Let me start by saying that I am a bicyclist. I am also a driver. I bike and drive in much the same way, vehicularly. There’s an old film for school children called “Drive Your Bike”. It is a good film to introduce people to vehicular bicycling. The PA bicycle manual is another good place to start. Of course the case for vehicular bicycling wouldn’t be complete without John Forester’s work.
There are various annoying habits of people who ride bicycles and I don’t disagree with a good number of them. I loathe gutter passers, wrong ways, riding side by side, riding at night without lights, and all other assorted moves that disturb vehicular flow. Critical mass has become something I rather don’t like and believe causes more harm than good. I find that those who advocate for bicycle lanes and bike paths to be coming from an entirely incorrect premise and thus arriving at solutions that cause greater problems.
Now that is out of the way, it is time to consider drivers who can’t deal with bicyclists. What is most odd of this group is that it is lawful, ordered, and predictable vehicular bicycling that angers them while they are very tolerant of sidewalk riders, gutter passers, and other bicyclists whom they nearly collide with.
Eric calls drivers who are law-is-the-law, slow, non-thinking, not paying attention to the task of driving, control freaks, and so on “clovers”. These “clovers” are the main problem driver for bicyclists. These drivers cannot operate their vehicles properly or competently so they find bicyclists using the roadway to be a frustrating problem. A clover is a driver who doesn’t plan ahead. He comes upon a bicyclist as a surprise so he hasn’t adjusted his speed slightly to a time a pass. He has never developed the driving skills to get his five and half foot wide vehicle into a space nine and half feed wide with three feet to the right to avoid getting too close to the bicyclist. Because these skills are beyond the effort he wants to put towards driving he ends up slowing to the bicyclist’s speed and then passing becomes even more difficult.
Thus encountering a bicyclist makes a clover an angry driver. He doesn’t blame himself for the situation he finds himself in because that’s the last person he’ll consider to be a problem. He doesn’t think about how he could change his behavior to avoid problems. The clover blames the bicyclist for daring to use the road.
Worse yet a clover is a person who demands conformity and a command and control order to life. This sort of driver is a control freak and believes that his motor vehicle gives him priority over others, just like he thinks he has priority over others when he is blocking the passing lane on the interstate. His speed, his style, his everything is the way everyone else should be. Some will argue from a collective standpoint, that bicyclists should give in to the collective. Individuality isn’t on the radar.
A solution of a clover is never to get along. His solution is to use force. Usually the force of the state. The disparity of size and weight between a driver of a car or SUV and a bicycle however is great enough that even some cowardly clovers get up the nerve to attack. These drivers won’t exit their vehicles most times and when they do they won’t take a swing, because someone who is fit enough to ride a bicycle in traffic will kick their ass. But attacking with their vehicle is something they are willing to do.
There’s little risk in attacking a bicyclist with an automobile. One can drive off, one won’t likely be hurt, and if the attack goes too far, seriously injuring or killing the bicyclist the driver can just say the magic words and suffer no more than a traffic ticket if that. The magic words are claiming ignorance, incompetence (“I didn’t see him”), or just blaming the bicyclist (“he darted right out in front of me”). Cops don’t care and are often offenders themselves, brush passing bicyclists and otherwise harassing them because that’s what bullies do and cops are often bullies.
One day many years ago when I was bicycling I pulled up to the back of queue at a traffic light. This queue was rather long. A clover type driver pulled up behind me and got very angry and aggressive (with his vehicle) demanding in his English as a second language that I “DRIVE CAR”, not a bicycle. The speed of traffic was ‘stop’ and immediately in front of me was the bumper of an SUV. When this driver became more and more aggressive, showing himself to be a risk to me by risking a collision to snuggle up to the bumper of the SUV in front of me, I resorted to gutter passing to get away from him. These violent types are thankfully a small minority.
Most clovers are essentially harmless and frightened people. They aim to use the government against those they don’t like or approve of. Because of this the clover is full of statist solutions to the “problem” of bicyclists. A clover can argue one many different things to make his case against bicyclists. I will address some of the common ones.
“You don’t pay for the roads”
The clover thinks that bicyclists are poor, jobless, and without assets even if the bicyclist’s bicycle is worth more than the clover’s car. A bicyclist’s contribution to road wear and tear isn’t worth calculating. The bicyclist doesn’t need a thick roadbed and lanes twelve feet wide either. A five foot wide road of fine crushed and compacted gravel would be far more than a bicyclist needs, a compacted dirt path two inches wide would be enough.
The bicyclist pays too. Odds are he owns a car or four and pays all sorts of road taxes. Even more so he probably pays for a place to live and through that or because of it pays property taxes that cover the local roads he prefers to use.
“You should get out of the way”
The kind of driver that gets the clover label thinks other road users have some obligation to be considerate of his lack of ability, skill, and planning ahead. Passing a bicyclist isn’t difficult. Any decent driver can get by a vehicular bicyclist without much effort. A clover can’t and thus thinks that a bicyclist should dive into the gravel at 20mph and get out of the way. Why? Because a clover doesn’t have the skills to fit his five foot something wide vehicle into a space smaller than twelve feet wide.
“You bike riders need to obey the law”
The funny thing is that most motorists don’t know the vehicle code very well. Even cops. The ones who are vocal have some personal idea of what the law is that sometimes they think should be enforced with deadly force. Trouble is, it’s usually wrong. Very wrong. Ultimately though I’ve found that obeying the law makes for more angry drivers. They don’t know the law, understand it, or really care for it. This “obey the law” thing motorists trot out has nothing to do with obeying the vehicle code in my experience. It’s about power over others. It’s about bullying. Once a bicyclist is obeying the law, insults and violence are the next step to keep superiority.
“You go too slow”
A clover would argue that a bicyclist keep up with traffic and that drivers should obey speed limits. Well, a bicyclist may be going the speed limit and the clover will still demand the bicyclist dive off towards the ditch. One notable example was a cop I encountered. He was in a private vehicle where the driver brush passed me when I was doing the speed limit and demanded I get out of the way. To a clover his speed is the speed, even if he’s speeding or slowing down everyone else. Passing a bicyclist is easy, but a clover has problems driving at even a low skill level.
“You don’t have insurance”
Clovers like forcing people to buy insurance. They are offended by the fact that bicyclists haven’t yet been subjected to this statist scam specifically for their bicycling. Never mind that it is often covered under other policies the bicyclist typically has. Overall when a clover talks about bicyclists not paying something his goal is to drive up the cost of bicycling to discourage it. He’s all about using government to discourage or ban things he doesn’t like.
“You shouldn’t be on this road”
A control freakish clover always wants to limit other people’s freedom. Bicyclists don’t like riding arterial roads. We don’t really want to be riding on a 55mph arterial. We don’t. They are usually horrible to ride. But all these people didn’t want automotive traffic on “their street”. So many of the minor roads don’t go through. They wander around in a maze like fashion and then the bicyclist comes out where he went in after a couple miles of biking around the maze. Drivers have made it such that the minor roads are useless for transportation. Bicyclists still need to go from A to B, but because drivers want to restrict each other, a bicyclist has no choice but to use the arterial roads. This nonsensical road design is not the bicyclists’ doing. A bicyclist simply has to live with it.
“There’s no bike lane here”
Separatist ideas are poor solutions that actually cause more conflict. Those conflicts are emotionally tolerated better by drivers, especially clovers, because they put the bicyclist in a place of inferiority. That’s really the nature of the game, feeling superior. It has nothing to do with traffic problems as the lane conflicts and intersection issues of bike lanes and bike paths are far beyond simple passing. A wide curb lane solves all issues, but motorists don’t like it because it doesn’t create a little bicycle prison. Bicyclists still retain being vehicular, still retain their rights, and that’s what clovers aim to remove through the power of the state.
Sidewalk riding is by far the most dangerous kind of riding there is. The crash type manual shows that ride outs, that is riding on to or crossing a road, or driveway from off the road is the most common form of bicycle-automobile collisions. Sidewalk and bike path riding makes this an event that can happen as frequently as every few yards. Drivers just aren’t looking for something moving 15-30mph off the roadway.
Bike lanes are fine (if designed right, which I’ve never seen and kept clean, which I’ve rarely seen) until a driver wants to turn right or a bicyclist wants to turn left. Then things go south.
They both are ultimately to solve a small safety problem by making a bigger one worse. That small problem being getting hit from behind. Hit from behind is very rare and usually due to a drunk or otherwise impaired driver. Trading hit from behind for all the various forms of ride out just doesn’t make sense.
But clovers don’t make sense, they think emotionally.
Ultimately these drivers are hypocrites. Because of this, I have found a good way to bring out a clover’s hypocrisy on the speed limit and other road users to use bicycling analogies. They usually don’t get it but they make a spectacle of the fact that they just consider their chosen speed to be what everyone else should choose. Not to mention that they expect other people who are legally using the roadway to move out of their way while they refuse to yield the passing lane on the interstate (illegal) themselves.
The engineering solution for bicycles and autos on the same road is wide curb lanes. Just a wider right lane. Even as little as three feet wider can work well. Hit from behind is just as rare as with a painted stripe for a bike lane, the road doesn’t become over complicated, bicyclists are where people expect traffic, the debris is swept to the gutter by motorized traffic, it’s the best of all things without the downsides of any of them. But people don’t want an engineering solution, they want a political one where they can control other people and encourage or make them live a certain way.
We could all get along on the roads, but that isn’t going to happen until people learn that forcing their neighbors to live just like them is not only unimportant, but ultimately destructive.