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Home / Articles / Opinion / Private Eye /  SLC Bicyclists: Future Dead People
Private Eye

SLC Bicyclists: Future Dead People

When pedestrians feel safer around cars than bicycles, you know attitude policy is shifting gears.

By John Saltas
Posted // January 27,2010 -

We all have our pet peeves. Among mine are rude bicyclists. Yet another one nearly wiped me out as I was walking to our office yesterday morning. I was in the crosswalk. I had the light. He had the speed gained from pedaling downhill on Main. He clearly had the attitude possessed by the growing number of bicyclists who think it’s their God-given right to be jackasses. I didn’t even see him coming—just as I stepped to the curb, he whizzed by a few inches behind me and never looked back as he sped towards 300 South.

A driver at the crosswalk, honoring his red light, just looked at me and shrugged. It was his car that had blocked the view of the approaching bike-rider, who was riding between it and the sidewalk. We both wore those, “Hey, what can you do about it?” looks. When the light turned green for him, he slowly drove off.

That’s when I wished I had superhero powers. If I did, I would have concentrated really hard and caused the driver to stomp on it to get up to, say, 103 mph. I’d have him rush down Main Street in hot pursuit. The biker would never know he was coming. He wouldn’t run over the biker, wouldn’t even swerve a little to scare him. He’d just keep on going. I’d just know I had superhero powers, and I could use them if I wanted.

As with many cases like this, I defer to some wisdom I gleaned in Greece. I was being driven through Athens a few years ago during a very busy time of day. Athens is overrun by motorbikes. They speed in and out of traffic, drive the wrong way on one-way streets, ride on the sidewalks, and generally inspire any visitor to Athens to book their next vacation to hell instead. As we were driving, several bikes driven by perfectly oblivious males sped within inches of us and continued weaving in and out of traffic until we’d lost sight of them. I looked at the driver, who remained calm, despite the fact that what we’d witnessed was quite harrowing.

All he said was, “Future dead people.” We’re all future dead people, but I knew what he meant.

Rude Salt Lake Bicyclists Give the Rest a Bad Name

He described how so many of them really do end up dead, and how Greece is among the most dangerous places in all of Europe to drive—thanks, in no small part, to reckless motorbike riders. It’s seldom that a bicycle and a motorcycle can be accused of causing the same mayhem, but I’ve about had it up to here with rude, dangerous and arrogant local bicyclists. They are not the type to be confused with all of you decent, respectful bicyclists reading this who are most certainly not of that stripe. But odds and probability being what they are, it wouldn’t surprise me to learn that the guy who nearly ran me over is smoking his clove cigarette, spindly fingers jutting from those hipster biker half-gloves, sipping a latte, reading this issue of City Weekly and never once considering he’s the jackass I refer to. He’s probably too full of himself to know he has the word jackass furrowed into his grimy forehead.

The guy who sped past me, and many others like him, are indeed, “future dead people.” It’s just a matter of time before their 10-pound bikes rams head-on into a 100-ton TRAX train. And, I know there are people out there angrier than I at bicyclists—and who don’t have complete control over their superhero powers like I do—people who might actually run over bikers on purpose. Such as in the nearly fatal hit-and-run of Marty Kestler in 2007 who, unlike the cyclist who breezed by me, claimed to be abiding by the rules of the road.

I’ve watched bicyclists commit dangerous maneuvers all over downtown. Just ask them—the roads belong to them. They are the new elitists. No one likes elitists. And no one likes elitist pieces of legislation. One such bill is Carol Spackman Moss’ proposal to grant bicylists the privilege in certain cases of riding through stoplights and stop signs. Gee, that sounds fun. Why not UTA buses, too? Imagine the smaller carbon footprint if buses weren’t forced to idle.

I’m not giving autos a hall pass. I was struck by a car while riding a bike myself. On purpose. But there’s a growing sentiment that those bike lanes and all the hyperbole about making our planet a better place if we’d just ride bikes instead of drive is a bunch of hooey. Bicyclists are crapping in their own Easter baskets. When pedestrians feel safer around cars than bicycles, you know attitude policy is shifting gears.

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REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // April 2,2010 at 19:01

First, a cyclist has a hell of a lot less incentive to hit a pedestrian then a driver. Cyclists who hit pedestrians are likely themselves to sustain a serious or life threatening injury.

Second, brilliant! Remind people, drivers in particular how annoying cyclists are. Marty Kestler's murder remains unsolved to this day. Don't forget to point that out to any drivers who might have a case of rode rage to work out. After all, cycle vs. car, fair fight, right? If someone is riding against traffic on a bike, call the cops b/c that's just wrong. Cut a cyclist a break, after all a driver needs to do to regain momentum is apply pressure to the gas peddle. Moreover, cyclists ARE performing a public service (or haven't you noticed the air quality in our beautiful city) for which no one ever thanks them. I notice also that UTA does not have signs that thank passengers for taking so many tons of pollutants out of the air. Inciting irritation against cyclists among drivers is just plain wrong and irresponsible. It assumes also that pedestrians and drivers never make bone headed moves. Cyclists are in the moment, and yes it is freaking SAFER to just ignore the stop lights and signs and focus on the traffic instead. Everytime I go through a stop light I know where ALL the traffic is. Moreover if I am stopped at a light and there are cars behind me, I feel it is much safer to get out in front of the traffic so they have more time to see you. Cyclists of course should be considerate of pedestrians and I always am. I call "how are you doing" in a friendly voice to alert pedestrians, especially when I ride on the sidewalks to avoid getting killed on the roads. I've been riding bikes since I was a kid and I must be doing something right b/c at 53 I'm still alive. The last thing we need though are drivers who get the ok from you to be irritated with cyclists. Who needs a gun when they can just run you over in a momentary fit of anger?

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // January 30,2010 at 21:32

More of an issue than the potential for the passage of the Idaho stop law, or the jackass hipster bikers, is the general lack of awareness people seem to have for cyclists. I primarily speak to drivers here. It's not a knock on the drivers and it's not that they intend to be unaware, I just think it is a function of living in a place where biking is not a widely used form of transportation relative to automotive traffic. Having lived in cities where biking is much more commonplace (Portland, Oregon for example), I can say that there are things that we can do to better aid drivers and pedestrians in recognizing where cyclists will be (assuming they are obeying traffic laws) such as the obvious addition of bike lanes through town... but truthfully, it just takes a critical mass of bikers on the road in order for drivers to remember to keep an eye out for them when driving and it takes time for folks to adjust. Additionally, cyclists and the public alike need to be better informed and aware of road laws. Education and bike lanes won't get rid of the jackass bikers who give the rest of us a bad rap, but hopefully they will make bike commuting a more viable option and will keep all of us - bikers, pedestrians and drivers alike - safer on the roads.

As an aside, I'd really like to see a follow up - perhaps a point and counterpoint - on the proposal of the Idaho stop law being enacted here (Moss' HB91). While in Oregon I heard arguments by bike commuters on BOTH sides of the issue. From my understanding, the statistics in Idaho over the last 20 years don't indicate any increase in accidents as a result of the law and in fact may indicate a decrease in accidents. If I had to guess, the lack of increase in accidents is just a function of the fact that the law isn't really changing the way most cyclists (and frankly a fair number of drivers, too) behave: rolling stops. And it should be noted that a rolling stop is very different from bombing through a stop sign or red light without slowing down to look and yield to pedestrians or traffic with the right of way. I doubt passing of HB91 would up the number of jackass bikers... they folks who are jackass bikers now will be jackass bikers if the bill passes, and those of us who are traffic-law-abiding bikers now will continue to be when the bill passes and will safely yield at stops (it's in our best interest after all - a 10lb bike loses against the UTA bus every time...)

 

Posted // January 31,2010 at 07:15 -

Well stated. And for the record, there are plenty of jackass drivers to go around, too. When both sides become more aware and more safe, all the better. My hope is that law abiding, normal, conscientious bike riders don't gut rally behind the jackasses just because each transport on two wheels.

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // January 30,2010 at 11:34 John -- I'm curious where you got the statistics for "the growing number of bicyclists who think it’s their God-given right to be jackasses?" I would like to compare the numbers of people that ride respectfully versus the number of psychos out there, and was hoping you could offer some insight. I understand that this is your column and you can do with it as you wish, but it might be more constructive to talk about how Moss' proposal makes the divide between the rights of cars and cyclists even larger by having separate rules. You could talk about the circumstances under which cyclists have the legal right to the full lane, or how there are people in Salt Lake who think cyclists are supposed to ride opposing traffic so cars can see them better. One last thing...Marty was hit on the sidewalk. He had been stopped at an intersection next to a bulky truck, tapped the guy's window to let him know he was there because the truck was very close to him and his wife, and the guy drove over a curb, guardrail and sidewalk to come after him. Your article will serve to scare people from being on the road with these "rude cyclists" ...and shift them back into their cars, damaging our air, and their health, even further. Maybe we'll all soon be future dead people in the form of 37,000 vehicle fatalities each year, obesity, or from the worsening quality of the air in the valley. -Deb Henry

 

Posted // January 30,2010 at 15:51 -

Deb--thank you for your comment. I really don't think the article will scare anyone back into their cars. With all due respect, that's silly!!

I never advocated auto driving, good or bad. Never dismissed auto deaths (for that, please see the 20 or so I've written against Drunk Driving). I said, in summation, more and more people think more and more bicycle riders are behaving badly. And that it's becomming a serious problem.

My not condoning them does not mean I ignore a different, unrelated problem, or excuse bad behavior somewhere else.

I will ask a CW reporter if he or she will write a balanced new story as to the ratio of good and bad bike riders--the ones described above as "psychos." Now, that's scary, and is, kinda what I was talking about. Glad we agree.

Respectfully, John

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // January 28,2010 at 10:37

It's the damned fixie kid posers! At times, I feel like running the pricks down myself, and I've been riding in this valley for years.

And when it's not them, it's some stupid fucking hobo riding against traffic. What is it with bums on bikes always riding against traffic? And, for that matter, what is it with fixie kids placing cards in their spokes? Does the noise make it easier to pretend they're on a motorcycle?

 

REPLY TO THIS COMMENT
Posted // January 28,2010 at 06:59

Apparently, you don't understand the physics, emotions and self-importance involved here.

You stepped off the curb in front of an Eco-Warrior, a Social Engineer, a True Patriot and Hero. Your right to safely cross the street ended when he entered your general air space on a mission. After all, he or she is leading the way for clean air, sexy thighs and wearing colorful costumes in public and if you were as cool as they are, you would be riding a bike in and out of lanes without signaling, running stop signs and red lights, riding in between lanes and cars in heavy traffic, zooming down crowded sidewalks and generally being an obnoxious jerk-off.

And, really, keep in mind that had he hit you, regardless of the injuries you might have sustained, the cyclist would be the one in Real Danger as he might have careened out of control after striking you and God knows what might have happened to him, and his bike, at that point. He might have crashed and skinned his knees or hit another pedestrian after hitting you or, gasp, bent his expensive spokes on your head.

You see, you shouldn't have even been in the crosswalk. A cyclist might have needed to ride through it at any given moment. And only they know when they might have to do something totally stupid and selfish for the good of Mother Earth and all its inhabitants.

In fact, like Carol Spackman Moss, I think we should make more laws in favor of cyclists. Let's let them decide if traffic warrants a stop at a red light or stop sign. They show such good, altruistic judgement and behavior on the roads already, we should let them decide if they have to obey traffic conditions and signage.

And as one of Moss' Holladay constituents, I would like to forward an idea that I have. Let's make all red lights and stop signs optional for all vehicles. When I stop at a sign or light in my car, I have to apply my brakes, which breaks my vehicle's forward enertia. Besides the wear and tear on my brakes causing expensive maintenance, stopping and starting is very hard on gas mileage and the engine idling at stop signs and red lights only contributes to the toxic soup in our valley.

All things considered in the real world, my stopping for red lights and stop signs is much more inconvenient and bad for the environment.

 

Posted // January 30,2010 at 11:05 -

You could shut your engine off at extra-long lights to save our air a little damage and yourself some money on gas.

 

 
 
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