Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Another Wrong Way Cyclist, Noticing A Pattern

Faded Bike Lane Text

I encountered another wrong way cyclist (also known as Salmon by Bike Snob NYC) in the bike lane of Santa Monica's Broadway, this time on my way home from a training ride. I exclaimed loud enough to make sure he heard me, "WRONG WAY", to which he replied as we crossed paths, "okay". Maybe he didn't notice the arrows on the ground, or any of the other cyclists going the correct way. I take this issue pretty seriously, because I envision one of these guys running into some inexperienced but correctly riding person and them both getting laid down in the street with potential for further injury from oncoming traffic. Collisions head on with a car are also a distinct possibility, even in the perceived safety of a bike lane, and are far more likely (when cyclists ride the wrong way) and are also more likely to be deadly than being hit from behind.

As I pondered the ways of the wrong way cyclist, and what skewed sense of physics, distorted reality, and lack of concern for others floats inside their heads it occurred to me every wrong way cyclists I've seen, on any street, has been a man. Now men do make more of the cycling public than women, a topic unto it self which I may delve into later, but I don't think the gender split is enough to account for this alone. Is it that men are less likely to feel both concern for others and self preservation than women? Maybe it is just a statistical anomaly that I have witnessed 100% of wrong way riders being male, even though women tend to make up at least 20% of the cycling population. Has anyone else who has encountered or witnessed wrong way cyclists seen any who were female? I wonder..

Another observation made a few weeks ago was a different sort of breed of wrong way in the bike lane cyclist. Unlike most salmon I have seen who barrel down the bike lane playing chicken with anyone who happens to be riding correctly, and getting upset at anyone with the audacity to point out their incorrect behavior, this gentlemen seemed to acknowledge what he was doing was wrong and could cause conflict with other riders. When he saw me approaching he pulled to the side in between parked cars and waited for me to pass, before proceeding to go back to wrong way riding. Riding salmon is not justifiable in this case either, and could still result in a bike on bike collision if a cyclist made a turn onto the bike lane catching both riders at surprise. Traffic engineers sometimes design stupid things, but there are good reasons bike lanes have arrows.


Chrisman said...

Salmon. I like that.

I usually yell at riders on the wrong way of the street.

Especially that special kind that travels in twos. Usually two young ladies in nice clothes, wearing large sunglasses and no helmet, riding their pastel colored cruisers. One riding correctly down the right side of the road, and running riding next to her in a bastardization of the "two abreast" formation, full-on in the way of oncoming traffic.

It's such a weird thing. Usually only happens on residential side streets.

I did see one thing the other day that made me think, though. There's a one way street nearby that has a bike lane only on the east bound side. While motor traffic only flows east bound, I have several times seen bike traffic flowing both ways in this bike lane.

For some reason, this case of salmoning doesn't bother me as much. It's the only way those west bound bikers can safely get to their destination.

Without, of course, just moving one block over to an actual west bound street, but some cyclists prefer to use a bike lane where ever they can, and this is the only one for several blocks.

Which raises the issue of the etiquette of sharing a bike lane with oncoming bike traffic. I think convention requires both parties to stay to the right, just like they usually would.

LisaNewton said...

I'm amazed at how many mistakes cyclists make. Although I haven't encountered anyone going the wrong way on Broadway, I see more people riding without a helmet than with.

Does shouting out at people really work?

Gary said...

@ Chrisman

So apparently there are some wrong way lady riders. Concerning one way only streets with bike lanes, I can understand where it is coming from more, however it is still a rather hazardous prospect, particularly since it can be unexpected and oncoming riders could cancel each others evasive moves if one goes one way and the other a different one. If a one way street has a bike lane, and no adjacent ones going the other way do, this also highlights a problem of engineering that encourages such conflict. Some bike lanes are also wider than others, and for me in Santa Monica, the lanes are rather narrow, and more than half the lane is in the door zone, so there is clearly not enough room for sharing two way traffic.

Personally when I encounter a wrong way rider I consider them a road hazard, which permits me to signal and leave the bike lane and then I return after passing. I ride fast and I don't want to take any chances.

@ LisaNewton

About the helmet thing, I always wear one, but I don't get on peoples case too much if they choose to ride without one. For what ever reason studies have shown when helmet use is required, simply far less people ride at all, and the fewer the riders on the streets, the less cars know how to behave around them.

The more riders on the street period, helmet or not, the safer it is for everyone, because instances of collision with automobiles drops across the board. That being said, they protect your head, and I think it's a good idea to wear one. The only time I ride without one is when Meghan and I ride our cruiser tandem, because we have this notion of who would hit a couple riding tandem, we are protected by a love bubble. I know we are gross..

About the shouting, I would prefer a chat with people, but I don't always have the time when I am in hurry, as was the case yesterday in between training and getting to work. Although lacking the time for a chat, I like to yell before passing just so it is crystal clear to them they are doing something wrong. 99% of the people I see riding Broadway seem to understand riding the correct way, it shouldn't be hard for them to figure it out, but if they think it is okay and people won't care, they may just keep on doing it.

Chrisman said...

I definitely yell at people (cyclists, pedestrians, motorists) if they're doing something that endangers me or others, or if they're posing an immediate threat. Say, for example, riding on the wrong side of the street. Or that guy I was behind yesterday who was swerving erratically all over the bike lane. A motorist passing too close, or a mom with an SUV-sized baby stroller entering the street from between two parallel parked cars, stroller first. "Way to blindly insert your infant directly into traffic, lady!"

I don't yell at bare-headed riders though. As long as they are otherwise riding responsibly.

I usually feel compelled to yell at people riding on the sidewalk, too, but I can't really get it up for that either.

Anonymous said...

I'm tempted to become a wrong way cyclist just to even out the statistical sample... :)

On second thought, nah, it's too dangerous....

I'll continue following the sensible and correct direction. Snooze. Boring.

AR said...

I live and bike in Brooklyn, where we have some decent bike lanes. We also have a lot of one-way streets, and those bike lanes are diamond lanes, meaning bike traffic goes both ways. We're all pretty reasonable people in my neighborhood in BK, meaning we mind our own damned business.

Occasionally, however, you'll come across a douchebag, like I encountered this morning, who felt the need to play chicken with me and then yell at me for riding in the DIAMOND lane. My gut reaction was to yell "F*ck you!," which I did, and to wait for his response, of which there was none.

Normally, I follow bike lane etiquette, and I completely understand the dangers of being a "salmon," but what is the etiquette on a diamond lane, especially when a douchebag thinks he's riding on Broadway in Manhattan??

Please, an answer...

Gary said...


I'm not familiar with the scenario of a one way street with a bike lane and two way traffic. That is not something I have seen in Los Angeles. I did ride in New York a little visiting during the last Bike Kill weekend, but riding in New York was a very different animal in general to riding Los Angeles. We tend to have longer blocks with wider car lanes, synchronized lights and faster moving vehicles, with narrower bike lanes usually partly in the door zone of parked cars. So there is really only safe room for one way traffic in bike lanes and to have someone coming the opposite way is a serious hazard. I'm assuming the same rules of any two way route without a dividing line would apply in the lanes you are talking about, ride to the right, but I don't think I could give you the best tips on that. Perhaps a cycling blogger type in New York could give you a better answer. Although in any case I find it best if I feel compelled to yell, to yell what the problem is to make it clear, rather than just cursing.