A while back, I pitted a deeply misguided cyclist who was irritating me. That thread, not entirely unpredictably, turned into a general ‘cyclists’ suck thread.
Rick mentioned that he feels persecuted, because even when he follows the rules, people only remember the cyclists who don’t. Which got me to thinking, how much of my ill-will towards cyclists is based on nothing more than confirmation bias? Just in thinking about it, I concluded that obviously ‘all cyclists suck’ was probably inaccurate, and guessed that if I were actually paying attention probably less than 5% of cyclists actually suck.
I decided to test this particular theory by keeping a count of all the cyclists I saw on my way to and from a particularly cycling-heavy neighborhood. How many cyclists suck? How many cyclists don’t suck? My totally unscientific poll results were as follows:
On my way to Bloor & Bathurst, of the 37 cyclists I saw, 22 of them were not sucking at the time, 11 of them were sucking at the time, and 4 of them were engaged in behaviours I could not fully classify as sucking versus not sucking (mainly straddling their bicycle on the sidewalk – they weren’t riding it at the time, so I couldn’t unequivocally call them suck, but chances are they were going to, so I wouldn’t call them non-suck)
On my home from Bloor & Bathurst, of the 27 cyclists I saw, 18 of them were not sucking at the time, 7 of them were sucking at the time, and 2 of them were engaged in behaviours I could not fully classify as sucking versus not sucking (both riding without both hands on the bike, one with no hands on it and the other with one hand while carrying a cup of hot coffee from Tims; neither of these activities felt all that safe to me, but I wasn’t totally prepared to make the call).
Now, in basic ratios, that seems to indicate that a 1/4 to a 1/3 of all cyclists suck, which is quite a lot lower than my mental ratio of ‘Oh my god, cyclists are so annoying! All of them!’ and quite a lot higher than I actually expected the number to be when I thought about it in my more rational moments.
Confounding this data, though, is the point in time nature of it. It’s really that 1/4 to 1/3 of cyclists were sucking in the 5 seconds or so that I observed them. The vast majority of the non-sucking cyclists were ones I encountered in between blocks, while they were riding in straight lines with no traffic signals to concern themselves with. Counting only the percentage of cyclists I saw engaged in turning, (not) stopping or otherwise (dis)obeying transit signals would definitely have increased the ratio of suck to non-suck probably up to at least 1/2 and more like 2/3.
On the other hand, I counted anyone riding on the sidewalk (as opposed to walking their bike on the sidewalk) as sucking, and though it’s illegal here, there doesn’t seem to be all that much agreement, at least not amongst cyclists as to how much that sucks.
This also raises the question of whether there is a threshhold between suck and non-suck? How many sucky acts can a cyclist perform in a single trip before they can be declared to outright suck? Is it enough for them to cycle safely 99% of the time (even relatively good drivers accidentally blow through the occasional red light or have the occasional fender bender) or 75% of the time or 50%?
Contrary to what I expected when I started this little experiment, I actually feel more justified in my feelings that most cyclists suck. The amount of suckiness I saw while I was specifically watching for it was astounding. Yes, there are good, safe, non-sucking cyclists out there on the road, but they appear to be fewer and further between than they should be.
I didn’t put this in the Pit, because I don’t think we need another general cyclists suck thread (there are lots of those already in the Pit if you need one), but I’m curious to see what other Dopers discover if they do this sort of tally for themselves in their own cities.