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Reader Mail: New rider disappointed by ‘rude and dangerous other cyclists’

Reader Mail: New rider disappointed by ‘rude and dangerous other cyclists’

Blue light bike signal NE Oregon and Lloyd-2

How can we promote polite pedaling?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

It’s been a long time since we reached into the mailbag and pulled one out to highlight here on the Front Page.

Today’s email comes from Rachel J. She got in touch with us last week to share her impressions as a new rider:

Subject: New to biking, disappointed….

So I just started commuting to work. Its a 20 mile round trip commute, and I have never biked in a city before. I’m still getting used to the signs and routes. I read up on the laws, visited this site, got gear, maps and books. I consider myself as prepared as I could be for a new cyclist. I was worried about other cars, but I was not prepared for how rude and dangerous other cyclists would be.

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I have had multiple instances where I suddenly see a sign in front of me that tells me to change lanes or speed, and just as I do so I have someone whiz by without a warning and shout obscenities and harsh words that I did not do it sooner.

I am regularly shocked at how fast these guys (my own data gathering seems to indicate it is done by 99.9% men, which is surprising and disappointing) whiz through children and weave in and out of groups of kids right by OMSI despite the warning signs to slow down. (A few places on SpringWater trail I’ve been grossed out by gas powered scooters that foul up the air and reek, again despite signs that clearly state no motorized vehicles.)

I’m glad I started by driving in Portland or I would have thought the city was full of assholes.

My point is, I don’t want to give up cycling… but is there something I can do to promote polite cycling? Is there a best practice for interacting for these people, or a way or reporting them?

I’m always fascinated to hear the perspective of new riders. Their experience can shed important light on how we’re doing as a biking city. We talk so much about inadequate infrastructure and scary driving behaviors — but here we have someone whose biggest problem is rude behavior from other riders.

I’m sad, but not surprised by Rachel’s email. As someone who rides slowly on a big and heavy upright bike, I can relate to her feelings. There’s a lot of poor decision-making out there — especially on our central city bikeways that tend to be crowded during peak times.

So… What would you tell Rachel to keep her spirits up and convince her to not lose faith in her fellow human-powered commuters?

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