Being a Good Ambassador: Obey the Rules

Class 5 Rule Breaker

As enthusiasm for The Rules has been growing, we’ve been having a lot of fun watching the conversation take shape and go in directions we didn’t necessarily expect it to. You have the Geof’s and the Jarvis’s who defend them honorably and even compare cycling to a religion. Fittingly, you then also have the Opus Dei-like loyalists like SGW who find purity in only one Rule, which is – tastefully – Rule #5. And, naturally, some posit that we might be idiots, and I can’t blame them; in fact, they probably have a point.

There is, however, another Rule which will never grace the list but which is critically important for our humble sport to continue to grow and garner further public support, in particular from motorists with whom we share the road. I’m talking, of course, about obeying the laws of traffic and being a Good Ambassador for our sport.

I find that much of the time when I’m put into a dangerous situation by someone driving another vehicle, it’s due to their ignorance of what it’s like to be on a bicycle in traffic. Other times, it’s because we present the impression to the driver of the vehicle that we’re somehow hindering them in their ability to also use the road or get to the bar. Whatever the cause, it’s rather inconvenient to be struck by said vehicle and as a cyclist it’s in our best interest to ride defensively and keep out of danger. (If conventional wisdom is to be believed, it would appear that in a bus/truck/car/motorcycle-bicycle collision, the bicyclist generally tends to be the worse off – at least from a physical point of view.)

Part of riding defensively, I feel, is to demonstrate that while we expect to be treated with the same respect and rights as the other vehicles on the road, we also hold ourselves to the same laws and order of traffic; don’t run red lights (unless there is a compelling reason to do so, such as a malfunctioning weight sensor), ride near the side of the road, and follow the conventions for “right of way” at intersections.

Many cyclists seem to have the expectation that they are to be respected by traffic, but that the laws of traffic do not apply to them. This double-standard does nothing to aide cyclists in winning the PR war with other traffic on the road – including pedestrians. Seeing a cyclist dodge through stop signs and red lights conveys a message of entitlement and recklessness; something I think we can agree none of us need.

Take the cyclist pictured above. As we were riding out to start our training ride on Saturday, we passed this douchebag as he was teetering down Greenwood Ave with his handlebars nearly touching his nose. We greeted him nevertheless as we rolled by, only to have him sprint onto Michelle’s back wheel (which is an annoying habit of these types of competitive twatwaffles who would shit themselves seven times before leaving the neutralized zone in an actual bike race). We ignored him and continued our leisurely roll down towards Fremont and the first bits of real riding on the route. On the way down Fremont Hill, he came careening past us, dodging pedestrians who were mid-crosswalk, flicking off cars, and running lights along the way.

We caught up to him at a traffic light which he had no alternative but to observe, and as we waited for the light to turn, I reflected on his general mentality and what his behavior communicates to the rest of traffic, of which the result is this article.

To make matters worse, he not only disobeys sensibility and law, he also offended me in his egregious Rule-Breaking. Class 5, in my estimation.

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21 Replies to “Being a Good Ambassador: Obey the Rules”

  1. Brilliant post frank. I really love the spot here.

    You make a great observation, and perhaps yet another rule, one I learned only after becoming a racer. The Rule: all parties must be invited for a race. A race is not a race within the legendary status of one’s own mind. I prefer to make and accept invitations at least a day ahead, so proper equipement may be chosen and employed; however, a caveat to this is the mutually agreed upon intervals or sign sprints, which can be done rather impromptu.

    I must admit, I love The Rules and probably find myself out there where its both irony and religion to me.

  2. @brett
    Well done, mate. That whole neon-yellow thing is an offense to the senses. The jersey demonstrated here, however, is a degree better than those Velcro vests we see, worn mostly by recumbent drivers (recumbents aren’t ridden are they?). There is a certain air of smugness that goes with the douchiness therein that is hard to stomach.

  3. @Souleur

    You’re hitting on a corollary to this article which is only touched on tangentially. What I call the “Principle of Implied Competition” is such an annoying habit, exhibited most commonly and emphatically by these types of riders; those who never race and have little interest in doing so, but who at the same time feel it is somehow a demonstration of superiority to pass (or not be passed) by another rider.

    As you rightly point out, a “race” is only such when all parties agree that it is. It certainly needs to be communicated clearly and is never implied. Even racers fall prey to this; how many times have you been on a group training ride where the pace is gradually and constantly upped and the two riders on the front continue to half-wheel each other.

    It’s simple: Races are competitions. Training rides are rides with a specific agenda (even if that agenda is to ride slow and easy and do nothing) which have the aim of preparing one for said competition (see Lexicon entry for “I Will be Peaking in Two Months“). Do not mix the two.

  4. No doubt we are ambassadors indeed, and all should be representative of such.

    It indeed can be a deeply embedded paradox for cyclists. I am a cyclist, bred through and through. I live it, I love it, I eat it, hell…I sleep with it. And, yes…I run stop signs, every one. I run red lights. It matters none to me, because I operate under the assumption that nobody on the road see’s me anyway. So, what is the difference, they see me run the red light, but don’t see me when they run over me?? A true paradox, one that has me perplexed. To run or not run?

  5. @still in my pjs
    Hey, who wears PJ’s? HTFU!
    I think that guy has disc brakes. No doubt full of air bubbles in his hydraulic lines, because he is a big pussy.

  6. @john

    john :@still in my pjsI think that guy has disc brakes. No doubt full of air bubbles in his hydraulic lines, because he is a big pussy.

    Surely that’s a breach of the Rules. Disc brakes on a road bike (albeit a sorry-looking excuse for one)?

  7. He’s a twat

    @stillinmypjs good spot on the brakes. But that bike isn’t a ‘cross bike, no tyre clearance. Must be a custom road frame. This of course is even worse because it means it was designed for discs.

    @Brett ‘cross bikes are not cool if ridden on the road. I know, I ride one. They are under-geared, over-long, heavy and ugly.

  8. @Marko Tail lights no good? Do you ride at night? Ok, they look shit, but are kinda necessary, unlike mirrors. Yeah, he’s a wanker, but a safe one!



    I didn’t say cross bikes were cool on the road, just cool. And you’re right, that probably isn’t one (lack of brake post mounts on seat stays, no tyre clearance) which begs the question… what the fuck is he riding? Frank, you need to hunt this dufus down and under the guise of an impressed fellow Cycleway Hero, ask questions and take photos. Then lambast the poor sod on the internet.

  9. @brett
    On it.

    As for tail lights: except on your commuter, tail lights must be removable and mounted only during nighttime riding. I use these Planet Bike lights, which are light an fit in a jersey pocket and require nothing but a velcro strap:

  10. @Marko
    There’s an application for every tool. For this one, it’s being an incredibly huge douchebag.

    I think this douche posing with this bike is about as cool as Fat LeMond posing with his spinner bike. I can’t find those pictures, but Fat LeMond standing there for a LeMond Fitness advertisement was like, “HEY! POT-KETTLE!!”

  11. @frank
    I haven’t realized this until just now, but Lemond is like Elvis. Think about it. Oh the parallels.

  12. You guys should move to Idaho. Mine is the only state in the union where traffic code states that bicycles don’t have to stop at stop signs if the intersection is clear and we can treat red lights like a stop sign.

    (1) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a stop sign shall slow down and, if required for safety, stop before entering the intersection. After slowing to a reasonable speed or stopping, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle in the intersection or approaching on another highway so closely as to constitute an immediate hazard during the time the person is moving across or within the intersection or junction of highways, except that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a turn or proceed through the intersection without stopping.
    (2) A person operating a bicycle or human-powered vehicle approaching a steady red traffic control light shall stop before entering the intersection and shall yield to all other traffic. Once the person has yielded, he may proceed through the steady red light with caution. Provided however, that a person after slowing to a reasonable speed and yielding the right-of-way if required, may cautiously make a right-hand turn. A left-hand turn onto a one-way highway may be made on a red light after stopping and yielding to other traffic.

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