The macho discourse on city cycling

How much does the bike community’s own discourse on city cycling negatively affect the number and type of people who are willing to give life on two wheels a try?

This question has been swirling around my head since last week, when I read a guest post on Commute by Bike that offered 10 Rules for Urban Commuting. The rules are full of advice such as disobeying stop lights, being aggressive and never signaling. There is also solid advice about avoiding the door zone, not waiting to the right of stopped traffic and taking the lane. I disagree with a lot of the rules, but that’s fine: it’s not my list and I’m sure the style of riding works for the author and many others.

However, the macho tone of the article is endemic of a problem of the greater discourse on bicycling in the bike community. This wild west approach contributes to the fringe status of transportation cycling, both by repelling everyday people, especially women, and by reinforcing a culture that pits cyclists, drivers and pedestrians against each other.

When I first started bike commuting, I eagerly searched the web for tips and information, and this is the kind of advice I found everywhere – the kind that increased my apprehension about riding in the city and made me feel like I was not the type of person who should be attempting this. While I would have learned something from the “10 Rules,” the net effect may not have been helpful.

Me, a happy city cyclist {photo (c) Martha Williams}

I must not have been the only one who felt this way. The comments following the “10 Rules” post argued passionately both in favor of and against the rules. In response, the author followed up on his own blog by posting an 11th rule:

“I was struck by one curious and oft-repeated theme: the idea that those who ride bikes should assiduously avoid breaking traffic rules, because doing so makes motorists think badly of us.

For those afflicted with this way of thinking, I offer Rule 11:

If your priority is being seen as a “cycling role model” by drivers, you should not ride in the city.

Leaving aside the notion that riding safely and not making motorists think badly of us are mutually exclusive, I have a problem with this statement. I am not comfortable with advice aggressively telling people they should not ride in the city if X, Y or Z. I have enough experience with city cycling now to know what’s what, but this macho instruction would have been very off-putting to me when I was a beginner. What is a new bike commuter to take from such a statement: that to ride a bike in the city, one must abandon a lifetime of lawful behavior and reconcile oneself to pissing off drivers in a never-ending struggle to make it home alive? Sign me up!

Since new bike commuters are presumably the intended audience for these rules and other similar advice columns around the internet, I worry about how many potential cyclists are scared off by this kind of rhetoric. Someone kicking around the idea of bike commuting is already going out on a metaphorical limb and is likely hearing from family and co-workers that riding a bike is crazy and dangerous. It may not take much to push someone away from the notion completely. Certainly, safety is important and a new bicyclist must learn the rules of the road, but there is a way to broadcast that message without alienating most of the audience (I highly recommend the article, “How not to get hit by cars”).

Hopefully, some who are initially put off keep digging around the web and find advice that speaks to them and their situations. In the two and a half years since I first started my research as a new bike commuter, the number and quality of alternative resources has grown. Although the discourse is still largely controlled by the hardcore contingent, I am optimistic that as city cycling becomes more popular, the discussion will become more moderate.

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125 thoughts on “The macho discourse on city cycling

  1. Miss Sarah says:

    One thing I find helpful about following traffic rules is that it’s usually less confusing to cars. Unless, of course, they’re trying to be polite and helpful and misread that you’re following the rules?

    At that point plan B comes into play and I just try to get out of the way and do my thing when all is clear:)


    • TomG says:

      I am a follower of the Forester (Effective Cycling) school of thought – but when confronted by an overly solicitous driver, I simply give ’em a grin and a wave and move on. They’re happy, I’m happy – karma is gained all around.

  2. LC says:

    hear, hear Dottie!!!

    I couldn’t agree with you more! Like you, I really believe in showing respect to all when I cycle on the road, and I find that I get respect back (of course, ignorant/aggressive/dangerous people cannot be avoided at times) too. When I cycle from A to B in my city, I want to show how easy and fun (yes, fun!) it can be to go about daily life by bike rather than by car. If I were to break every highway code rule (plus in the UK it’s compulsory that cyclists and motorists obey by the highway code!) I would only achieve the opposite, i.e. piss drivers off and consolidate the bad stigma that exists around ‘city cyclists’… i.e. fast & furious, while I’d like to be associated with the nicer notion of ‘gentle & relaxed’ like our Dutch or Danish cycling friends!

    Maybe us, who think differently, could write our own 10 rules for enjoyable city cycling? xxx

  3. ditto with Cecily. Making motorists angry with dangerous or illegal riding does not help make them more patient and indulgent of cyclists and sharing the road.

    What ever happened to giving out what you expect to get back?

    Anyway, rant over. Yay for manners.

  4. Brooke says:

    My boyfriend, who got me riding bikes again (not since I was a kid), taught/teaches me about bicycle safety and riding in the city, which is 100% of my riding. However, he rides almost exclusively on the sidewalk. He’s been riding for years and easily zips around stationary objects, people, and has no problem with curbs and broken bits and tight squeezes and not being able to see around corners…. I’m pretty uncoordinated, slow, can’t balance, and have to slow down at intersections to look, so that’s not so easy for me. I’m worried about hitting a person or pole or getting hit by a car (he tends to zip in front of cars, which makes the driver look at him while he’s zooming away – so I’ve almost been hit because they’re looking the other way).

    As I’ve learned more over the past three years of riding, I started riding in the street more. He doesn’t like it and is worried I’ll get hit (totally valid worry). I worry I’ll get hit! I feel more comfortable with the space and relative smoothness of a road. I try to have a strong presence in the lane – without being rude, but no apologizing for being there either. According to the law, I’ll get fined $150+ for riding my bicycle on a sidewalk – it’s the law to be in the street. Having said that, I totally get up on the sidewalk in some places because the road is too dangerous. I saw a bicyclist get hit – rear ended and thrown off his bike – on one of these roads because it’s curvy and people drive way over the speed limit, so the car came up on him to fast. I try to chose the best route for my safety, but I also exercise my right to be in the street. Firmly but politely.

    • Dottie says:

      Firmly but politely is the perfect way to describe the cycling style that I think is most effective. I agree that you are safer riding in the street, except for those blind curve places you mentioned. A little conscientious sidewalk riding is a-okay in my book, if certain areas are too risky and there are few pedestrians, but exercising your right to the street is important. Unfortunately, the fear of getting hit by a car is ever-present when there is no separated bike infrastructure.

      Thank you for sharing your story.

      • TomG says:


        I would argue that the sidewalk is THE most dangerous place for a bicyclist, especially if the sidewalk in question is lined with curb cuts.

        Firm and polite is the right way, yes.

        In my experience, bike lanes are an invitation to close brushes – I’d rather take the lane and assert my position. This is, however, rather unsettling to new bicyclists – when you are just beginning it can be rather daunting.
        My preferred compromise is the sharrow…
        A marked street that warns drivers “you’re going to encounter bicycles.”

        Now, I’ve been a commuting bicyclist for close on 45 years – so I bring a somewhat different viewpoint to the discussion.

  5. Steve A says:

    I liked the comments better than the rules. The rules ignore the obvious that cycle commuting is, as is all road use, a cooperative social activity and one should learn and practice the proper social skills to do so.

  6. nicolas says:

    Dude’s problem is not his rules, no matter how wrong they are (and they are). It’s his attitude. The “HELMET!!!111!1” closer is pretty eloquent in this regard: smug 18-to-45 white male vehicular cyclist alert.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      A vehicular cyclist that refuses to follow laws or signal, which is contradictory to the only aspects of vehicular cycling that are sane and/or practical.

      That ‘rule list’ drove me absolutely batty when he posted it last week. I’m not proud of the fact that it put me in full flame mode and wrote some heated comments that included a few “how dare you”s and “get a bike with less aggressive steering so you can signal, stupid”s. These comments did not make it past the moderator, which is probably for the best, but boy were those ‘rules’ infuriating.

  7. cycler says:

    I think that there are a significant number of the previous generation of urban bikers who approach it as an extreme sport, full of thrills and chills, and who accompany their sport with a healthy dose of “stick it to the man” attitude.

    It is unfortunate that that has such a defining presence on the web, but fortunately there are a growing number of sites like yours that encourage the “interested but concerned” demographic that getting to work doesn’t have to be like the X games.

    • Dottie says:

      “Getting to work doesn’t have to be like the X games.” Ha, so true. The X games mentality is totally what comes through in a lot of the internet discourse. You hit the nail on the head.

      • TomG says:

        Yes, I find that aspect irritating. It’s not a game. It’s about getting from point A to B safely. My racing days ended 30 years ago, thank you very much. Me, I like the metaphor of
        “Dancing with cars”.

    • Vee says:

      I think you are right. For me the idea of cycling in the street in a city was a simple- not possiblity b/c I grew up in NYC and the only people I saw riding in the street ( riding anywhere really except central park) were messengers and that is not for the faint of heart. I think this macho notion is pervasive. My husband bike commuted for a year and it never occured to me that I could do it too. B/c he was fast and furious and would slam doors shut on cars while he rode past to avoid being doored. he and my bike shop friend even told me- oh no- you can’t ride esp with your kids. My husband was clear that I could never ride a bike with a kid seat on the back. I mean seriously! So the first time I got a kid’s seat I was Freaked out and sure I would fail. and in reality- it’s ah easy peasy! Do I ride like him- no. But I sure as hell ride more days out of the year than he does so there.

      a bit of a rant… and I spent some of my day watching crazy bike videos were bikers where holding on to trucks etc. Sadly I was holding my son on my lap while watching. We both agreed that he would never ever do that. I sure hope he doesn’t…

  8. Mr Colostomy says:

    If you guys do decided to run your own rules for urban cycling, see if they overlap with some of the advice I have given to people.

    – In the UK, many cycle lanes are “advisory” (marked by a dashed line) meaning people can drive and park in them. These are often best ignored. Other bike lanes with a solid line are more useful, but it is up to you whether they best serve your needs at the time. You have the right to the road

    -Don’t ride in the gutter. Many new cyclists fear being rear-ended, but this is very rare. The most common cause of injury is being clipped by a close overtake. In the gutter, a car passing will not deviate from the line the driver would have taken if you were not there, if you ride ~1.5 m out from the kerb they will be forced to perform a proper overtake at a more appropriate distance.

    -Where the road becomes too narrow for motorists to safely overtake you, ride in the centre to stop them from trying to do so. Remember you have at least as much right to be there.

    -Obey the rules of the road, except where impossible (bad infrastructure, traffic lights which don’t detect bikes etc)

    -At the lights, either get to the front (where possible) or stay in-line with other traffic. Don’t get caught on the inside of cars.

    -Wear a helmet if you want, but be aware that they aren’t designed to protect you against anything more than falling off a stationary bike, and also be aware that they will change how other road users perceive your relative safety. Motorists tend to give less passing distance to helmet wearers because they subconsciously judge them to be safer in the event of a crash. Also, a helmet will make certain kinds of injuries worse than not wearing one at all.

    -Ride in the road. Pedestrians get screwed over as bad as cyclists, let’s not make it any worse for them. You are quite likely to get hit when cycling on the pavement due to having to cross many side roads without having any effective right of way.

    -Stand up for yourself. If a motorist endangers your safety and you have the opportunity to bring it up with them in a reasonably positive way, do it. They may not even be aware of how dangerous what they did was. The next cyclist they endanger may be less experienced than you.

    Any other suggestions?

    • Dottie says:

      Brilliant. This is all great advice with a moderate tone. I’ll have to think about what else I would add.

    • LC says:

      MrC, you beat me to it :) Great list. The only one I’d say, hope you don’t mind, is the helmet thing. It is a personal matter, I’d leave that out. I still wear a helmet, I feel safer, although I know/heard/read lots of research, articles on its effectiveness or lack of. I think it’s such a personal matter choosing to wear one or not, I would not want to give advice about wearing it or not. To friends, who are starting out bike commuting, I always say to do what makes them feel best/safer/happier etc.

      • Mr Colostomy says:

        I agree with you completely about it being a matter of personal preference. I wouldn’t want anyone to be forced to not wear a helmet if they wanted to. I just thought I’d put that bit in because in the UK and US there is a lot of information from governments and such about the positives of helmets without much on the negatives. I have spoken to a few people here in Manchester who thought not wearing a helmet was illegal, probably because the pro-helmet message is so strong.

        Maybe a gentler message would be, “Helmets are optional (for all in the UK, various rules apply in different parts of the US) and the benefit to wearers is still a topic of heated debate. It is probably worth doing some reading and making up your own mind.”

  9. Sigrid says:

    interesting you should post this right now. just today i met with someone to talk about bicycling in our city and my angle is that everyone should feel comfortable riding a bike, it is not something just certain people do. increasing everyone’s comfort level helps us all.

  10. Everett says:

    It’s sad that the Bike Commuter blog has taken such a sudden turn for the worse since the original writer left. It used to be a great source for bike commuting advice and ideas, but has lost that in the breadth of one ill-informed post. Glad you are still here Dottie and Trish.

    • Ghost Rider says:

      Careful…it’s “Commute by Bike” blog, not “Bike Commuter” blog…the latter, while controversial at times, really tries to avoid this kind of ill-informed nonsense.

  11. Dave says:

    I find that just being predictable and flexible makes a big difference. Ride in a more-or-less straight line, signal your intentions, move over to let cars pass if it is safe to do so, but don’t just ride right along next to the parked cars, and get in line with cars at a stoplight are all things I usually do. Don’t take inordinate risks crossing streets and such, wait until you’re not going to be cutting people off, and just ride confidently, but not aggressively.

    I’ve actually found in Portland that I usually have more near misses with other cyclists than people in cars, both because i choose to ride roads that don’t have a lot of car traffic, and because there is still that contingent of aggressive riders who feel they have to write their own road code in order to be safe.

    • TomG says:


      • Dave says:

        There certainly are laws I disobey regularly, like rolling through stop signs (but i always slow way down and look first).

        Another thing that strikes me about this guy, and it’s true of a lot of people in Portland too, is that he may be the type who asserts his right to ride on main arterial roads, when there is probably another route that is only slightly less convenient, with almost no car traffic. Obviously, ideally all roads would be welcoming for cyclists, which clearly isn’t the case, but in the meantime, why assert your legal right to ride on roads that cause extreme tension, when you could ride one block over and chill out at 8mph and noy feel threatened?

      • Dave says:

        There certainly are laws I disobey regularly, like rolling through stop signs (but i always slow way down and look first).

        Another thing that strikes me about this guy, and it’s true of a lot of people in Portland too, is that he may be the type who asserts his right to ride on main arterial roads, when there is probably another route that is only slightly less convenient, with almost no car traffic. Obviously, ideally all roads would be welcoming for cyclists, which clearly isn’t the case, but in the meantime, why assert your legal right to ride on roads that cause extreme tension, when you could ride one block over and chill out at 10mph and not feel threatened?

        I guess if you want to ride that way, it’s fine, but publishing the “rules” for cycling based on that kind of mindset is not such a great idea.

        I personally find it easy and enjoyable to vary my route almost every day without worrying about crashing and killing myself, it simply IS NOT DANGEROUS, unless you’re choosing to ride on the highway or something, at high speeds, where a crash really could be damaging. Going 8-10mph on quiet streets, you’re not in danger – and that is more how the average person (not the hardened bike commuter) is going to ride.

  12. Ari Hornick says:

    The road to safety is paved with predictability.

  13. Ed L. says:

    As someone who lived (and bicycled extensively) in Seattle for several years, the only take-away I get from that article is that the author wants his commute to be dangerous, hectic and daring because that is how he wants to appear himself. Seattle is a very bicycle-friendly town. The city streets are not always well-laid out for cyclists, or even regular car traffic, but that does not mean it necessitates the sort of “road warrior” mentality on display in the “Ten Rule” article.

    Oddly enough, I approach bicycling and bicycle commuting with the idea that it is a fun, safe and healthy activity, plus a convenient way to get to and from work, and what do you know, with very few exceptions my bike commutes are exactly that. If you think of bicycling as some dangerous, daring activity, then you will probably ride in a way that validates your perception.

    I am not a strict “follow all traffic rules” bicyclist. (I think an “Idaho stop” is a commonsense and safe approach to stop signs, for example.) But I also don’t assume that all the drivers are bicycle haters just waiting for their opportunity to run me down and kill me. I’m also a driver myself, after all.

    And as for the relative safety of city cycling, I feel much safer riding in full rush hour traffic than I have many times on little-trafficked narrow two-lane country roads.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      “…the only take-away I get from that article is that the author wants his commute to be dangerous, hectic and daring because that is how he wants to appear himself.” My thoughts exactly. “Commuter Commando” was the term that popped into my head when I read that list of rules.

  14. Eric says:

    Hi Dottie,

    While I agree with you that some of the “11 rules” are potentially off-putting to new cyclists, I’m not entirely comfortable with your characterization of the post as “macho.” It seems that you are associating your negative reaction to the post to the fact that the author is a man. Would you describe it the same way if the author had been a woman?

    • Dottie says:

      I may have used a different word than “macho” if the 10 Rules had been written by a woman, only because describing a woman as macho creates another layer of meaning associated with a woman feeling that she has to act “manly,” whatever that means, and that would interfere with the point I am trying to make.

      But I stand by my choice of the word macho in the situation as it is. While the first definition of “macho” is having qualities characterized by aggressive manliness, I am using the term context of the second definition: “having a strong or exaggerated sense of power or the right to dominate.” No offense intended to men or women.

      It is also worth noting that the discourse of bike commuting on the internet is heavily dominated by young men and I believe that contributes to the focus on aggressive and road warrior type of riding.

      • jamison says:

        the poster of the ten rules did not seem to have an exaggerated sense of power, or the right to dominate. he in my opinion stated fairly moderately a set of guidelines for riding in the city. perhaps by calling them rules he changed the overall tone of his piece. i agree there is a lot of macho things written online about riding bikes, but this didn’t seem macho, or extreme , it seemed fairly reasonable to me.

        • jamison says:

          for the record the author of the ten rules says if you need to signal just point where you are going, and to dispense with the classic right turn signal, which he says most people don’t even know, a topic that you also covered on this blog. reread the rules again and they seem pretty moderate and though i may do some stuff differently they do seem like pretty good guidelines.

          • dukiebiddle says:

            Actually, he said don’t signal, but if you must just point, after which he reverted to his condescending know-it-all tone before continuing with this highly questionable list of his urban cycling practices.

          • Bif says:

            jamison, I had the same take.

        • chiggins says:

          the poster of the ten rules did not seem to have an exaggerated sense of power, or the right to dominate.

          Not to you, perhaps, but I agree with the folks who are characterizing the tone as at times snide, condescending, admonishing, and know-it-all.

          Had he penned a list of his personal rules for commuting in Seattle, and maybe shown a little humility about it, I don’t think it would’ve kicked up any dust at all.

          But it came off as arrogant pontification, and he presumed more authority than he has. Put the Commuter Commando content together with that tone, and I’d say “macho” nails it (though might be a little generous to the author).

    • Cecily says:

      This piece in the upcoming edition of Momentum magazine illustrates perfectly, I think, what Dottie might’ve meant by her use of the word macho:

      I think there may have been numerous studies conducted that indicate that the one thing that keeps women from cycling is the perception that it is dangerous. While we can find exceptions to every rule, men are conditioned to pursue danger and be aggressive, while women are almost always more cautious and fearful.

      • Cecily says:

        OK, actually it illustrates the very *opposite* of what Dottie meant by macho, but I’m under the influence of Benadryl and may not be making a lick of sense. :-D

  15. neighbourtease says:

    That guy and his ilk do a lot to take the joy out of riding around NYC.

    I confess I laughed at THE CITY IS HARD. haha. Grrr!

  16. Chris says:

    This is not a rule of commuting, but I find that eye contact with approaching drivers and hand signals make a world of difference. Most drivers are unaware of bike laws and our right to be on the road. Let them know your intentions and they will generally cooperate. Of course, there will always be angry drivers, but by riding confidently and being seen you will havec a much safer and enjoyable ride/commute.

    I have friends that ride with macho attitudes and feel that they own the road. That’s great until they collide with a vehicle. It doesn’t matter who is right or wrong, the vehicle always wins.

    Oh…take the lane if necessary. It is generally safer than hugging the curb.

    Obey traffic laws. Why should we gripe about drivers running lights and driving up one way roads backwards if we do the same.

    Be cool and keep the rubber side down.

  17. Txarli says:

    I would rather call that “the passive agressive discourse of city cyling” because so much of it is about gratuitously pissing off the car drivers and gratuitously getting pissed off by their reactions.

  18. Wow. You know what? I am not even going to agitate myself by reading the post you’re referring to, it’s not worth it. Needless to say, I agree with your analysis and criticism of it. It’s exactly the sort of thing that intimidated me and put me off of cycling for years.

  19. Ryan says:

    I’ve been riding for quite a few years now and I obey all the traffic laws and have never had an issue with safety or respect from motorists.
    The extent I break the law is rolling through stop signs on residential streets. Even then I slow to about 5 km/h. If there are pedestrians or cars around, I come to a complete stop.

    Two that bothered me are:
    #6: Don’t signal…Recently I’ve started to signal whenever there are cars around. Not only does it make me more predictable but also I’ve noticed some motorists have given me a little thank-you wave.

    #10: “Wear a helmet, stupid.”.
    I am dead set against being mandated by law to wear a helmet, however have no issue if someone chooses to wear one. But the arrogance to call myself and others stupid for not wearing one got my blood boiling.
    According to him I must be a fixie hipster or the too-cool type.

    I also dislike that he thinks people such as myself don’t wear helmets because of the way they look. The picture you have in this post here shows that there are helmets that look good and that you can look good wearing one. For me personally I find them completely uncomfortable.

    • Jim Phillips says:

      Very interesting. I am awaiting my new bike and just, without thinking really, bought a helmet, a Bern glossy white one. My wife says I look like a policeman with it on. Good!
      I agree thought that you should decide for yourself if you want to wear one or not. Maybe I’ll rethink it.



      • Jim Phillips says:

        Well, that didn’t last long! Ha Ha Ha!! My wife is a horseback rider and loves dressage. I asked her what good was a helmet the sizer of a cereal bowl? She then reminded me of the time she went for a ride i the woods alone at our farm and came back walking instead of riding the horse. She had been thrown and knocked unconscious. Her riding helmet, not any bigger than my new Bern helmet, had the brim broken off. She remembers nothing except waking up on the ground. We both believe the helmet was a good thing for her to have been wearing. BTW, this horse had a history of “blowing up” with riders. I sold him for $1 after seeing him backing out of an enclosed arena reared up on two legs out of control with me wife’s trainer on his back.



        • neighbourtease says:

          I wore my old show helmet when I first starting riding my bike again. :) I don’t wear it (or a bike helmet) anymore.

          FWIW, the safety standards for riding helmets are much more stringent than are those for bike helmets.

  20. Tad Salyards says:

    It’s also funny how many “road warriors” fiercely oppose any form of segregated-cycling infrastructure and quickly cite “the Messiah” John Forrester as proof. The dirty little secret is that they actually enjoy the conflict with motorists. It makes them feel unique, tough and counter-cultural. My how difficult these people make any positive agenda.

  21. Scott says:

    I completely agree, especially the “firmly but politely.” The link you gave looks like it hasn’t changed since I first read it in 2004, when I was new to riding on Chicago streets. I think merely being aware of those potential ways to crash into a car would make one a safer cyclist.

  22. Stephen says:

    When I first started bicycle commuting a decade ago, I was pretty aggressive. No, I was full-on aggressive. But I’m not now. I play by the rules, and while I’m not stupid nor expect everyone else to do so, I feel more safe now than I did ten years ago.

    The antidote to passive-aggressiveness is assertiveness, and I think this is the way to ride most safely in urban areas. It is also the least stressful, and the one strategy most likely to encourage non-hot heads to get out and ride.

    (For the record, I probably don’t have quite the testosterone I had a decade ago either. Methinks Mr. Josh King has an abundant supply of it at the moment.)

  23. Anne Hawley says:

    I think the only real way to read an article like this guy’s Ten Rules is to understand the subtext. To my mind, the subtext of all posts of this type is: “Whoa, more and more people are riding bikes in my town! Whoa, I don’t like dealing with different types of bike-riders! Whoa, when I say I want more bike commuting, I guess I only mean fast, aggressive commuters like me! Whoa, I better write something called ‘how to commute’ that really means ‘please don’t commute by bike if you’re older, slower, more relaxed, less hip, or less athletic than I am, ’cause it will cramp my style! Whoa.”

    • Jess B. says:

      I love that you turned him into Joey from Blossom, though I think Joey would be a pretty laid-back cyclist. :)

  24. David From Madison says:

    I still kind of agree with running red lights in certain circumstances. In my situation the cars behind are preparing to hit highway speed on the ramp to the freeway. It’s WAY SAFER for me to run the red light, as the cross street has no traffic. Insted of me waiting at the red light legally, and fighting cars that are trying to get on the ramp at rush hour. Way, way safer for me to run the red light in that situation.
    I also totally agree with his comments on “taking the lane”. I do that everyday coming home. Although the this lane is a restricted lane for BIKES, right turns, and buses only. So it’s technically my lane, but people get annoyed anyway. However, if I don’t “take the lane”, I get huge trucks and city buses zooming pass me within inches!! Oh wait, I may be confusing that list with the “how not to get hit” list. Yes, I believe I am mixing them up.

  25. Jim Phillips says:

    I agree with you 100% Dottie and I enjoyed the article about Not Getting Hit. My Workcycles bike should be shipped from Seattle (The Dutch Bike co.) and I intend to follow the rules and drive my bike defensively. I really like the idea that people use bikes for transportation and less for zooming around like rockets racing through the streets. I also, as a driver, find it annoying for cyclists who believe they are above the law. It says something about the character of these self-centered cyclists. I, on the other hand, like associating myself with people like you Dottie. I want an enjoyable ride that allows me to see, smell and feel my surroundings. I chose a Workcycles bike so I can sit up, relax, see the road ahead of me and just enjoy the ride in my regular clothes.



    • samantha says:

      Jim –
      Speaking as someone who has been riding for years but just got a WorkCycles bike a couple of months ago, I will say that you will definitely be able to see the road ahead of you and ride the way Dottie describes. I ride in traffic, in rush hour, all over the city and I don’t need to zoom or be an a-hole. I think that if more cyclists rode city bikes and not road bikes or fixies in the city, we’d all be a lot safer.

      PS: I too have a shiny white Bern helmet with a brim which I love. With the right leather jacket I can look sort of 60s Mod AND still be safe.

  26. Mitch says:

    I’m a little surprised that so many people are so moralistic about obeying stop signs and traffic lights. I’m a middle-aged bike commuter and not at all macho (I ride a 30-year-old Raleigh Sports 3-speed for transportation), but I use my own judgement about stop signs and lights.

    Obviously, it’s stupid and inconsiderate to blow through a stop sign or run a red light if you’re riding into cross traffic. But I don’t think it’s wrong to slow down at an intersection, look both ways, and then continue without stopping if it’s safe.

    Sometimes it’s safer to ride that way. Some of my best routes go along quiet residential streets, and some of these have a stop sign at every corner. If I HAD to stop at each sign, I’d take an arterial street instead — more stress for me, more annoyance for motorists, and less safe over all.

    Anyway, you can’t depend on motorists to obey the laws. It’s better to take responsibility for your own safety. I know of at least two incidents in Madison in the last year where cyclists who relied on a GREEN light to keep them safe were hit by cars who ran red lights. If these riders had waited for a gap in the traffic, and then gone through the red light when it was safe to do so, they wouldn’t have been hit.

    • dukiebiddle says:

      I think it had as much to do with his condescending tone as it did with the specifics he was advising; and it wasn’t so much about one of his 10 ‘rules’ as it was about the cumulative effect. Essentially, he was taking the position that there is his way or you should not be riding in urban environments, and most if not all of his ‘rules’ was debatable at best. Always be aggressive, always be moving (huh?), never signal unless you’re an idiot, disregard and dismiss all bicycle infrastructure and always take the lane, all the while antagonizing all drivers and behave in a manner that puts us all in greater danger of drivers lashing out at us as retribution against aggressive cycling that we may not even be engaged in.

      I could respectfully disagree with one of his rules, or maybe two or three if there was any indication that he respected others, but I found it painfully clear that he did not. As I read through his rules I initially thought it might be satire. When I realized it wasn’t I become hotter and hotter; and then on the final rule, after telling others that they should be breaking laws, not signaling, always riding aggressively and always ignoring all bicycle infrastructure, he then called people (who in my opinion – are ALL practicing a safer form of road cycling) who didn’t wear the same type of head-wear as him stupid, and I just completely lost my sh*t.

    • TomG says:

      Idaho has the most rational law for cyclists – stop signs and red lights are to be treated as “Yield” signals. IOW, if it’s safe to go, do so.

    • Sean says:

      The problem with this argument is that it creates an unsustainable atmosphere. How long do you think it will be before motorists and other cyclists see you going through stop signs and red lights and decide that these obstacles are too much trouble for them as well? Then what?

  27. Bif says:

    Macho? I agree with eric and jamison above. I don’t see a macho tone in this article at all.

    He makes his proposition of “be aggressive” (in rule #3) with a link to the BBC article from Oct 2009. The article he links points out that while only 28% of cyclists on London streets are women, they comprised 7 out of 8 cyclist deaths from being hit by trucks on those streets.

    The BBC article, written by a woman, explores the notion that women cyclists are perhaps operating too meekly in traffic and would achieve a higher level of safety by operating more aggressively. Sarah Bell of BBC reports that… “In 2007, an internal report for Transport for London concluded women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by lorries because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot.” She goes on to explore other reasons why this might be happening. Its worth reading. Sarah Bell is not being macho either, but her interesting insights on a real problem explain much of where the 11-rules-guy is coming from.

    • Dottie says:

      I grant you that a guy who calls himself Bif and myself may have different reactions to what we consider macho. :)

      As I said, there is a lot of good advice in the article, including the advice not to wait to the right of trucks, but that does not detract from my point about the prevalent tone in the discourse on city cycling.

      • Bif says:

        Hahaha. Well, I understand, but I got called Bif because I “biffed”. Skier parlance for “crashed hard”. It was a long time ago, but I can tell you there was nothing macho about that tragedy either.

    • April says:

      Could you link the BBC article please? Thanks :-)

  28. Ben says:

    I don’t agree with most of the guy’s “rules”, but the fact that he lives on Capitol Hill in Seattle and commutes downtown should give some indication of why he comes off so abrasively. There’s a lot of traffic through there, a lot of crazy intersections, and the commute to downtown is down a steep hill, no matter what your route is.

    Definitely explains the “no signals” rule. I’d want to keep both hands on the brakes on that commute, too.

    Still, he didn’t need to be such a douche about it. Then again, he lives in Capitol Hill, that explains that, too. It’s mansplainer central up there.

  29. john says:

    This is the type of Cyclist who yells at me for not wearing a helmet. Him on aggressive road bike, skinny tyres, carbon forks, no other safey gear like mirrors who rides on busy roads with no shoulder mixing it with huge trucks, holding up traffic, pissing everyone off while I pootle about on the bike path and quiet side streets just to run errands in my jeans on my relaxed, safe bikes.

    I have much more in common with people driving their car to run errands than Mr Cyclist waging his war.

    • Herzog says:

      Don’t forget the intense expressions they always wear. I never understood how people can take themselves so seriously while wearing spandex.

  30. Martinez says:

    I ride bicycles in the suburbs of Chicago and encounter a lot of drivers who really seem to dislike cyclists. Maybe part of the problem is that there Is confusion about the *real* rules that govern bicycle traffic. Perhaps cyclists should be licensed.
    Hear me out for a second…
    It’s not always clear when a cyclist is a “vehicle” versus when a cyclist is a version of a “pedestrian”. Kids under driving age are, by default, pedestrian (remember being taught to walking your bike across the street?). When apply to get a driver’s license it should be an “operator’s” license. You should be responsible for car rules of the road and bicycle rules.

    • Jess B. says:

      When you’re walking your bike across the street, you actually are a pedestrian – you’re walking! When you ride your bike across the street, then you have to play by the rules of the cars. Kids are taught to walk their bikes because it’s safer for beginning riders, especially smaller children who might not be as initially visible as an adult riding with traffic.

      Others kids on bikes are as much vehicles as adults.

  31. Hippiebrian says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more! When I read this article, at first I thought it was a joke! I’m never agressive even though I always take my lane. I signal where appropriate and wave when being respected by drivers (which happens to me a lot, despite what this dude wrote!). His attitude is defined by his statement “Wear a helmet stupid!” Really, I’m a 48 year old man who commutes, far from being a “fixie hipster”, who has made an educated decision to not wear a helmet based on a safety risk versus comfort issue. I have Ross Perot syndrom (really big ears!) and they just don’t make helmets that don’t rub them. To call another cyclist stupid is tantamount to calling them out, which, like I said, defines his attitude perfectly! I hope no new riders really take these 10 rules to heart!

  32. nuliajuk says:

    Looking for advice on the internet is always a crap shoot – the web is full of angry people. I sometimes think that it’s main purpose is to provide a distraction for people with anger issues.
    Here’s a site with more valid advice:
    It’s an urban cycling course developed by the Canadian Cycling Association.

    • nuliajuk says:

      My mistake. It’s a list of instructors and classes. Still, the website has some tips for traffic riding.

  33. ridon says:

    like you, i didn’t agree with all the things on his list, but the 11th rule holds true. yes, it can be discouraging to new cyclists, but i think he is saying that there is no such thing as a “cycling role model to drivers.” as long as infrastructure stays the same, drivers will always see cyclists as nuisances, because we have to share the same road. it doesn’t matter if they do follow all the rules motorists follow or if they don’t, they’re still annoying. take for example a car ride with my motorist roommate. we were coming up on a long stretch of parked buses, and a cyclist was passing them a foot apart. she was annoyed because he wasn’t far right enough so she could pass him, even though he was squished as far right as he can safely go. i pointed that out and she said well can he at least get far right as soon as the buses clear? well he’s not driving, speeding up isn’t as simple as a light tap of the foot. and she was still not satisfied, even though this inconvenience only slowed us down for a minute max.

    • Dottie says:

      I disagree that following the rules of the road and being courteous has no affect on drivers. Sure, I’m under no illusion that most drivers will always see bicyclists as obstacles and there will always be a small percentage of drivers who are raging a-holes, but every day I have drivers smile, give me a thankful wave and be extra careful around me in response to my yielding at stop signs. I’ve had more than one driver roll down the window and thank me for waiting at a red light. Most drivers are neutral toward me, but the number who go out of their way to be polite is higher than the number who go out of their way to honk and scream obscenities at me.

      Another factor to consider here is pedestrians. When I yield to pedestrians, often they look surprised and then grateful as they smile and/or wave, as if I were doing them a favor by stopping at a stop sign so they could cross in the crosswalk.

      I firmly believe that if we all road lawfully (to an extent, Idaho stops and other occasional exceptions notwithstanding), firmly but politely claiming our share of the road, we would have a lot fewer problems getting popular support for bike infrastructure and programs.

      • dukiebiddle says:

        I agree 100%. There was a time when I was not so conscientious of the laws and would filter right and pass the same cars over and over again (never once considering that meant they had to pass me over and over again); and I was constantly dealing with driver hostility, antagonism, buzzing, etc. When I began to follow the rules, stopped “dancing with cars” and began to maintain a steady and predictable line, driver hostility towards me dropped by at least 80%.

        They may still hate me and find me annoying, and that’s just fine, but when I follow the laws they are far more likely to feel obligated to follow the rules in how they share the road with me.

      • As a pedestrian, I’d love to have more cyclists like you riding past me!

        Thank you for bringing this up because it is very scary being a pedestrian around the more aggressive cyclists. Just as it is scary being a cyclist around aggressive drivers. Have loved reading this debate and S’s on simply bike that linked here.

      • chiggins says:

        I ride in DC, which is the worst town I’ve ever lived in when it comes to driving-culture. Traffic is dense, and driver, peds, and cyclists give each other less quarter than they do in other towns I’ve lived in (including NYC).

        Nevertheless, this is my experience as well. When I act like traffic, signal, and yield right-of-way, I typically have positive interactions with the folks I’m sharing the road with.

        In fact, I think a lot of the positive response I get comes from the fact that I’m interacting with them rather than just staring ahead and looking out for number one.

  34. samantha says:

    Hey Dottie – hope you don’t mind, I’m posting a link over to your post here with instructions to read through all these comments because it’s a great discussion that you’ve got going.

  35. […] I agree 100% with her and to her reply to a poster who challenged her on the use of that term.  Here’s the link to her post – read through and read all the comments – it’s worthwhile […]

  36. Herzog says:

    “It’s about survival and your first thought in any situation should be “How can I survive this?” not “What’s legal and won’t piss people off?” Considering the latter in a split second situation can and will get you killed.”

    Hahahaha. For some reason this reminds of 50 Cent, when he described how “A smile can get you killed!” in the ghetto. It must have been 5 years since I heard that, but it still makes me chuckle.

  37. Bif says:

    I understand that his view on helmets might get lots of people around here tweaked, but as far as his other nine “rules” I don’t understand the indignity. He has strong opinions but, except for his helmet comment, specifically where exactly are the examples of condescending tone? Slightly smug perhaps, but only slightly. Anybody that goes out and does this every day in rush hour deserves at least that in my opinion.

    Some of his suggestions may seem counterintuitive at a glance but IMO if you read each rule carefully he does provide a rational basis for his views (though you may not agree with all of them), and in no way does he recommend reckless, inconsiderate or rude behavior as an approach to commuting. I took it as one person’s survival guide. God bless him.

    On Rule #1 he is saying that your prospects for survival and personal safety are more important than strict adherence to rules and laws. “Better, then, to slow down, look carefully and keep moving if the way is clear. The idea is to be critical, to not slavishly accept and obey the traffic rules just because they are there. Recognize that your safety comes first.” Another words, obey the rules unless they are going to put you at risk, and recognize those risks. Take responsibility for your own safety regardless of whether motorists approve. Yes there are gray zones here, but the point he makes is not absurd nor does it require invoking daredevil rudeness.

    As far as his “better to be rolling than stopped”. This can be true. When rolling you have some options such as break, accelerate and/or turn, to avoid a moving hazard. If you are sitting there stopped, you’re a sitting duck (i.e. what are your options?). If the way ahead is safe and clear, you may want to clear out of the intersection in this case rather than wait. It’s a judgment call depending on circumstances. I don’t think he is advocating blasting through red lights like a madman. I didn’t read it that way.

    Rule#2. “Always be prepared to take the lane”. Because sh#t happens, these are wise words. On a downhill, like descending into downtown Seattle from Capitol Hill take the lane regardless. So true, especially where he lives. Uphill the bike lane is fine. I’ve walked Pike Street up to that neighborhood. He rides a single speed (though not a fixie). He must be strong is all I can say.

    Rule#3. Better aggressive than meek. Read his link on bicycle accident trends in London and you will understand he is not talking about “aggressive” in terms of recklessness, but rather the need for cyclists to be assertive in many circumstances in the city, even if some motorists don’t understand your motives are to create a safer situation. Many comments on this post have mischaracterized his point on this. Read his BBC link and then criticize.

    Rule #4. Pacelines aren’t a safe activity when commuting in the city. No argument from me there.

    Rule#5. A route you are intimately familiar with is a safer route. Not much to argue there either?

    Rule #6. “Don’t signal”. Poorly worded paragraph here. But he finishes his point with safety-oriented qualifier…. “Go ahead and signal if it’s helpful to a driver and you can do it safely, but dispense with that dumb-ass right turn signal nonsense. Just point where you’re going.” Similar to what I do, try to make eye contact with the motorist and point to where I want to go. (Note: Drivers ed manuals say signal a right turn with your left hand out the window, for obvious reasons. Your on a bike now so just point with your right hand.)

    Rule #7. Forego your “rights” to the bike lane if bullies like buses, taxis and delivery vehicles are making or might make threatening moves toward the curb or door zone. Check.

    Rule#8. Take the lane if it means avoiding getting doored or there’s not enough room for vehicles to squeeze by you. His comment here is one of survival, and that means you may have to get assertive. Motorists may be impatient and not like it but thems the apples. You have a right to maintain your safety buffer even if motorists might want to interpret this as rude and/or suffer one minute of pure hell as you temporarily obstruct their passage.

    Rule #9. Avoid the perils of the right (turn) lane when you intend to go straight. This is basic stuff.

    Rule #10. The helmet thing. No right answer to this as it depends on how hard you plan on hitting your head. My reference point on this is a few years ago my wife slid out on some oily pavement and hit her head hard enough to break the helmet. It knocked her silly but she recovered without serious injury. I’m sorry but I have to think that helmet prevented my wife suffering a serious injury. Your mileage may vary.

    • chiggins says:

      Rule#5. A route you are intimately familiar with is a safer route. Not much to argue there either?

      This is not what he said. He said:

      Save the mixing it up for whatever else you like to do for fun. You’re riding a bike to and from work for chrissakes, isn’t that fun enough. You don’t need to alter your route just to add variety. Knowing your route – every pothole, blind right turn and nasty intersection of it – is critical to riding safely. Be predictable in your riding and your route. Get a tattoo or something if your route isn’t exciting enough.

      Condescending. Admonishing. Snide. Imperious.

      Who’s this clown to tell me whether or not I ought to be taking different routes and exploring my city? Who does he think he is that he gets to throw a “for chrissakes” at me over it? Does he seriously think I can’t go down a street I haven’t gone down before without going over the handlebars from hitting a pothole I haven’t seen before? Get a tattoo?

      I mean, f’real?

      I don’t know the guy, so I don’t want to make assumptions about him personally, but the tone… macho is generous.

      (On a side note, did you really have to restate his whole article?)

  38. Zweiradler says:

    I like your approach to city cycling better than those ten rules. Although I’m a male :)


  39. Jim Phillips says:

    Well, all this does answer the question I posed yesterday, “Why are there so many Womens/Chics blogs?”. You can “almost” separate the men from the women based on the comments made here. But, I tend to agree with the women. Yikes!



  40. […] But here I was, the other day, enjoying a cup of iced coffee and getting ready to start my work when a new string of comments on my letter in the local paper caught my eye. Incidentally, Dottie (of Let’s Go Ride a Bike)  just posted about a similar phenomenon; cycling and [the macho discourse on] traffic laws. […]

  41. Simply Bike says:

    This is such an interesting discussion, and I’m relieved to see how many people wrote in support of following traffic rules. It seems like I’ve been encountering a lot of the other side lately – cyclists who feel like they are exempt from the traffic laws that regulate cars because that is the supposed advantage of traveling by bike. I would disagree and I also do not see why following traffic laws and getting enjoyment from riding should be mutually exclusive.

    This conversation seems to be taking place all around me these days. I wrote a letter to the editor to my local paper and in the comments section, a very similar discussion to this one ensued (even though my letter was about bike racks).

    I then came across your post the very same day. Interesting coincidence. I wrote more about my take on this on my site today:

    I command you for always sticking to your guns and publicly disagreeing with cycling discourse that you find offensive or harmful. Sometimes it’s hard being the one to take a strong stance on the other side of the issue, but as you can see from all the comments, many of us appreciate being reminded that not everyone feels the way that author of the Rules does. Thanks, Dottie!


  42. Beany says:

    I’m aggressive on the roads when I ride. Aggressively friendly. I ding my bell, wave, smile, greet everyone I see while on my saddle. If I get within earshot, I compliment, make small talk, crack a (safe) joke.

    My own change in how I deal with everyone has resulted in every single day being an absurdly good day. And make no mistake, SD totally sucks in terms of bike friendly anything. And I used to be a real asshole on a saddle – completely unpredictable, angry, annoying, and very irritable. Now my own change in myself has resulted me having great commutes every single day.

  43. Beany says:

    This FB group echoes my sentiments well:
    Let’s put an end to the unnecessary rage between cyclists and motorists by “giving a wave” to folks that do the right thing. Put a smile on someone’s face by thanking them for treating you with courtesy and regard for your safety. Give ’em a wave today and they’ll be more inclined to treat the next cyclist with kindness.

  44. Bif says:

    The author of the 11-rules post has been called a lot of names and adjectives here (e.g. macho, smug white male, condescending, and a douche, with anger issues, etc.) but I haven’t seen a word in these 90+ comments where you folks have given an ounce of consideration for the point he is really making in his #3 post.

    Forgive me, I will repeat it:

    (quote) “Better aggressive than meek. While stupidly aggressive riding is problematic and dangerous, overly-cautious riding is also a problem. Riders who are afraid to assert themselves in traffic are a danger to themselves and other riders. Seeking refuge from traffic, they ride too close to the curb, where the pavement sucks, junk abides and car doors and pedestrians are apt to strike at any moment. They give up their precious momentum when moments of indecision strike, cutting back on their options and imperiling riders behind them. Riders new to city streets should accept their trepidation and actively work to overcome it. As this study about traffic deaths among London cyclists [link] found, an abundance of caution in riding is not a benefit.” (end quote)

    What does he mean by “meek” and “aggressive”? Is he being smug? Macho? Does he think this is all just a “game” as some suggested? Not at all. Read on.

    To support his position, he makes reference to an article in the link. Here it is:

    From the article:

    (quote): “This year, seven of the eight people killed by lorries in London have been women… Considering that women make only 28% of the UK’s cycling journeys, this seems extremely high.”

    “The high incidence of women killed by lorries has come to the attention of the authorities before. In 2007, an internal report for Transport for London concluded women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by lorries because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot.”

    “This means that if the lorry turns left, the driver cannot see the cyclist as the vehicle cuts across the bike’s path. The report said that male cyclists are generally quicker getting away from a red light – or, indeed, jump red lights – and so get out of the danger area.” (end quote)

    The article suggests that women riders might benefit (safety-wise) from being less meek and more aggressive in traffic. Not crazy stupid aggressive, but to work toward overcoming trepidation about taking the lane as needed, and doing that Idaho roll when circumstances allow.

    OK, so what do we have here? Where the BBC article addresses these issues mainly with respect to women, the 11-rules guy has adopted a philosophy that clearly is derived from or consistent with the findings of the study efforts described in the article. His conclusion is that when riding in rush hour traffic an abundance of caution, and total surrender to obeying traffic rules, and worrying too much about what passing motorists think, can lead to indecision and/or place you in a risky or even dangerous position. To me this guy is not an angry daredevil who blasts through redlights, but rather someone who is figuring out how to manage the unfortunate realities of the streets and looking to improve his prospects of survival.

    Never mind calling him names. His rules may not be your rules but they bring up much food for thought, notwithstanding concerns for the alleged tone problem.

    Dottie, great post, lots of interesting comments (and favorite new vocab word I learned – manplainer). Thanks!

    • Jim Phillips says:

      My take is that the critics of the article are talking about the Entire article, its tone and choice of words by the author. Defenders of the article tend to discuss specific portions of the article. What I am beginning to conclude is that the author made some good points, points to discuss in a civil manner but the consensus seems to be that he did not present his information in a civil manner.
      I have enjoyed the discussion. I will conclude by saying that “statistics” like those cited from a single year (portion of a year?) in London do not represent a scientific study nor does it state how the author came to the conclusions about why the women were killed. A guess? I don’t know. That type anecdotal data must be ignored if you want to come to a scientifically accurate conclusion. I have read here that many do not wear a helmet but I just read an article spouting statistics about brain injury to support the idea that helmets should be worn. But, nowhere did I see any info in the article regarding the types of brain injury (specifically) they are talking about and which ones would have been prevented by which particular (by brand) helmet. Now that data would be useful!



      • Bif says:

        Jim, the issue of his tone and civility is a matter of opinion, but most people here would obviously agree with you.

        As far as the London study goes, I have to disagree with you that it, or the BBC reporting of it, should be ignored, or your insinuation that there’s some kind of bad science going on here. According to the BBC article, the City of London’s transportation department released a study in 2007 addressing specifically the problem of women being hit by trucks in those intersections. If they felt they needed to study this it must be a real problem and it must have been happening for some time, probably years. I have not seen the study, but have to believe they looked in detail at the circumstances surrounding the fate of these unfortunate victims and drew conclusions by means other than just “guessing” as you surmise. That study was released in 2007, and in the BBC article they report it’s still happening as of late 2009.

        Hmmm. Just checked and here’s a story from the UK Guardian in May 2010 on the same issue.

        Again they report that the study concludes that people (and they tend to be men) who seek to avoid this fate tend to be running red lights, as the 10-rules poster says he does.

        Clearly people shouldn’t feel like they have to roll through a redlight to protect themselves from being run over, or put themselves at greater risk because they are compelled to abide by the traffic laws, those are crazy choices, and a failure of our transportation systems. But in a land designed almost exclusively for automobiles and trucks you’re going to have people unhappy about the situation and taking matters into their own hands, and they might have a touch of attitude about it too. Given the stakes, I don’t think it should be a shock or surprise.

  45. Etienne says:

    The rule list is a bizarre and contradictory read. First of all he advocates breaking road rules, and then he eventually endorses wearing a helmet for safety. It just goes to show that the pro-helmet brigade tend to believe it’s okay to take risks on the road if they have that piece of protective casing on their head.

    It reminds me of the last time I got fined for not wearing a helmet. Just thirty seconds before the bike police nabbed me I witnessed two helmeted speedsters doing an illegal right-hand (left-hand in the States) turn through a red light.

    • Mitch says:

      Where the “helmeted speedsters” making a dangerous right turn? Or were they just making an illegal one?

      There is a difference. If they checked for oncoming traffic and cross-traffic, and found no cars that had a reasonable chance of coming through the intersection before they had finished turning, then the turn was safe — if illegal — and they were probably better off than if they had waited until the light turned green.

      On the other hand, if they didn’t check, and rode into traffic without looking, they’re idiots, and probably not long for this world.

      I’m interested in this issue, so I pay attention when I hear about crashes on the news or in bike-oriented forums. I’ve noticed that a large proportion of these crashes, especially the serious ones, happen when the bike is obeying the law, but the MOTORIST runs a red light or a stop sign.

      I see bicyclists go through red lights and stop signs all the time (I do it myself), but generally we do that when it’s safe. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about motorists.

  46. Jim says:

    I respectfully disagree with the idea that people wearing helmets believe it’s OK to take risks. I will be wearing a helmet when my new bike gets here and I do not feel that way at all. I also see that Dottie wears a helmet and I cannot imagine she would be interested in taking risks. You paint with too broad a brush.



  47. […] comments over at Bike Commuters also got me to thinking about Dottie’s post on the macho discourse on city cycling, and how so many of the (male?) commenters there decry the upright posture and slower cadence that […]

  48. scott t says:

    to me, if a light doesnt cycle when a bicycle is at the intersection that is a discrimination and as soon as it is clear a bicycle should get out of the middle of the road by going thru it or around it or whatever. to me that is avoidance of potential auto-bicycle collision..and the bicycle always looses in those.

    i have had a inch high driveway ledge dislodge my handlebars from me, sending my to the pavement. that cant happen with a car. if i signal with one hand only to have a poor road surface crack lead to a crash i would prefer to keep both hands on the handlebars. generally pulling over to let cars pass.

    much as a pedestrain would hurt from a bicyclist hitting them from riding on a busy, narrow sidewalk.

  49. […] Go Ride a Bike posted a thoughtful and passionate critique of King’s article, and it’s “macho tone.” This article drew more comments […]

  50. Ted Johnson says:

    I’m one of the editors of Commute By Bike, and I’m impressed by LGRB’s contribution to the discussion of Josh King’s guest post.

    I’ve just published A Thought Experiment on Bike Commuting Safety that was, in part, inspired by the post and discussion over here. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

  51. Deby says:

    It does offend me when I see other cyclists who dont follow the laws already set in place for bike safety in our town. Those who will run red lights when cars have a green protected arrow to turn which would lead to a collision where the car had the right of way. This would just lead to negative media attention if there was an accident. I would hope people in cars would see I did wait my turn so not all cyclists are the same, many of us follow the rules.

  52. dylan says:

    my goal is to get from point a to b in the minimum amount of time. i will take the lane and pass you at 30 mph even if it makes your heart flutter with transferred anxiety.

    keep riding on a daily basis for a few years and you will know exactly where i am coming from.

    • Dottie says:

      I find comments like this extremely annoying, considering I have been riding on a daily basis for nearly three years, including through Chicago winters. If you took the time to peruse this site, or even read the “about us” page, you would know that.

      Regardless, you should not try to make others feel lower than you based on your perceived superiority through experience and aggression. Continue your posturing as long as you want, but know that there’s a massive movement of people entering into the world of transportation cycling and it would behoove you to welcome them as friends.

    • faith says:

      I’ve been riding on a daily basis for over thirty years and this sort of attitude only exists in countries with minimal bicycle use as transport. Coincidence? I think not. Countries with well-established cycling-as-transport cultures regard any one travelling at this pace as anti-social and with the same disgust as they would a car speeding in urban areas.

  53. scott t says:

    fastest is one particular way to get from a to b.

    the is scenic, strenuous, and reckless ways to get there as well.

    if reckless is your choice try to limit the recklessness to yourself.

    i find that avoiding car traffic is more pleasant. less traveled roads in many cases and staying out of intersection areas.

  54. […] Seattle titled, 10 Rules for Urban Commuting. The article caused a bit of a stir and even triggered a response from our friends over at Let’s Go Ride a Bike. Josh gives some very good advice in the article and, perhaps, some not-so-good advice, suggesting […]

  55. […] “10 Rules” post at Commute by Bike continues to elicit strong reactions – this one, by Dottie at Let’s Go Ride a Bike, takes issue with my “macho” tone and the potential it […]

  56. Josh King says:

    Dottie, thanks for the thoughtful post. I like direct communication, and the audience I had in mind was those who were already doing some riding in the city. But you make a fair point on tone, esp when it comes to those just thinking about riding.

    I’ve posted a few additional thoughts in response to issues raised here in the comments:

  57. Daniel says:

    In response to rule #6 and #11 (which I don’t see on the original site, anymore; maybe rescinded?):

    “If you can’t ever safely ride one-handed long enough to signal, you should not ride in the city.”

    That said, there is some good advice in the article, but had it been written more evenly, it would have been a lot more useful.


  58. scott t says:

    “If you can’t ever safely ride one-handed long enough to signal, you should not ride in the city.”

    i can ride no handed in some spots…but i have had my handlebar wrested from me with both hands on it from a road crevice. ouch.

    i expect if bikes played by the road rules that cars do all the time cyclists would often be more injured. mass and speed issues. i avoid cars when i can. if making a left turn across traffic i will often pull to the curb on the right and let cars behind me pass. this works for me and puts me out of car-harm way more often than not.

    at intersections, if they are clear i cruise thru them. ive been rear ended in a car at an interesection and i see no reason to tempt fate sitting on a bicycle at an intersection.

  59. Allie says:

    Its a link from the UK (so you will need to reverse lefts & rights) but I’ve found this to be really good advice on things to do to stay safe while riding:

  60. Danny says:

    What the hell is all this “follow the rules” stuff about?
    I don`t care if drivers run red lights or whatever – as long as they don`t take my right of way. The person with the green light or the right of way gets to go first. As long as you`re not getting in anyone`s way, it`s OK. Sometimes disobeying the law makes it easier for everyone.

  61. […] would fit. Those plans were ultimately scuttled, however, due to an overeager reading of certain other bike […]

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