Bike Lanes and Fruitcake

Dave Mabe writes,

If a cyclist doesn’t ride in the bike lane (for as simple a reason as making a left turn!) a lot of drivers view this as law breaking or just arrogance.

Pointer from Tyler Cowen.

I had a driver yell at me, including four-letter words, in exactly this situation. I was making a left turn, and I stayed in the street for about 100 yards with my left arm out in order to do so. I guess he thought I should have stayed in the bike lane on the right and not made my turn or cut somebody off to make my turn.

Humorist Jim Gaffigan has a joke that goes. “Fruit: good. Cake: good. Fruitcake: nasty cr@p.”

That is the way I feel about most bike lanes. The worst is when they paint a picture of a bicycle on a lane that is 99 percent used by cars. I feel like the painting says “you are welcome to smash bicycles on this road.”

In my opinion, the safest places for bikes are, in order:

1. Bike paths that have very few pedestrians (“rails to trails” tend to be like this).

2. Wide shoulders along roads.

3. Roads that have no bike lanes but few cars.

Bikes and cars are not meant to coexist. Bikes and pedestrians are not meant to coexist. And I will admit that bikers tend to be the offenders more often than the victims.

Urban bike lanes are green religious monuments.

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24 Responses to Bike Lanes and Fruitcake

  1. Tom Chambers says:

    I generally agree (including that bikers are offenders more often than victims). But don’t forget that drivers mock or curse other drivers all the time too. If asked by younger cyclists I tell them, “No, not all drivers are out to get you. But yes, all drivers are in a huge hurry.”

  2. GU says:


  3. Andrew' says:

    To me, the best (only?) place for bikes is college campuses. Some of the features are that there is a lot of relatively long walks that happen throughout the day making cycling efficient, not too many cars, the residents are young and tolerate bikes and have good reflexes. Otherwise, cycling exists in what I think is a no-man’s land of critical mass between pedestrians and cars. I often few colleges as a kind of charter city. So, could a new city be planned around cycling?

    • Octavian says:

      I live in a city with horrible drivers to start with, and a disproportionate share of young drivers and drunk drivers (there’s a big state school here). If traffic is dense especially on a weekend night I’ll just switch to the sidewalk (if there is one; parts of my city don’t have them). It’s not worth my life. The sheer number of drivers who are on their phones amazes me.

      Everyone also hates bicyclists in my city. Pedestrians of course think they belong in the street, but drivers think they belong on the sidewalk and some will try to badger you into getting off the street while driving.

      Much of it I think comes down to the ‘car culture’ of the city. A lot of German cities are great places to bike, as there are fewer cars and driving a car is almost something to be ashamed of for environmental reasons.

    • bistro says:

      No No, universities ban bikes on their paths, case in point cwru, ucsd.

  4. Effem says:

    As a NYC resident, i’ve observed that bikers are the least law-abiding citizens on the roads.

  5. B. Reynolds says:

    Bikes and buses both serve to disrupt the flow of traffic and make everyone’s commute worse.

    • mb says:

      just a guess, but are you from Boston? your self-centered view of commuting is the norm up here. Part of the reason drivers are terrible.

  6. jdgalt says:

    Where I live, most bicyclists refuse to ride in a bike lane if it exists. They will tell you it is unsafe because someone in a parked car might open his door into the biker (and it is not convenient for the biker to watch for this, or much of anything else; most modern bikes have handlebars so short the rider is forced to look down rather than forward). Therefore they prefer always to take a whole lane, even when it forces drivers to slow to bike speeds.

    These “militant” bikers choose to be at war with us, and fail to see that this justifies returning the favor in various ways. If there is ever peace between drivers and bikers, it will have to be on the basis that drivers are entitled to drive at car speeds whenever there is room for bikers to get out of the way, just as especially slow car and truck drivers must periodically pull over.

    • Slocum says:

      And how, exactly, do you watch for somebody in a parked car about to open a door…through dark tinted SUV windows you can’t see through?

  7. Matthew Young says:

    I ride in familiar territory, I know the lights the sidewalks and commute times. With that information, and habit, there are no bike rules.

  8. Lord says:

    Or maybe, cross in a crosswalk or only make right turns.

  9. BillD says:

    Bikes and cars can totally co-exist. All it requires is for everyone to calm down. And most of all for both car drivers and bike riders to pay attention and act responsibly.

    For better or worse, in current US society car drivers fail to pay for their misdeeds, potential or actual. I was riding my bike during the morning commute last week behind a SUV driver with a few kids on her way to drop them off at school. She was turning right. She had no turn signal on and was scrolling through her Facebook feed. She probably shouldn’t go to jail without killing someone, but maybe insurance companies shouldn’t write her a policy.

    I would totally disagree with “And I will admit that bikers tend to be the offenders more often than the victims.” Car drivers kill thousands of other car drivers every year and they get called “accidents”. Car drivers kill bicyclists and claim they didn’t see the bicyclist because “the sun was in my eyes”. Bad bike riders cause fatal accidents that one can probably count on one hand per year.

    As far as I can see, mode of transportation is not even weakly correlated with skill of the operator. Come sit at my closest residential neighborhood stop sign and stop light and see who puts others at risk. Guess what: it’s not the bicyclists. When bicyclists make mistakes they pay the price. Not so much car drivers.

    In Chicago, drivers have adapted and improved their behavior (on average) on roads that are heavily used by bikes. Improved car/bike/pedestrian interaction is not a quixotic endeavor.

    • Slocum says:

      “Bad bike riders cause fatal accidents that one can probably count on one hand per year.”

      +100. Bad cyclists annoy drivers and very occasionally injure pedestrians. Bad drivers *kill* cyclists.

    • Heavy Judy says:

      “Bad bike riders cause fatal accidents that one can probably count on one hand per year.” In 2015, there were 800-some traffic accidents in which a bicyclist was killed. For that one-hand figure to hold true, less than 1% of these would have to have been the bicyclist’s fault.

      It’s certainly true that many, perhaps most, car-bicycle accidents are chiefly the fault of the car’s driver. It’s likewise true that many traffic offenses committed by bicyclists are venial ones, and neither endanger life or property, nor interfere in any way with the flow of traffic. However, there are enough bicyclists out there doing genuinely stupid and reckless things to make the one-hand argument a serious exaggeration.

      • Slocum says:

        “For that one-hand figure to hold true, less than 1% of these would have to have been the bicyclist’s fault.”

        Nobody’s saying dumb bicyclists don’t sometimes kill themselves, but unlike drivers, they very rarely kill anybody else.

  10. MichaelG says:

    What surprises me is that almost all bicyclists are also car drivers at other times. And so they must know how hard it is to see a bike coming up on your right side. Unless you are looking at your right hand mirrors constantly, you are going to miss it. Then there’s a bike sitting to your right, just behind the door, completely invisible.

    It’s even worse when you drive a van like I do. Not only is the wing mirror too small, and the bicyclist moving too fast, they are below the mirror. I dread hitting someone on a bike!

    Please bike like you remember what it’s like to drive!

  11. Todd Ramsey says:


  12. Thales says:

    I did a “ctrl+F” search for “sharrow”, but it came up “0 of 0″, so I’ll just throw that out here…

  13. mb says:

    As a bike commuter in Boston (for the past 14 years – well before bike lanes), the one that bike lanes do that is overlooked by both you and the original author is raise awareness of cyclists. That counts for a lot – I used to come in to contact with cars probably monthly. Now for all the drivers on here complaining about bikes, I can’t speak for all of your cities, but if you took every bike off the road today, in Boston the commute would not change, where would you direct your ire then? Get your fat asses out of bed earlier and give yourself more time to commute every ones commute would be safer. If I had a dollar for every time a driver passed dangerously close to me to get to the next red light 100 feet up the road, I would not have to commute – I’d retire. As for cyclists, breaking more rules, I assume you are ignoring speeding, using the bike lane for the right turn lane, double parking in the bike lane, running red lights (in Boston if go on green without looking, you will have an accident), not using a turn signal,…

    what was the saying about casting the first stone?

    But I bet all the commentors ripping cyclist are perfect drivers and never ever speed.

  14. rhhardin says:

    I have over 300k miles commuting on a bicycle and no problems. But I discourage bike riding because motorists are a lot friendlier if you’re the only bike rider they pass. Often they wave or tell you at some store that they pass you every day.

    Bike lanes are an abomination. What benefits both bike riders and cars is wider shoulders or wider lanes. A bike fits safely at the debris line, a sharp line of broken glass and gravel where cars don’t go and so don’t toss it around. Take out the bike lanes and make the adjacent lane wider.

    An ability to make yourself not an obstruction to drivers without a plain reason for it, like making a turn, goes a long way.

  15. Roger D says:

    How many of these cyclists are women, seniors or children? How many of them are dressed for their destination rather than for cycling?

    If not many, then you just have a stew of sweat, testosterone and impatience.

    BicycleDutch has some interesting videos, mostly not about Amsterdam, showing that things can be much better.

  16. BC says:

    “Bikes and cars are not meant to coexist.”

    Why, just because cars weigh about 200 times as much as bikes and travel about twice as fast on city roads? It’s interesting: we have all sorts of nanny state safety regulations to protect people from themselves — mandatory seatbelt use, bicycle and motorcycle helmets, even limiting sugary soda intake if some people had their way. When it comes to bicycles, however, due to their sacred status in the Green Religion, not only don’t we keep bikes off the roads for the good of the would-be cyclists, we actively encourage such cyclists to wade out among multi-ton vehicles traveling at much higher speeds.

  17. Eric says:

    I have been bike commuting in Boston and New York for 30 years, and I think the increase in bike lanes has been a good thing. I mostly get a little more space on the road, cars are not slowed down, and we mostly get along just fine. Sure, Amsterdam is better, but it’s not too bad here. My son and daughter ride to school most days, and I often ride in with a female colleague, and my 74 year old mom often rides her bike to her volunteer job or to see her grandchildren, so it’s not only fit adult males. The big traffic jams in the morning and the parking issues at my workplace are not the fault of bikers, and bike accidents are not the fault of bike lanes. In any case, very few people die on bikes around here. It’s way, way more dangerous to live in the outer suburbs and drive everywhere.

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