Switching sides: A biker apologizes

Usually, I side with the bicyclist when there's a letter to the editor about "Bikes vs. Cars," but I'm with the "car people" today. Here's why:

Last week, while road biking on what's called the "Commuter's Section" of our wonderful Blue Ridge Parkway (US #74 to NC #191), I stopped at milepost 390 to eat a snack.

Looking down the road where I had just been pedaling, I saw a long line of cars. Just in front of them were two bikers riding next to one-another, all decked-out in fancy biking clothes and on very expensive bikes.

As all passed me, I saw no rude hand gestures or heard any horns honking, just two arrogant bikers who refused to ride single-file and let the cars by.

Not being able to contain myself, I yelled at the bikers, suggesting rather forcibly that they move out of the way of the cars. They were as oblivious of me as they were of the cars behind them.

On behalf of the bikers who use the BRP as part of their training and for pleasure, I'd like to apologize to the well-mannered drivers who dealt with these two guys today. I hope they read this and recognize themselves!

— Steve Longenecker
Asheville

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36 thoughts on “Switching sides: A biker apologizes

  1. Barry Summers

    I’ve seen the same thing on Riverside Dr., a long winding two-lane road with no passing lane. Lycra-wearing psuedo pro-looking older guys, sometimes riding 4 across for several miles with a long line of cars backed up behind. After rolling along behind them at 15 miles an hour for 3 miles one time, I reached a wide place in the road & managed to roll alongside – I rolled down my window & asked if they knew they were holding up traffic (a stupid question), and they all on cue flipped me the bird & laughed at me. Mind you, these weren’t kids. The youngest was maybe 35 & they were all on expensive bikes. I’m a bike rider myself, and I’m outraged over this selfish, arrogant behavior. Are they TRYING to get motorists angry? I can’t think of why else you would behave this way.

    Well guess what. The motorist you enrage is more likely to stew over it & then run me or some other innocent biker off the road because of your childishness. Please grow up and share the road.

  2. Dionysis

    Perhaps law enforcement should have been contacted (surely there were many cell phones among the cars) to complain of impeding vehicular traffic and creating a road hazard. Most bicyclists are responsible people, but clearly there are arrogant, self-absorbed SOBs like these characters to muck it up for everyone else.

  3. Matt Mercy

    I get the feeling that people such as militant non-smokers, arrogant bicyclists, condescending vegans, holier-than-thou religious types et al. have some nasty skeletons in their dark, dark closets. They tend to latch on to a legitimate cause, yet end up radicalizing it as a result of overcompensating for their unrelated failures in life.

    Like this: “I may be a heavy drinker and have no prospects of ever having children, but by God, I’m still better than you because I’m going to save the environment by slowing all these cars down with my bicycle. The more do-gooding I do, the more I legitimize my existence.”

  4. Barry Summers

    Where do you get “militant non-smokers, …condescending vegans, holier-than-thou religious types”?

    These people impress me as over-privileged yuppies, if we need to fall back on stereotypes. At least the guys I saw, they weren’t the ‘environmental’ type, & there was nothing ‘do-gooding’ about them. They were wearing pro-looking racing gear & riding $2000 bikes. They were simply arrogant. They give all cyclists a bad name.

  5. Piffy!

    We can tell the difference–They guy in jeans and a sweatshirt is probably going to work, the grocery store, or a friends house. The spandex mafia are just useless wastes of space on bikes that cost more than the rest of us make in a few months.

    If I were you, I would have called the police if not shoved a stick into their spokes.

  6. travelah

    Oh, but these are just the kind of activists that liberal Asheville embraces. Come on … whats wrong with a little bit of civil disobedience???

    Basically, they evidenced a rather stupid behavior. There ARE people just as arrogant as themselves that WOULD run them down

  7. mtndow

    “When passing another vehicle:
    1. Look ahead and behind to determine when it is safe to pass.
    2.If it is safe to pass, signal to alert the drivers ahead and behind you of your intention so they can plan their moves accordingly.
    3.Give a left turn signal so the driver behind you will know that you are about to pull out and pass.
    4.Blow the horn to signal the driver ahead.

    When your vehicle is being passed:
    When you are being passed, you are required to help the other driver to pass. If the driver of the passing car blows the horn, move to the right edge of the road. Never increase your speed.
    If you increase speed and fail to give way to a passing vehicle, you will be charged with a misdemeanor if a crash occurs resulting in bodily injury or property damage.
    The horn signal places the driver of the car you are passing under a legal obligation to help you to pass. While passing, be sure you have plenty of room and keep a steady speed. You cannot pass safely unless you can see far enough ahead to insure that you can get back to the original lane of travel before you meet oncoming traffic. The law requires at least two feet of clearance between your car and the vehicle or bicycle you are passing. You have not passed safely if the vehicle you have passed must slow down to allow you back into your correct lane. Never exceed the posted speed limit while passing.”

    NCDOT DRIVER’S HANDBOOK

  8. brebro

    As a car driver, I would like to apologize to all the people in the long line of vehicles stuck behind the woman I saw driving slowly in the passing lane on I-26 today (and she didn’t even care). She gives us all a bad name.

  9. Dionysis

    “Oh, but these are just the kind of activists that liberal Asheville embraces. Come on … whats wrong with a little bit of civil disobedience???”

    So in your world, anyone riding a bicycle is a “liberal?” And someone ignoring common sense and rules of the road are expressing “civil disobedience?”

  10. Cheshire

    The blue ridge parkway is 45 mph with stretches where it drops to 35. Around 74-A is one of those stretches.

    Riverside drive, from River district to the 19/23 exit, is posted at 30 mph, as is the road (can’t remember the name) Riverside dead-ends into that stretches along the Swannanoa river to the Amboy Rd stop light. Of course, if you go anywhere near that 30 mph speed limit, you’re risking your life…regardless of whether you’re on a bicycle, scooter, motorcycle, or car. It seems everyone thinks that road is 45…15 faster than it is.

  11. “Oh, but these are just the kind of activists that liberal Asheville embraces. Come on … whats wrong with a little bit of civil disobedience???”

    That isn’t civil disobedience, it’s just disobedience. Civil disobedience happens when a person breaks a law in order to protest the law; it has to be a public act, and the protester runs the risk of being punished for the offense. In this case, it was simply people disobeying the law for the sake of personal convenience, much like the driver who evades the speed limit law by using a radar detector. It’s disobedience, but there’s nothing civil about it. We in Asheville don’t mind too much when people challenge authority; after all, bad laws seldom change without public pressure and court challenges, but we should not dignify this sort of behavior by likening it to civil disobedience.

  12. Barry Summers

    “So in your world, anyone riding a bicycle is a “liberal?” ”

    You know he doesn’t really believe that. Some people just have to try to ruin any rational discussion, even if it’s a topic they don’t care about, out of feelings of inadequacy and rage.

  13. Dionysis

    “You know he doesn’t really believe that. Some people just have to try to ruin any rational discussion, even if it’s a topic they don’t care about, out of feelings of inadequacy and rage.”

    I do believe you are right.

  14. travelah

    I do believe you are making noise. I am a cyclist and care very much about the safety issues. My comment didn’t have anything to do with cyclists in general but was more directed at the arrogant turds who would intentionally hold up traffic like that. I think it’s pretty safe to say that in Asheville, that isn’t an example of conservsative activism.

  15. travelah

    As a car driver, I would like to apologize to all the people in the long line of vehicles stuck behind the woman I saw driving slowly in the passing lane on I-26 today (and she didn’t even care). She gives us all a bad name.

    Where is Richard Petty when you need him?

  16. Barry Summers

    “I think it’s pretty safe to say that in Asheville, that isn’t an example of conservsative activism.”

    It isn’t about ‘activism’ at all. It’s about selfish behavior by a few cyclists. Why do you have the need to turn any topic into “See! Those nasty liberals are up to their old tricks!”

    Whoever you are behind your puppet, you live in a sad little world.

  17. Piffy!

    [b]I think it’s pretty safe to say that in Asheville, that isn’t an example of conservsative activism. [/b]

    It’s probably true. If the were ‘conservative’ activist, they would have been carrying loaded weapons and rambling about fictional laws.

  18. entopticon

    travelah has never been one to stick very close to reality, but his recent obsession with imaginary liberal bicycle activists truly raises the bar on nuttiness.

    Am I to assume that every time I am cut off by some behemoth Avalanche, Hummer, or Escalade with Confederate flag, McCain/Palin, and “Welcome to America, Now Speak English” bumper stickers who never even bothered to use a turn signal, they are actually secret right wing activists trying to off me?

    On three occasions now, those Republican-mobiles have run me off the road by cutting into my lane without looking or even signaling. Two of the times, it blew out one of my tires.

    Most recently, my wife was driving. The McCain/Palin-mobile that swerved right at us without even signaling, caused her to drive up off of Smokey Park Hwy onto the curb. The McCain/Palin-mobile literally tapped our front wheel well leaving some white paint in the process, yet kept driving.

    Selfish drivers, car or bike, come in all political persuasions. Personally I don’t know why they even bother to put turn signals on those Republican behemoths (“seats 35 and smells like steak”) because they certainly don’t seem to have much use for them.

  19. It’s VERY obvious to anyone driving behind a side by side group of cyclist going well below the speed limit and backing up traffic, that their passive aggressive behavior is intended to be an annoyance at best. If enough people report them they will perhaps EVENTUALLY get the message.

    Then there are the rice burner scooters that dominate the road going 12 miles an hour and flip the finger when you blow them over. They all remind me of the big macho truck guys who feel they own the road.

  20. shastadaisy

    I am a bicyclist, and commuted by bike everywhere else i have ever lived. It scares me here. I used to commute one mile from my house to downtown through Montford. I can’t even count the number of times I was threatened, run off the road, etc. I finally gave up city bike riding, albeit very reluntantly. My husband is an avid road rider and is very conscious of safety and road rights. We have both been appalled by the behaviour of some cyclists around here. For instance, I was driving down Broadway between downtown and UNCA last week. There were two bicyclist up ahead. They EACH rode in the middle of each lane. Blocking the entire two lane road. There were not students, but adult spandex wearing cyclists. Even as an avid cycle supporter I was appalled by their behaviour. A little common courtesy and lack of such passive aggressive behaviour would certainly go a long way toward helping bike/car relations!

  21. Barry Summers

    If there is any doubt among bikers out there that they should avoid causing traffic tie-ups of the kind we’re talking about, here’s a line from the Blue Ridge Bike Club’s official safety guidelines for club members:

    “Stay in single file when there is automobile traffic, not two and three abreast.”

    and:

    “We can be an overwhelming presence on the road and in the small communities we pass through. Please help the Blue Ridge Bicycle Club with our community relations. Make an extra effort to be courteous to one another and to local citizens.”

    BRBC holds regular training rides along the French Broad River and other roads.

    And the Asheville Bicycle Racing Club, which also holds training rides on area roadways, says you can be kicked out for not:

    “…riding in a responsible, courteous manner. Remember: when you are wearing a Club jersey, you’re representing all ABRC members and our sponsors.”

    I intend to carry a camera with me in the future & see if I can get some arrogant jerks thrown out of their little clubs. Fair warning.

  22. entopticon

    I find the inconsiderate behavior of some bicyclists annoying at times, but it is generally more annoying and time wasting than dangerous.

    I am perplexed why people seem to make a much bigger stink about bicyclists riding double (there are no laws either preventing or okaying riding two abreast in NC) than they do about the fact that so many people here don’t use turn signals. I have been all over the country, and I have never seen anything like it. Every time you change lanes without signaling, you are seriously risking the life of everyone around you.

    It’s not an occasional occurrence here. Around half the cars I see here don’t seem to use turn signals at all. As far as I can tell, some pick-up trucks and oversized SUV’s only use them to tell you to let them in, never to warn you that they are changing lanes.

    And I am astonished at how so few people here seem to understand that when a car is in front of you in the left lane, and they have their turn signal on, you are legally obliged to let them in, not to hit the gas and tailgate the car in front of them to stop you from getting over. That is illegal.

    I certainly blame the police to a large degree. All the time I see people change lanes without signaling, right in front of a police officer who does nothing!?! In fact, on a number of occasions, I have even seen police cars change lanes without signaling!!! Every time someone does that, they are risking manslaughter.

    I’m sure there are times when obnoxious bicyclists cause life threateningly dangerous situations, but I can’t ever recall seeing that here. Not even once. Conversely, every single day countless people here put my life in jeopardy by changing lanes without signaling.

  23. Barry Summers

    From the NCDOT Division of Bicycle & Pedestrian Safety. They clearly think the law should be amended to make this practice illegal (“Below are three areas of North Carolina law that need clarification.”):

    “There is no law that requires bicyclists to ride single file, nor is there a law that gives cyclists the right to ride two or more abreast. It is important to ride responsibly and courteously, so that cars may pass safely.”

    http://www.ncdot.org/transit/bicycle/laws/laws_bikelaws.html

    And state law [20-149] says that:

    “…the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle while being lawfully overtaken on audible signal”

    So if they refuse to ride single file if a car honks at them, it would seem they are breaking the law.

    More to the point, I have to ask again. Why in the world would you WANT to piss off and annoy motorists? Maybe this is all an elaborate and perverse conspiracy to try to get one of their own killed, so the survivors can split up the lawsuit money. I don’t know… I just know that as a fellow cyclist, these jerks are making ME less safe by their behavior. Thanks a lot.

  24. Dionysis

    “I think it’s pretty safe to say that in Asheville, that isn’t an example of conservsative activism.”

    Nor is it an example of ‘liberal activism’. It’s simply an example of rude jerks acting like a**holes.

  25. I just know that as a fellow cyclist, these jerks are making ME less safe by their behavior. Thanks a lot.

    After what happened a couple of months ago, you should ask them if they are willing to die for their cause.

  26. Barry Summers

    “After what happened a couple of months ago, you should ask them if they are willing to die for their cause.”

    Who cares. Point is, did they ask ME if I was willing to die for their cause? Because they make all cyclists look bad, & just like the firefighter that shot that guy in the head a few months ago – he probably wasn’t worked up over that guy personally, it was rude or unsafe cyclists in general that had him all twisted up. The guy he shot at just happened to tip him over the edge.

  27. hal

    Bicyclers are supposed to share the road too. I am not afraid of my car’s horn. What they were doing is simply called impeding traffic, and it’s illegal.

  28. Mister Blister

    I’m just curious about the vehicle laws in North Carolina. In some states it is legal for bikes to use the entire lane (since they are technically vehicles). A bit selfish I know but if they are operating within the law there isn’t much to be done is there? Perhaps someone could look into this: Are they impeding traffic, or are they using the road legally. I guess there might be a rule about if there are 3 or 5 cars behind you, you are supposed to pull over to allow passing… of course I’ve been stuck behind slow farm machinery and Sunday drivers that the same law should apply to.

    Part of the problem might be when they are polite and ride single-file drivers might get too close or try to run them off the road. What we need are some bike lanes–a designated area for bikes to ride in (or just 12″ of a shoulder maybe).

    Some people get mad when bikes don’t use sidewalks but these are for walking, for pedestrians and definitely not bikes. And while roadways might have a 35 MPH speed LIMIT that does not equal minimum speed.

  29. Mister Blister

    Also I would like to point out that cars are extremely rude in this town. People do not stop for pedestrians using the crosswalk, you pretty much have to take your life in your hand when using one (“ok, you are going to stop or hit me I guess…”) I also think the fine for not stopping for a pedestrian is something like $35 (seriously). So it could easily be said that the drivers in this town are extremely rude too. Too many people get their fat asses behind the wheel so they can drive 2 blocks to the convenience store, then get pissed off when they have to slow down for a pedestrian or bike rider.

    We need sidewalks.

    We need bike lanes.

  30. Barry Summers

    As to the law, I believe relevant sections of state law & NCDOT regulations were posted above. The law is ambiguous about bicycles – there is neither a law banning or specifically allowing cyclists to ride 2 or 3 abreast. The DOT is pretty clear that they think the law should be clarified to require cyclists to stay to the right.

    I agree we need more bike lanes. I agree that many motorists are ignorant, hostile to cyclists, and not good drivers. None of that equals justification for cyclists being not just rude, but conciously provoking anger among motorists. It’s a self-defeating strategy, in my view, if in fact it’s a deliberate strategy. More likely than not, it’s merely selfish and arrogant behavior, making the issue that much harder to resolve.

  31. Sunday

    Every few days, it seems, I encounter yet another bicyclist duo riding in lanes side-by-side or approach lights/stop signs, look both ways and just go; more often than I see them actually obey the rules of the road. And yet all we hear is the Ashevillian WHINE of “share the road.” I’ll do so when more bicyclists than not decide the rules of the road also apply to them.

  32. T100C-1970

    Presumably Asheville (or Buncombe County) could pass a law requiring that bikes ride single file if that is not an NC regulation. It IS posted as a regulation on Vanderbilt Road at the entry to Biltmore Forest.

  33. NearWoodfin

    Good news! Woodfin recently posted signs that reference their town ordinance on Hwy. 251 (where the speed limit is varies from 35 to 55) requiring bicyclist to ride single file.

    I came up on a single non-lycra wearing bicyclist this morning who was riding in the middle of the lane on Hwy. 251. I tooted my motorcycle’s horn two short times (I didn’t blast him like I was mad or something) and he moved to the right allowing me to pass safely. His moving over to the right allowed me to stay in “our” lane and I was still able to give him more than the required two feet of distance between us.

  34. Jes

    Not only do bikers need to follow the rules of the road, runners should also take precautions. I am a runner and I always keep my music low enough to hear what is going on around me. I always run where I am clearly visible. I always use a sidewalk if one is available. I always stop and look both ways at intersections, regardless. We all know that pedestrians have the right of way…when you see them. I almost hit a runner who was doing none of these things. It scared me to death and I know it scared him to death-because he punched my car. Then, he called me a nasty little name when I attempted to suggest these things. I am all for pedestrian and cyclist rights… but do not blame or assault a driver for your own stupidity. Follow the rules of the road-not only to protect yourself from physical danger, but to prevent any unnecessary altercations. We ALL need to pay attention to what we’re doing. Personal responsibility can go along way.

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