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Northwest Voices

Seattle Times letters to the editor

January 17, 2014 at 9:00 AM

Bicycles: Finding the reasons for drivers’ anger at bicyclists

Gabriel Campanario / The Seattle Times

Every letter I received in response to Joe Sullivan’s guest column on Saturday, “Why are drivers so angry at cyclists?,” took issue with bicyclists breaking traffic rules and addressed whether bicyclists should pay for licensing and road repair costs. This is a discussion that likely won’t end any time soon, with both sides entrenched, and should come to the fore again as the City Council deliberates the Bicycle Master Plan. What do you think the reasons for resentment might be? Continue the conversation in the comments. Here are the best letter submissions from readers, again, all of them putting most of the blame on cyclists:

Rudeness goes both ways

Geesh, guest columnist Joe Sullivan, get of your high bicycle [“Why are drivers so angry at cyclists?,” Opinion, Jan. 10].

Yes, there are many drivers who also do not follow the rules of the road. As a motorist, I try to be very conscientious of cars, bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcycles. Not all drivers do, I realize this.

However, I think that many drivers, myself included, get irritated, to say the least, when a bicyclist is riding so close to the car lane, so that in order to give him or her 3 feet of space, we are forced into the oncoming lane. When there are parked cars I can understand this, but when there is a stretch of lane w/no parked cars, I do not understand it and to me it is just a rude cyclist who really couldn’t care less and apparently feels entitled to that space no matter any risks that it may incur.

So, you see, it goes both ways and I think motorists just feel fed up with this entitlement mentality that seems to be so prevalent in the bicycling community. It is time for bicyclists to pony up and start getting licensed and paying for bike lanes.

And, Seattle police need to really start enforcing the laws that exist. Tickets for no helmet, no lights, etc.

Rita Martinez, Seattle

There must be a reason for the anger toward bicyclists

Joe Sullivan asks the question, “Why are drivers so angry at cyclists?”

Almost all of us have fond memories of riding bikes when we were kids, so it seems unlikely that many people simply have a predisposition to dislike cyclists. If that is the case, there must be some substantive, real-world reasons why people who get up in the morning with no particular reason to be angry at cyclists end up feeling that way.

I would ask those who, like Sullivan, are perplexed by this to stop and reflect on what those reasons might be. That might be a start to getting a handle on this unfortunate state of affairs.

Dick Schwartz, Bellevue

How to help drivers see cyclists

I like to think that I am a very good driver. But having lived in Portland for more than two years before recently moving to Washington, I have become more mindful and observant of cyclists.

It’s not so much anger as annoyance that I feel about some cyclists — those who fail to signal their intention to turn or change lanes, and those who have inadequate or no lights and reflectors.

I feel that bicycles in cities and towns should stay on the road and be prohibited from riding in crosswalks or on sidewalks. Cyclists who frequently switch back and forth from road to sidewalk are particularly annoying.

Setting and enforcing standards for lights and reflectors on bicycles would be greatly beneficial for the safety of cyclists and for helping drivers see cyclists in all types of road and weather conditions.

Gwen McEwen, Bellingham

Both drivers and cyclists need respect and training

As a person who has been cycling for more than 50 years, 40 of those as a regular commuter in Seattle, I disagree with Joe Sullivan that “cyclists know … it is common for people to honk, yell, swear or flip [us] off.”

I have found motorists in Seattle more likely to stop when I am the only vehicle with a stop sign than they are to do those things.

At the same time, I agree that so-called better bicycle infrastructure may inflame antipathy. I remember a foul-mouthed motorist yelling at me to “use the trail” when I was a half block from where I was going and nowhere near the trail. Rather than physical infrastructure, drivers of all vehicles, whether they are in cars or on bicycles, need respect and training.

Sullivan might have avoided his close call on Juanita Woodinville Way by following the suggestion I just read in an Amazon review of the book “Effective Cycling”: “Between intersections, position yourself according to speed; at intersections, position yourself according to destination.”

David Miles, Seattle

Plan should enforce bicycling rules

Joe Sullivan’s guest column was thought-provoking, and I am sorry that he has had unhappy and unsafe encounters with drivers.

However, my observation of cyclist behavior is somewhat different than Sullivan’s. I walk, bike and drive in downtown Seattle, mostly in the Belltown area. I have become increasingly concerned about the safety of pedestrians and drivers due to the cavalier attitude of many cyclists.

If “Bicycles are vehicles and are subject to the same rules of the road as cars,” why do about 30 percent (my conservative estimate) of cyclists on Third, Fourth and Fifth avenues and their cross streets not come to a complete stop at lights, crowd pedestrians in crosswalks, and not use hand signals, and ride on the pedestrian sidewalk?

These cyclists appear to be experienced, commuting riders, not “children barely able to balance on two wheels,” and their behavior is a threat to rational decision making of pedestrians and drivers as they try to navigate downtown.

I hope that the new Bicycle Master Plan would encourage more biking but provide incentives for cyclist education and for enforcement of biking rules. I would suspect then that there would not be so many “drivers so angry at cyclists.”

George Lawson, Seattle

Comments | More in bicycling | Topics: Bicycle Master Plan, Joe Sullivan


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