Revenge of the cyclists: Or, when bikers bite back

Bicyclists abound in Downtown Denver, which has special bike lanes and pathways to add to the transportation options. Ben Gray /

Bicyclists abound in Downtown Denver, which has special bike lanes and pathways to add to the transportation options. Ben Gray /

I recently wrote about bicyclists holding up me and other drivers by riding slowly, two abreast, on a two-lane Atlanta street with double yellow, no-pass lines.

The guy rode purposely slow with that certain up-yours panache endemic in a percentage of riders. He slowed when he realized cars behind him wanted to go faster than 12 mph. I finally tooted my horn — lightly — after a couple blocks.

I hollered he didn’t need to be a jerk. He yelled that he can ride side-by-side. We exchanged expletives and he pedaled furiously as if he wanted to catch my minivan.

The column was a postcard from the mean streets of Atlanta, where an uneasy relationship between drivers and bicyclists exists.

When it comes to cycling doctrine, I may be a philistine. But I acknowledge most are fine folks.

Well, from the responses you’d think someone poured itching powder in their cycling shorts. I got hammered on every available medium: Email, Facebook, Twitter, phone calls, comments online and grumbling co-workers.

Rebecca Serna gets first crack because she heads the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition. She’s “saddened by the latest Bill Torpy diatribe against bicycling” and is “concerned this piece could negatively impact the safety of anyone who bikes in Atlanta” and is “inciting violent behavior.” She prefers a more “balanced and thoughtful” discussion.

Someone named Matthew wrote that the column “was offensive and incentivizes violence against Atlanta cyclists.” He said I “failed to realize it is legal to pass a cyclist on a double-yellow lined road if the driver can do so safely. The author also failed to realize the Georgia law to only use the horn of a car when in a dangerous driving situation.

“Please remind Bill Torpy of the driving laws in Georgia. Please make sure he understands that violence against people who annoy you will not be tolerated by a thriving, civilized society. Please send my deepest regrets that he was not loved as a child.”

First, my mom has always loved me. Second, several accused me of inciting violence against cyclists and declaring “open season” on them. I did no such thing. Bicyclists are sinewy and kind of gamy and do not make for good stew.

My point — and I admitted drivers are entirely too impatient — was that some bicyclists should stop going out of their way to stick their “rights” in drivers’ grilles, especially when their true aim is to get people mad.

A fellow going as “misterkurtz” said: “Is this really a column? A guy, who should be an adult, but has a haircut that says he hasn’t accepted that, is mad because someone in front of him was slowing him down on his important trip to somewhere? This column is irresponsible drivel, and being an angry person who has difficulty coping with population density and modernity is a topic for individual therapy, not a major American newspaper.”

OK, let me help you here. I’ve been a practitioner of insults and comebacks since I was a skinny, freckle-faced kid called “wet chicken” because of a serious cowlick.

First, you got me with the haircut line. But you totally surrendered your insult cred with Smart Growth babble like "modernity" and "population density." And you forgot the term "paradigm."

Cyclingman said, “Atlanta is full of red-faced, fat, angry, self-important, middle-aged males just waiting to mess with someone in a vulnerable spot. Bicyclists are the perfect target. What pathetic little men.”

Gender-neutral “khd713” came to my aid, telling Cyclingman, “Go pedal your whine somewhere else. The tide has turned against you and your insufferable brigade of Spandex-wearing losers. Seriously.”

Thanks, “khd.” I’m middle-aged and male but not fat. I also am red-faced and pathetic, but only when yelling at sanctimonious twits.

Lauren wrote, “Really great job making yourself out to be the victim here, Torpy. You were just as much at fault. Love how you continue to generalize against cyclists who are majority NOT clueless but are trying to keep themselves safe when well within their rights and the law.”

Several self-styled biking lawyers chided me, saying it’s legal to ride two across (which I did note). The law also says drivers shall give cyclists 3 feet when passing, which is measurable, and cyclists “shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable,” which means it’s in the eye of the beholder.

Drivers, however, are clear on double lines, although insists the law lets you cross those lines “when an obstruction exists.” The “obstruction” being a bicycle, of course. quotes a lawyer saying passing a cyclist in a no passing zone is “probably legal.” You still might get a ticket, the lawyer said, but can “likely get out of the ticket if they contest it.”

Matt, an editor in the making, wrote: ” ‘Smug, Petulant Manchild Attempts Passing Cyclist On Clifton, Fails.’ There, I fixed Torpy’s headline.”

Jim tweeted, “Stay tuned for @billtorpy three-part series ‘Get Off My Lawn.’ “

Thanks, we need all the help we can get at the AJC these days.

I must note that numerous drivers complained about gangs of riders acting like they were in the Tour de France, bicyclists cutting them off, bikers routinely disregarding red lights and stop signs.

Mike, formerly from Decatur, wrote: “The majority cruise down the middle nowadays, oblivious to (or not giving a damn) about blocking traffic. Plus, why grown men see a need to wear outfits that seem more appropriate for 10-year-old ballet dancers is one of life’s great mysteries.”

I agree. As Winston Churchill might have said, the attire question is a conundrum wrapped in a riddle covered in Lycra.

Watsong wrote, “First time as I approach from rear, l give them plenty of room but when they pass me on right at a red light or stop sign (bicycles should obey same laws as autos) when I approach the second time, I’m not so nice. They get horn music and a close pass.”

Please, don’t do that. Try to be nice.

Lee from Atlanta will bike 7,000 miles this year. He wrote: Some cyclists are jerks. There are roadies out there — the guys on $10,000 bikes competing in imaginary crits every time they go for a ride — who won’t even speak to other cyclists. And there are the Critical Mass idiots, the sanctimonious types who think every ride is an opportunity to teach drivers a lesson, unless it has to do with stop lights/signs.

“When I’m riding, I try to set an example by being predictable, patient and polite. I say hello and wave/thank everyone — walkers, jogger, drivers, even the jerk cyclists who don’t speak to anyone. (I especially talk to them. They hate that.) That’s all I can do, but I wish more cyclists would try.”

Thanks, a kind wave is a start.

About the Author