Are you an enlightened cyclist?

It’s fantastic that there’s so many people taking to the streets these days to ride their bikes to work, play, or wherever they need to go.  Of course, this also means that not everyone has developed the proper etiquette necessary for transversing the city without enraging other pedestrians and motorists (not to mention their fellow cyclists).  Luckily, there’s a chance some of us have observed these proceedings and are now on a path towards cyclist enlightenment–a haughty-sounding but nonetheless noble pursuit.  In case you’re still not sure which side you’re on, check out this video to see if you fall under any of the alluded stereotypes that might prevent you from becoming an enlightened cyclist.


62 Responses to “Are you an enlightened cyclist?”

  1. Morgan Fitzgibbons says:

    Here’s a piece I just wrote in response to the latest hit-piece from C.W. Nevius about the activity of cyclists in SF. It mirrors a lot of what is talked about in this video. Feel free to share the whole war of words between me and Nevius:

    • Imagine asking that the rules of the road worked like this for car drivers…

      “Garbage laws engender garbage behavior: when you deem by law that every cyclists must come to a full stop at every stop sign regardless of the situation, you’re going to get a scoff-law attitude because that law doesn’t truly reflect what it takes to safely ride a bike.”

      The firestorm of hate from bikers and pedestrians would be stupefying.

      The law, in this case, is fair to all parties. The enforcement may not be, but that does not make the law a “garbage law”.

      • Thanks says:

        it’s kind of moot because car drivers in this city don’t come to a full stop either. if they want to increase traffic congestion by enforcing this more strictly that’s fine, but they have to enforce it for cars as well.

        • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

          Hooey. Cars do blow through stop signs/red lights upon occasion, but not generally speaking. It is a remarkable/remarked-upon occurrence when it happens.

          As opposed to bike, where it so commonplace as to be the norm.

          • Brillo says:

            If your car weighed 200 pounds (including driver) and had a a top speed of 30mph (with a tailwind) maybe you’d be able to make that comparison. But bikes are not cars. Traffic lights were invented to regulate cars, because cars are more dangerous when operated recklessly.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            I’m not making a comparison, I am simply making a statement of objective fact. Cars generally stop where they are legally required to. Bicycles do not.

          • truth says:

            Dude, cars almost never come to a complete stop for stop signs in SF. If you do this you’ll lose your turn to the guy to your left that doesn’t.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            I dunno where you’re hanging out, but I haven’t seen a car just drive through a stop sign in weeks.

          • kusfwtf says:

            Cars usually don’t come to a COMPLETE stop and I’d say that’s pretty equal to a bike who also rolls. It might be more apparent/obvious when a bike is doing it, but how fast are MOST bikes going? 4? 5mph?
            Also, we’re (most bicycle riders) aren’t condoning idiots who fly through an intersection when cars are already waiting to go through, but a complete stop at a clear intersection? Get real.
            I’m also a lot more aware of my surroundings when I’m riding my bike ’cause I don’t want to hit shit/people ’cause it’s gonna hurt a heluva lot more when I’m riding than if I’m driving a car.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Oh, if you’re talking about “rolling stops” at stop signs, that’s another kettle of fish. Sure, I see cars and bikes doing that, but that is not what I was talking about. Or, I would assume, what anyone is talking about when they talk about people ignoring stop signs? If a car or a bike slows down to 4 or 5 MPH instead of stopping, it may not meet the legal requirements, but it is close enough that generally you wouldn’t even get ticketed by a cop. The problem is people who blow through stop signs completely, or do a rolling stop at red lights as opposed to stop signs.

          • Thanks says:

            jesus christ your stubbornness and backpedaling are more embarrassing to look at then 100 episodes of curb your enthusiasm.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Ain’t no back pedalin’ here, son. I’ve been pretty consistent. Cars and Bikes need to follow the same rules when it comes to stop signs and red lights.
            It’s very simple, I’m not sure why you’re having such trouble wrapping your head around it.

          • Thanks says:

            keep on digging that hole.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:


          • scum says:

            If you want to see the perfect example of rudeness go to the intersection of 17th and Capp around 5PM. Cars, bikes and pedestrian cluster fuck in full swing.

          • oliver says:

            Ever heard of a California Stop?

            It’s when you don’t stop.

            And you are not making a statement of objective fact. You are making a statement of your subjective opinion, which would simply be an unprovable improbability if you were to preface it with “In my observation…”

            As it stands, it’s just a lie. An obvious lie to anyone who’s ever driven or stood next to a roadway with a stop sign…ever.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Well, I’m sorry that you are unhappy with the objective fact that I mentioned. You’re entitled to your own unique interpretation of reality, I suppose.

            As for “California Stop”, see above and below for discussion on “Rolling Stops”. Not really worth getting into again.

        • SFdoggy says:

          The Vegetable is right; bicyclists routinely go right through stop signs and jump red lights. Cars don’t do that with any sort of frequency. Also, most cars DO come to complete stops at stop signs, particularly when there are other cars present. (I will admit that some drivers have a dangerous habit of rolling through stop signs and red lights when making a right turn).

          I am actually fine with bikes just slowing down at stop signs, looking for traffic, and coming to a complete stop only when necessary to yield. But a surprising number of riders don’t even do that.

          • ryan says:

            +1. Long live The Veg.

          • oliver says:

            Well, I knew there was a reason why I loved the Bay Area (despite not being able to afford to live there).

            Contrary to the majority of Americans opinion a liberal city spawns more compliance with the law, particularly (evidently, by you and teh vegetables observation) when it comes to cars stopping at stop signs. Elsewhere it’s not the case, 2 in 10 cars come to a complete stop at stop signs. (In my observation)

      • Alai says:

        “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

        When I bike on Page street, I am required to stop at every stop sign. When I drive on Oak St., I am also required to stop at every stop sign.

        If I’m biking south through the sunset, I take 20th Ave., and stop at every stop sign.

        If I’m driving, I take 19th Ave., and I still stop at every stop sign.

        If I choose to bike on the Panhandle, it’s my responsibility to yield to pedestrians who are legally present. And when I drive on Oak and Fell, of course I must do the same.

        It’s just as illegal for a cyclist to be distracted and kill a driver as it is for a driver to kill a cyclist. The law, however, is merciful, and understands that accidents happen and shouldn’t be punished too severely.

        “Fair to all parties”.

    • Jeremy says:

      The “Idaho Stop” rules have worked pretty well in Idaho. UC Berkeley did a study (comparing Boise to Sacramento) that found it’s caused no harm:

      The Bike Coalition has a good page on the Idaho Stop:
      I don’t like how they’re so pessimistic about making it happen, but their position on “Prioritized Enforcement and Right of Way Thieves” seems pretty reasonable to me.

  2. lance says:

    That was a wild ride! HAHA – what’s up with the Godzilla Mask?

  3. ER doctor says:

    an “enlightened cyclist” should be wearing a helmet. I know I sound like an old man on this, but I see the end result of not wearing a helmet for even the most skilled cyclists in our City. It is often the only difference maker b/w a headache and bleeding into the brain…

    • Ben says:

      New Zealand is a country that instituted a mandatory helmet law for cyclists, and didn’t observe a statistically significant reduction in the number of serious head/brain injuries among cyclists in I believe it was a 5-year study conducted after the law was implemented, although they did note a decrease in overall ridership.

      A helmet can make a huge difference if you get thrown from your bike after hitting a pothole or rail tracks, but there’s only so much a piece of plastic surrounding styrofoam can do in crashes involving an automobile.

      • ER doctor says:

        3 points:
        1) I think the SF bike coalition keeps stats on bike crashes in SF. That would be a good/better source of data for your local community and risk.
        2) It’s an easy danger to minimize w/ what is known as optimism bias- nothing is going to happen, I am a good/skilled rider, I am not going to far, I am careful.
        3) Bike helmet technology is very advanced and a proven safety measure. Think about it like a < $100 insurance policy for an irreplaceable brain that you have spent a lifetime educating, probably your most valuable personal asset. Many people pay as much for many other less important things.

      • Well, heaven knows, NO ONE in San Francisco will ever be “thrown from your bike after hitting a pothole or rail tracks”.

        I believe that’s called “undermining your own argument”.

        • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

          Yup, This.

        • Ben says:

          Well, my argument isn’t “nobody should ever wear helmets ever because they’re pointless”. I’m fully aware I could have made a superficially more compelling argument by failing to mention their utility in certain types of crashes, but it would have been disingenuous.

          Helmets are good and I frequently wear one myself, but people tend to vastly overestimate their efficacy. Really, my point was that as a cyclist, the most dangerous thing that you have the least control over is the behavior of drivers, and helmets (while good at some things) are not particularly great at protecting you from them.

          That, and the “was the cyclist wearing a helmet??” is always asked in any collision and generally succeeds at shifting the blame onto a helmet-less cyclist regardless of fault.

          • Well, my argument isn’t “nobody should ever wear helmets ever because they’re pointless”.

            Unfortunately, after the first paragraph of your comment, that’s exactly what your argument sounded like. And the second paragraph of THIS comment sounds like, “Helmets, MEH.”

          • ER doctor says:

            Bigger crash – more protection = less injury ->Helmets are effective.

            The question about the helmet is not to shift blame, its to see how concerned the paramedic should be about a serious brain injury. And I believe it goes into the stats. You may feel guilty for not wearing a helmet (bc you know you should have), but no one is blaming an un-helmeted bicyclist for the car that pulled out in front of him bc he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

            And bc you can’t control the environment, you should take responsibility for the things you can control, like protecting your noggin.

          • Ben says:

            I can’t do further in-line replies, but yes you have adequately described my position.

            They’re useful at preventing injuries mostly of your own causing (yes hello optimism bias) and don’t do nearly as much to protect you from other people. You’re almost always gonna be safer with one than without, but it’s a far cry from gross negligence of personal safety to ride without one.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Unless you are going to argue that wearing a helmet is somehow LESS safe than not wearing a helmet, I don’t really see how you have any logical leg to stand upon.

          • Ben says:

            Well, since you asked, Professor, I did say “almost always” for a reason.. when rotational force is applied to an object, what happens when you increase the length of the moment arm?

            Anyway, I think you’re getting carried away with the idea that I’m some kind of anti-helmet zealot, which I’m not. I know this is the internet and all, but it’s still possible to hold a position that’s between the extremes.

      • Smushmouth says:

        the NYC DOT has looked at death statistics of cyclists and found that the riders of 93% of fatal bicycle crashes were not wearing a helmet. The number of riders that wear a helmet in NYC was around 40%. That shows empirically that shows how much helmets protect the head.

        • Thanks says:

          whoah, this empirically proves nothing. did you snooze through stats? there are so many other factors to consider here. did you ever think that people who weren’t wearing helmets were more likely to die for reasons besides wearing the helmet?

          maybe people who don’t wear helmets don’t ride as carefully as those who don’t?

          maybe people who don’t wear helmets have a higher chance of being drunk or on drugs? etc. etc.

          if you really wanted solid evidence of helmets saving lives you would need reports of people wearing helmets and surviving crashes that would have been otherwise fatal. i’ll give you a hint: there aren’t too many. a helmet can help you in a minor accident, help prevent a small head injury or brain damage. but most fatal bike accidents are fatal with or without a helmet.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Uh. All fatal accidents are fatal. That’s what makes them fatal.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            And, for the record, you’re full of hooey. Suggesting the helmets do not provide a significant measure of protection you from head injury is utterly laughable.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Wow. I tipe gud. Let’s try this again:
            Suggesting that helmets do not provide a significant measure of protection from head injury is utterly laughable.

          • Ben says:

            Professor, let’s try an analogy here: if your chief worry as a cyclist is being hit by an automobile traveling at speed, a helmet is more like wearing a bulletproof vest while walking through a minefield.

            Is it a general form of protection? Absolutely. Are there significant threats (the aforementioned potholes, rail tracks, jaywalking pedestrians, whatever) that it protects you from? Definitely. Is it likely to protect you against this particular threat? Not so much.

          • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

            Well, that’s bullshit. First of all, the vast majority of bike accidents are not caused by a bicyclist getting hit by a car traveling “at speed”, and suggesting that they are is disingenuous at best. Second of all, even if for accidents that DO consist of a bicyclist getting hit by a car traveling “at speed”, the bicyclist wearing a helmet is going to be safer than a bicyclist NOT wearing a helmet. I’m not sure how anyone could suggest otherwise with a straight face.

          • Yep! But I’m wondering where the Mission Mission OFFICIAL posters are, while this issue is being debated on the blog where they officially post. Some of them actually ride bicycles! But, involved in the debate… not so much…

          • hipster jesus says:

            this is a pointless argument because there’s evidence that supports both sides. Yes it tilts towards helmets being helpful but in some cases actually harmful. Example: helmet wearers are more likely to get hit by cars (for debatable reasons), and being hit by a car helmeted is worse than falling down on your own unhelmeted. Making the bottom line be, not wearing a helmet is not necessarily such a big deal. Go back to internet school and wiki this.

  4. ER doctor says:

    To clarify, a helmet IS always safer than no helmet and especially when a greater force is applied. The equation that you are looking for, Ben, is F=MA. Helmets are based on the concept that they increase the amount of time (a= v/t) before your head is stopped, therefore decreasing acceleration which by definition decreases the amount of force. Again, always safer, especially when a car in involved. You are not zealot but please don’t spread misinformation about safety of helmets.

    • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

      Hear, hear.

    • Ben says:

      Linear acceleration and rotational acceleration are two very different things. A significant portion of cycling-related head trauma are due to rotational injuries.

      Let’s consider this scenario – a car pulls out in front of a fast rider. The rider crashes into the front panel of the car, is launched over the hood, hits the ground sideways and starts rolling, fast. The argument to be made in this and many other scenarios is that a helmet provides nothing but a longer moment arm that could catch on something, and now you’ve gone and twisted your neck.

      Anyway this is a really dumb argument to even be having on the MissionMission comment board because honestly there are so many goddamn factors at play and dozens of studies that could be cited in defense of either side and there’s no way to realistically manage that in these tiny little comment boxes. I’m not a medical professional but I am an engineer and I’m no stranger to looking at ungodly amounts of boring-ass data. I’ve done that and haven’t been completely convinced either way.

      the tl;dr version is don’t be a dumbass when riding your bike, strapping a piece of foam and plastic to your head doesn’t make you a safe rider, and IMO there are reasonable justifications for either position

      • I’m going to go with the argument that NO skull-crushing is ALWAYS better than the possibility of SOME skull-crushing, mixed with something else that I probably won’t like.

      • Herr Doktor Professor Deth Vegetable says:

        There may be “reasonable justifications” for not wearing a helmet, such as “I don’t like the way they feel” or “I don’t want to have to keep track of a helmet”, etc… but there are no reasonable SAFETY-based justifications for not wearing a helmet. The rider wearing a helmet is pretty much always going to be safeR than the rider not wearing a helmet. I can’t think of any scenario where this would not be the case, and your argument of “rotational acceleration” being increased significantly by a 1″ thick piece of lightweight styrofoam/plastic is absolutely ridiculous. If you are wearing some kind of giant, steel medieval ornamental helmet with a swan attached to the top or something, on the other hand, you may have a bit of a point. But a bike helmet (or, for that matter, even the significantly heavier/sturdier motorcycle equivalent)? Not so much.

        • hipster jesus says:

          like i said above, go back to internet school and wiki this. helmet wearers are more likely to get hit by cars (for debatable reasons) and being hit by a car helmeted is worse than falling down on your own unhelmeted. Wearing a helmet is not the universal protection you seem to think it is.

          The rotational acceleration argument is actually bolstered by studies, if you would spend a minute to find them, instead of poo-pooing it out of hand and joking about medieval helms to protect bike riders from orcs.

  5. Thanks says:

    guys, it’s possible to get head injuries at any time. in a car crash, tripping on the sidewalk, riding the bus; an enlightened citizen wears a helmet at all times.

  6. chalkman says:

    unless you are 13 or under, no riding on the sidewalk!

  7. kb says:

    Bike people are like the transients in the tenderloin who walk in front of traffic. Very narcisistic me me me.

  8. ugh says:

    Hey Doktor – you don’t even ride. Please curtail your desire to be an Internet Voice of Reason on every topic here on MM. You’re not gong to get laid based on the amount of bandwidth you consume.
    I know “I walk and therefore am part of the equation”….but really.

    • rod says:

      Don’t feed the trolls, Sir Veg and Cranky live in their own little world together where reality is strewn together by whatever little arguments they make up off of the tops of their heads.

      If any of you are legitimately interested in the effectiveness of bike helmets, here are some links with some data, truth, facts, and reason, all of which are lacking in the comments above:

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