if it is not "legally required".
Not paranoid my friend, just smart.

Sent by Lynn | 12:29 PM | 8-28-2008

Our nation's dependence on automibiles have taken away the basic capability of its citizens to travel on their own physical abilities.
Starting with kids on school buses, when did it become acceptable that our kids can not ride a bicycle or even walk themselves to school in the morning?
Driver's license issuence should require drivers to operate a bicycle in public roads for certain period of time as part of the new driver's test. The reason for that is all drivers should have some experience of dangerous drivers that cause inconvenience to other public road users, whether they are cyclists or pedestians.
Drivers should realize that other public road users who are exposed to natural elements should be allowed some yeilding when drivers are sitting comfortably in air conditioning, heat or out of the rain/snow.

Sent by Theo | 3:15 PM | 8-28-2008

""...If it seems that drivers think they "own the road" it's because WE DO"! We pay a gas tax to maintain roads, An annual Driver's License fee, Registration fee and a fee for license plates. .."

So do I. On both my cars. I also pay all the taxes which make up MOST of my state's transportation budget, less than a third of which is covered by gas taxes and the other car-sourced revenue you describe. I own a house whose biggest tax is assessed by the school district--I have no children. I buy milk, shirts, refrigerators, CDs, and lots of other things which provide the taxes which subsidize motorists who drive everywhere, even walkable distances, or who choose to live 30+ miles from work and so consume more than their share of road life and gasoline.

So when I'm on my bike, I'm using less than my share, I'm saving you a parking space at the other end of the trip, saving wear and tear on the road, reducing pollution, reducing congestion, and reducing demand for gasoline. You should be thanking me, but instead you choose to prate on about how you, and not me, own the road.

The biggest danger to cyclists, and to other motorists and pedestrians, is the selfish line of thinking that leads motorists to imagine that everyone else needs to get out of the way.

Sorry, Vicki. You're wrong here, and way, way out of line.

Sent by Eric | 3:47 PM | 8-28-2008

All of these comments (and the on air discussions) show how ignorant much of the public is to the traffic laws of the US. Shame on the whole lot of us for being so darn uninformed. As great as the US is, other countries like Japan are ahead of us in terms of driving. Japan's laws are written to emphasize it's every driver, pedestrian, and cyclist's responsibility to avoid accidents.

Sent by Brad C. | 4:59 PM | 8-28-2008

Dear Talk of the Nation,

In the future, I suugest you choose your guests, such as Rob Anderson, more carefully. I think some of his responses on his blog reveal his true agenda, and his less than thoughtful position.

I'm sure there are more worthy candidates to present his side of the argument, but he is just not one of them.

Sent by Dan | 6:48 PM | 8-28-2008

Very insightful comments.

Yeah, I think what upsets motorists most about seeing cyclists is that they are reminded of their, stuck-in-traffic-behind-the-wheel situation and they know they should do something about getting out from behind the wheel of that car if only for a few minutes per day.

Since we are not motorized, I think that few laws are broken by bicyclists. Does anyone ever accuse pedestrians of walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk?

Probably the third most irritating part of cyclists being seen by motorists is that it causes them to have to think about what they are doing. And that they may have to slow down or even stop their auto. Auto. Auto. Auto. Auto. Auto. Auto. Auto....

Cheers and Ciao,

Mike Schott
Hazelwood, MO.

Sent by MSchott | 10:30 PM | 8-28-2008

Well, first of all, I have not seen this increase in cycling-related road rage that the media is talking about. I wonder how much is hype vs. reality. Or, is the media finally noticing the road rage that has been going on between fellow road users all along? Its not just cyclists who are the brunt of rage.

Secondly, in response to Mr. Anderson, the roads in many cities are already at an overcrowded state, so I don't see how leaving the status quo in place is a good idea. What is the LOS in San Francisco on its streets? Given Rob's comment that space is at a premium, I'd surmise that we cannot build our way out of congestion nor can we accommodate more single-occupant vehicles without more congestion and pollution. So while a careful review of a bike plan is a good idea, I'd say a bike plan is also a good start.

If congestion is the case, then we need to move more people in more efficiently used space. So a combination of high occupancy vehicles (HOVs), mass transit, walking, and bicycling is a way to get more people to their destination using less space per person. Some cities are indeed considering a tax on single-occupant motor vehicles as a positive way to cut down congestion-related problems such as air pollution.

As far as obeying the law? Everyone needs to obey the traffic laws. Period. Sure, a cyclist expends a little more energy after stopping at a stop sign and getting rolling again. Nice way to lose a little more weight, and to practice one's track stand.

Sent by Khal Spencer | 12:00 PM | 8-29-2008

One added comment regarding who "owns the roads", addressed to Vicki. Less and less of roadway costs are being covered by dedicated fuel and registration taxes, and more costs are being funded out of general tax funds. This is in part due to increased fuel efficiency, since the tax is a flat amount per gallon and the gallon goes further.

As our County Transportation Board Chair, I am monitoring several major construction/refurbishment projects going on in our county. These costs are largely coming out of the taxpayer's checkbook, not out of dedicated fuel taxes and registration. So indeed we all "own the roads"--especially local roads. One could actually argue that since a cyclist contributes negligible wear and tear to the roads, often rides on the shoulder or edge, and replaces motor vehicle miles with cycling miles even if we own and register motor vehicles, we are subsidizing motor vehicles!

Well, this is interesting, but time for a bike ride.

Khal Spencer
Los Alamos, NM

League of American Bicyclists Instructor
County Transportation Board Chair, speaking for myself here

Sent by Khal Spencer | 12:27 PM | 8-29-2008

Does anyone have the exact costs to taxpayers for roadbuilding, resulting air polution, water pollution, deaths to drivers/pedestrians/cyclists,traffic enforcement, road maintenance,interest on the bonds, health care costs of obesity especially kids that can't safely walk or bike to schools, cost of sprawl as a result of road building to rural areas. Also I read that the number one reason working poor could not afford to buy a home was car expenses.

Sent by Joe | 1:05 PM | 8-31-2008

I think a lot of the anger and frustration felt by both sides of the issue (cyclists and motorists) is generated by fear. Both cyclists and motorists fear the other will do something unexpected to cause an accident. If we had better education of cyclists and motorists, this would help reduce the fear because both groups would know what was expected of them.

The best way to have positive experiences between cyclists and motorists is to ride/drive safely, ride/drive smartly, and **give each other space**. Both cyclists and motorists should signal, not make sudden turns, and be respectful.

Sent by edam | 4:17 PM | 9-2-2008

Vicki: I choose to commute during the week on my bicycle for fun and fitness. I really enjoy it, it clears your mind and relaxes your body. On the weekends, however, I like to drive my twin-turbo sports car, which in it's current state of tune is getting about 12 miles to the gallon. I can go though a couple tanks in a weekend, not to mention all the tires I burn up, which also use fossil fuels in production and transportation. This means I'm paying a lot in fuel taxes.

While cycling, I try to ride as courteously as I can and try to stay out of the way of motorists. While driving I often encounter cars driving discourteously and inattentively. This really takes some of the fun out of driving for me by impeding my forward progress.

I probably pay more in fuel taxes than you do, Vicky, so by your own reasoning, I own more of the road than you do. I'm willing to share some of my part of it, though, but I'd like to ask you and most of the other drivers complaining about cyclists slowing them down by being in the road: Please, pay attention to your surroundings, don't hit any cyclists, pay attention to your surroundings and check your mirrors at all times. Most importantly, when checking those mirrors should you see a bright red sports car approaching at high speed, move out of the way! We'll all be happier.

Just trying to help, thanks!

Sent by Andy | 8:27 PM | 9-2-2008

If roads were designed with bikes in mind there would be far more traffic circles, more shade, and 0 interaction with cars. I would never have moved to riding a bike if I hadn't loaned my car for a month to someone who had a long commute. Jumping in the car and pushing a gas pedal is just too easy and taking the easy route becomes second nature. Now, driving my car the 3 miles to work just seems silly. Not only do gas prices not effect me, but maintenance costs are minimal and I have a better sense of my community.

I understand the frustration drivers feel when confronted with Critical Mass interruptions. But frankly, whenever I drive my car, the actions of others instantly become more frustrating to me.

Sent by Deborah Wilbanks | 1:01 PM | 9-4-2008

I know that I am a bike commuter. Am I really a fossil fuel reducer? Am I helping my fellow man? I see many different flavors of slow, fast, and faster wheels along the way. Everyone with a place to go - quickly. I hear the unfriendly screeching of brakes sound behind me then the high revving of machines as they pass me by. Laws and good manners aside, most of the road rage fits and fist shakers are founded on simple mob rule mentality - "Look around you, bud. We own this freakin' road. This is my taxpayer money and I hate to have to be here. I have places to go and, heck yeah, fuel is not cheap. You are not making me step on my gas peddle more efficiently. This economy sucks and I now have more things to do with less time to do it in. Foam helmet or not, you best be scared that I may hit you. So LEAVE!".

Click. I change my gear shift so that I could add 3 more miles per hour to my speed. Click. 3 more...

Sent by John G | 12:11 PM | 9-14-2008

"There are few words adequate to describe the rage I feel when 'Share the Road'-ers blatantly disregard the rules of said road, riding opposite traffic, through red lights, and on what I adamantly assert (in my head, anyway) are sidewalks."

Just the same tired old arguments: I'm sorry that seeing somebody on a bicycle blow through a red-light makes you so irrationally angry. You may want to take a long look in the mirror and wonder why that is. Ask yourself this: when you see someone in a car doing 35 mph in a 25 mph zone, does that make you uncontrollably angry, too? My guess is that it doesn't even register.

That's because we all seek to have our prejudices reinforced, and most auto drivers *love* when they see some homeless guy riding the wrong way down the road, or on a sidewalk. Because that means they can validate all the feelings of rage at the "Share the Road Crowd" when they're briefly inconvenienced by law-abiding cyclists.

Personally, I ride on the road, often take the lane when the posted speed limit is under 35, and when there's no oncoming traffic, I'll roll a stop sign at a reasonably safe speed. I'll even treat a red-light like a stop-sign if there's no one coming, just as I would if I were on foot.


Sent by ibc | 5:38 PM | 9-16-2008

I am a carless - not careless - cyclist. I wear my helmet and lights obsessively. I'll push my bike a mile on foot rather than ride on the wrong side of the road.

In the 10 years I've ridden regularly, I've been shot by a rubber band gun, hit with pennies, had car passengers lean out and shout in my ear, and been hit in the gut by a swinging pole that nearly knocked me into oncoming traffic. (At least that was an accident). I've been chased by off-leash dogs whose owners 'apologized' by saying their dogs hate bikes. I can't count the number of times I've been cut off by drivers talking on cell phones who roll through stop signs without looking. (It's illegal to talk on a cell phone while driving here, but they do it anyway). I believe it's a mark of my own quick reflexes that I've never been hit.

Yes, I've seen cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road - on three occasions. I've also encountered joggers and a motorized wheelchair in my bike lane going the wrong way, in spite of the presence of a sidewalk, totaling another three occasions.

I quit driving because I felt there were so many dangerous drivers on the road and I was so tired of being tailgated. I tried the bus, and on two occasions my bus was hit by a car driver. I tried walking, and was assaulted by a gang initiate. In my mind it's either bike or stay home.

Drivers are the majority by a long shot, and may always be. It is my wish that those who drive try to respect how much toil and trouble goes into the commitment to ride, rain or shine.

Sent by Jessica C | 7:35 PM | 9-16-2008

haha, I've got almost two years of urban cycling under my belt. The first 3 months I spent entirely on the sidewalk or bicycle lane, taking the incredibly long way to work while I got over my fears of sharing the road with cars. Eventually I took to the streets, riding alongside cars, buses, etc.

So I'm riding along one day and there's another, obviously more experienced cyclists in front of me. Maybe he's a bike messenger, or a cool fixie trixter... who knows. We come to a red light on the city road. He makes sure there are no cars crossing and then just rolls past the red light. And I think, wow, cyclists can do that? Awesome! I make sure no cars are coming and I roll past the red light as well. Cause I wanna, you know, be just like the cool guy who obviously knows how to navigate this bitch of a town. I aspire to be just like him.

There's no real point to this story, just thought it'd be interesting to read.

Sent by rc | 10:33 PM | 9-29-2008

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