Cycling seems more dangerous, more hassle-filled, and generally more aggro than when I moved here. Why? Maybe it’s me. I moved to Berkeley recently, and I’m pretty close to having a lawn that I can tell kids to get off of. Maybe it’s that the city has changed a lot. There are more cyclists, more people in general (60,000!) and more density, especially downtown. On the other hand, there are more bike lanes and signage, and there’s more bike awareness among the pedestrian and motorist populations. You’d think that more cyclists + more cycling awareness + more cycling accommodation would have resulted in some kind of net improvement, but it hasn’t. Pedestrians seem more antagonistic to bikes; motorists of all types are much more antagonistic; and some of my fellow cyclists seem to be the most antagonistic of all. Why?
Felix Salmon has written a really interesting, and widely quoted, “unified theory” of cycling that touches on what I think is the heart of it all: That most cyclists think they’re pedestrians, when we’re actually more like motorists.
Bikes can and should behave much more like cars than pedestrians. They should ride on the road, not the sidewalk. They should stop at lights, and pedestrians should be able to trust them to do so. They should use lights at night. And — of course, duh — they should ride in the right direction on one-way streets. None of this is a question of being polite; it’s the law. But in stark contrast to motorists, nearly all of whom follow nearly all the rules, most cyclists seem to treat the rules of the road as strictly optional. They’re still in the human-powered mindset of pedestrians, who feel pretty much completely unconstrained by rules.
I really agree with this. I don’t know how to make it so, and I’m really not a law-and-order type. But I think that agreeing to follow the rules of the road would do a lot to make us all more predictable. Also, I’d like to add: Pass on the freakin left.