The Spokesmen 62 – Repurcussions

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  1. Barry Bounous
    March 7, 2011

    Long time fan. Demo: 54 year old college teacher. Bike commuter, 8 centuries, 1 double century, and 3 triatholons. I love riding. Must admit, however, that I feel anxious when following or passing cyclists. They (we) are so vulmerable. It forces me to drive at some kind of heightened emotional state. If I touch bumpers with some car in front of me it will be annoying. It won’t be life altering. It makes me nervous and possibly annoyed. Does that make sense?

  2. March 9, 2011


    That’s pretty normal- I find I do it too, sometimes- especially if I can sense that the rider may be new or less comfortable riding among cars- or children on bikes. We, as cyclists, are just more emotionally involved and invested, just as you point out.

    You’re normal… well, aside from the riding bikes part… 😉


  3. March 9, 2011

    I few comments on this episode.

    I live in Japan where there are a lot more cyclists on the road and the roads are a lot narrower. The drivers are generally cognizant of cyclists but to be honest there are a lot of idiots on two wheels. But I also lived in New Jersey for a couple of years a few years ago and I never saw anyone commuting by bike (except myself) but I saw a lot of people wearing flashy team kit. When drivers in my area saw a cyclist on the road they almost never think of them as a commuter so if they have complaints about a cyclist and they even give an inkling of consideration of why they are there they would probably complain about those !”#$%& racers. I believe that what people think when they see cyclists depends on where you live. If you aren’t wearing Lycra the drivers will probably assume you are too poor to own a car and, to be honest, the majority of non-cyclists don’t know how much a good bicycle costs and you can’t tell when you are zooming past them in a car.

    Sharing the road is very important in Japan where bicycle lanes and 3 feet laws are a luxury. Many times the roads aren’t even wide enough for two to pass each other without one of them pulling over and stopping. Sidewalks and road shoulders often have obstacles such as street signs and power poles in them making it very difficult to ride anywhere other than the road. The United States doesn’t realize just how fortunate they are to have so much space to build in. Plans to widen thoroughfares in Japan are 20 year deals because municipal governments have to wait for the residents and the businesses along the road to rebuild. When they rebuild the new zoning laws will force them to move their building back from the edge of the road. In many places the door swings out into the sidewalk (if there is one).

    It is legal to ride on the sidewalk in some cases in Japan but the sidewalks are usually not in as good repair as the roads and they are crowded with pedestrians and littered with obstacles.

    When you think about conditions in other countries U.S. drivers and cyclist have a lot to be thankful for.

    As always a great show. Thank you.

  4. March 10, 2011

    I’m not sure if it was Neil or Tim that said it, but if bikes had bumpers… My other vehicle is a “Steel And Glass Cocoon Of Righteousness”, would be a good sticker.

  5. March 10, 2011

    Great discussion…I thoroughly enjoyed it. I have to disagree with the statement that drivers view all cyclists the same though. As someone who is both a recreational cyclist and a commuter, I definitely notice a difference in how I am treated on the road.

    Neil mentioned on the podcast that drivers in Greenville, SC (that is where I live too) seem especially friendly to cyclists. When I am dressed in lycra on my road bike, that is very true. Maybe it is the “Hincapie effect” here in Greenville, but I get more friendly waves from drivers than anywhere else I have ever ridden. Unfortunately, commuting is a different story though. That is when the “why aren’t you in a car” attitude really comes out. People seem to be generally OK with the idea of “playing” on a bike on lightly traveled roads, but a cyclist who is actually trying to get somewhere in the city is considered to be out of place.

    I think we have seen a greater acceptance of sport cycling in the U.S. in recent years. Some of the CEOs who were golfing a few years ago are cycling now…definitely a big change from my racing days in the late 80s and 90s. Attitudes about transportataional cycling have not changed though. Even if they occasionally get frustrated with cyclists on the road, I think most Americans understand why someone might ride a bike for fun or fitness. Replacing a car with a bike though is viewed with suspicion. Unless you are poor or had your license revoked, why not just drive? Hopefully those attitudes are changing, but for now it seems like there is a huge gap in perception between recreational cyclists and commuters (‘round these parts anyway).

  6. Brent
    March 14, 2011

    I am currently listening to The Spokesmen podcast from 5 March 2011 and wanted to comment on the Goofy video you posted. My 7 year old daughter and I were watching the animated Wind in The Willows where Toad gets a horse drawn caravan and then is run down by a car and subsequently acts the same way behind the wheel when he gets a car; i.e. irresponsible, rude, dangerous, etc. and she got the point that getting behind the wheel changed Toad and he had to have his friends help him.

    Point, can we as cyclists have an intervention, for lack of a better word, with our driver friends who act irresponsibly? Are we putting our head in the sand and contributing to the problem due our lack of being our own advocate and confronting irresponsible actions?

    My daughter has been riding on the back of my Xtracycle or Big Dummy for the past 3 years and has said she never wants to drive :).

    Oh, I do have a car and a job but cycle to work and run errands to save money on gas.

  7. Tom Granvold
    March 15, 2011

    While listening to the March 5th podcast section about the bike master plan there was a mention bike friendly communities awards from Bicycling magazine. Bicycling magazine does not do these awards, rather it is The League of American Bicyclists that runs this program.

  8. Chuck Clark
    March 25, 2011

    Hey guys. The talk about how drivers act reminded me of a FaceBook page I found, “Dear Pennsylvania: Get the F*ck Out of the Left Lane. Love, New Jersey”. The page is devoted to railing against PA drivers who stay in the left lane, and go slower than what the NJ drivers want to do, usually about 20 mph over the limit.
    I was reading this one guy’s rant about slow people. He then went on to complain about motorcyclists, saying that the next time some jerk on a rice rocket zooms up on his ass he is gonna hit the brakes just to make the rider freak out and maybe pile right into his rear window.
    Wow, what an idiot. I pointed out to him that he was angry at car drivers for going too slow, and angry at motorcyclists for going faster than him. He didn’t like me calling him stupid.

    The comment from your podcast made the most sense to me, drivers despise anything that is not them: slow drivers, faster drivers, cool cyclists, etc.

    I got in to another discussion with this idiot. He said that cyclists should receive the door prize everytime. I suggested that next time a cyclist was killed in NJ I would point the police toward his comment, and a possible premeditated murder charge.

  9. March 26, 2011

    Paul- 1st of all, I hope that you and all of your friends/ family are well after the recent happenings in Japan. My heart continually breaks as I see the news. I love and miss Japan and I will continue to pray and send my warmest thoughts there.

    You are right though, the US does have better infrastructure in many cases than most other countries to support cycling. There are better places, for sure, but on the whole things are pretty good in the US. What we lack here, more than anything, is a culture that sees cycling as a way of life or a part of life/ traffic flow.

    Craig- That musta been Neil, though I’ll happily take credit for it… I need all the help I can get!

    James- agreed; more often than not, I get more “respect” on the road when wearing lycra than I do when being a normal commuter coexisting in the traffic flow. Sadly, commuting by bike is still seen largely as something you do as punishment for traffic violations or financial problems- rather than as a real choice. Now that I am working from home, I am able to do many of my daily errands via bike again… and that makes me very happy, even if it means that I am again marginalized for that choice.

    Brent- I like your daughter! We all can do our part as cyclists to help educate our friends and family. Reminding folks that they are not alone on the roads- and that bicycles have a place on the road as much as cars do- is one way. As others have mentioned, it never hurts to be responsible citizens while we are on the toads as well- no running stop signs/ lights, etc. The more we act as good citizens, the more we help our cause. Not sure how else to really get people to understand how they change when they get behind the wheel… but let’s keep working on it.

    Tom- Correct- Bicycling works with LAB to promote the programs and to highlight their work. Bicycling has the largest circulation of any cycling publication, so they give great voice to the work of LAB and others.

    Chuck- it’s astounding to me how some people think, but in many cases like Facebook and other public forums (thank God) most loudmouths like that have no intention of ever putting their money where their mouth is. Most people like that are exercising their rights to vitriolic hate speak, but are unlikely to ever act. Social Media and the web, as a whole, has given birth to anonymous or “safe” ways for people to express their opinions and vent their anger on the world… for better or worse. It’s similar to the phenomena of people changing when they drive- out of their cars and removed from their perceived safety, they are much “weaker”. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had people accost me in their cars, but once out of their cars, they back down… amazingly, many of them women.

    People are weird animals- given a “force field”, they act entirely differently…

  10. Chuck Clark
    April 9, 2011

    Tim, good point about people using Facebook and other not-in-person forums (social media) to expose their anger and frustration. You mention that it gives them a “safe” way to express themselves.
    I was listening to another podcast, The Economist I think, and they mentioned a peculiar trend forming among users of social media. They discussed how people will “like” or “join” an event on FB, then feel really good about themselves for ‘doing something’. The term they used was Slacktivism, just sitting on the couch and saying, “I agree, this is wrong (or right), [click], that’ll show them.” People feel safe if the event doesn’t touch them, and if they can care without touching back.

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