Good Comeback…Rebuttal to Cyclist Post

Following is a guest response to my post on April 25th about city cyclists by Jeff Williams.

Playing Well Together, Sharing Our Toys (and roads)

Dear friends,

I’m sorry to see that some of you have inspired the ire of my friend and increasingly influential writer, Diane Markins. Would you please consider behaving yourselves as much as possible on the streets of Phoenix so that “we” (yes, the collective “we” of road cyclists) might be treated with more respect than disdain? In effect, respect means a better chance to live than to be maimed by drivers incensed by the arrogance of some of us. With that said, I have some rebuttals for you, Ms. Markins.

Road Hogs — Bike lanes should be used when available, but sometimes they aren’t user-friendly. Why? Drivers throw out trash, including broken glass onto the side of the road. It’s not always easy or safe to ride through such debris. To the roadies: Why not drive your bike to less traveled sections of pavement to enjoy less threatening cycling?

Flow from red lights — When we hog the road it is usually to protect ourselves. Some driver’s can’t stand to be delayed 2 seconds by a cyclist approaching a stop sign, so within 20 yards of the intersection they speed up then screech to a halt, endangering themselves and us by the reckless maneuver. If we go into the middle of a lane as we approach intersections we assert our right to obey the same traffic laws as drivers. We also hog the road in order that you might see us, and not try to pass where there is no room. When we hug the side of the road drivers think they have room to pass…not always true. We move out onto the road to protect us from being sideswiped, and you from being charged with a crime. Hogging the road helps to keep you out of jail, and your conscience free of the idiocy of saving five seconds at the cost of a life.

Blasting past slow traffic — You’ve got us here. I’ve done it. But sometimes it prevents more confusion and problems. For instance, if I “sneak” through a light before it turns green, then you get off the line as fast as you want, and turning cars don’t get confused about right of way. However, the hypocrisy of arrogant cyclists that obey traffic laws when convenient can’t be ignored. If we truly want to improve our reputation with motorists, this is a great way to do it. Yep, there are no excuses for us on this one, but crowded roads and lengthy waits at intersections is plenty of incentive to take the time to get out to country roads for safer riding for everyone. What? No country in Phoenix? Well, if cycling is that important to you, move somewhere that you can safely enjoy it.

They don’t pay their fair share — That’s a non-starter, in my opinion. The majority of cyclists in the U.S. also own and drive cars. We pay like the rest of you. So what if we’re masochistic and want to travel more miles of roadway than if we simply drive pollution machines?

Finally, the goofy bike attire. Diane, you don’t know what you don’t know. The goofy attire prevents tremendous pain. Have you ever tried to sit atop the tip of a spear for hours on end? Well, those skinny little seats turn into spears UNLESS there is padding between our sitting area and the saddle, and the padding of cycling shorts comes embedded in tight, bright patterns of sponsors who sometimes greatly subsidize the cost of the clothing. The fact that they are tight-fitting and made of special moisture-wicking material is both a comfort and performance issue. Chafing is averted, and wind resistance is minimized. AND, the bright colors are strategic. They help drivers who are going too fast and doing too many illegal things in their vehicles so that we all can avoid senseless tragedy. What would you propose we wear? Try twenty miles on a road bike in your most comfortable summer attire and I’m sure you’ll agree.

Thank you to the many patient and kind drivers that help us crazy cyclists to enjoy our passion for two-wheels. We hope to improve our reputation and safety by treating you with the same respect that we want to receive.

Jeff Williams, a roadie in the Midwest

OK, so I may be a bit more sympathetic after this explanation, but only when cyclists share the road with good manners! Share your thoughts below. Contact Jeff here.

Diane Markins

  • The day after Diane’s original post, I found myself trailing a cyclist, and all of her rants became my reality! But reading this put a few things in perspective. And I really enjoyed Jeff’s insight. As someone who has trained for a sprint-triathlon, I never found myself cycling on the busiest of roads mostly out of fear of losing my own life. My beef remains with those guys and gals who wear the bright colored outfits only for show and probably shouldn’t be wearing that kind of clothing in public in the first place. They don’t have the good manners of a real cyclist. I, too, am a bit more sympathetic to those roadies who are sensitive to their own health and safety as well as to those of us who are usually in too big of a hurry to really care about anything else. Thanks Jeff and Diane!

  • Carol

    I always enjoy your Words in High Def, but especially the one recently on cycling and also the guy’s rebuttal. I ride my bike to work and a lot of other places in the warm months here (hopefully April-Oct.) BUT I also drive a car and it drives me crazy when a biker is out in front of a car and takes their sweet time moving to the side or not at all. Part of me wants to run them over to teach them a lesson!
    Lexington, KY

  • It’s posts like this that keep me coming back and checking this site regularly, thanks for the info!

  • diane

    It was fun sparring with Jeff, but also exchanging authentic, diverse, valid perspectives. Thanks Jeff, and thanks for the comments.

  • beth

    Well, I didn’t realize the piece in AFN was so dated, so I doubt you will even check this. I am submitting a letter, but I wanted to share that your piece had, at times, a conciliatory tone–kinda like women in a grocery store line, behind an obese person, saying: “Oh I’m so sorry for feeling this way, but fat people are so slow and smell so bad! I can say this because I have fat friends.” My husband is an avid rider and said you had a valid point–there are some inconsiderate riders. But that is all he is giving you. I will take it to the next level in my letter to the editor.

  • Diane:

    Please, take a cab next time. You’re obviously not one of us and have no room to talk.


  • Demand better education! All of these issues could be addressed by having our children taught the ‘rules of the road’ through using bicycles instead of cars. Too many folks think that once they learn how to balance and steer a bicycle that they then know ‘how to ride’. Once all of our children are taught how to be traffic while on a bicycle, they will remember when they go on to drive autos, and be able to recognize when a bike rider is doing it well or not, and will have a lot more sympathy for cyclists than most drivers now. Those that continue to ride will do so with a lot more predictability, the lack of which is the second greatest killer of cyclists, right behind distracted drivers.

    Other nations have more cyclists and narrower roads, and they get along just fine together. It is our car-centric society that just doesn’t ‘get’ it. By changing education, many of our society’s recognized ills could be greatly improved upon.

  • DB

    As an Ironman triathlete who has completed 6 Ironman races and thousands of miles on my bike, I completely agree with Jeff, when we “take the road” it’s typically out of safety so that the cars will see us and not pass when it isn’t safe to do so. Most people do not realize that cyclists are allowed in the roadway whether there is a bike lane or not per Arizona Revised Statute 28-815. Bicycles are not supposed to be ridden on sidewalks that are made for pedestrians or ridden across crosswalks which also only protect pedestrians, cyclists are “vehicles”. I think this breeds the most hatred towards cyclists as motorists do not respect cyclists in the roadway when there is no bike lane. At the expense of risking a human life, these motorists will squeeze and force us off the roadway, yell and throw things at us, accelerate/blowing exhaust smoke at us, honk loudly to startle us (which could cause us to veer into traffic) as if our life isn’t important enough. Unfortunately when you’re out to ride long mileage 50-100 miles in one ride, your bound to ride on roads with no bike lanes as they are not universal throughout the city. You’ll notice that bike lanes end and then reappear miles later, how else do we get to those bike lanes? Under this same law, cyclists are allowed to ride two abreast as well, but the majority of us do not do this when it’s not safe. I also agree that often there is debris in the bike lane making it unsafe for us to ride it in and per the same law we are allowed to ride around it even if this means into the lane of traffic. I see too many cars trying to pass cyclists in the roadway even when it’s a double solid (no passing zone) which is highly unsafe to cyclists if the lane is narrow. Again, a bicycle is a “vehicle” when ridden in the roadway and is afforded the same rights as a vehicle and is supposed to be ridden like a car, therefore you cannot pass a cyclist when it’s “no passing” and unsafe to do so. Why would anyone have so little respect for a human life and pass when it’s not safe? If this were your son or daughter would you risk their lives and squeeze them off the roadway without affording them 3 feet per the law to pass? We are someone’s son or daughter, husband or wife, sister or brother, we deserve as much respect as any other human being. Typically when the light turns red, I pull up to the light to the right of the car in front, so that the entire lane of cars know I am there. Yes, this may cause the cars a few seconds waiting for me to get my speed up, but it’s worth my safety and yours from striking me and paying my medical bills because you’re not paying attention to who else is on the roadway unless we are right in front of you. As to the clothing, what does it matter what we wear anyway? Bright, tight clothing are both for functionality and safety. Who are we offending anyway, people who are not fit enough to wear such tight clothing, is this fit person envy? Exercise hard and often and you too can wear fit clothing. So runners shouldn’t wear running clothes, swimmers shouldn’t wear swimsuits, gymnasts shouldn’t wear leotards, baseball players tight pants? The style fits the sport, that’s just how that works. If you cannot pass us safely then you’ll just have to wait those extra seconds while respecting our lives, because the law says so!

  • Christine Badgley

    Jeff, thank you for your educated rebuttal. Unfortunately, I heard about this article from the group of women I ride with and as I listened to the discussion I thought, who is this ignorant person? One of the women was so concerned about the anger in this article that she said she wished she could let the writer’s pastor know about this woman’s anger problems. To my embarrassment when I read it I found out it is someone who attends my church. My church is trying to start a cycling ministry and this is so contrary to the fellowship we are attempting to build. Stereotyping is obviously still alive and well in America I am sad to see. Where I see Diane’s article pulling people apart, I see Jeff’s article attempting to bring us together. Please don’t forget that cyclists all drive cars too.

  • Lori

    I’ve lived here about a year and haven’t seen any rude bikers. I get out of their way as much as possible just like I do for people walking. They all deserve more room than my SUV. I love seeing the bikers and all their energy! Taxes. Really?

  • diane

    It shocks and saddens me that people didn’t get the point I was trying to convey in posting these opposing pieces. I could have easily written an informative piece explaining both sides, but thought it would be interesting to use a bit of dry humor. I also thought (from a coaching perspective) that it would be great to demonstrate how two adults could exchange views in a good-natured way. I wrote one side and collaborated with Jeff to write the other. I wrote based on complaints I’ve heard others issue. To be completely honest I don’t have much opinion about cyclists one way or the other…except that they sure can write hateful letters.

  • Bill Davidson

    Bicyclists are angry because drivers regularly threaten our lives or try to deny us the right to ride in the road. You’d be angry too if people threatened you or tried to deny you the right to do something that you love; especially if they did it because they were angry about having to do something as trivial as having to change lanes.