Law of the jungle

August 1, 2013 § 52 Comments

Every so often I see an article  like this: “Cyclists! As long as you keep breaking the law motorists are going to keep hating you. We must show that we are law-abiding members of the public if we hope to be treated with the respect we deserve.”

This is stupid and it’s wrong.

Cagers hate you because of the law of the jungle. When a tiger and a mouse meet on a path, the mouse steps aside. Your bicycle, a weak and puny plastic thing, impedes the forward motion of a hulking 2,000-lb. slab of steel. The jungle law says you must step aside, but the California Vehicle Code does not. So the cagers hate you even when they yield the right of way.

Before you start whining you should ‘fess up: You’re no different from the soccer mom in the SUV. Remember last Sunday on the bike path coming back from Malibu, and how the path was clogged with all those fucking walkers? Remember how you roared past them at 15-20 mph shouting “On your left!” Remember how annoying it felt, especially since the path said “Bikes Only”?

Yeah. The natural human reaction when a slow moving, weaker bicycle obstructs a faster moving, bigger car, is to be pissed off, and you can’t tamp down the cager’s road rage by stopping at the stop signs.

Here’s another example. Have you ever seen a cyclist on Hawthorne or PCH during rush hour and thought “What the fuck is that fucking fuckfuck doing riding on this busy fucking street at rush hour? What a fucking moron!”

Of course you have.

As long as bicycles get in the way of cagers, the cagers are going to hate them and it won’t matter if you stop at the stop signs. They will still shoot you, splat you and run away, kill you, kill you, and then finally, yes, kill you.

No one ever had his rights vindicated by being nice

You have a right to ride on the road. It can’t be taken away because you ran some red lights.

“Mr. Smith, due to your abysmal record of having run ten red lights and thirty stop signs this year, the court hereby revokes your right to ride your bicycle.”

Not gonna happen, although your scofflaw approach may get you run over and killed.

The only thing that obeying the law on your bicycle does is increase or decrease your chances of being hit, depending on the situation. It will never make any cager anywhere stop hating you. It will never stop someone who has made up his mind to hit you from hitting you. Most importantly, it will never cause someone to intentionally hit you if they haven’t already decided to do so.

Think about motorcycles. Most cagers who don’t ride think motorcyclists are batshit crazy sucides. But it doesn’t make them want to kill the guy on the Ducati in flip-flops and a t-shirt and an eggshell brain bucket who’s splitting lanes on the 405 at 70 when the traffic’s at a standstill.

At worst it makes you think “That dude’s gonna die soon and I’m not gonna feel sorry for him one bit.” It never makes you intentionally hit him. By the same token, seeing some old fart on a Goldwing with his wife, dog, and three kids on the back doesn’t make you love motorcyclists or change your opinion that this is their death wish.

The take home? Motorcyclists still have the right to be there. If they break the law they can lose their license — unlike cyclists — but you’re really fucked up if the way a person rides a moto makes you decide to kill them or not.

You have a right to be in the road on your bicycle. The only way you can keep that right is to exercise it. You won’t change the hearts and minds of the hater cagers by being a Boy Scout, although you may thereby avoid becoming a statistic. The only thing that will really change the way people think is making bicycles a permanent part of the traffic landscape.

Until then, the best thing you can do to change attitudes is to … ride your bike. Simply existing will piss off certain cagers, no matter how you ride.

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§ 52 Responses to Law of the jungle

  • JP says:

    I knew I shoulda’ bought a Goldwing instead.

  • Valley Girl says:

    Dear Wanky,

    Why then do cagers stuck in traffic often savor the chance to swing douchebaggedly into my blissfully traffic free, lane splitting path? …”serves that beatch right!!”…

    • Admin says:

      There are people who want to kill you simply because you’re going faster than they are, that’s why. They are fucked up.

      But you can’t make them not want to kill you by “riding nice.” You may be able to reduce the risk that they’ll take you out (doubtful) by not splitting lanes, but then if you’re going to sit in traffic while your bike overheats, why have the motor anyway?

      Bottom line is that there are two types of collisions: Intentional and accidental. You can’t stop the murderers from wanting to murder you by stopping at stop signs. The accidents? Use your common sense and your skills, just like you do in a car.

  • posinihilist says:

    A cager almost pulled out in front of me last night and I gave him the, “WTF?” gesture. He caught up to me at the light and told me it looked like I was a block and a half away. This couldn’t have been true. I made eye contact with this troglodyte for a whole 20 yards. That pump fake with his deathship was deliberate. I pointed at my 3-LED blinky light and replied, “I was doing what the fuck I was supposed to do! BITCH.” (Probably didn’t help much) He pointed at his headlights and said, “Look! Two lights!” This implies that when we TIG-weld eight foot aluminum poles across our handlebars with two four hundred watt lights attached the ends, that’s when we’ll be able to prove that we are as responsible as everyone else on the road. Disproportionate logic? You bet. Judging by his weight, being disproportionate has become a way of life for him. Whenever I try to express myself to one of these neolithic primates in a way that is logical, the only response I can seem to get out of them is, “OO-OO-AA-AA,” and in this case, a mere flipping of the bird. Other times it can be wild slamming of the brakes, screeching halts and burning out like bucking broncos and flailing bulls. So yes, you are right. It is futile. I hope that I can learn to turn the other cheek like a Christian for my own sanity. But it seems that I’m not there yet, I have my own primal insticts that cry out, “FUCK YOU. Dickhead.”

  • Warren says:

    The roads belong to everyone. So do the stop signs…

    • Admin says:

      Stop if it’s safe, not to please your enemies.

      • Warren says:

        We all play by the same rulebook. Breaking the law makes us no better than your “enemies”..

      • Admin says:

        Yah … let me help you out with the “rulebook” thing. It’s really simple: Stay alive at all costs and don’t crash.

        That’s it.

        Whatever it takes to adhere to those two rules is fair game when I’m on a bike. I’m not trying to be better, or greener, or more clever than the guy who wants to kill me. I’m trying to not get killed and I will do anything to stay out of the meatwagon. Also, there’s no “us.” It’s just me. And the next time you think everyone plays by some kind of common rulebook, get out on the freeway and drive the speed limit. You’ll feel kind of lonely, I’m guessing.

      • Warren says:

        As a matter of fact, I *do* drive the speed limit on the freeway. I find it very relaxing….

      • Admin says:

        So do I, and it doesn’t bother me that others speed, or that they cut me off or run stop signs or do any of the other crazy stuff I see on the LA freeways. But we’re not all playing by the same rules because lots of people — as in most — seem to use the “limit + 5 or 10 over” which is of course illegal.

        The same is true of the “rulebook” for other traffic infractions. Motorists break the law all the time yet they are not admonished to be good citizens so that cyclists will like them. The “obey the law” mantra is a red herring and separate from the issue of who has the right to be where at a given point in time.

        If following the law all the time makes YOUR ride safer (and more enjoyable) then you should do it. I have no gripe with people who ride as you do.

  • Erik says:

    Look, someone who gets it from WITHIN law enforcement. Though, to be fair, he is retired.

    http://lawandordermag.epubxp.com/title/12194/54

  • Joe Camacho says:

    Cagers: usually $60k worth of car and 10¢ worth of brain. You can’t explain a rainbow to a grape, you can’t teach a cager about a bike.

  • Deb says:

    I feel sorry for them. Stuck in their cages, poor things. I wave, smile, say thank you when they gesture for me to cross the intersection. Won’t change the world but keeps me happier when I’m riding. The dickheads will always be there. I feel sorry for them. And apologies in advance… I’m one of those speedbump cyclists you have to go around. But if you call out “on your left”, I will cheerfully hold my line and probably say thank you.

    • Admin says:

      I feel sorry for them until they try to kill me. Then I boil over with a rage of black death so intense that it melts the rivets on my saddle.

      Speedbump cyclists? No such thing. And I never yell “On your left.” I just pass quietly, smoothly, and not too fast to startle.

  • Valley Girl says:

    Today’s thank a driver Thursday…I give a wave every time a driver makes a clear effort to give me room. Blows both our minds… ;@)

  • Dave Dixon says:

    Wishful thinking,
    The Dmv will require everyone applying for a drivers licence to perform the driving test both in a car and on a bicycle so they might have some slight understanding of a non cagers perspective.

  • Dave Dixon says:

    I am locking up the rights to the reality tv show right now. You are in for 80 %

  • dan martun says:

    hmm..I think Im gonna put on my flip flops, board shorts and t shirt and go ride my ducati…cause whats batshit crazy is riding the fawkin bicycle.

    • Admin says:

      I saw you crossing Hawthorne this morning on Emerald on the way to the NPR and couldn’t get the window down in time to shout, “Wanker!” Pretty sure you were crossing on green …

  • Rob says:

    Choose your riding roads wisely. Riding on Pico or Olympic (Westside) during morning or evening rush hour is asking for trouble. Find those roads with bike lanes and wide shoulders and your odds of hassle free riding greatly improve. Remember, there are dickheads on bikes and behind the wheel. Don’t be one of those.

    • Admin says:

      It’s true you have to be careful about the roads you ride, but on the other hand when you ride a busy road at a busy time of day you’re paving the way for others. That’s what I tell myself when I take my life in my hands in the morning on Hawthorne. Being surrounded by cars is a weird feeling; what’s also surreal is sitting in the queue waiting for the light to change like a car rather than shooting the gutter and cutting to the head of the line. Cagers seem less angry when you’re waiting in the line instead of going to the front, zipping out on green, and then slowing down all the people who were in front to begin with.

  • RC White says:

    Yup. Use it or Lose it. Stake your claim and protect it with a rabid guard dog and pretty soon the neighbors will just cross the street before they get to your front yard. Problem solved. Ten-thousand plus years of civilization and what has changed? Whut? I’ll have to wait until after the next Ice Age? Oh, well.

    Here’s a fun game to play with the next irate rolling couch potato who buzzes you in the bike lane: make sure he’s stuck in a long line of traffic and as you roll by, accidentally loose the cap on your sport drink bottle and in a effort to recapture the flying lid accidentally spill your orange “flavored” biological mix across his windshield and into his heater vents. Yeah, I know, two wrongs, yadda.. ..but you will feel just fine when you’re sitting on your couch post-ride powering down your synthetic protein recovery shake and you think about how every time that sucker turns on his heater his car will smell like Tang®. I guarantee a chuckle…

  • No one of consequence says:

    I was riding home on some ruthlessly pock-marked roads today and had a chance to take a clean drag from a bus doing 25-30 on a SAFE and pothole-less lane. No more than 5 seconds in and the car behind lays on the horn, belligerently. I was 10 ft. off the busses bumper and not yo-yoing. You are right, I go out of my way to try to be an ambassador for cycling and not foster aggression, but I still find it. Hopeless.

  • patcurry123 says:

    Seems to me there are too many people out there in Sunny SoCal. Sounds like everyone is a little high strung (perhaps for good reason)

    In this little corner of flyover country, a “Fuck You”, or the bird, is understood to be a formal invitation to tango. ‘Stink eyeing’ is acceptable.. Been honked at by pickups, and came across seniors that shouldn’t be behind the wheel but not much more. And I’m out running or riding frequently. Smaller city/Midwestern attitudes?

    Lastly, and this could be due to my road experiences, but following the rules keep the order. I don’t particulalry care for navigating past a cyclist riding against me and the auto traffic. Nor do i particullary care for cyclists flying through the stop sign I yielded for- It’s only a matter if time before they find their match. And my biggest pet peeve… and I’ll loose the last half of your readers on this…two riders, riding abreast, on a 2 lane busy street.

    Yeah we have the right to the road, and the right to be assholes. But it’s just a fucking common courtesy not to hold up faster traffic by ridding 6 feet out into the lane while yamming about electronic shifters or the new team kit. That’s a good way to start a tango.

    • Admin says:

      The madder the cagers get, the happier I am.

      You know, when I’m in the cage I love the two-wheelers, motorized or human powered. I love it when they salmon, blow the stop lights, race through the stop signs, chop and rock. I admire them I love them I wish I were them. I defer to them I smile at them I slow for them I get down on my knees and pray for their life their health their happiness and the good fortune that lets them be on two wheels though I’m caged in four.

      Right?

    • Erik says:

      “busy street” = cager for, I’m currently driving here.

  • […] the other hand, Cycling in the South Bay says some drivers are going to hate you no matter what you […]

  • […] Drivers will hate you for riding a bicycle even if you’re the most considerate cyclist in the world. Law of the jungle […]

  • Jon Trimble says:

    I don’t “blow through” stop signs. I always make sure that if needed, I can stop. If I’m in a group ride and we’re going through en masse, then it’s all good. I value my life, though I’m certainly not afraid to die(in fact I came very, very close recently and I was very cool and accepting of it). I just don’t like to give a cop a reason to stop me because I really, really don’t like cops.

    As far as going the speed limit on the freeways, always. I’m retired and I’m in no hurry to get where I’m going, so y’all can just fuck off and go around.

    • Admin says:

      Yeah, I’m always on high death alert. It can come anywhere, anytime. I’d never trust a traffic signal or stop sign or any traffic control device. My mantra is “The cagers are trying to kill me all the time.” I’m not paranoid, I’m whatever is ten times worse than paranoid.

      Agreed about getting pulled over.

      And yeah, people who are in a hurry, well, that’s what the passing lane is for.

  • […] Law of the jungle: Think about motorcycles. Most cagers who don’t ride think motorcyclists are batshit crazy sucides. But it doesn’t make them want to kill the guy on the Ducati in flip-flops and a t-shirt and an eggshell brain bucket who’s splitting lanes on the 405 at 70 when the traffic’s at a standstill. […]

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