Are Bicyclists Causing Justifiable Frustration for Motorists?

Two highly-publicized incidents may scratch the surface of a larger problem.


This week, an unusual incident in San Mateo brought to light a new idea: Bike Rage.

On Tuesday, that the San Mateo County District Attorney's Office had filed charges against two men accused of intentionally trying to run over a pair of teenage brothers riding on their bicycles in San Mateo on Sunday.

Jason Ramiro Hernandez-Lopez, 24, and Dian Burton, 31, both San Mateo residents, were arrested Sunday following the incident.

According to prosecutors, Hernandez-Lopez drove up behind one of the brothers and intentionally bumped the rear tire of the bicycle with his truck.

The victim didn't fall, but instead turned onto the sidewalk area to escape and dropped his bicycle.

Hernandez-Lopez then allegedly drove onto the sidewalk and over the bicycle, which he dragged behind his pickup truck for several blocks, causing significant damage to the bicycle, prosecutors said.

While Hernandez-Lopez was driving over the bike, Burton, who was in the passenger seat, allegedly pulled out a fixed-blade knife and waved the knife at the brothers, according to prosecutors.

Hernandez-Lopez has claimed the teenage brothers were swinging chains at them as they drove by, and that he never struck or dragged the bicycle. Burton denies the incident occurred.

Meanwhile, eight days ago in San Francisco, a bicyclist was charged with felony vehicular manslaughter in connection with the death of a pedestrian he struck in San Francisco's Castro District in March. According to Bay City News, Chris Bucchere, 36, struck 71-year-old Sutchi Hui at Market and Castro streets.

Witnesses reported that Bucchere, who was riding south on Castro Street, struck Hui as he walked east in a crosswalk with a green light at the time of the collision. Hui died at a hospital on April 2.

Bucchere was allegedly "trying to break his own record" time on a popular bike route from Marin County into San Francisco.

According to the San Francisco district attorney, he is being charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor because witnesses reported that the cyclist committed "a pattern of vehicle code violations" prior to the collision, including by running red lights and stop signs at other intersections.

What do you think? Have the actions of bicyclists on the roads made you mad? Do you feel some 'bike rage' from time to time? Should there be more traffic violations given to bicyclists? Or are those on bikes generally good citizens, with incidents like these isolated and not frequent?

Let us know with your comments, then vote in the poll below.

Summer June 23, 2012 at 11:53 PM
There are many vehicle drivers who are also bad road citizens. Taking out your hatred of a few "bad actors" on a whole class of people is a really horrible way to behave. Remember, that person you run off the road could be the child of your boss or best friend.
Summer June 23, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Everyone just needs to remember that we're all human beings. "Hating" bicycles or drivers is a sure path to a lot of negativity. If you ride bicycles, ride with care, caution, and the knowledge that your behavior reflects on everyone riding a bicycle. If you are a driver, remember that it is a scary road out there, that there are certainly hazards you can't see, that there are good cyclists and people who ride bikes who don't know what they're doing, just as there are good drivers and bad drivers. And really, just be nice.
Michael Williams June 23, 2012 at 11:56 PM
The State of California has a Bicycle Safety Code. It clearly defines a bicycle driven by an adult as a "vehicle" in the same sense, and with the same privileges and responsibilities, as an automobile. That means they are required to obey all traffic laws and signage - most certainly including all stop signs and stoplights. I could stand on any streetcorner in San Francisco's Mission District and watch 10-20 bicyclists per hour blow straight through 4-way stopsigns and/or red lights. That's buff young men and women in fancy biking gear. That's old Latino men. That's middleaged women on their exercise rides. It's not about the bikers or myself losing a few seconds of travel. It's about a motorist having to swerve to avoid killing their dumb butts, perhaps into other cars, perhaps into a crosswalk or parked car. Some cyclists are just reckless yahoos. Most I believe have no concept of their responsibility under California laws... and since there is NO enforcement, their first clue will be delivered by the grill of an automobile. Some bicyclists have tried to get the California bicycle code repealed entirely. I think it's obvious that every bike rider over the age of 12 should be licensed... after taking a written test. For the safety of all who share the road.
Claire Karoly Ard June 24, 2012 at 12:08 AM
Thanks :)
Antonio Catpo June 24, 2012 at 12:16 AM
Let's try this headline: "Fox News misinforms the public, Should we hold Patch responsible?"
Winstonthecat June 24, 2012 at 03:06 AM
I always thought this was a very sensible approach to bicycle traffic laws.
Chris Fogel June 24, 2012 at 03:06 AM
BETTERIDGE'S LAW OF HEADLINES "...any headline which ends in a question mark can be answered by the word "no". The reason why journalists use that style of headline is that they know the story is probably bollocks, and don’t actually have the sources and facts to back it up, but still want to run it." --Ian Betteridge; "Techcrunch: Irresponsible journalism"
John Baker June 24, 2012 at 03:10 AM
Bicyclists are not IMPEDING traffic -- they ARE traffic. With the same rights, and obligations, as every other driver. Which means motorists getting upset are in the wrong, as are bicyclists who don't obey traffic laws such as speed limits and stopping at stop signs.
Andrew Boone June 24, 2012 at 03:23 AM
Dave Colby, Patch readers are not as stupid as you must think they are. Your completely ridiculous headline implies that hitting a bicyclist with a car, then driving on the sidewalk and running over a bicycle, is an incident of road rage that's really the fault of bicyclists. Nowhere in the article is any illegal or even disrespectful behavior of the bicyclists described, except "swinging of chains", which we have no way of knowing if the motorist made up or not. Readers can tell the difference between objective, unbiased information and intentionally inflammatory and sensationalist information. If Patch's standards of what constitutes quality journalism continue to be this terrible, you can be sure that more and more readers will turn to The Almanac for their local news, which has far more high-quality articles than Menlo Park Patch.
Vanessa Castañeda (Editor) June 24, 2012 at 05:23 AM
Andrew, the paradox is that these types of headlines are the ones to which people respond most readily. Journalism in 2012 is more of a conversation than it was in 1965. The intent of this article was to generate discussion about a topic that clearly incites uneasiness in many people and explore the reasons why that occurs. Furthermore, ad hominem attacks are not productive. The real questions that we should be discussing are: Why do people label themselves as drivers or cyclists? What are the reasons that people who maneuver different machines to get from point A to point B can't share the same routes in a civilized manner?
Ron Garbez June 24, 2012 at 05:36 AM
After reading today's comments on this story, I've got but one piece of advice: Don't leave home without your helmet!
Mary S. June 24, 2012 at 03:44 PM
I agree, Andrew. This article, and Patch's defense of it, are a joke. Vanessa, your comment confirms that Patch is more interested in attracting eyeballs and $ than in professional reporting. Just because people respond to sensationalism doesn't mean you need to feed it. If that is your attitude perhaps you might be more successful as a drug dealer, justifying your actions by claiming that you are simply giving people waht they want.
Claire Karoly Ard June 24, 2012 at 04:22 PM
And full body protection! Geez!
Jim C June 24, 2012 at 04:41 PM
I am actually pro-bicycle. I would love a bicycle freeway of sorts up and down the Peninsula and into SF, ala Centennial Trail in SSF. That said, cars and bikes don't mix. Bikes should only be allowed to drive in bike lanes and these bike lanes need to be bigger and there should be WAY more of them. And maybe they should be on the left so bicyclists don't have to worry about car doors opening.
Diet T June 24, 2012 at 06:48 PM
A few weeks ago, I was riding in Golden Gate Park near the California Academy of Sciences in a bike lane that was near the curb and the cars were parked on the traffic side of it. I realize that there are problems with this setup, such as a car door opening, but it did feel safer not dealing with impatient drivers trying to pass and it created a barrier between me and moving traffic coming upon me from behind. Cars and bikes don't mix.....very well. Being a rider, I give cars and pedestrians a wide birth and the "right-of-way" at stop signs or not. When I am a driver, I give bike riders plenty of room and am aware that they might need space to move around,pot holes, broken glass or someone throwing their car door open. Why has the Idaho law in which bicycles yield for stop signs worked so well there for 30 years? It has worked in their city environments too. Yielding, of course, does not mean blowing through at top speed like many cyclists do in The City. It means that, if there are pedestrians in crosswalks or cars at intersections, you need to be able to stop safely for them and you. ---just trying to give you angry drivers out there a cyclist's perspective----- And here is a cyclist's perspective of a hit-and-run: http://tinyurl.com/6wv4aay
moo June 24, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Vanessa, thank you for your comments. At least part of the problem here is that the first example cited in the article is not a good basis for a healthy discussion. It's clear that many motorists are frustrated by bicyclists, and responsible bicyclists and motorists alike are frustrated by irresponsible cyclists. So Patch's headline does merit some discussion. However, I hope that very few, if any, readers would agree that the vehicular assault described in your article is a justifiable outlet for that frustration.
moo June 24, 2012 at 07:24 PM
Vanessa - in answer to the questions in your comment: I label myself as a driver when I'm driving a car, and a cyclist when I am riding my bicycle. Secondly, I believe that in most cases, drivers and cyclists do share the routes in a civilized manner. Generally I have found most drivers to be courteous when I am on my bicycle. Sometimes courtesy is not the issue. Many considerate drivers put cyclists in danger not through hostile intent, but due to incorrect technique or poor awareness of where cyclists should be in the roadway. For an example, see: http://www.mercurynews.com/mr-roadshow/ci_20574012/roadshow-rules-road-motorists-pedestrians-and-bicyclist-city. These are things that we can and should improve upon.
Biemme June 25, 2012 at 03:19 PM
How many byciclists stop at a stop sign? Almost zero....for some reason they are under the assumption that the law doesn't apply to them ( I am more of a pedestrian than a car driver).
JoBo June 25, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Yes, bicyclists do not always obey the law. Studies show that less than 50% of cars stop at stop signs. Also, I would bet that almost half of pedestrians j-walk. Now what?
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 25, 2012 at 03:53 PM
That was one story. The other was about the murder of an elderly pedestrian by a cyclist.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 25, 2012 at 03:59 PM
Actually, the studies show that 50 percent of all auto accidents are caused by vehicles running through traffic signals. But I have to agree with Biemme. The number of cyclists that stop at stop signs and traffic lights is very low. So much so that last week, while driving with my son, when we saw a cyclist actually stop at a stop sign when no cross traffic was apparent, we both went "Wow, he actually obeyed the law!" The next day, on Bay Road in Redwood City, we saw a trio of riders, in full cycle garb, blow through every stop sign and then cross Woodside against the light, forcing cross traffic to slam on their breaks. The cyclists laughed and flipped off the drivers. I've seen that scenario repeated not a few times.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 25, 2012 at 04:11 PM
Diet, I'm very patient with cyclists and will, on occasion, slow my car down to their speed and drive just behind them on busy streets until we reach a place where I can safely pass. Doesn't frustrate me in the least. I also don't get upset when they blow through traffic signals when they at least look to see if traffic is coming. What gets me are the people that ride their bikes on the left side of the road against traffic, veer wildly into traffic to make a right turn over four lanes... who take up an entire lane even when their is a clearly marked bike lane... who have their kids riding with them in a smaller bike and not making sure they stay far to the right... who blow through signals and controls with their heads down... I think you get what I mean. You sound like the kind of rider I respect and look out for on the road but in the cycling community, a motorist is not the kind of person they will listen too. What needs to happen is for the cycling community to start taking some responsibility for its members actions that cause injuries. Right now in SF, the cycling community has been uncomfortably silent on what happened. And after almost being run down by cyclists twice crossing a street there last week, I doubt anyone is really paying attention.
Lou Covey, The Local Motive June 25, 2012 at 06:27 PM
I don't often agree with Andrew but In this case, I have to admit that this commentary was meant to be more inflammatory than the articles it related to. The original Patch article of the first incident clearly identified the two men in the motor vehicle to be the aggressors and was a polar opposite of the tragedy in SF. A better juxtaposition might have been with the SF story and the one out of Paris, France where cyclists are often cited for traffic infractions, but adjustments are being made for them to be able to do a "california stop" at some controlled intersections. The question that might have produced a better discussion then would be, "Do cyclists need to be held responsible for ignoring traffic laws?"
commuter June 25, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Traffic engineering studies say that about the same percentage of cars and bicycles come to complete stops at stop signs.
Reality Check June 25, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Brandishing chains and then a switchblade knife!? This sounds like a beef between young thugs that could well have been a gang or drug or turf dispute. Good kids don't carry switchblades. The fact that it was truck vs. bicycle, obviously gave the thugs in the truck an advantage. Why the item's author projected some type of bicycle vs. motorist angle onto this story is suggests he's got his own issues with bicyclists and used this incident as a flimsy excuse to stir the pot.
sister madly June 25, 2012 at 07:36 PM
in palo alto it's families riding four abreast (when was the last time you saw cars driving down a residential street for abreast?) that glare you down as you carefully pass on the street that make me want to run the whole lot of 'em over. them and the teenage boys who dart in and out in front of your car...SINGLE FILE! SINGLE FILE!
sister madly June 25, 2012 at 07:36 PM
four ...i hate my keyboard!
Margaret Pye June 25, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Regarding "commuter's" comment: yes, this agrees with my observations. Motorized vehicles come to complete stops at stop signs pretty much never. (see my "Washcycle" link above)
Cyn Stern June 26, 2012 at 03:34 AM
And another thing: Virtually no cyclists nowadays seem to realize that driving on the sidewalk (unless the sidewalk is a designated bicycle path) is illegal. The police usually choose to not enforce this law--probably because they have more-pressing things to do. Where I live, in San Mateo, sidewalk-riding cyclists behave as if THEY have the right-of-way!
Reality Check June 26, 2012 at 04:34 AM
Fearful and/or well-meaning parents often instruct their children to ride on the sidewalk because they mistakenly think their kids will be safer that way.


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