GGW on Bike Behavior and Expectations

Flickr: Washington Area Bicyclist Association

Bicyclist on 14th Street.

It’s like David Alpert over at Greater Greater Washington is reading my mind– I was just thinking about why a bicyclist racing through a red light at an intersection gets more attention than a car doing it. According to Alpert’s post, “What’s our bicycle “social contract“?”, It might have to do with expectations:

With the frequent calls for cyclists to “start behaving,” it’s clear that a number of people driving and walking are unsettled by the conduct of at least some people on bikes. But people in cars speed all the time, and people walking cross against the light, and neither generates as many newspaper letters to the editor. What is the difference?

One explanation is that people naturally notice infractions by others on different modes more than those on the same mode. People driving tend to see misbehavior by people walking and cycling rather than from other people driving, for example. And since relatively few people ride bicycles while a great many drive, the outraged letters will skew toward misbehavior by those on bikes and away from that from people in cars.

Felix Salmon proposed another interesting explanation a while back. Basically, he argues that we’ve developed a clear understanding of what to expect from people walking and driving generally, but lack that consensus for people bicycling…

Alpert goes on to examine “bike behavior” and offers his opinion on whether each maneuver is good (riding in the middle of a lane) or bad (blowing through an intersection).