Monday, October 15, 2007

Cyclists and POBs

I have been a cyclist since my early teens; most regular readers of this blog are also cyclists.

I don’t know about you, but I get tired of my reputation being tarnished by another group who should not even be categorized as cyclists.

Owning a set of golf clubs does not qualify someone to call themselves a golfer. A person might own a musical instrument, but they are not a musician unless they can play it. Yet anyone who throws their leg over a bicycle is immediately labeled a cyclist.

“As easy as riding a bike, anyone can do it,” is a common expression. Riding a bike in today’s heavy traffic is anything but easy; it requires considerable skill and a lot of moxie.

As a cyclists I am always lumped together with what I call POBs; (People on Bikes.) there is a big difference. I read in the paper of a “cyclist” killed in a traffic accident; I am left to wonder, is this really a cyclist or a POB? (Person on a Bike.)

They could be called "Pedestrians on a Bike," which is a contradiction in terms, but POBs behave like pedestrians. Most pedestrians don't follow too many rules; they wander around willy-nilly all over the place.

Some places have jaywalking laws, but apart from that, there are not too many rules enforced on a pedestrian. They will be on the sidewalk on one side of the road, when suddenly they will see a gap in traffic and without warning or signal will dart across the road to the opposite sidewalk.

As for traffic lights, most pedestrians don't even look to see if they are red or green, but rather look to see if there are any cars coming, and will cross with complete indifference to the color of the light. Sometimes they will not even look, because cars tend to give way to a pedestrian.

The result is, when a person gets on a bike they behave like a pedestrian; they ride on the sidewalk, they ride on the wrong side of the road against the flow traffic, and they ignore traffic signs and signals. At night they don't use lights, because after all, most pedestrians don't carry flash lights after dark.

Cyclists see themselves as a vehicle on the road, whereas, POBs see themselves as a person just trying to get from point A to point B and it’s too far to walk. They are often focused only on their destination, oblivious to everything else around them.

Sadly, statistics show that when a bicycle rider is killed on the road, it is often the victim’s fault. Running red lights, riding against traffic, or suddenly entering a road without warning in front of an oncoming car. This gives a false impression that cycling is dangerous. It is POBs that are getting killed, not cyclists.

A cyclist and a POB may look the same; what they wear or the type of bike they ride does not necessarily distinguish the difference. Some POBs even think they are cyclists.

These are a splinter group known as APOBs. The “A” is for Anarchist, Arrogant, or Asshole, pick any one. They grew up as POBs, later bought expensive bikes and started hanging out and riding with cyclists. However, they never became true cyclists because they disregard the laws of the road, at all times.

Worse, they somehow see themselves as above the law; they give all cyclists a bad reputation. Being ignorant of the law is one thing, but knowing better and still disregarding the rules and laws of our society is anarchy plain and simple.

If you know someone who is an APOB; then maybe you need to get together with a few other cyclists and hold an intervention. Tell them they can’t be a cyclist part of the time, and POB the rest; they have to pick a side.

The strange thing is many POBs drive cars, and when they do for the most part they follow the rules of the road. This furthers my belief that POBs see themselves as pedestrians on wheels, and think the rules on the road don’t apply. As “Motorists,” they suffer the same fate as cyclists; lumped together with PICs. (People in Cars.)

Motorists get in their cars and do nothing else but drive. Their full attention is on the road; they are the good and careful drivers. I see motorists as being the same as cyclists; they are just using a different form of transport.

PICs, on the other hand, drive as if they are still at home or at work. They talk on the phone, eat, drink, shave, and put on makeup. Another way to describe it; POBs ride their bike as if they are walking, and PICs drive their car as if they are sleepwalking.

Organizations who put out accident statistics should adopt the term POBs and PICs, in addition to the terms cyclist and motorist. We would then see that cyclists and motorists sharing the road is not the problem. It’s those SOBs the POBs and PICs.


Rich Gift Of Lins said...

Good post! Don't forget TOBs (tourists on bikes) who are too busy looking over hedges to notice the traffic, ROBs (racers on bikes ~ a sniffy sub-group) who with their bums up heads down style only notice the tarmac and ORBs (off road bikers) who only make mad dashes across oncoming traffic in order to get to the track on the other side of the road.

Just out of interest, for us on the other side of the pond, what is "moxie"?

Dave Moulton said...

Moxie – Courage with know-how.

I’ve now linked the word to Webster’s Dictionary.

Dave Moulton said...

In the UK Moxie would be “A lot of Bottle.”

For the US readers that is cockney rhyming slang. Bottle Glass, is your ass (Arse.) Originally if someone “Lost their bottle” it meant they were scared (Crapped their pants.)

It somehow got turned around to also mean the opposite, and someone with “A lot of bottle” means they are brave, show courage.

Anonymous said...

"Sadly, statistics show that when a bicycle rider is killed on the road, it is often the victim’s fault."

I've heard statements like this before, and they scare me a little.

I'm guessing that "on the road" refers to a car vs. bike collision. Crash analysis experts can sometimes reconstruct the scene of such an accident perfectly, but the rest of the time you have one living car driver trying to explain themselves and one mute red smear of a POB. Thus, our statistics.

That said, use lights, ride like a vehicle, wear a helmet, and be sure your affairs are settled. Nice post.

Anonymous said...

thing is though if were going to get people out cars we'll have plenty of POBs to put up with....better POBs than PICs I'd say

Anonymous said...

And don't forget that most POBs start out as (or currently are) children. This often causes them to act like children while on their bikes (unpredictable and irresponsible). This may explain the typical behavior of the average POB.

Miss Machine said...

Don't you find it kind of frivolous and petty to argue about this because someone was killed while riding a bicycle in traffic? Who cares? Someone was killed riding a bicycle and that sucks REGARDLESS of the fact of whether they were a full-time cyclist or just a casual rider.

Anonymous said...

Well of course it sucks when anyone gets killed, but if a POB blows through red lights, or rides contra traffic flow they are asking for trouble. I think that was the point Dave was trying to make.

Dave Moulton said...

Just a month ago, my wife was driving at night on a road without streetlights; I was passenger. We were rounding a right-hand curve in the road, hugging the inside curve because it was a narrow street. All of a sudden a bicycle rider appeared, riding towards us, dark clothing, no lights.

Luckily my wife was alert and she swerved and narrowly missed him. How do you think both I and my wife would have felt if we had hit him? And would it have been our fault?

I know there are idiots in cars out there, but a bike rider must take some responsibility for their own safety. At least give a car driver a fighting chance to miss you.

Marrock said...

Moxie is also a soft drink:

Just thought I'd throw that one out.

Anonymous said...

I would also propose that just because a person "looks" like a cyclist (helmet, matching lycra jersey & shorts, the latest & greatest in racing bikes) doesn't eliminate the possibility they're actually a POB in disguise. I've seen too many of these types of "cyclists" blow through stop signs/lights with cars present thinking they're above the rules of the road (the key here is "with cars present") and nearly causing accidents. I think that creates problems for all people on bikes (PeOB's?) as now drivers are left guessing what a PeOB will do approaching a stop sign, with right-of-way rules no longer applying. I'm certainly guilty of running stop signs, but only as long as no other cars are in sight. I guess some people will accuse me of having a double standard, but I believe the unpredictable actions of PeOBs in the presence of cars perpetuate the car-bicycle-hate relationship and the issues Dave writes about.

Bob G
Granite Bay, CA

Anonymous said...

Hey...great article. I have to say, when I get on a bike, pedestrians and drivers just see me as a PIG. It's tough being me.

Miss Machine said...

I understand the point Dave was trying to make; it just seems petty that he was inspired to point out this difference because someone died.

Uncle Bob said...

I've been riding on the road in England and Australia, on and off, since I passed the old RoSPA Cycling Proficiency test in the '60s. I make no claims to being some sort of super-cyclist, so when I decided to start commuting to work by bike again, I looked around for a training course to get the latest thinking. I signed up for an local-government adult-education college two-half-day course covering bike-handling, basic mechanicals, route-choice, road-craft etc.

I was quite surprised to find the instructor announcing that her philosophy was "ride safe, not necessarily legal". The recommended "safe" but illegal practices included riding on the pavement (sidewalk for USAnians) and rolling through stop-signs "when it was clear". I asked her how she'd feel if a car-driver ran a stop-sign and took her out because he "thought it was clear", or "didn't see you mate" or was just too cool to obey the law. I could almost hear the thud of the shutters coming down behind her eyes and ears.

Are the POBs really pedestrians on bikes, or just cyclists who have just been on a training course?

Anonymous said...

Dear Dave,

I am an avid reader of your blog. I check on it daily, usually, to learn more about bikes, laugh at your opinions, etc. While I agree that cyclists need to take a modicum of responsibility for their own safety, I don't think these categories, as you've broken them down, work. I know experienced cyclists who ride without lights. I know inexperienced cyclists who do. Bicycle handling skill, what determines the categories you've created, has no connection to one's riding maturity, which determines how carefully one rides, whether one pays attention to traffic signals, etc. Let's try not to blame those who've died/gotten injured in crashes. I've crashed and I know, statistically, I will crash again. Because I ride, I know I will crash; just as I know that someday I will die. These are the chances we take being cyclists (and, yes, "folks on bikes" are also cyclists). There are many factors that determine crashes, including the obvious--being visible--but also geography (including the planning of bike lanes), attitudes of drivers, attitudes of cyclists, fatigue, attention span, external time pressures (being late for an appointment), etc. 'Nough said. Keep blogging.

Seattle, WA

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting view but at the end of the day there are responsible cautious people and there are arrogant idiots and they can all choose any form of transport. I cycle a lot and work in cycle training but I don't really want to be defined as a person by the mode of transport I am using.

What I do agree with is that every time someone blatantly breaks the rules on a bike it confirms the worst prejudices that many non cycling road users have about us and reduces the levels of respect and consideration we get even further. I would like to see the authorities able to sentence these people to compulsory cycle training at their expense with a fee per session and repeat sessions until they reach the required standard.

Sorts the roads out and keeps me in work:-)

Anonymous said...

"Let's try not to blame those who've died/gotten injured in crashes."

Why not? Do these people have *no* responsibility for their actions and the results because a bad outcome excuses them?

I live in Portland, OR where a young woman was recently killed by a cement truck that was making a right hand turn and didn't see her in his blind spot.

Is it terrible she died? Yes!

Was she riding her bike through a very dangerous intersection (that I don't even like when I'm in a car) and not exercising enough caution? Yes!

I think whenever you crash, or get in an accident, your are either exceeding your skills or the "safety" the situation actually offers.

Tim said...

Great post, Dave. I have long corrected friends (and even my wife) when I've heard them refer to generic dumbasses as "bicyclists."

There's a big difference between a true cyclist and someone who just happens to be using a bike. Until someone comes up with a better term for "real cyclists," your suggestions are as good as any I've read.

Does using a wrench make me a mechanic? Does sending an e-mail mean I'm a writer? I often sing along (badly) to the radio, so maybe I can call myself a singer.

The bottom line is that using a blanket term for everyone on a bicycle does a real disservice to those of us who have worked to acquire skills and knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Having a bunch of seemingly descriptive acronyms will only cause further confusion, division & possibly even hostility amongst those who use bikes. Why must there always be an us vs. them, and what I regard to be a rather elitist & exclusivist sort of the attitude? Cyclists are by definition people who cycle, i.e. people on bikes, regardless of skill level or degree of law-abidance. You seem to associate the term with a degree of professionalism which in itself indicative of a culture where cycling is no longer a part of the vernacular to describe the very act, and instead denote a special grouping with a specific skill set & some ideological cohesion.

In countries with a strong car culture like Australia & I presume America cyclists cop enough flak as it is, can't we just all get along? :)

blue squirrel said...

i liked your post, good read and unfortunately very true. your insight into the pedestrian to [becomes] bike rider analysis is a brilliant one, good work.
panasonic is right that a bike death is a sad thing, no matter the reason. but as a victim of 4 bike versus car incidents during my cyclist' career, the driver of the deadly weapon was at fault and usually a PIC. i think one attitude that you did not mention, is the one most drivers have, culturally they do not want us on the road.

Jill Homer said...

It's impossible to attribute a specific label to any one group of people, because the requirements for that label are completely subjective.

What makes a photographer a photographer? $10,000 in photography equipment? A studio in the Bronx? Or simply anyone who owns a camera and uses it from time to time?

What makes a writer a writer? Seven published novels? A book contract? Or simply someone who keeps a daily journal?

What makes a cyclist a cyclist? Three years experience? Ten? 100 miles a week? 300?

I agree that there are a lot of dumbasses on bicycles in this world. People are who the are, and they know what they know. But balking at their public image as cyclists smacks of snobbery. So does the idea that "THEY" are ruining "OUR" image. (Who are THEY? Who are WE?)

There was a time when I pedalled my barbie K-mart special down the wrong side of the neighborhood streets. I was a cyclist then, and I'm a cyclist now.

Tony said...

I also live in Portland and have been following news of the young woman's death. In some comments on a blog someone mentioned "Vehicular Cycling" with this link:
The principles presented are very sensible. I plan to spread it around as much as I can. Maybe we can all do this? There has to be a way to influence people to ride predictably.

Anonymous said...

Jill - my point exactly, good to know that some cyclists are as inclusive as I wish everyone could be. After all, weren't we all people on bikes once?

Jill Homer said...

Rereading this post today, I can see that my knee-jerk reaction was overly critical. This post isn't about snobbery; it's about safety.

But I think there's a reason it struck a nerve. I never rode a bike seriously until 2002. Even though I have now embraced cycling as something just shy of a religion, I am still very much a "person on a bike." And I still have fresh memories of other cyclists observing my $300 touring bike and jeans tucked into socks and regarding me with disdain ... a "you're not one of us" type sentiment. I think this post stirred up some of that early rejection, even though I realize that you didn't mean it that way.

I think I might be the only regular cycle blogger left that hadn't discovered "Dave's Bike Blog" until yesterday. Someone with your kind of experience and knowledge will always have valuable things to say, even if it occasionally hurts the feelings of a few of us "newbies."


Blue-eyed Devil said...

Nice elitist attitude. Anyone who pedals a bike IS a cyclist. Period.

And why would anyone rely on a signal or light over their own eyes to tell them when to cross? Motorists sometimes disregard red lights.

And this is the best:

"The “A” is for Anarchist, Arrogant, or Asshole..."

Since when is the term "anarchist" interchageable with "asshole" and "arrogant"? I suggest you read up on anarchy.

Dave Moulton said...

I’m sorry you read it that way, my post is about safety, not elitism.

Car drivers do try to beat the light as it changes, but generally stop and wait for the green, even when there is clearly no one around.

We take a leap of faith every time we drive through a green light that no one will go through red in the opposite direction.

If a bicycle is a vehicle what makes a cyclist so privileged that he can go through red when a car has to wait?

Anarchist. (According to my dictionary.) A person who promotes disorder and excites revolt against any rule, law, or established custom.

It takes an arrogant asshole to become an anarchist in my book.

Anonymous said...

Dave - I think one of the points some of us are trying to make is that the level of law abidance has nothing to do with the type of vehicle you use.

Ideally everyone who use the road would obey all rules at all times. But in reality traffic regulations and laws in general (divine or otherwise) are only kept to the level of people expect to be able to get away with. Accidences happen when that expectation goes too far under the wrong circumstance - be it in a car, on bike or walking. But to me they are still motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, albeit bad or irresponsible ones. It's like calling bad parents "people who reproduced", the nouns to me are simply descriptives, any other qualitative attributes can be, erm, attributed but are not part of the term intrinsically.

In Australia it is illegal to cycle without a helmet regardless of age and the type of bike you use. I always wear a helmet when I am riding my roadies and it has probably saved my life once, but I rarely wear one when I am riding to work or to the shops on my commuter. Cyclists must dismount at zebra crossings but I have yet to encounter anyone who does it (most of what you'd call sidewalks/pavement are shared pedestrian/cycle paths in my city). This would make me a "person on a bike" under your description even though I dare say I ride more defensively than most, and you'd be right, cos that's what I consider a cyclist to be.

It probably is all about semantics but I simply didn't find the labels too helpful in promoting cycling, even though your point about safety is very much a valid one.

Blue-eyed Devil said...

"If a bicycle is a vehicle what makes a cyclist so privileged that he can go through red when a car has to wait?"

The difference in mass, speed, ability to see unobstructed, and capacity to kill, for 4 things. A bike is not a car.

As a pedestrian, do you always seek a striped crosswalk before you cross a street, regardless of where you are or how far out of your way you have to go to find one? Do you stand around street corners waiting for the white pedestrian silhouette to tell you it's safe to cross (even though it may not really be), when there is no traffic in sight? Do you not trust your own senses? Or do you use your own judgement and proceed when you feel it's safe to do so? If you do the latter, then your position here is hypocritical at best.

And c'mon, a dictionary hardly qualifies as the type of text to consult when trying to understand a subject. With all due respect, that sounds like an arrogant asshole move.

We're not going to change each other's mind on this--I respect your opinion but not so much the arrogant "us and them" attitude that comes through in your post.

Be safe.

Anonymous said...

Working on multiple safety solutions as bicycle - motorcycle manufacturers and their associated organizations ARE responsible for incidental rider, pedestrian, vehicle contact safety.
Notice, ever since my truck 'brush back' while riding I activate the rear mounted flashing L.E.D. lighting CONSTANTLY. (SUNLITE TL-L700 Taillight)
Recall, slow moving vehicles on a roadway typically employ red colored flashing lights.
Works for me, vehicle drivers appreciate it too as one gentleman informed me...

John Natiw said...

Dave, Another great post. Part of what makes your posts so good is the content and perspective they lend. I'm finding out that another part is the fact that you make us think. When I read your post I had a few thoughts. Then I went to the comments and read some things that I had not thought of.

Our club recently put on its yearly event ride. A couple people were hurt and I, however misguided, instantly thought that perhaps it was the "more inexperienced riders" that tend to come out for this sort of thing that had fallen victim to crashes. But, in truth, it could happen to any of us. I've seen riders from all levels do stupid things (myself included). Hopefully we live to learn better.

Also, I do believe that anyone that doesn't ride with lights and reflective material when it is dark should not be on a bike. This goes for the POB's and the seasoned roadie. Period. End of story. The effect of not doing this could very well be the same as getting into your vehicle drunk. Someone is gonna die.

Bottom line, there is much to be learned. Thanks for helping the cause Dave.

Anonymous said...

I read it and re-read Dave's posting . . . and then read the blog comments just to fully digest the information and sharing of thoughts. I think Dave did a fantastic job of analyzing the issue and made good points for all persons who use bicycles for transportation, fitness and fun--he did not say that a POB could not become a cyclist and hopefully that is the ultimate goal of this posting. Education and skill training on the bike will go a long way to keep all of us safe from ourselves and those in our environment.

Keep posting Dave--you make us think; that causes debate which forces all of us to question our actions, which ultimately results in our maturity and growth on the bike.

Anonymous said...

I like this article... but of course it is bad to get into an accident, no matter what kind of cyclist. But POB's are the ones which don't know that all cyclists have to abey the traffic law. I could say something about the motorists behavior...but I don't want to get into that. Maybe we need a better driving education here in the US...

Anonymous said...

Dave, Tim, Don & others. Greetings.
The word we use to describe a competent traffic cyclist:

Bicycle Driver.

On the road in traffic,
maintain your position.
Be predictable,
not erratic.

Signal your intention
to change your position,
by turning your head and
lifting your arm.

You must be aware
of blind spots
in the mirrors of other drivers.

You must behave
as if you are a driver.
You are NOT invisible!

Try continuously to see
the surface of the road,
looking for potholes, slick paint, rail tracks, obstacles,
as well as the flow of traffic.

See, hear & feel.
Observe everything,
but avoid distractions.
Don't use an iPod.
Be present and alert always.

Change to a low gear
before you come to a stop.

Your front brake is powerful, use it as you shift your balance
backwards and down.

Your back brake
will skid the rear wheel,
if you squeeze too hard.

Above all,
cooperate with others.
Practice harmony,
but be ready to respond

Do not be afraid.
There is nothing to fear,
but fear itself.

Graham Cooper
Executive Director
Bicycle Driver Training Institute

Anonymous said...

Recently, bought cycling clothes from Paragon Sports at discounted price.. Love cycling...

Paul said...

Absolutely. I live in one of the higher bike-riders-per-capita cities in Canada; Victoria, BC, and you're right on the money as far as what goes on around here. We have two distinct sub-cultures of the overall bike-rider population: Roadies who feel they have a right to do hog entire roadways when there is no actual benefit to them ride two abreast, et cetera; and people, typically on BMX-style street bikes or very run-down bikes who zoom in and out of traffic in the downtown core.

As Chris Rock put it, "there are black people, and there are n*****s,", and clearly no disrespect is meant to those historically labeled this way, or in our case to those who genuinely are only beginning to gain experience. There are simply a lot of people out there who feel that they have absolutely no obligation to be conscientious.

Anonymous said...

The way I like to put it is that there are many people who know how to RIDE a bicycle, but who don't know how to DRIVE one.

The laws of all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico all say that cyclists must obey the same Rules of the Road as cars do.

Cycling advocates and activists say that they want motorists to respect them as bona fide users of the road. Respect goes both ways. How can we expect motorists to respect cyclists if they see every day cyclists disrespecting them? (Yes, I know "Well, I follow the Rules of the Road when I cycle. It is unfair for the 'cagers' to tar me with that brush! True, it may be unfair, but it is a normal human reaction.)

Anonymous said...

One thing I'd like to point out:

A few cities/states have made law exceptions for bicyclists in regards to traffic control signs. Noting that a bicycle has a higher mass-to-horsepower ratio causing slower acceleration, they've suspended the "red means complete stop required" rule for cyclists. If a cyclist comes to a controlled intersection, slows to a speed where a stop could still be made if necessary, and evaluates the situation to be safe for continued travel the cyclist may proceed through the intersection.

The reasoning behind this is the idea that a cyclist using the driving lanes properly (claiming the lane) will gain a bit of ground before a car comes up behind it allowing the rider to either reach a speed able to keep up with traffic or a bit of distance to allow traffic to have a little time to settle before having to move to another lane to pass.

It is also inviting PeOB to be more inclined to cycle by making it less start/stop (let's face it, "sprint now to stay with traffic so you can wait at the next traffic light" sucks). That little bit of space makes for a more enjoyable ride (thereby encouraging the more novice in the community to keep riding instead of jumping back in their cars). Of course, in a high traffic situation, it's not going to help, but the cars in such a situation tend to go a little slower because of the gridlock anyway.

The other argument to "selective law-abiding" is: when PeICs treat me like a vehicle, I'll act like a vehicle. I know I get chased off the road as it is (obeying all laws minus the "mandatory stop" law), imagine if at every stop light in our not-so-traffic-congested town I held the same "late for work guy" to a slow start. The road agro would be outrageous and eventually "the guy" would hit me on purpose.