Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Punks on Bikes in Berkeley 1

From the always interesting Berkeley Daily Planet:

Editors, Daily Planet:

There is graffiti on the wall at Milva and Channing which says "cars are assholes." In Berkeley it barely raises an eyebrow; if it does you may have chuckled. I no longer drive, but I do walk all over Berkeley. In the past three years I have been hit three times, I have been screamed at, sworn at, and spit upon—not by car drivers but by bicyclists. I'm not speaking about thugs from the lower rungs of society, I'm speaking of UC Berkeley students, 30-something parents towing their toddler buggy, workers heading to their jobs, and younger students heading to classes or parks.

The City of Berkeley speaks of their master plan for the community, a plan in which they reduce the number of cars and provide incentive for the use of public transport, bikes, foot traffic as alternate ways of moving from place to place. I am all for better living and reducing our dependency on oil and gas by reducing the use of cars, but not if there is no incentive for the police department to enforce public safety.

I'll put this simply: If you are on wheels you are not a pedestrian and do not belong on a sidewalk. Twice I have been hit in a marked crosswalk (once while pushing a stroller) by a cyclist who blew through a stop sign. Both times, they did not apologize; they just admonished me for not getting out of their way. Once I was hit on a sidewalk because I would not give way after they had shouted "on your left!"

I see cyclists on the sidewalk all over Berkeley, even on designated bicycle boulevards: Milva, Virginia and Ninth Street. I see cyclists ride against the flow of traffic so they can see cars. I see cyclists ignore traffic lights and street signs. I see people decide they're cyclists until confronted by a red light and then suddenly they become a pedestrian, hoping the curb and turning abruptly to ride through the pedestrian crosswalk; wobbling into pedestrians crossing the street. And then, most disheartening of all, I see the Berkeley police force make the choice to stop a jaywalker downtown and ignore the bicyclist wobbling into the elderly woman with a cane in front of Tullys and the main BART station entrance; within 20 feet of the blue and white sign which says "Walk your bike on the sidewalk."

What I would like to see is more effort made by all of us to remember that our safety and well-being is tied to the safety and well being of those around us. If you want respect for your chosen mode of transportation, than you need to respect others around you, regardless of their mode of transportation. I would like to see Berkeley step up to the plate and realize that just because you have plans that limit and reduce the use of cars in the city, that does not mean you have reduced threats to public safety. I'd like to see the laws of public safety applied uniformly and safely—not just in the tourist areas or the business districts. We residents, who endure harassment and injury due to the carelessness or ignorance of bicyclists, deserve the support and protection of the law enforcement and the city government.

Meri Liston

Evidently Punks on Bikes is an international phenomenon:

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22 Comments:

At 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If this person had gotten hit twice by cars, they probably wouldn't be around to write this letter.

 
At 9:17 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Yes, that thought is surely some consolation to her.

 
At 10:23 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's not just locals, people on bikes in general need to stay out of pedestrian paths unless there is some safety issue that makes it necessary to use it temporarily. On Crissy field I have a HUGE problem with all of the tourists on bikes taking up the pedestrian lane just so they can an chit chat while riding. I was walking with a toddler I am 8 months pregnant and was close to being side swiped a few times, I could hear a few other cyclists say "stay in the lane". There are already 2 lanes for coming and going bike traffic along Crissy field , really unless you truly don't give a shit that you might hit a person walking in the appropriate path, just please make that tiny bit of extra effort to at least go back into your lane when you approach a pedestrian. Thanks!

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger murphstahoe said...

Anonymous writes...

"On Crissy field I have a HUGE problem with all of the tourists on bikes taking up the pedestrian lane just so they can an chit chat while riding."

I call BS on this one. As the owner of this blog, the esteemed Rob Anderson, can attest - TOURISTS DO NOT RIDE BIKES!!!

 
At 2:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Until we get serious about giving people places to ride they feel safe in, less experienced bicyclists are going to take to the sidewalks.

The bike plan will help get these people off the sidewalks and into bike lanes.

The injunction has a direct relationship to this phenomenon.

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Pretty clunky sarcasm, Murph. Actually tourists do rent bikes as a recreational accessory so that they can ride in Golden Gate Park and, evidently, on Crissy Field.

 
At 10:58 AM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"Until we get serious about giving people places to ride they feel safe in, less experienced bicyclists are going to take to the sidewalks.The bike plan will help get these people off the sidewalks and into bike lanes.The injunction has a direct relationship to this phenomenon."

Riding a bike has its own intrinsic dangers and will never be really safe, especially when you consider that most cyclists are injured in "solo falls" that have nothing to do with other vehicles.Even when the Bicycle Plan is completely implemented in SF, it will only make riding a bike here incrementally safer. How are you going to justify this behavior after the Plan is implemented? Note too that the item is about bad behavior by cyclists in Berkeley, not SF.

 
At 2:42 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Injuries don't amount to shit, Rob. It's fatalities that are the problem. And 90% of bike fatalities involve motor vehicles.

Cars are the mortal danger there.

 
At 3:16 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

I call your attention back to the original post, Anon, which was a letter to a Berkeley publication complaining about being hit and nearly hit by cyclists in that allegedly progressive jurisdiction, including once when she was even pushing a stroller! On the one hand, you bike people brush off complaints of bad behavior, while on the other you want riding a bike to be safer than it can possibly be.

 
At 3:19 PM, Blogger Aamused said...

Anonymous is assuming the author of this letter (that would be me) has never been hit by a car. I have in a parking lot, so fortunately what injury I received was not life threatening, just painful. However, in that instance, the driver leaped out of the car and to my aid. He didn't shout at me and berate me as if I had no business being where I was. He simply didn't see me: it was an accident.

And seriously, THERE lies the difference: Attitude. What I'm running into (literally and figuratively) here in the East Bay is a collective attitude of righteous indignation on the part of some cyclists. There is a prevailing attitude that their chosen mode of transportation is superior and therefore they are too. Not only are they superior, but because they're not a car, they're obviously EXEMPT from any standing laws governing cars, bikes, and human beings.

There are very specific laws for bicyclists on public roads in the State of California, but I suspect less then half of us know what they are. I couldn't even tell you all of them and I've been riding in this state for 17 years. So how do we solve this willful ignorance? Licensing? Taxing? I don't advocate either of those.

What I'd LIKE to see is all of us step up to the plate and get rid of this sense of entitlement without a corresponding sense of responsibility. None of us are any better than anyone else--no matter HOW we choose to transport ourselves from point A to point B.

 
At 8:40 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

Meri:
Thanks for the excellent letter, for which I gave full credit to the excellent Berkeley Daily Planet after I ripped it off, and for your follow-up. The city's bike people like to pretend that it's only grouchy old Rob Anderson who, due to some bike-related trauma in his childhood, says these terrible things about cyclists, that the litigation forcing the city to do an EIR on the 527-page Bicycle Plan was simply the mean-spirited project of the Geezers from Hell. But as your letter suggests, bad behavior by a significant number of cyclists is, first of all, a pain in the ass for the rest of us. But it's also an ongoing PR problem for the bike people everywhere. The get-out-of-my-way-I'm-not-burning-fossil-fuel boys and girls are doing a disservice to the bike movement itself. Here's what they need to understand: they aren't doing us some big favor saving the planet by acting like assholes on our streets. They are simply acting like assholes on our streets, and they should cut it out. Maybe then we can all sit down and determine exactly what we can and what we can't do to make things safer and more harmonious for everyone on our streets.

 
At 9:00 AM, Blogger Aamused said...

And I thank you, Rob, for a refreshing viewpoint based on common sense. It's so rare these days. I have further comments for anon and those like him/her, but I doubt they'll read them. So, rather than garbage up your blog with my comments, I've made the post in my own blog. Feel free to share if you wish.

Meri

 
At 12:26 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

You can "garbage up" my blog with your comments anytime you want. We'll follow your blog with interest. By the way, I've had these exchanges with the city's bike people for several years now, ever since we got an injunction against the city's Bicycle Plan. Click on "cycling" at the bottom of the post for a sample.

 
At 5:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So cyclists must be better behaved than everyone else, otherwise we are offended by their attitude and they come off as having a superiority complex?

 
At 5:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, let's talk about bad behavior. I'm constantly reading about these cyclists who shoot each other in road rage, who fight over parking spots, slam on their brakes to injure the drivers behind them, tell drivers to "get off the f*cking road", try to intimidate drivers by speeding by them in their heavy machines, intentionally run into drivers, throw things at drivers who are in driving in the center of the traffic lane...

We must put a stop to these badly-behaved bicyclists.

 
At 8:30 PM, Blogger Aamused said...

Okay Anonymous...Here we go a direct paste from my own blog post at 9:00am this morning:

I had a rather nice comment exchange with the owner of the District 5 Diary: Rob Anderson. I've read through some of his posts and it appears that he, like me, suffers from an acute affliction of common sense. Common sense is not always well liked in these parts. In regards to Berkeley politics I have often said it isn't a battle of the liberals vs. the conservatives, it's a battle of knee-jerk response vs. common sense. And it seems to me, more often than not, common sense loses. We're a kvetching minority, unwilling to simply gesticulate, red-faced, and scream "there outta be a law!" From what I read, Rob's experience of San Francisco politics is much the same.

In response to my letter to the editor, Anonymous posted some very defensive comments in Mr. Anderson's blog. Comments like:

If this person had gotten hit twice by cars, they probably wouldn't be around to write this letter.

and:

Until we get serious about giving people places to ride they feel safe in, less experienced bicyclists are going to take to the sidewalks.

The bike plan will help get these people off the sidewalks and into bike lanes.

The injunction has a direct relationship to this phenomenon.


and (my personal favorite):

Injuries don't amount to shit, Rob. It's fatalities that are the problem. And 90% of bike fatalities involve motor vehicles.

Cars are the mortal danger there.


Anon, whomever s/he is, expresses the conviction of many bicycle riders; the ones who know first hand what it is like to fight for space and for your life when sharing the road with autos. When I took up bike riding as an adult I lived in Dallas, Texas. It was the late 80s and when you rode on the streets of Dallas motorists AIMED at you--you know, for a joke. ha ha. I wasn't laughing then, I'm not laughing now.

There is a serious safety issue at stake here in regards to sharing the roads. Motorists are off in their own little world and while decades of driving has taught most of us to look both ways and around us for other cars and pedestrians, we don't always widen our attention span to take in bikes, motorcycles or mopeds. I KNOW the roads are dangerous and I understand the bike rider's sense of frustration and futility, not to mention fear for personal safety that makes some bike riders do things like hop the curb and ride the sidewalk when they feel intrinsically unsafe.

What Anon is conveniently forgetting however, is that cars don't make assholes. Assholes exist and they drive cars. Bikes don't make assholes. Assholes exist and they get on bikes, too. His/Her passion for increasing safety for all bike riders does not for a moment absolve bike riders of PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for good community citizenship and behavior. What he seems to advocate is a knee-jerk response which I often term 'the oppressed rising up to become the oppressor.'

What I described in my letter to the Berkeley Daily Planet does not begin to blame every single person in the East Bay who gets on a bike, but it does describe first hand a dangerous attitude on behalf of some bike riders which seems to be on the rise. We are getting more people out of cars and onto bikes, buses and other modes of transport. This is a GOOD THING. What we're also doing is transferring personality types. Road rage is road rage, it doesn't matter what your vehicle is. The three altercations I had with cyclists in Berkeley are classic examples of road rage: inexplicable anger at someone who is in the right place at the right time doing the right thing--someone who did nothing to deserve the rage aimed at them.

As for Anon's instance that only fatalities count, and injuries "don't amount to shit." I say this: Anon, you should go back to your high school and crawl the last 50 feet of that hallway on your belly and beg forgiveness from your math and science teachers for not paying more attention.

A 150 pound bike rider (let's say) on a 50 pound mountain bike going at 40-50 miles per hour down a Berkeley hill strikes a pedestrian. Who is going to lose in that altercation? The pedestrian. It doesn't take a physicist to see that. The right force of impact at the right angle can snap a neck and send an unprotected head directly into concrete causing brain injury or fatal hemorrhage.

The guy who hit me on the sidewalk while I was pushing the stroller (which--thankfully--was empty at the time) was going about 5mph. That wasn't fast enough to do more than cause me a minor injury but it was sufficiently fast enough that when his front wheel struck the stroller, he knocked it out of my hands, on to its side and he and the stroller skidded another few yards because his front wheel was tangled in the front wheels and frame of the overturned stroller.

If there had been a child in that stroller, what do you think the impact on the child would have been? The child would have been hurtled to the ground sideways, no head protection or padding to prevent impact with the sidewalk. Did the bike rider apologize or even help me get up and right the stroller? No. He didn't He called me a cunt and complained that I'd fucked up his front wheel. There is nothing Anon or anyone else can say that makes the attitude and actions of that particular bike rider appropriate.

I'll say it again: Bikes don't make assholes, assholes get on bikes and continue to act like assholes. Bikes don't make assholes into SAINTS just because they don't drive a car either. That's what Anon and everyone else needs to remember.

Broad generalizations and insisting on looking at the world around you in an Us vs. Them mentality and then insisting on your government legislating in your favor because of your Us vs. Them mentality, in my opinion, is what is driving this country and this society to the brink. It encourages and rewards anti-social behavior and the conviction that we are all victims who, because of our chosen victim-hood, are above and beyond laws we don't feel should apply to us.

So to Anon and to others like him/her I say: Grow up and stop acting like a coward because honestly only cowards maintain such a tenuous grasp on the realities of urban living and social conduct.

 
At 12:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'd love to see a 150 lb. rider get their bike up to 50 miles an hour on a berkeley street. The best track racers in cycling can get their bikes up to 50 for very short bursts; that's about it.

25 is about top speed for non-racers, and I'd way rather be hit by a 150 pound guy going 25 with 20 pounds of bike than a 150 pound guy going god knows what speed with 5,000 pounds of car. Do the calculation.

But that's not to say that bicycles don't pose a danger to pedestrians. It's my belief that when you are operating a bicyle, you are responsible for the safety of the pedestrians around you. Their safety is in your hands. Then again, I am a responsible rider; and we are not all responsible riders yet.

Yes, there are plenty of assholes on bikes, unfortunately. Assholes on bikes are inconvenient; but take that same asshole and put him behind the wheel and he's deadly, not inconvenient.

You have a lot of passive-aggressive stuff in your response, Aamused; a lot of claims without supporting evidence. I'm starting to feel like you are wasting my time.

 
At 1:25 PM, Blogger Aamused said...

Nice to know the feeling is mutual Anon. I don't care whether or not I convince you of what I'm saying. If you want to call a little levity and sarcasm passive-aggressive then knock yourself out.

 
At 7:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Rob,
I just read the article in the Depressed Democrat regarding your well-articulated stand on a need for an EIR when a major impact to city traffic circulation is proposed. There is a link from activist, aggressive, bike advocates to redevelopment. If you go to 'CompleteStreets.org' , and I hope you do, you'll see a morphing photo. The photo shows an average suburban street without bike lanes and then morphs into a street with them. What else changes? Buildings miraculously appear where there were none before, although you'll notice that the McDonald's stays the same. The bike people are, mostly, unknowing shock troops for developers who have a 'vision' of high rise buildings in place of low rise existing ones. Surprised at the link? Take a look at the Thunderhead Alliance. A fanatical core bicycle group that formed to influence political and social events across the nation, they have trainings to teach bike riding storm troopers (heads of bike coalitions) 'tactics' on taking over policy in their communities. This group is financed/directed by Enterprise Community Development, a high density developer that gets money through redevelopment. Rob, take a look at 'Redevelopment, the unknown government.' A lot of this will be clear to you. We are deeply involved in this issue. If you have a way of contacting me directly without my putting my contact info on the blog, please do so. Thanks.

 
At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of the generalities certain people use in discussions here are really perplexing:

"Riding a bike has its own intrinsic dangers and will never be really safe, especially when you consider that most cyclists are injured in "solo falls" that have nothing to do with other vehicles." Rob Anderson

Don't automobiles also have their own intrinsic dangers as well? Is anyone saying that automobiles are 'really safe'?

Public roads belong to everyone. It's important to exert efforts to make them safe for as many road users as reasonably possible.

Also of note here, is the use of the term 'bike people'. Rob Anderson and others use that term fairly often. I wonder if it's understood by anyone besides himself and others with similar thoughts, exactly who they're referring to when they use the term 'bike people'. Somehow, though it might not be their intention, it seems that use of that phrase by them might be perceived as referring to everyone riding a bike that hopes for better engineered road infrastructure allowing safer passage for all road users.

I'm all for making efforts to eliminate the bad behavior represented by some of the people riding bikes on public roads. It seems as though worthy suggestions leading to how this might be effectively accomplished, would be more constructive than only a constant stream of complaints about bad behavior.

wsbob/beav ore

 
At 9:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Has anyone ever looked in the California Vehicle Code for laws on bike ridding?

They are vehicles and HAVE TO ABIDE by the vehicle code. That means stopping at stop signs and ridding to the left(slower traffic keep right)

I live in the San Joaquin Valley and they are out here in full force trying to get killed by autos. They ride on the wrong side of the street against traffic, they pass me on the left as I am trying to make a left turn with my blinker on, etc.

If you ask me, ridding a bike does turn you into a total moron!

For some reason if you confront them they have all been coached to be condesending to you and smile and tell you to have a nice day as they ride off and run the next stop sign. Total Moron's

 
At 9:59 PM, Blogger Rob Anderson said...

"For some reason if you confront them they have all been coached to be condesending to you and smile and tell you to have a nice day as they ride off and run the next stop sign. Total Moron's"

That's because they don't burn any fossil fuel, which makes them morally superior to everyone else, including, oddly, pedestrians who fail to get out of their way quickly enough.

 

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