Cyclists Should Be Arrested: A Dialogue

Let’s get this cleared up.

Katherine Karaus
May 19 · 6 min read

To my chagrin, I’m back on Facebook.

Today I noticed a friend shared this article about an unconventional (but very smart!) piece of bicycle safety equipment—a pool noodle. Here’s his commentary:

Hm. Hot take.

I personally LOVE the pool noodle idea. I love it because it’s harmless (if a car hits it, no big deal) and it’s a useful visual cue—it shows drivers the appropriate 3 foot passing distance, and encourages them to respect it.

I’m a cyclist sometimes, and my boyfriend uses his bike as his primary transportation. It can be really scary out on the road, both in town and on country roads, because of intense driver resentment, aggressive driving, and a terrible lack of infrastructure.

Us on a bike trip to Mt. Vernon last year.

We do our best to stay safe—with all appropriate equipment, lights, helmets, and following traffic laws, but we’ve both experienced getting hit by negligent drivers. It’s terrible, it’s traumatic, and we both do our best to advocate for infrastructure that will make everyone safer.

Anyway. This friend’s Facebook thread spun out into a bunch of different arguments, that seemed misdirected and inconsistent, as cyclist hate so often is. I’ll tackle them one by one, in this venue where it’s easier to keep the train of thought going. Most of these are verbatim arguments, some are summed up for clarity.

If you bike on roads without a bike lane, you’re a menace. You need to be arrested.

This is simply wrong. Google can help you with the legal specifics.

You’re making my commute longer.

Maybe by a few seconds? But the causes of congestion are many, and in a world where few people bike because of bad infrastructure, bikes aren’t a major contributor.

I’m not talking about intercity biking, I’m talking about cross country vanity biking.

Wait, you were just complaining about your commute? Originally you took issue with any bike outside of a dedicated bike lane. If that’s your standard for an acceptable cyclist, it’s clear that our lack of infrastructure means that, to you, nobody should be biking as daily transit. They should drive their bikes to acceptable trails, and go from there. Obviously, this doesn’t work for folks who are bike-dependent.

Also I’m confused about the idea of vanity biking. People who take trips on bike (like my partner) do it because they love it. It’s invigorating, it’s a close-up-and-personal way to see the country, and it provides great opportunities for physical exercise.

The last car I owned was $700, my elitist friends.

The last bike I bought was $180. It’s a much more affordable option, one that doesn’t require expensive maintenance, insurance, and registration. Most of the bikers in the city seem to be less affluent, lacking other transit options. Car ownership is a much more expensive proposition, any way you slice it. To argue that car ownership is attainable for all is elitist.

Cyclists are “clock[ing] nearby cars with a pool noodle” .

They’re not.

Those roads aren’t for you.

They are. Cyclists also pay taxes that fund our roads.

Also, quick reminder:

Biking on roads that don’t have a shoulder is menacing cars.

No. It’s a legal right. Cars that pass too closely and drivers who harass cyclists are menacing. I’ve had the experience of being followed by a driver screaming obscenities at me, for simply being on the road in a city on my bike. That is real fear—the fear of getting run over on purpose.

There almost nothing we can do, apart from hit you or crash.

Or slow down and wait until it’s safe to pass.

I, as a driver, avoid those roads because some asshole in spandex wants a nice ride?? Fuck him.

I mean, sure. If you’re that frightened of killing a cyclist. I’ve not personally felt that fear, because I know that if I drive slowly and carefully and wait until it’s time to pass, I won’t hit anyone.

Ironically, this feeling of needing to avoid certain roads because of enormous safety risks is something that cyclists go through every day.

I’m trying to be safe.

That’s great! Please review the safety ideas I outlined above for additional ideas besides hitting cyclists and crashing your car.

Roads were, much to our detriment, created as a monomodal form
of transit.

This is so true, though not legally speaking! Let’s make it better. Consider contacting your local council persons and advocating strongly for better bike infrastructure. It’ll help you feel better and safer, and cyclists will appreciate your efforts.

I’m saying guys with pool noodles arrogantly biking across the countryside are entitled and dangerous.

OK. I’m finding this entitlement claim really strange, since they’re certainly not asking you to not be on the roads. They’re simply asking that you not hit them with your car. That is something that they are legally entitled to.

As for the danger argument, the best analogy I ever heard goes like this:

In shop class in high school, the teacher will instruct you about danger based on the tool you’re using. They will tell you to be careful with a hammer. They’ll tell you to be very careful with a drill. They’ll tell you to be EXTREMELY careful with the table saw.

The danger level for each tool is proportionate, based on the harm that it could cause. Cyclists should be very careful, because if they fall or are hit, they could be injured or killed.

Drivers should be EXTREMELY careful, because if they crash they can kill many people. There should be additional burden placed on drivers for road safety, because they are operating a much more deadly vehicle.

To be clear—road safety is a shared responsibility. But we must acknowledge that drivers are using the more dangerous tool.

I’m speaking as someone scared of hurting people.

Yeah, you seem really frightened.

I’m saying when there’s a line of asshats behind you honking, we’re all in trouble.

I agree, the asshats should stop honking and learn to share the road safely and calmly, for everyone’s benefit.

Within a city, there *ought* be a strong public transit network so there’s no real tension between drivers — who should be disincentivized — and pedestrians. cyclists are, of course, pedestrians.

Good. Let’s get off Facebook and get to work!

Cyclists have no place on highways or interstates.

Again, Google can help with this one! This is already covered.

You’re not doing anything to convince me all cyclists aren’t privileged assholes.

I certainly hope this article has helped. Here’s a list of bicycle advocacy organizations you can contact if you’re ready to start working on the future we both want.

Katherine Karaus

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UX Writer + Copywriter📱| I help tech companies tell crystal-clear product stories.💎 | Cat mom. 🐱| Outspoken woman. 🧙‍♀️