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Bicycle Self Defense(26 posts)

Bicycle Self DefenseJohn R.
May 21, 2001 7:34 AM
I have noticed a disconcerting increase in driver aggression lately on my commute, shouts of "a**hole" and "f***-you" coming from drivers and passengers some of whom were travelling toward me on the other side of a double yellow line!

And I finally had the first object thrown at me by some teenagers - although I couldn't figure out what it was that hit me. One evening a carload of youths slowed down and yelled something at me before driving on.

I am beginning to get fearful of a confrontation and want to start carrying some things to defend myself. I will definitely get some mace and I am thinking some kind of aluminum billy-club or baton strapped to my top-tube might help.

Does anyone out there have any other suggestions? How do you prepare? Thanks.

John R.
May 21, 2001 8:01 AM
I've been dealing with it for like 30 years. One weapon is yer big chainring. Shift to the inner ring at the first sign of trouble and keep the bike on its rear wheel, with the ring pointed toward the trouble.
re: Bicycle Self Defenserollo tommassi
May 21, 2001 8:23 AM
Good grief, where do you live? Get their license plate and make/model of car. Report it immediately. In fact, a good "exercise" is to practice focusing on the plates of passing cars, so that in a "real" situation the reflex is there, and you instantly look at the plate.

Mace and a mobile phone are your best bet. Do not carry an 'offensive' style weapon.

Assault is assault, whether or not you are a pedestrian or a cyclist. Talk with other riders in your neighborhood, ask them if they have the same problem.

You may also consider using a different road for your commute?
"One shot and you're south of the boarder!!"...seth1
May 21, 2001 8:28 AM
The mace sounds like a good idea, I don't know of the legality issues with it though.

When I'm with a group on a club ride, I usually don't worry about it too much. I think most people aren't so stupid that they will mess with 4-10 people. Plus, if incidents do happen in those occasions I'm usually so preoccupied with the other riders around me to let it cause much psychological stress.

Unfortunately there is not much you can do if the assailant remains in his (usually male offenders) car. If words are thrown and nothing else, try and remain grateful that that was all. If it was a half empty liter bottle of Southern Comfort, try to get a licence plate number (that's a little dificult) and the projectile. Fingerprints on the object, and a witness will help your case.

How about a cell phone with emergency numbers on speed dial.
A stun-gun?
How about protection FROM Bicycles?Spoke Wrench
May 21, 2001 8:48 AM
Most Mondays I do a group ride that also involves a good size group of racers and tri-athletes. I find it disconcerting when that peloton passes me without so much as an "On your left." The lead rider usually leaves a reasonable abount of space, but following riders tend to edge ever closer until I feel I'm being forced off of the road.

On one occasion after a guy passed within inches of me I asked if he knew who I was. After his smirking negative reply, I asked why he felt safe passing me that close. "I never thought of that." Right- never thought at all.

Now I'm a bike guy, I know most of these guys personally, and I still find these situations a little intimidating. People with less experience have to find it even more intimidating. There is a well-publicized law suit in Pa. regarding this very issue in which all of the racers who attempted to help an injured cyclist were identified and later sued.

Like it or not, we road cyclists are a small crew. If we can't find a way to cooperate with each other, I'm sure we will see increasing regulations that restrict our right to bicycle on the roads. Some recreational cyclists might even see more regulations as a good thing.

Any ideas?
How about protection FROM Bicycles?Jim Burton
May 21, 2001 9:41 AM
Spoke wrench,

Can you explain this lawsuit a little better, or tell me where I can get more information on it? From what you are saying, it sounds like the racers ATTEMPTING to help a cyclist could not be sued under the Good Samaritan law. I don't know, I am not a lawyer, but I would like to know more about this case.
How about protection FROM Bicycles?Spoke Wrench
May 21, 2001 9:58 AM
I think that I read about it in "Bicycling Retailer" but I'm not confident of the source. Maybe somebody from the Philadelphia area can clue us in. As I understand it, a peloton passed a recreational cyclist and she subsequently fell and took out a good part of the pack. The recreational cyclist was injured badly enough to require medical attention and her bike was damaged.

A local shop repaired her bike for free and was consequently identified. Several racers from the peloton were identified because they sent her "Get Well" cards or flowers. I assume the plaintif's attorney will claim that the peloton as a group caused the accident and consequently, every member bears responsibility. I'm not a lawyer either, but that looks like a pretty sound case to me.

It is kind of ironic that the nicest members of the group are the ones who got identified and subsequently sued as their reward for showing compassion.
How about protection FROM Bicycles?Jim Burton
May 21, 2001 10:24 AM
Thanks Spokewrench,

Sounds like a lose-lose situation.
Bicycling Magazine had a similar story. . .9WorCP
May 21, 2001 12:56 PM
. . .only in Florida as I recall. Peloton spooked a lady who panicked and swerved causing a pile-up. Bunch of people got hurt and the peloton got sued. Reminds of one of the first times I rode in Central Park late at night. This was a about 4-5 years ago and I was toodling along in earnest on my unsuspended, low end mountain bike. I was feeling pretty good, minding my own business when a peloton streamed around me at high speed. The lead guys didn't say a word, and everyone immediately thereafter screamed "GO STRAIGHT!! GO STRAIGHT!!! GO STRAIGHT!!" They passed on all sides, by inches in some cases. A grey bearded dude at the end said "thank you." and away they went. I was shaking from the experience. It was kind of a mixture of awe and "what a bunch of assh*les."
I don't know the details on that crashmike mcmahon
May 21, 2001 10:08 AM
However, I do know that in California competetive cycling (including group rides) is considered a dangerous activity and those in the ride "assume the risk" of injury or death. Typically, the only time a lawsuit will be permitted to proceed against one of the participants is if he or she has done something to increase the risk beyond those inherent in the activity: what is generally considered to be reckless or intentional conduct. Similarly, a "good samaritan" is typically immune from liability unless he or she does something that increases the risk of death or injury (e.g., trying to revive an unconscious person by jumping repeatedly on his chest). Of course, lack of merit in a lawsuit cannot prevent it from being filed in the first place, which in turn requires the defendants to spend money defending themselves.
philly incidentDaveG
May 21, 2001 7:55 PM
Spoke, I assume you were referring to the incident in Fairmont Park in Philadelphia a couple of years ago. In that case a large group of fast riders rode up on a women doing a leisurely ride and caused her to crash (unclear whether actual contact took place). This was on a closed-to-cars road. I don't think she sued the folks BECAUSE they helped her, but some riders, and I believe the club, were sued for causing the accident.
re: Try this.....The Jokker
May 21, 2001 9:11 AM
You must live in redneck land. If you cannot manage a move to a more civilized country,buy a tandem and get a doberman for a riding partner. HaHaHaHaHaHa........Ever consider that you are an a$$hole and do things to pi$$ folks off. I see alot of that. Many cyclists are just stupid arrogant pricks that just don't get it. Alot of them piss me off too.Makes things bad for responsible cyclists.Just MHO, others will differ.
re: Try this.....LightBoy
May 21, 2001 12:17 PM
Has anyone else noticed the curious correlation between the eleoquence and intellegence (or obvious lack there of) displayed in a post, and the author's pro/anti cycling nature? It would seem to me that most of the comments made by cyclists, or at least in favor of cycling, are usually well thought out and maturely presented. Conversely, those that needlessly bash and rip on cyclists are more often that not filled with innane rambling, inappropriate insults, and a general, 'I'm better than you because I'm a lazy couch potato' attitude. One must also ask why non-cyclists spend time on a cycling message borad, unless they jsut feel a desire to make public their illogical and childish fears of anyone that is not exactly like them. Just an observation.

Of course, maybe I too have jumped the gun. Perhaps this is a cyclist, and is just fed up with the uppity, 'holier than thou' attitude that some cyclists display. That I can understand. What troubles me is that he apperas to be protesting those that claim that they are better than him, by simply turning around and claiming that he is in fact better than them, and he is thus, in effect, protesting against himself. Quite curious.
Much dissention in the ranks ....seth1
May 21, 2001 12:51 PM
If you click on "Previous 40" you will find an interesting thread that starts with the title: "You shaved leg bastard suck".

It's really quite interesting. I can't figure out why people are so angry and why people abandon all rules of English grammar and punctuation.
Thread CancelledJim Burton
May 21, 2001 1:16 PM
The "You Shaved Leg..." thread was deleted by the lords of the message board like should've been done a long time ago. I think it would do us all well if we ignored babble like that.
Jim, you are so right. (nm)seth1
May 21, 2001 1:37 PM
He may not be too bright, but he has a pointmr_spin
May 21, 2001 3:39 PM
There are a lot of cyclists out there doing very stupid things. We all have stories, I'm sure. And of course, none of us ever does anything stupid, right?

There is no excuse for assault and general harassment of cyclists, or anyone else. But look in the mirror, folks. If you are running around town blowing through stop signs and red lights; if you are tying up single lane roads with your group rides; if you are generally being a nuisance on the road, don't be surprised by a negative reaction from drivers.
In a similar veinJim Burton
May 21, 2001 10:54 AM
I don't know if anyone else has read "The Immortal Class: Bike Messengers and the Cult of Human Power", by Travis Hugh Culley, but the book is excellent.

This book basically outlines the war between motor vehicles and cars from a messenger's perspective. Now, I know that some of you may think that some messengers give cycling a bad name because of some of their questionable tactics, but you really should give this book a chance.

Anyway, the book outlines a few different cases in which cyclists were wronged. Two of which I believe bear relevance here.

The First of these stories describes an aspiring pro tri-athlete who did speed work on the same road every speed day. One of the covered bridges on this route was being repaired the evening before and had not been finished. The road crew, surmising that the unfinished portion, bearing exposed wooden slats, would not be a danger to cars and therefore did not put up any signs indicating the hazard. The bridge was safe for cars, but would trap a bicycle's wheel much the same way grating turned the wrong way will. The cyclist, on his early morning training run hit this covered bridge going in excess of 27 mph. He sustained massive injuries that his insurance did not cover for some reason. He tried to sue the town for only the cost of his medical bills and equipment, but a federal judge ruled against him citing that the town did not specify this road for bicycles and was therefore not required to post danger signs for cyclists.

The second story is more tragic. A messenger on his early morning route got into a confrontation with a motorist. An event that I'm sure the messengers on the message board will assure us is not infrequent. After exchanging words, the cyclist did the safest thing and held his line. The driver nudged up to his rear wheel revving his engine and proceeded to run him over, killing him. The driver then went on to work and only on his way home, and upon noticing that the cyclist had taken his front license plate with him, turned himself in.

Cars are dangerous. Dogs scare me and people yelling make me mad, but the cars can kill me. This is not a cyclist's world. We constantly have to stand up for our rights on the road and off, but we also have to be extremely cautious. Keep your cool on the road and if by yourself, I believe it is a good idea to always be courteous even in the face of anger.
In a similar vein (picture of book)Jim Burton
May 21, 2001 10:56 AM
A review and picture of this book can be found here:
Illinois Riders MUST Read:slimgoodbody
May 21, 2001 8:40 PM
I think the bridge story may be the John Boub incedent that has reshaped Illinois laws to exclude support for cyclist and marked bike routes.

Please go to where you can learn all about the bill trying to make it out of committee to put an end to our second class citizenship and CALL YOU CONGRESSMEN.
Yes! Yes! That is the story.Jim Burton
May 21, 2001 10:51 PM
Very sad. Althought I don't live in IL, the thought that any state could make laws like that horrifies me.
Budda teaches Mindfullness128
May 21, 2001 12:27 PM
but did he ever ride a bike!

I am conviced at least 40 percent of recreational automobilists both never took a physics class and drive as if the act of driving were some vague afterthought, nothing mindfull about it..dum, te do, hmm, AT 80 MPH! Drives me out of my saw-proof tree...

One simple caveat: safety first. KInstead it's drive defensively. Someone on this board said it, and I respected the thought "I now drive aggressively slow" neet.

TRIED Rt. 128 lately?
55% of drivers may be aware that they're driving, but have not the remotest clue of the forces in play. Science is everwhere!
And 5% percent of the drivers are from Boston and drive bedah than you! (statistics are from an official, indisputable source)
Cyclists (recreational and otherwise) no matter how moronic must, however begrudgingly, be given right of way as do pedestrians, even though road cyclists share the road. Should we license cyclists if they're going to mix it up on the road? NOOOO!
I want to march right down there to Acme driving School and Your Local DMV and politely ask WHT THE HECK ARE YOU TELLING US TO DO!!!!
I think more than road signs and crap, real life strategies and methods for driving "in the stream" not against it should be taught, and Jeremy Benthams Utilitarian Priciples of Driving should be required writing (and then required reading after someones nutshells that topic)

Share the road vs tragedy of the commons, sort of an age old conundrum, eh

Is it too social Darwinian to suggest we keep low performance people out of high performance vehicles (bikes and cars)?

re: Bicycle Self DefenseLen J
May 21, 2001 12:45 PM
In my experience, whatever it is possible for either a car or another Bicycle to do has probably & will continue to be done..... but only when you least expect it.

The safest method is to be as vigilant as possible, while still recognizing that "idiots happen". I had two on my ride Saturday, One a SUV making an illegal left turn oncoming, into a bike only lane, without any regard for me being in his path, and then proceeded to yell at me. Go figure. The second was another Biker father & his son flying out from a side street, without looking, forcing me to choose between swerving out into traffic or hitting them. Thankfully, in both situitations, I was alert enough to be able to look before reacting inappropriatly, but both could have been more serious if I had been there a few seconds sooner (even while alert).

In Both cases the drivers ended up cussing me. I hope it was surprise. I just ignored it and rode on (took the high ground).

My 2 cents.FWIW
Best advice I ever got. . . .9WorCP
May 21, 2001 1:40 PM
for riding in traffic was to treat all cars(actually everyone, bikes, pedestrians, etc.) like they are wild animals. They don't ususally want anything to do with you but are inherently unpredictable and can do a lot of damage if provoked. It sounds silly but it's an effective strategy. Don't try to make to make eye contact w/ or acknowledge the person individually, you have to think of a car and person as a unit. When they cut you off or one honks at you, you're less likely to get angry and start provacative behavior of your own because instead of seeing a jerk behind the wheel you instead see a mindless "rhino" going about its business. Which you already have assumed will do dumb or possibly threatening stuff anyway.

It's a mental game I play in NYC and it works. Some driver pulls a stupid move on me I can forget about him in half a block. It's nice not to get bogged down w/ personal affronts and grievances and just get on w/ your commute or whatever.
Good tip!MeDotOrg
May 21, 2001 9:41 PM
I like the "wild animal" analogy. Maybe cars are more like dogs...most are friendly, but some are vicious...some are puppies that don't know their own strength...and some are just mean...

...But I like the game about forgetting about is to short to carry all the rage that comes from those moments...let it go...
big eyesQuickness
May 22, 2001 1:34 AM
yeah, i don't know about the 'make no eye contact' rule,
but, hats off to you if it works in NYC

whenever riding heavy traffic, i make myself BIG. REAL BIG.
you can project a 'i belong here' attitude both physically and emotionally, drivers will pick up on it -
get out of the saddle a lot, leave a couple feet between yourself and the parked cars, take up the whole lane when it belongs to you, trackstand and get up in front of cars at the lights, look drivers in the eyes (esp. if they're about to turn and may not see you, SHOUT!

good lucks...

as for the assho%e drivers cutting you off, kids yelling, rednecks in trucks throwin' shit, move to seattle or somewhere else where bikes are highly visible. i did.