Big Kids

When I was a kid, biking was my favorite activity (after drawing.)  Luckily I had a lot of space to do it.

Big Kids

When I started biking to work I hadn’t ridden a bike in 10-15 years. I’d never experienced biking for transportation. So it was not surprising that getting on a bike made me feel like a kid again… except I found myself biking in this:

Big Kids

It was anything but carefree. I realized pretty quick that I couldn’t bike like a kid and I had to pay attention. The city was an entirely different thing with potential for dangerous situations and the need to be careful.

However at least once a week I see someone do something careless like this:

Big Kids

Without even flinching or showing any awareness that they were almost killed. I just wanna say you guys SCARE THE SHIT OUT OF ME!

I’ve heard some brush it off and say they’re only putting themselves at risk. But, last time I checked, cities have more than one person. So when you do something careless like take a sudden left from the far right of the right lane…

Big Kids

You could set off a chain of events and put others at risk.  Nope, you can’t bike like a kid anymore.

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32 Responses to “Big Kids”

  • Steve

    Are you Left Handed??

  • Chris

    Hi,

    Although I live and bike in Switzerland, I am still able to pretend being a kid. Not during the all lengh of my commute trip, but during a few seconds (traffic does catch my attention ;-). I dream of having a laser beam to cut into pieces the cars in front of me or laterraly. Otherwise, it is always fun to project stones or acorns with my front wheel. When no cars is on sight, I happily slalom between the road paint marks.

    Thanks a lot for your drawings; I look forward to read the next ones.

    Chris

  • Oh yes, I am always scared for other people I see in dangerous situations. Like today I let out a little shriek as the bus mirror passed only 6″ from the head of the very tall dude biking in the lane ahead of me. In this case it was the bus passing too closely (an EZE ride Shuttle, not an MBTA bus) but it still had my heart in my mouth. A slight wobble to miss a pothole and he would have been under the bus wheels.
    Sometimes it’s not just my pedaling that gets my heart rate up, unfortunately.

    And yes, I think bikers need to act like big kids if they’re going to be taken seriously, which means paying attention and not doing stupid stuff. Traffic is a social contract, and my feeling is that we all need to obey the rules in order to be partners in the contract.

  • Yes, I like the notion of them not acting like big kids too. Explains a lot of the “style” of the comments I see posted online defending their actions. ;-)

  • Eric

    The last one about other bicyclists causing crashes is really good to emphasize. I’ve heard that only about 30% of bicycle accidents (crashes) are between bicycles and cars, the rest are people just falling over and/or crashing with other bicyclists. You may have heard of 30 Days of Biking which is this month and one of the founders (here in Minneapolis) got in a serious crash (multiple broken bones) on his bike when a bicyclist did just what you illustrated above – made a left turn right in front of him! The guy who caused the accident was not touched and didn’t even stop!

    • I *LOVE* the 30 Days of Biking peeps! Sadly, the dangerous behavior is something I see in Boston every day. :(

    • dr2chase

      Got to be careful of those statistics — were they counting adult cyclists only, or adults and kids? My accident rate as a child was just a wee bit higher than it is now. I once saw a kid on a bike on the MM trail just sort of spontaneously crash with no obstacle to run into.

  • Red light running cyclists that are oblivious to the fact cause me indigestion also, but I have been looking at Hembrow’s videos of cycling in Holland, and all that stuff happens there too. I think it’s a common state of the human condition that we can’t indulge in in this country because the infrastructure is crap. As you pointed out, the roads aren’t made for people here, but people have to use them, even people in cars.

  • Over the past five years (40,000 miles), I’ve had, by probably a ratio of 10:1, more near misses from careless cyclists vs. with cars.

  • Tracy

    Hear hear! We’re all in this together! It’s up to every one of us, whatever mode of propulsion we’re using. Just yesterday I almost got run over by another cyclist accelerating through his stop sign. Thanks for this comic!

  • GRJim

    These days only a woman can draw a cartoon depicting other women obliviously riding their bikes. And people wonder why more risk-averse people don’t ride.

  • Ethan Fleming

    The problem is that so many drivers and cyclists are not educated about the laws of the road. I will admit I suspect that the majority of cyclists that run red lights know it is wrong but just do it anyway. However I also feel majority of drivers who miss-use the bike lane are not educated about the laws of the bike lane. This lack of education has lead to a lot of drivers assuming that the road is for cars only and then they make actions on that assumption without checking if it is true. This is what leads to what we know as cyclist/motorist road rage.

    Just one of the reasons I feel we need to make people go through a drivers ed refresher course at least every 5 years.

  • scott

    Keep that mind and drawing hand safe!!

  • I have to agree. I watch some other cyclists do some hair raising stuff. Drives me crazy when poor cyclists give all riders a bad name.

    • Ethan Fleming

      I totally agree Albert.
      Cyclist need to obey the rules of the road too and I do feel like we all look bad when one cyclist runs a red light. That is why even as a cyclist myself I want to see an increase in tickets given to cyclists.

    • Melinda in Toronto

      I’m with you guys. Had a rather heated conversation yesterday with a cyclist I caught up to after watching him sail through a red light, go up on the sidewalk and then back on to the street in a really busy, dangerous part of the city. (I wasn’t trying to catch up – he was actually waiting for a light to change in the other direction – so he could ride across a crosswalk.) I tried to explain exactly that, that his lack of responsibility made it harder for all of us to be respected. He then said to me, “Oh, so you think you own the road?!” I just could not make him see my point that in fact, he was behaving as though he did. I don’t know. I struggle between thinking it’s none of my business how others ride, and yelling!

      Bikeyface – thanks for drawing and making us laugh, and nod, and for provoking interesting conversation!

    • dr2chase

      I’ve tried that twice (except that I caught them the hard way), all I got was a grunt in return. Decided that doing it a third time might fit the definition of insanity (and it’s hard work, trying to catch a red-light runner while riding a cargo bike AND obeying the lights. Some of these guys (and it was guys) are young, too.)

    • Melinda in Toronto

      LOL – yes! It does fit the definition of insanity, you are so right. Okay – I am determined to have a summer of riding my own ride, and letting the dicks be dicks. I’m not going to change the world either way, and at least my blood pressure will be lower! :)

  • Nailed it! Getting cut off by an idiotic driver trying to make a blind turn is the worst! But it’s even worse when other cyclists are the culprits—if you’re on a bike, assume the people driving cars never see you, and PLEASE, be cool with other cyclists. we’re on the same team, so pedal well! Thanks for the post!

  • One of the only two times I’ve been knocked off a bike in London it was by another cyclist (as I describe here – http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/2012/01/minister-who-made-invisible-visible-man.html). I also once knocked off a cycle messenger who decided to swing from behind me and across my path at lights just as they changed. She had the decency to accept it was her fault. But I can tell you it hurts a lot less getting hit by another cyclist than by a car (not that I’d like you to find out about either, particularly if it damages your drawing hand).

    I sometimes wonder about other cyclists’ risk perception. I don’t know how they can stand the stress of some of the things they do even if they get away with them. It seems so much easier to me just to take it easy and go through the lights when they turn green.

    It’s a beautiful blog as always,

    Invisible.
    http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.co.uk/

  • Ry

    Careless/Oblivious cyclists are one reason I’d rather ride on the road than on a bike path, cars on the whole seem to be more predicable or maybe I am just more attentive when I ride on the road….?

  • As a business-class bicyclist who has displaced about 150,000 car miles in urban commuting so far, I can tell you a little consideration for the rest of the traffic goes a LONG way in terms of safety and respect from motorists. Don’t surprise them, and don’t take unfair advantage of traffic. If the same motorist ends up stuck behind you and has to slow down and then pass you more than once on a commute, you’re just pissing people off.

    Of course there are limits to this; no matter how “correctly” you ride, there are still jerks out there. And, in my experience, they all seem to be coming from, or going to, a Wal-Mart. My previous job’s 8Km (5mi) commute took me right by a Wal-Mart every day. 90% of the negative interactions I had were within a 1/2Km (1/4 mile) of that Wal-Mart. Since I changed jobs and don’t ride by a Wal-Mart anymore, it’s been years since I’ve had a problem with a motorist.

    Bicycles are unique and very hard to deal with from a traffic perspective, because they completely span speed ranges from pedestrian to in-town traffic, and everything in between. This is why most cyclists see themselves, and act, like pedestrians with an advantage, not as vehicles. And, it’s why no one type of infrastructure works for all cycling needs. The truth is, even riding like a flaming moron isn’t *that* dangerous. The speeds just aren’t that great, and sight and hearing are usually excellent. There are tons of stories about close calls, but few real incidences of collisions. That’s because bike speeds are generally low enough to give a little breathing room on reaction times.

    From my experience, I’d estimate it takes about 4 years of riding like a moron to reach a 100% probability of getting hurt. I live in a college town, and students can usually spend 4 years riding bikes like clueless jerks without getting hit by a car. If it were really that dangerous, there would be more collisions. There aren’t.

    But consider me: 30 years, 150,000 urban miles… If I rode like a clueless jerk, I’d be dead a half a dozen times over by now. I figured out very early on, once I committed to using a bike as transportation, that I had to respect the traffic, get along with the traffic, and work with the traffic. Sometimes I even feel a bit foolish waiting in traffic on my bike just like the cars, while other cyclists go zipping by me, weaving in and out of traffic, on and off sidewalks, and blowing through stop-signs and stoplights like they are pedestrians with the right-of-way. But… they might not be planning to use a bike for transportation for another 20-30 years. I am, and if I let my ‘good rider’ habits go slack, it would just be a matter of time before I got hurt.

    Respect drivers. Don’t surprise drivers. Work with the traffic. Almost all of us drive cars too; if you see a cyclist do something that irritates you or surprises you when you’re driving, don’t do it when you’re on a bike. It’s mostly just respect and common sense that makes cycling safe and successful.

    I’m living proof that it can be done.

  • Brian

    For that kind of clueless biking, Boston is by far the worst city I’ve ever seen. I’m not sure whether it can be blamed on the high concentration of college students, or if it’s just that the general standard of civility for all drivers on the road is pretty low. Philly has many of the same problems. NYC actually isn’t as bad. DC is, comparatively, a law-abiding Nordic state.

    • I’m saying it’s almost everywhere (I’ve seen, anyway), and there’s a reason for it: Bicycles have one wheel rolling firmly in the pedestrian world. But also, one wheel rolling in the car world. This is why good solutions are so difficult: it’s actually a really complicated problem. I wish I had better answers; it seems like the best solutions are very location/situation specific.

    • dr2chase

      Don’t forget the infrastructure.

      Speaking as a less-law-abiding-than-I-once-was cyclist, I think the two big influences against orderly cycling are the informal attitude towards traffic laws by car drivers, and the sometimes boneheaded road/intersection design. 3/4 of the drivers roll through stop signs unless there is clear cross traffic, about 1/2 the drivers will not stop for a pedestrian in a crosswalk unless some other car has stopped first, probably 4/5 speed in residential neighborhoods, and 9/10 speed on freeways.

      Bad infrastructure means things like 2-mile stretches of road (not limited access) lacking any crosswalks at all, and inconsistent sidewalks on the edges. Or, the two-lane rotaries at Concord and Fresh Pond (one lane rotaries are okay for bikes — and yes, there is a path around now). Or, the no-signs-no-signals intersection at Concord/Common/Leonard in Belmont (at the railroad bridge ). Cyclists routinely ride on the sidewalk (in a business district, in the presence of actual pedestrians) to avoid riding on that road. Those people who propose that rule-free shared space is safer, are nuts. I’ve seen it, and at least with the traffic mix in this country, it’s not fun even in a car, never mind on foot or bicycle.

      You see all this, and eventually you conclude that you have to break rules to avoid danger spots, and that most people don’t care about the rules anyway, and that the complainers are an ineffectual minority (because if they were effective, why, those laws would be enforced, and they’re not). And it’s plainly obvious that a rule-breaking driver is far more dangerous than a rule-breaking cyclist, so if they do it, why not us, too? And whether people are “surprised” — really, in Boston, you are surprised by what people do? A road near here, I’ve twice recently seen people drive the wrong direction on a rotary, because they didn’t want to have to go ALL THE WAY AROUND to take a left turn. I ride downhill through that rotary on my way home, hitting 20+mph, “surprised” in this case would mean “hurt quite a lot”.

      What made my commute much more tolerable, after a road was punched through in the office park, was realizing that if I made an illegal left turn from the Middlesex Tpk into the Barnes and Noble parking lot (jumping a curb in the process, then jumping another at the back of the lot), that my commute could be both less stressful and safer, because I don’t have to share space with speeding cars on a multilane road possibly right-hooking me on their way into the various malls (this is where most of my near-right-hooks have occurred).

      I am sure that something similar (law-breaking drivers) is at work in Philly. My brother lived there for a while, he thought that the signs saying “Wait For Green” pretty much said it all about how people drove in Philadelphia.

    • Ray

      I think it is a bad combination of both inexperienced college kids AND the general standard. The default is aggressive/assertive… playing chicken sort or – waiting for the other to flinch – you win! But if you play by those rules, you can still ride fairly safely.
      You do have to stick your chin out a bit too much… it takes a while to get used to.

  • agree. there’s a place in singapore called east coast park where all the leisure cyclists go. i’ve been riding here a while now and the only time i’ve ever gotten in an accident was due to other cyclists at the said park who are seemingly oblivious to other moving vehicles in the area. :(

  • MikeD

    I found your site through a post in CTC, (a cycling organization in England). I love your pics. You KNOW what riding a bicycle in the real world is all about.

    I really like the second one down – the small female rider feeling so intimidated by a hostile traffic.

    I’d love to use your illustration to make up a Birthday card for someone, (changing the text to make it more relevant to both the person concerned and to where I live (England) but will not do so without your permission.

    I will of course, leave the pointer to your website.

    Lastly, regardless of your reply, please continue to draw for us cyclists. There’s not many producing artwork pertaining to cycling that consider the ‘ordinary’ man/woman fighting it out on the hostile streets when producing pics.

    Wish I could buy a large print to stick on my wall.

  • Love it. Thank you for this.

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