Category Archives: Honk Report

S#!7 Motorists say to cyclists

Yeah, yeah, that meme is so last month. Still, there seems to be a theme in the things that motorists say to me when I’m on my bike.

The most common thing that motorists say to me is


I’ve mostly reached a state of zen on getting honked at. I (mostly) don’t care and just let it slide off me. Sometimes though, if the honk is delivered for a longer period of time, or the motorist is particularly close – it just throws me into a blind rage. I was honked at last night, a few blocks from my home. Instead of making the turn onto my block, I put the pedal(s) down and followed the car. I could have caught up to them, but they ran several stop signs (Richard at has an interesting post on “scofflaw” motorists). What would I have done if I caught up with the driver? I dunno… doesn’t seem like it would be a teachable moment. But I was in a blind rage, so I sprinted. Eventually, my lack of cardiovascular fitness caught up with me. I was a little worn out from the sprint, but hey, no more blind rage!

The second most common thing that people say to me is

“Great day for a bike ride, huh?”

The first time this happened to me, I wasn’t sure what to do so I think I said “Uh, yeah, I guess it is.” Motorists can’t stop themselves from saying this, so I’ve come up with a few responses, only a few of which I’ve tried.

“Then what are you doing in a car?”

“Bike ride? I wish I had time for a bike ride, I’ve got to get to work!”

“It’s always a great day for a bike ride!”

“Hey Lance, get out of the way!”

Evidently, this happens pretty often to people, but it’s only happened to me once. I was too far away before I realized what they’d said. But since then, I’m ready for the next time I hear it:

“Lance rides a Trek, can’t you see this is a Cannondale?” [or Jamis, or Raleigh, depending on the situation]

“Hey Dale Earnhardt, go drive in circles somewhere!”

What sort of S#!7 do motorists say to you? Got any snappy comebacks?

Video Evidence

If you drive a car, ride as a passenger in a car, ride a bike on a road where cars also travel, or live near a street where there are regularly cars, then I would highly recommend Tom Vanderbilt’s Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us) Spouse got this for me shortly after it came out. [She’s an amazing woman, that Spouse is.] Also, you should read Tom Vanderbilt’s Blog, How We Drive.

Tom Vanderbilt (what’s that, I can call you “Tom”, well okay, if you insist). Tom recently wrote an article for Outside Magazine (brought to my attention by reader, V) on some extreme bicycle commuters and the perceived strife between cyclists and motorists. aka “The Bikelash.” Tom doesn’t seem to see the issue as motorists vs. cyclists, but more us vs. them

We know that merely perceiving someone as an outsider is enough to provoke a whole range of things,” says Ian Walker, a researcher at the University of Bath who specializes in traffic psychology. “All the time, you hear drivers saying things like ‘Cyclists, they’re all running red lights, they’re all riding on sidewalks,’ while completely overlooking the fact that the group they identify with regularly engages in a whole host of negative behaviors as well.” This social categorization is subtle but dominant, he points out.

In other words, cyclists and motorists perceive themselves as distinct groups and perceive the “other” as monolithic. This is why I get unsolicited comments from acquaintances along the lines of, “you know, I’d respect cyclists more if they weren’t always running red lights and stop signs.” To which I respond, “Yeah, I hate those people.” Left unsaid by me: “And what do they have to do with me?  Would you like me to bring up the dozens of motorists I see every day breaking all sorts of traffic laws? What do they have to do with you?”

Tom’s article references a bike blog I hadn’t heard of before, the creatively titled: Jeff’s Bike Blog. Jeff specializes in video taping all of the cars that nearly hit him. I you are not currently “being Charlie Sheen” and feel like having some vicarious heart attack moments, I suggest you watch some of his videos.

Like this one that resulted in the cyclist getting a ticket:

Or this one where a passenger actually opens his door as he passes the cyclist.

And that’s why we need laws to protect cyclists from harassment.

Speaking of which, I know I’m always promising not to do it, but it’s time for a


So, I’m rolling down Canal Street, towards Steeple/Exchange. I’m still aways away from the traffic light when I see it turn yellow, so I stop pedaling and coast up to the light. A car pulls up behind me, and there is no one in the middle lane or the far left lane. For those of you from outside of the city, this is a three lane, one way street. At the intersection, the two right lanes are for turning right and the left lane is for going straight.

I’m where that silver car is, I’m pretty sure it’s a Mini Cooper (yes, I can spot a Mini Cooper from space). Just like a Mini, I’m taking up an entire lane, because it would be unsafe for a car to pass me without changing lanes. A car rolls up behind me, well after the light has turned red.


Without turning around, I point to the “No Turn On Red” sign right next to me. I get another honk. I turn around and inquire as to the driver’s reading ability. He responds, “If you weren’t in front of me, I could have made the light.” This is A. untrue, and B. irrelevant. I respond, “Well go around me if you’re in such a hurry,” pointing to the empty lane next to him. “I can’t,” he says as another car approaches the intersection and eventually gets to the stop line in the middle lane. (If he had spent less time honking and kvetching, he would have had plenty of time to change lanes).I roll my eyes, and get ready for the light to turn green and prepare myself for an escape in case the driver gets “assaulty.” When the light turns green, I turn right and get into the second lane from the right on Exchange Terrace. The driver makes his right turn and pulls all the way over to the far left lane. If he was going to that lane, he should have started from the middle lane on Canal Street. I continue on to work.

I relayed this story to Spouse later in the evening and she came up with the perfect retort, “I’m sorry, you’ll just have to realize that when you drive your car, sometimes there will be another vehicle in front of you that won’t feel like running a red light.”

Spouse: she’s so smart.

The incident described above happened earlier this week. Then today, I had another similar incident. I was stopped at a red light on Allens Street in South Providence. I was as far to the right as practicable given that much of the right hand part of the road is covered in sand right now. As I was waiting for the light to turn green, a car came up behind me and honked at me. Evidently, I was in “their way.” I was slowing them down no more than if I had been in a car. While the light was still red, they pulled around me and turned right (there was no prohibition for doing so at this intersection). I smiled and waved and said, “Hey, how ya doin?” This is the attitude I have to remind myself to take. Sanguinity.

Going back to Jeff’s Bike Blog for a minute… I have a strange fascination for these instances of gratuitously bad driving where cyclists are almost killed or maimed. Maybe I like looking at this sort of thing because it re-inforces my smugness. Sometimes I feel like I get too much of a thrill from righteous indignation. It’s almost like these tales of motorist ineptitude (like every cyclist’s favorite bogeyman, Martin Erzinger), are a form of pornography. I can read through the comments section of these articles and feel an arousal in my ire region. I should give up this filthy habit in exchange for  looking at that other type of bike porn: pictures from the North American Handmade Bicycle Show!

photo by John Prolly of

A seat cluster plus a matching nestled frame pump? My god, that’s just obscene!

photo by John Prolly of

Two dirty bikes. Two very, very durrrrrty bikes.


They’ve been naughty.

Honk Report: Woodward Road

Just kidding, this isn’t a honk report.  I was just reading something over at Lovely Bicycle regarding taking the rude actions of motorists personally, and I was reminded of my habit of describing the incidents of motorists being rude to me.  However, there haven’t been many lately. In fact, I haven’t been honked at in a very long time – over 500 miles of honk-free cycling.

This is making me suspicious. Am I doing anything differently? Is the cooler weather causing people to have cooler tempers? Are there more cyclists on the road now and so people are used to seeing them so they don’t feel the need to honk? I’m really at a loss. Maybe I just have a better attitude now and I’m radiating kindness. Or is that just my neon yellow windbreaker?

Velouria of Lovely Bicycle puts it into perspective by pointing out the motorists are much more rude to each other than they are to cyclists (generally speaking). That reminds me of something else I’ve noticed in the last year and 2 months of car-free traveling:

A lot of people drive like assholes.

Now, if you live in Rhode Island, I’m sure this isn’t a newsflash (as an aside, I’ll point out that most cities think that they have the worst drivers, it’s the inverse of the “Lake Wobegone” effect where all of the children are above average). Even so, as a cyclist, I think it is easier to notice some of the boneheaded moves that motorists make. Is it just because I’m not in a protective bubble of steel and glass, and thus I notice my surroundings more? Is it because I read Traffic by Tom Vanderbilt and thus I now am more finely attuned to the stupid stuff people do? Or is it simply the fact that when I’m on my bike, I get passed by more cars, thus I see more cars, and thus I see more people driving like assholes? Who knows.

I mention Woodward Road, because I’ve had a couple chances to climb it recently. It’s a fairly sedate road that leads up to Mineral Spring Ave, which is not so sedate. No one honked at me on this road.


I drafted this post last week. After finishing most of it, I had three honking incidents in two days, one of which included a string of invective yelled at me from a passing car (by the passenger). The essence of the invective was that I should get off the road. I think he yelled something about an “exercise path” but I’m not sure what that means.

I saw this outside of the office the other day:

I was looking for a low-cost way of upgrading the handlebars on my commuter!

Parking, Honking, Yelling, Zen.

I felt a little bad about my previous post – almost 1000 words just on a short section of my commute. Then I realized that this sort of post isn’t so bad. This is how the bike bloggers disseminate important information about cycling strategies. I’ve picked up tips from other bike blogs on how to better navigate the roads, so maybe I’m contributing to that knowledge just a little bit. Okay, enough navel gazing. On to one of my favorite topics: Parking!

I’ve referenced Donald Shoup’s The High Cost of Free Parking before in this blog, but I’ve never read it. All I know about it are the numerous secondary references I’ve picked up from other books and blogs. I was shopping for a few things online the other day and got this close to ordering the book when I realized it was 733 pages long, and I don’t really have time to read all of that and keep up on my important blogging “career.” Luckily, a dedicated reader sent me a link to an NY Times article on the topic. Here’s a short excerpt that pretty much sums it up:

If developers were allowed to face directly the high land costs of providing so much parking, the number of spaces would be a result of a careful economic calculation rather than a matter of satisfying a legal requirement. Parking would be scarcer, and more likely to have a price — or a higher one than it does now — and people would be more careful about when and where they drove.

I can do even better than that. I can summarize the whole book thusly: “Free parking creates many costs to society that are not immediately apparent.” Now you don’t even have to read the book. It’s kind of like that year back in college when you were “totally interested in Buddhism” but would rather watch that one Keanu Reeves movie than read that one big Buddhism book. You know, that one….

I’m happy to report that Recycle-A-Bike had another successful weekend of bike valet service. This was our 4th week at the Lippit Park Farmers’ Market. I think that we parked about 23 bikes and talked to many more people about the good work that Recycle-a-bike does.

We usually have tools there in order to make any minor repairs that people might need. The bike pump is even more important – there are lots of people riding around with under-inflated tires. Spouse has suggested offering a chain cleaning and lube service for bike valet customers for a nominal fee. I hear so many underlubed bikes squeaking down the road and I just want to yell, “LUBE!” at them but I’m afraid that might be misinterpreted. I don’t think we’ll have this service this weekend, but maybe when we figured out the issue of where to dump the cleaner we can do it.

After the farmers’ market, the equipment was rushed to Foo Fest at AS 220 to park even more bikes for the good people who were enjoying the Foo. I’m not sure if they were able to count the number of bikes that were parked, there were so many. Here’s an example:

RAB is actually running out of racks. The ones we have currently aren’t the best design, and they pretty much require the use of a truck, van or hatchback to transport them (or a bike trailer, I guess). I was looking around for alternatives today when I stumbled upon Soapbox LA, a blog about “access and mobility.” This particularly exhaustive post, really gets into the details of bike parking in the authors’ neighborhood. The post also includes this official drawing from LADOT (wasn’t that a girl group in the ’80’s?)

Here’s the story. When the Griffith Observatory reopened after the remodel, we fought to make sure that they installed bike racks. Long fight, long story…they put in a toast rack.

We fought for the inverted U rack, principle based fight, the entire property has great fence but I degress.

The guy from the Observatory has to go to the LADOT to get the inverted U racks. When he asks about the specs for installation, this is what they gave him…along with a bit of eye-rolling and attitude.

Good Times.

As I am wont to do when I find a good blog, I started reading through the other entries and came upon a reference to Park(ing) Day LA. If I learned anything during art school, it’s beware of a title that uses a parentheses to make one word into two words. That and watch out for any artist’s statement that includes the words “domesticity” and/or “embodiment.”

You may have heard of projects similar to [shudder] Park(ing) Day LA from around the world. This is where a group of people takes over a parking place on the street, and turns it into a pocket sized public park. If there is a meter, the occupants dutifully deposit coins into the meter. Here are a couple of examples:

Her future is so smug, she's got to shade her eyes with her hand.

This idea instantly appeals to the former art school student who lurks within me. Ala Barricade! We shall take over the streets and convert the evil drivers’ parking spaces into public parks for all to enjoy! They will feel the fury of our creativity! The squares will be so blown away, they won’t know what to do!

However, I know that in practice that this sort of thing just reinforces the worldview of people who already agree with the basic premise while everyone else thinks you are a d-bag. It’s the old “preaching to the choir” tactic of political activism, except pretend that while preaching to a choir who is already singing along with you, you somehow manage to pee on a bunch of atheists. Kind of like Critical Mass.

Then again those pictures do look pretty cool. And I’m once again angry at motorists due to a….


I know, I know, I said that I’d retired the honk report. But let’s just say that I’ve repurposed it. If I were still in grad school, I’d say that I’ve recontextualized it.

I was not literally honked at today, but I was yelled at. I biked down N. Main and approached Branch Ave where I needed to turn left. In preparing to turn, I checked over my shoulder quite a few times until I saw an opening in traffic. I signaled my lane change and moved to the left hand lane (just like I was driving a car). I waited in line at the left turn lane onto Branch (just like I was driving car). On Branch, I rode on the left side of the lane because I was turning in to visit a store on the other side of the street. I signaled left and waited for traffic to clear enough for me to turn (just like I was driving a car). Cars were able to pass me on the right because there was plenty of room (unlike if I’d been driving a car). As I turned, a motorist yelled, “Get off the damned road.” I would define Branch Ave more as “Godforsaken” than “damned”, but I think I know what he was getting at. He even yelled it in a somewhat forlorn way, and not in the super-loud pissed off way that I’ve grown accustomed to.  I gave him no reaction.

I feel like I’m noticing a trend here. I now ride in a much more “legal” manner than I used to. I obey the traffic laws, I ride like a vehicle, I even use turn signals, for god’s sake. It seems like the more “legal” I ride, the more I’m honked/yelled at. And now I’m thinking about that jerk who yelled at me and just getting pissed off! I need to remember what I learned from that Keanu Reeves movie and find my inner Buddha nature.

I retired the Honk Report because I feel like it just emphasizes the negative aspects of urban cycling (and it makes me sweat with rage while I blog, which is bad for the finish of my blogging chair). I should take a page from CommuteOrlando where they often emphasize the positive.

In that spirit, I bring you a

Yawn report:

I’ve been biking down South Main Street several times this week due to a change in morning activities. This is the final sprint for many people on their way to work in the morning. It’s shortly after a major exit from I-195, and it goes past the county courthouse before people can turn to go downtown.  In the several times I was on it, everyone passed me giving me plenty of room, and I was able to execute lane changes with no hassle. Cars stopped to let pedestrians cross at marked crosswalks, and so did I. It was all so uneventful.

There, now I feel better. Who needs the lessons of Keanu?

See you tomorrow at Recycle-A-Bike’s (Lip)pet Bike Park(ing) Va(let) Ser(vice)!

The indignity of bike parking: Subway

Hola Amigos, I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at you, but I’ve had a busy dance card in the evenings recently, and that’s my prime blogging time.

Occasionally, I like to use a mode of transportation other than my bike. Most often, that mode is walking. The other day, I was walking through Kennedy Plaza where I saw this:

Three bikes carefully lined up and comfortably parked on their kickstands but completely unlocked. Meanwhile, 3 hitching posts are lined up and waiting for a bike to keep them company. I’ll lock my bike if I’m leaving it for 2 minutes in front of a police station, so I was surprised to see these three just happily waiting for their owners to return from Subway.

In a previous post, a commenter described the awful conditions of Allens Avenue – a route I’d never taken. What else could I do, but try it out. And here is what I found:

Contrast is a little bad on that one. How about a close-up?

I don't even want to know what that is

I do love it when the bike lane symbol itself is covered by all of the junk in the street. Eventually, the lane gets a little more clear. Coincidentally, this happens as the houses get bigger and more expensive. Imagine that. One thing I did enjoy about this road was how smooth the pavement was. I initially loved the new pavement. Until I got to all of the railroad crossings. Allens crosses about 5 derelict sets of rails. On either side outside of the street, they’ve even been pulled up. I guess it’s too expensive to remove them from the street.  The worst part is that they are set at a 70 – 80 degree angle – in my estimation. (I didn’t bring my protractor with me because I was on my road bike. I use an artisinal all-steel protractor that weighs about 100 grams and I can’t have that much weight slowing me down.) This requires one to do a little weave maneuver in order to approach the rails at an angle that won’t catch your wheel. Noah, over at KC Bike Commuting has to deal with a crossing like this every day. It was bad enough on a Saturday morning with almost no traffic. I can’t imagine what it would be like to ride during a morning rush hour.

The bike lane goes all the way to Pawtuxet Village, where there’s a nice little harbor. There’s also this:

You can’t quite see it here, but that Prius is parked directly beneath a no parking sign. On the left edge of the photo you can see someone biking on the sidewalk, adjacent to the bike lane. I’ll give him a pass though, because I believe he was biking with a few children, and I really don’t mind when kids ride on the sidewalk. It’s probably less safe than riding on the street (after a certain age), but there’s really not much I can do about it. I must love being annoyed, because I sure take a lot of pictures of things that annoy me.

Speaking of things that annoy me, I was honked at yesterday, which means I should file a honk report. But I’m kind of getting tired of the whole exercise. I was following the lead of Andy from Carbon Trace on this. Whereas he logs the honks in order to show how rare it is, it seems like I get honked at much more often (about once per week), and I feel like filing the honk report just forces me to focus on the negative. So, no more honk report for a while, it’s bad for my road rage.

Speaking of road rage….

From The Guardian

This recent article in The Guardian describes the author’s interaction with a mini cab driver and subsequent complaint to the driver’s company. Since individual drivers have no accountability for their actions, cyclists have to take all of their road rage out on drivers of oficial vehicles. It’s been about two months since a RIPTA driver told me to get out of the road. I still have not received any report from RIPTA on what they’ve done. I emailed them again on Thursday – no response. Do I need to send it by snail mail?

Wow, this post is just full of things that annoy me. Let’s keep the ball rolling! I encounterd an unnecessarily curteous motorist at a four-way stop the other day. They got to the intersection well ahead of me, so I stopped to let them go through. Instead they tried to wave me ahead of them. Of course, they were behind glass and there’s lots of glare making it difficult to see. I’m not sure why Rhode Islanders haven’t adopted the custom of flashing their headlights in order to indicate “waving on.” It’s far easier to see, and less ambiguous than waving one’s hand behind glass. Instead of going in front of the other motorist, I put my foot down to indicate that they should take their right of way. My guess is that some motorists do this because they are used to cyclists just blowing through stop signs – something I see all the time around campus.  So I guess I can’t really blame them. As they passed by, I gave them a smile and a wave to thank them because right now, I’m all about being positive. POSITIVE!

POS – I – TIVE!!!!

Looks like it’s time to go for a ride!

Honk Report: Hope and Lafayette

I almost forgot, a motorist honked at Spouse and me on Monday evening. We were riding down Hope, actually keeping up with traffic for most of our entire route. We then signaled a left turn onto Lafayette Street (yes we use turn signals!) and pulled to the left of the lane. We had to wait for several cars going in the opposite direction before it was safe to turn. A motorist honked at us as she passed on the right. There was plenty of room to do so, I’m not sure why she honked.  I responded with a cheerful yell of “honk honk!” back to her and then muttered to myself under my breath.

I will continue to dutifully record such incidents in my honk report log. I got the idea for the honk report from Andy Cline over at Carbon Trace. He started it to document how rarely motorists honk at him. Motorists seem to honk at me much more often. And I always seem to be doing something completely legal when someone honks at me.

The other day, NY Times had an article on a cycle tour through the four corners area of the US.  BikeSnobNYC  tore into it before I had a chance. The only thing I have to add is – check out the creepy picture that came up on the bottom of the page:

The photo linked to an article about O magazine, the magazine that features a picture of Oprah on the cover every month. I was so creeped out by the picture that I didn’t bother to read it.

My god these motorists with their complete disregard for the law.

I’d hoped to write about something more fun today (like my new road bike which is totally awesome but I’m not going to write about it until I have some time to do it properly). Instead, I have to dutifully file another….


A motorist honked at me yesterday on my ride to work. I was riding in the right-most lane that is allowed to go straight through the intersection (the far-right lane is right-turn only). A Volvo station wagon honked at me. When he pulled into the adjacent lane to pass me (there was plenty of room to do so), I asked him what his problem was. He said I needed to get over to the right. I pointed out that I was over as far to the right as was safely possible. He hurried off down the street. He was then stuck in a small traffic jam when a truck needed to back across both lanes of traffic in order to make a drop at the hotel. I had continued at my usual 15 MPH so I easily caught up to him. For some reason he didn’t feel the need to honk at all of the cars in his way. Eventually they cleared up and he raced ahead. Then he was caught by the traffic light. It was very much a tortoise and hare situation so I enjoyed going in the same direction as he, always easily catching up with him without expending much effort. I never passed him, just pulled up behind him. I lost my concentration on my bike handling a couple times which led to this:

Bike Commute Fail!

Greasy Khakis! I have shamed my people.


As I was biking down Benefit this morning (minding my own, cruising slowly on the ’68 Raleigh Sports), I was behind a Cable company van that was followed by an Accord. A Honda Element turned into the street just in front of me and then followed the Accord quite closely, weaving out to the left on occasion. The cable van was going pretty slow – 15 MPH on a 25 MPH speed limit street. This was not sufficiently fast enough for the driver of the Element. He passed the Accord and the cable van in one quick move, darting into the opposing lane. I’d seen RI drivers pull this sort of stunt before (passing on a two-lane street), but not on a street as narrow as Benefit. For those unfamiliar with Benefit – it is a two-way street, one lane in each directions with a parking lane on one side. At some points on the street, there’s not enough room for cars to pass each other going in opposite directions. So the Element passes both the car and cable van. A little bit later, I see that the driver has made a U-turn and is parallel parking in the opposite direction (this maneuvre caused the Cable van and Accord to slow down). I stopped opposite the Element and pulled my bike up onto the sidewalk. I just wanted to see what kind of idiot would pull this sort of move in order to save himself 20 seconds. The driver got out of his car and calmly walked to a RISD building. If he was in such a hurry, why wasn’t he running?


After installing a cup holder on the Raleigh Sports, I’m often looking for excuses to use it. It’s iced coffee season here in Rhode Island, so for this morning’s coffee break, I headed to the Seven Stars on Broadway for some cool, caffeinated refreshment. I gotta admit, I love cruising down a street and reaching out to my cup holder to take a sip of iced coffee. Anyhow, I approached the part of Broadway just before it crossed I-95 and heads downtown. There are two distinct lanes her, plus a non-marked lane on the right that people use to turn right. I signaled and moved into the legitimate right hand lane so that cars could pass me on the right in order to make right-hand turns. And a car did just that. However, the driver felt it necessary to yell, “You’re not a car!” at me as she passed. I have tried to bike in a more curteous manner, obeying (almost) all traffic laws and exercising a vehicular cycling strategy. And yet, I still have interactions like this. Oh well. I swear this whole biking thing is going to turn me into a crabby old man before I turn 40.

* I’ve borrowed the idea of the Honk Report from Andy at Carbon Trace. For me it’s an attempt to quantify the number or rude interactions I have with motorists. It’s always easy to remember an egregious incident, but hard to spot a trend. Today’s report counts as a double. That makes 10 honks since May 7, 2010 – slightly less than 1 per week. Andy gets honked at less.

Alright, I can’t help it, here’s a shot of the new road bike, peeking out from just outside my office.