What makes cyclists do dumb things?

Some questions in search of answers:

  1. Can cycling clubs “police” themselves to change members’ behavior, as suggested in a column in the Orange County Register?
  2. What makes some cyclists think they’re in a peloton that can run stop signs with impunity, as this other story describes?
  3. Why do so many people roll right through controlled intersections just any old way they please?

Those articles turned up in my daily Google alert, reminding me of what I saw just last night in a few short minutes parked by a bus stop. Unfortunately, such sights are all too common:

Most people driving cars were also talking on cell phones. More than a few made what has come to be known as an “Idaho stop,” which is not actually a stop at all and we weren’t in Idaho. None of the cyclists I saw actually came to a complete stop at the four-way stop, either, and at least one didn’t even slow down.

A few thoughts on those three questions:

  1. I hope so, but I’m not optimistic. Even if well-organized clubs can clean up their acts (a challenge akin to herding cats), those are the people who tend to be most knowledgeable about riding in traffic. Many who need to be educated do not belong to these clubs.
  2. My theory is that it’s the same phenomenon of unthinking selfishness that leads people to text or talk on the phone while driving. It isn’t malicious, but thoughtless and careless.
  3. See No. 2. Add as a possibility that they don’t know any better.

All of those situations might be improved through two of the “5 Es” of the Bicycle Friendly Community program: Education and Enforcement.

Exercising some simple common courtesy would go along way, too.

What’s your solution?

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1 Response to “What makes cyclists do dumb things?”


  1. 1 Sam September 15, 2010 at 3:54 pm

    First off, I want to admit I am guilty of running stop signs, mainly on my bicycle, but I’m sure I’ve rolled through a few in my automobile.

    I think part of the problem has to do with traffic design in general, traffic engineers are very quick to put up a four way stop, even if a different type of traffic control device would be more effective.

    I also have to say, the reason for me to roll through a stop sign on my bike is mostly due to safety. If I come to a complete stop (and put my foot down), the first ten feet will be slow and poorly balanced. The slow speed can cause vehicles stopped at the other directions to try and go before I clear the intersection.

    On the other hand, if I slow down enough to allow other driver to see my intentions to let them go through the intersection, I can then easily proceed through the intersection in my proper slot in a shorter period of time.


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