Two weeks ago, I wrote about my personal experiences as a daily bicycle commuter. I had witnessed repeated examples of needless aggression on one of Vancouver’s busiest bike routes. The pedaling perpetrators were angry white men, taking out their loud bursts of profanity-laden anger on senior citizens, pedestrians and, well, me, for trying to call them out.
Reaction to that column came down faster than an out of control fixie on the Adanac hill. It turns out that my encounters were not isolated incidents. The intent of my original column was to ask my fellow commuter cyclists to respect pedestrians, cars and each other.
That point seemed lost on many riders, who called me out on everything from my mentions of fixies and hipsters to helmetless riders and craft breweries. One reader suggested I shouldn’t be pedaling my tricycle in the bike lane. Another suggested I should change my diaper. One compared me to Bruce Allen. Several assumed I was a pedestrian and not a commuter cyclist.
“You really come off as a self-righteous snob, and it’s really off-putting. What could have been a good message gets ruined by that, especially your attitude towards those of us who still enjoy riding fixed gear.”
However, the volume of umbrage voiced by angry cyclists was mostly drowned out by the chorus of agreement I received from pedestrians of all stripes, particularly seniors. (I’ve chosen to leave all responses anonymous so these respondents will not, as one commenter suggested, be “strung up and disemboweled by angry, entitled cyclists.” Ouch!)
Here’s what happened to a 74-year-old woman near Oak Street and 25th Avenue:
“The sidewalk outside a coffee shop on the corner was occupied by three bikers having a confab, front wheels meeting in the middle. I asked if they could please make room for a pedestrian. One of the cyclists replied, ‘There’s plenty of room.’ I answered that I might trip on one of their wheels and damage it. The cyclist replied, ‘If you do I’ll punch your head in.’”
Here’s more outrageous disrespect for an elder:
“I am an 82-year-old woman who enjoys strolling the English Bay seawall. To get to it, I must take my life in my hands while crossing the bike path. Recently, a pair of cyclists rushed by me on either side, nearly hitting me. When I said they should take better care, one of them shouted that I should ‘go f*** myself.’”
And here’s a dispatch from behind the wheel:
“I have encountered many incidents from young turks riding bikes, but the most egregious was two bikers travelling side by side going north on Hornby Street, in the left hand car lane. When able to come abreast in my car after trailing them for a block, I politely suggested that an expensive bike lane existed for them on the right side of the road. The loud anger and inflective responses directed at me was frightening.”
The age divide was a reoccurring theme:
“It seems to me that cyclists under 30 have a spectacularly self-centred belief that they are special and that they are the exception, that for some reason they are exempt from rules, laws and expectations of acceptable behaviour. That what they want, where they are going, what they are doing, is the only thing that matters.”
A note from the seawall:
“I’ve given up taking my young kids cycling on the Stanley Park seawall because the behaviour of other riders is inexplicably rude, hostile and fundamentally unsafe.”
And I’m not the only one calling out helmetless hipsters:
“Darwin Awards go out the hipsters riding their fixies at night, wearing black, with no helmets or lights.”
Here’s one for the sidewalk surfers:
“I am continually telling riders to get off the sidewalk. I get the finger and get sworn at a lot by these ignorant cyclists. I would like to see the police issue more tickets for sidewalks cycling.”
And hey, look, common sense from a cyclist:
“If it looks like I might be on a collision path with someone I just… stop pedaling for a few seconds. I don’t really care if it was ‘their fault’ — my whole goal is to get to where I’m going without running into anyone or anything.”
Having it both ways:
“The thing that bothers me most is when cyclists switch from ‘vehicle’ to ‘pedestrian’ just to suit their needs. To be honest, it really surprises me how rude they are and how often I hear cyclists being total arses.”
The asshole factor coupled with some common sense:
“Cyclists are like internet trolls: they can be assholes because they’re anonymous in their helmets and sunglasses and spandex can make a quick getaway. License the bikes like the old days and you’d see a lot more accountability from these wholly entitled cyclists.”
And finally, some logic:
“We all take several tests to learn the rules of the road before we can drive a car. For some crazy, unknown reason, this doesn’t happen with bicycles, and therein exists the problem. How can you follow the rules if you’ve never been taught the rules?”
So, Vancouver cyclists, what do you say? Is it time to gear down on the adrenalin? Learn the rules of the road? Show courtesy and kindness on the bike routes? Respect and yield to pedestrians? CHILL OUT? The answer is within your grips.