Bicyclists (some) do this thing that really super-annoys me at 4-way stop signs. I pedal towards an intersection defined by stop signs for each direction. I see that cars are queued up waiting. A car rolls forward and stops. Another car takes it's turn. Then the next car goes. See the pattern? I fall into line and get to the front and stop to wait my turn. The cars watch me sullenly. I gesture to show that I acknowledge how they were first and it is not my turn. A car rolls forward. A second bicyclist sweeps past me on my right or left, passing the waiting cars and ignoring the stop sign completely. Car slams on brakes. Driver of car gives me (me! so unfair!) a reproachful look. I think at the bicyclist, "damnit! that was so rude of you!"
This stop-sign-runner adheres to a style of bicycling that can be termed "all for me and none for you." It is a style that closely resembles my behavior in years gone by when I bicycled in and around Massachusetts and Washington DC. If you had asked me about my bicycling then I would have said that I deserved to be first at any opportunity that I wanted because I was on a bicycle and the cars made life as a bicyclist dangerous. If I cut off a car? The damn thing had it coming.
I was the bicyclist your mother warned you about. Bike lanes didn't exist outside of Holland and I considered any square foot of pavement (sidewalk, road, crosswalk, whatever) fair game. I loved it when the cars were slammed to a stop by a red light that I then successfully ran. It was delicious to me.
Interestingly enough during my worst bicycling behaviors (and I got pretty bad in my wanton twenties) no one yelled out their window "This is why we hate you!" In my dark and evil (but pretty happy when it came to bicycling) past I used to bound on and off the sidewalk (scattering pedestrians) and cut cars off and I heard no screams at all, no one followed along after me delivering a tirade on the evils of bicycling.
That silence makes me think that hating on bicyclists is a new development. My working theory is that media attention to climate problems and bike lanes have legitimized bicycling, and it's that legitimacy that entrenched car people loathe and find threatening. It was fine when bicyclists were just these annoying little freaks jumping around like fleas on a dog but once the mainstream started paying attention and giving some kudos to the people bicycle-commuting the car people felt the need to fight back.
So what changed for me because I think of myself as pretty civilized now. Part of what changed is age and increased fear of death and oblivion by automobile. But the bigger part of what changed, what continues to change me, is the people driving cars who are behaving nicely. I just can't bring myself to ride my bicycle like an asshole when the cars put in some effort to be careful.
State Trooper: [Sobbing] Please! I have a wife and kids.
Thelma: Oh really, well, you're lucky. You be sweet to them, especially your wife. My husband wasn't sweet to me. Look how I turned out.
The short answer is, if your area bicyclists ride like bi-polar, cocaine-infused hopped-up deaf chinchillas? You are reaping what you sowed with all your mean-spirited dangerous car-behaviors.
Is is an unrealized truth that the behavior of bicyclists is governed by automobiles. If you cut us off, ignore us, open car doors in our faces, honk at us and feign swerve as if you are going to run us over? We'll ride accordingly and you'll be hard put to find a more unpleasant group of wheel-monkies. If you stop and wait so our kids can bicycle safely through the intersection, if you don't harass us when we take some desperately needed lane and if you control your temper during our inevitable fuck-ups we'll end up properly socialized.
A few years ago now I was bicycling through downtown Palo Alto and a car passed me on it's way to a green light. It then began signalling that it wanted to turn right. I was going straight and so I fell in behind so that I would not get hooked when it turned. But the car slowed and did not turn and as I biked behind the slowing car I saw the driver looking in the rear view mirror of his car and I realized, shocked, that he was looking for me. He was worried about hitting me, a lowly bicyclist. I moved over so I'd be more clearly in his line of vision and then I waved, tentatively. He smiled and waved back and after a moment's more hesitation completed the turn and drove away. I went on ahead and from that point on, started bicycling with greater civility.
So. Be sweet to us. Maybe we'll turn out okay after all.