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Gear Prudence: I spend a lot of mental energy on my morning commute thinking about what kind of sarcastic things I can yell at the cyclists who whiz by me when I’m stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to turn green. Not only is it a safety issue, but if we cyclists want to be respected road users, then we should all follow the rules of the road.
What can I say to publicly embarrass them and cause them to seriously reflect upon the impacts of their carelessness? I would also like the other cyclists stopped at the red light with me to shake my hand for being such a heroic advocate of safe bike culture. What can law-abiding cyclists do to promote better bike culture? —Slinging Nasty Insults Probably Protects You
Dear SNIPPY: I get it. When cyclists act like jackasses, you can’t help but feel that you’re being tarred by their bad behavior. It’s like when a reckless speeding driver jumps the curb and crashes into a building, how every other driver thinks, “Gosh, this sure makes all drivers everywhere look bad. If only some stranger had called him a jerk once, he would have rethought his ways and this whole nasty business could have been avoided!” Oh, this doesn’t happen? Huh.
If you want to call someone a dick, call him a dick. It’s a free country. Just don’t mistakenly think it will result in him reassessing his entire transportation life. A snide remark is far more likely to get you a snide remark in return than it is to bring about an epiphany. Bicyclists have been criticizing other bicyclists as long there’s been other bicyclists to criticize, and to little avail. I doubt bad bicycling has continued simply due to a lack of sufficiently mean retorts.
It’s not your job to convince every bicyclist to not do reckless stuff. Model good behavior and others might follow your example. Or they won’t. Additionally, lobby for better bike infrastructure, which has been shown to lead to greater compliance with traffic laws and improve overall orderliness.
Behavior on the road is born of complicated structural and societal factors, but just as honking at some wacko on the Beltway won’t ensure he uses a turn signal next time he changes lanes, cursing out someone for running a red light won’t guarantee that he’ll wait next time. While it can be frustrating to see others acting recklessly and antisocially, you can only control your own actions, so focus on those. If everyone who didn’t want to bike around assholes promised never to bike like an asshole, there’d be a lot fewer biking assholes. —GP