Monday, July 07, 2008

Revenge of the Wrong Way Riders

Good grief. The riders were out in droves today.

I'm seeing people I've never seen before, and at the beginning of July 2007, I started ditching the bus full-time. I've been riding as many round trips by bike as I can possibly handle for just over a year now. The people I'm seeing are almost certainly neophytes to bike commuting. They're distinctly a different breed from your typical crowd that's just out for some pre-work exercise. Almost all of them are in plain clothes wearing backpacks, carrying things from their handlebars in plastic sacks or have items bungeed to their racks. This is not your average roadie/fitness freak crowd.

This morning, most of them were on the sidewalk and/or riding against traffic. This one was riding in the oncoming gutter even though there was a sidewalk. Not more than 50 feet in front of him is an oncoming right-turner, directly in his path. He cut right in front of that car to ride in the right-side gutter, almost getting creamed in the process. After the car had passed, he wove back across into the oncoming gutter. Sigh.

I know why this is. It's because as kids, many of us were taught to ride against traffic to see cars. You see, we also didn't have helmets when we were kids. Those were for racers only. I don't think you could even buy "commodity" helmets in child sizes when I was learning how to ride. Of course, when I was growing up, riding in the back of a pickup truck on the way to baseball practice was a fun summer treat, and we could stray as far away from home as we desired, provided we were home in time for dinner -- both of which will get you labeled as a "child endanger-er" these days. Also, runners often jog against traffic. I don't mind this too much as long as they get out of the way when vehicles are on approach. Bicycles, however, are less maneuverable when it comes to hopping up onto the sidewalk from just anywhere.

Someone is going to get hurt or killed if these guys don't get schooled. Sidewalks are okay tools to use in certain situations. If you want to get around a wreck or a traffic jam without the risk of filtering, riding against traffic in the passing lane or lane splitting, the sidewalk is a great option, if not the safest.

A good number of them were out in the road against traffic, running red lights, cutting off cars and just being stupid, like this guy. Other cars were crossing legally, and he just passed right on through without a care in the world. The sidewalk end a block up the road and he'll ride against traffic on Quivira. I see him occasionally and have often said "it's safer if you ride on the other side of the road with southbound traffic" but he doesn't care.

While all of this unfolded (the above two offenders were merely 30 second apart), I waited for Karen at 79th. It's hard to see, but it was a balmy 76°F with 84% Relative Humidity. Some forecasters are calling for highs in the mid-90s this afternoon! Ye guads.

Stuck waiting for the train.

This wrong-way rider passes in front of the Office of the Mexican Consulate (Mexican Embassy?) on Baltimore. I suppose he gets bonus points for riding through the parking spaces along the road?

Tree Carnage! Not sure when this happened, but we've had some pretty powerful storms the past few weeks.

Other than yelling "the other side is safer!" and leading change by example, I'm really not sure what else to do. I did pass one wrong-way rider last week who was going the same was as me, and then changed lanes to get behind me. I suppose that's score one for the good guys?

Random Tunage:
Steve Winwood - Finer Things
Crystal Method - Busy Child


Sirrus Rider said...

Shhh! Don't tell them anything and they'll leave the gene pool.. ;-)

Anonymous said...

Noah, we see the same here in Columbia Mo. Last time I tried to talk to a guy, he said FU and rode away angry! I hate seeing them come toward me, it's like a sick game of chicken on the street with moving cars all around. We offer a ton of classes here but often have very few sign up. Tonight I start a Road 1 class and we actually have 11 people! Gas is finally having an impact.

Noah said...

If someone said "FU" to me, I think the next time I encountered them, they'd get a gatorade splash to the face. Not like they'll be able to chase ya. :P

That would be mean. Just kidding. Or am I?

Apertome said...

Yeah, we have lots of crazy wrong-way guys on bikes here, too. Ugh. Sarah and I saw some hot chicks on bikes riding the wrong way on a bike lane down a busy street. Such a waste.

Noah said...

Pictures or the hot chicks didn't happen! :P

Tom said...

I occassionally see riders going the wrong way and more often encounter sidewalkers. I often wonder if I should say something. I suspect it won't be appreciated and my comments won't change their pattern. I think its like trying to instruct other drivers (while I am driving) about wearing seatbelts, or coming to a full stop at a stop sign, or using their turn signals.

Will corrective comments work on those who don't take the time to learn some of the basics of riding? This knowledge is not hard to find...

Anonymous said...

We need our police to get on board. If they would stop the wrong way riders and tell them how to ride correctly it would help. Maybe the guy would still say FU...who knows.

Christopher Paul said...

I wonder sometimes if having all those sidewalk riders riding in the lane is a good thing. They would undo the efforts of the few good commuters here in Houston. Their on bmx bikes, no helmets, no lights, can't signal, innattentive...I also sigh at the sight of them.

Dan said...

It's always been my policy to let hot chicks ride wherever they wish.

Tim O said...

When I was riding Sat afternoon on the Indian Creek trail, I saw 6 riders in 10 minutes, all with no helmets, some meandering around as they approached me. One was going down the loop just W of Switzer while I was starting to ride up....was over on my side careening around the bend and never looked ahead until the last second.

On the trails you really need to ride defensively because some of the same people who think they 'own the road' in a car in JOCO ride a bike the same way :(

Also, runners are supposed to run on the road facing traffic, so they can see the inattentive/haters of runners drive at them from the front vs back. Now in Leawood this is a non-issue since it is ILLEGAL to run on the street!! Ask some of the local running groups about that one....

Anonymous said...

Hi Noah, No helmets? Over 100 years ago French philosopher Pascal said: "If you live your life like there is a God and there isn't, you have lost a few indulgences. If you live your life like there is no God and there is, you have lost everything. The point that most people miss in life: Consequences always trump probabilites. Most of the time you will probably be OK not wearing a helmet but, if you can't handle the occasional consequence of your head hitting metal or pavement, you may consider using a helmet all the time.

Noah said...

I said we didn't have helmets when I was a kid. You must be new here. You don't need to preach me on helmets these days. I'm a firm believer.

Anonymous said...

I've tried to talk to them, and usually it is the good old FU.

The worst one I've seen was a guy going the wrong way down a insanely busy, four lane one way road. That guy couldn't even see the traffic signals and was just bombing down the street. Wonder if he made it.

Anonymous said...

True, a bicyclist (any vehicle) always belongs on the right. It's the law! Runners however, should always stick to the left-hand (oncoming) side of the road. It gives a runner a better chance to dart out of the way!

Anonymous said...

Sorry Noah. I meant the "royal you" (all of us) and not the "personal you" (present or past). Apologies for too much soap boxing brought on by too much emergency department work time. Your blog is indeed a pleasure to read.

The Unabashed Blogger said...

Mr. Wrong Way,
Please do not appear out of the fog 7 feet in front of me with out a headlight again. If you do, and you see me lower my head and crank harder, you may have time to understand that the boredom of everyday life has driven me to quench the ever burning curiosity of what would happen when 240#'s collides with your ignorant and reckless self. If you do, move.



Noah said...

+eleventy billion, unabashed.

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