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Why does cycling in SF suck more now than in 1994?

Cycling seems more dan­ger­ous, more has­sle-filled, and gen­er­al­ly more aggro than when I moved here. Why? Maybe it's me. I moved to Berke­ley recent­ly, and I'm pret­ty close to hav­ing a lawn that I can tell kids to get off of. Maybe it's that the city has changed a lot. There are more cyclists, more peo­ple in gen­er­al (60,000!) and more den­si­ty, espe­cial­ly down­town. On the oth­er hand, there are more bike lanes and sig­nage, and there's more bike aware­ness among the pedes­tri­an and motorist pop­u­la­tions. You'd think that more cyclists + more cycling aware­ness + more cycling accom­mo­da­tion would have result­ed in some kind of net improve­ment, but it hasn't. Pedes­tri­ans seem more antag­o­nis­tic to bikes; motorists of all types are much more antag­o­nis­tic; and some of my fel­low cyclists seem to be the most antag­o­nis­tic of all. Why?Felix Salmon has writ­ten a real­ly inter­est­ing, and wide­ly quot­ed, "uni­fied the­o­ry" of cycling that touch­es on what I think is the heart of it all: That most cyclists think they're pedes­tri­ans, when we're actu­al­ly more like motorists.

Bikes can and should behave much more like cars than pedes­tri­ans. They should ride on the road, not the side­walk. They should stop at lights, and pedes­tri­ans should be able to trust them to do so. They should use lights at night. And — of course, duh — they should ride in the right direc­tion on one-way streets. None of this is a ques­tion of being polite; it's the law. But in stark con­trast to motorists, near­ly all of whom fol­low near­ly all the rules, most cyclists seem to treat the rules of the road as strict­ly option­al. They're still in the human-pow­ered mind­set of pedes­tri­ans, who feel pret­ty much com­plete­ly uncon­strained by rules.

I real­ly agree with this. I don't know how to make it so, and I'm real­ly not a law-and-order type. But I think that agree­ing to fol­low the rules of the road would do a lot to make us all more pre­dictable. Also, I'd like to add: Pass on the freakin left.

2 replies on “Why does cycling in SF suck more now than in 1994?”

I think the new infra­struc­ture has helped in terms of cars. I'm not that scared of being hit by a car on Mar­ket Street any­more, but it seems much more like­ly that I could have a col­li­sion with a cyclist. When I ride a bike, walk, or dri­ve a car, cyclists are pre­dictably the most unpre­dictable ele­ment out there.

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