If you ride a bicycle anywhere in the world, there are probably some things that we have in common that bother us. This is a totally random, off-the-cuff list based on what’s been happening to me as I bike around Austin, Texas. Although cars and trucks are by far the greater threat to our safety and very lives, we can all do better to be responsible bike riders. So here is my non-scientific list of how to improve your bicycling etiquette.
Never ring your bell or say “on your left” when passing. This happens often enough it goes straight to the top of the list. This rude, annoying, and easily avoidable behavior is particularly risky with less experienced cyclists. That’s because the sound of a passing bike can cause one to look around and steer right into the silent cyclist, causing you both to crash. Most often the offender is a guy in a full bike kit, going fast, who thinks he’s better than you, and who may pass within inches for extra douch-baggery points. Dude, you may be a better biker, but you’re a horrible person. Just say those three simple words and everyone will be safer. Was that so hard?
Ignore all the traffic laws. When you run stop signs and lights, ride on the wrong side of the road, weave in and out of lanes, and otherwise bike like a drunk-ass monkey, you’re giving the rest of us a bad image. Car drivers see one person demonstrating bad behavior and project that onto other bike riders. They can take out their aggression on the perfectly law-abiding rider. Maybe you can just chill the fuck out on the hot-dogging and ride like traffic for a change. You won’t get yelled at or honked at as much, and life will be alot easier for the rest of us.
Don’t acknowledge other cyclists exist. Ever say hi to someone and they just ignore you? Stings a little, doesn’t it? Well, if you’re on your bike, and I say hi as we’re stopped at a light together, or ring my bell or wave as you pass by going the other way, and you ignore me, that also bites a bit. Because like it or not, if you bike, you are part of the bicycling community. It takes very little effort to smile, ring your bell back, or say hi. You never know if you’re going to have a flat tire a mile up the road and need my help. Am I more likely to help you if you are nice? Hell yes! So maybe pull your head out of the clouds and pretend like you’re not a robot.
Never yield to anyone, ever. This is related to the ignorer above. But this flavor of jerkiness has more to do with riding, and can take many forms: a cyclist who cuts you off, or crosses in front of you without a thought to slowing down, blocks you from passing, or otherwise just does whatever the hell they want on a bike. This cyclist is asking to be run over at any moment by a car, too. (Not that anyone on a bike ever deserves that, but a few have come close.) This person may have headphones in their ears or are blasting music from a bluetooth speaker, be drunk or on drugs, doing trackstands and tricks on their bike, but in all situations, they just don’t give a damn. This bike rider is to be avoided at all costs because they will cause a wreck and ride away. The answer to this may require an intervention, ticket or a wreck to get them to shape up.
“The jerk store called, and they’re running out of you!”Jason Alexander as George Costanza in Seinfeld in “The Comeback”
Don’t offer help when someone’s broken down on the side of the road. I don’t know where or how I learned this, but it’s just common decency plus expected in the bike world. Even if you don’t really intend to stop or have no bike repair skills, at least asking, “Hey, are you ok?” sends the message that you care about other cyclists. I’d say most people flying solo on a trail can fix their own flat, and people in pairs or groups there’s one person with those skills. But you can’t tell if you’re flying by with no concern for your fellow human. Sometimes someone is overheated, or doesn’t have a back-up tube, or other situation and they really do need help. The next time it could be you, so be nice and slow down and ask. And if somone really does need help but you can’t, at least offer some moral support and help to flag down someone else or call for a rescue.
Well, there you have it: My top five ways bike riders can make life miserable for other bike riders. So, don’t be that guy or gal. Sure, we all make mistakes, which you can and should own up to. But it doesn’t take much to say hi or “on your left,” to yield, stop or follow the laws. If you avoid these jerk-like behaviors, you’ll make friends of other bike riders, and make us look good in the eyes of cars, too. So endeth the rant. Be good out there to each other!
What are some ways other people on bikes have been a jerk to you? Are YOU a jerk on a bike? What do you think of these tips?
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