Arnold Schwarzenegger, bike salmon

By Felix Salmon
October 2, 2011

The single thing that makes cyclists so hated by non-cyclists is disrespect for others: the way in which a highly-visible minority of cyclists consider themselves above the law, and flout not only traffic rules but also the basic tenets of civility.

Cyclists, that is, like Arnold Schwarzenegger:

After reading the newspapers, this is what the former governor of California often does: rides his bike for cardio, then hits the weight room.

He hauls a bike off the back of the car, hops on, and takes off down an already busy Ocean Avenue. He wears no bike helmet, runs red lights, and rips past do not enter signs without seeming to notice them and up one-way streets the wrong way. When he wants to cross three lanes of fast traffic he doesn’t so much as glance over his shoulder but just sticks out his hand and follows it, assuming that whatever is behind him will stop…

We’re now off the beach and on the surface roads, and the traffic is already heavy. He veers left, across four lanes…

Having sped past a do not enter sign, we are now flying through intersections without pausing. I can’t help but notice that, if we weren’t breaking the law by going the wrong way down a one-way street, we’d be breaking the law by running stop signs.

This tells us nothing about the state of California’s finances, but it’s illuminating all the same; in many ways it’s the two-wheeled equivalent of Jon Corzine’s 91-mph seatbelt-free car crash.

Next time your blood boils at the sight of a suicidal bike salmon endangering his own life and that of everybody else on the road, then, don’t assume that it’s some devil-may-care hipster. Instead, there’s probably a good chance that it’s some overachieving alpha male with a much larger ego than could ever be healthy.

In other words, it’s exactly the same kind of person who will merrily cut you up on the highway while driving his brand-new Maserati. It’s not cyclists who salmon aggressively. It’s assholes.


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Ha. Coming from a freeway offramp on a green light, I nearly ran into one of these salmons who was going the wrong direction, through red lights…TWICE. You’d think this salmon would think twice about driving the wrong direction through red lights, after nearly getting hit once, but he kept on going. Death wish I guess.

Posted by GRRR | Report as abusive

I have a different theory, Felix, which is that people are simply more likely to act like jerks when on the road, either in car or on bike, than in the rest of their lives.

I commute a few miles along a fairly bike friendly route here in the US every day, and I see bikers of all types run red lights, etc. Some days I think I am the only cyclist who bothers to stop at red lights, even if the light is only going to last another 10 seconds.

People just want to go go go. It’s no different than the car driver mentality when stuck behind a cyclist with a stop sign 20 feet ahead. The car driver passes and then slams on their breaks in front of the cyclist because they wanted to go! And cyclists run red light because they want to go!

In a way, it reminds me of the old Disney cartoon about Pluto becoming a raging jerk when he stepped into his car, but was perfectly pleasant otherwise. I don’t think cyclists are much different.

Posted by JRoc | Report as abusive

I live in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn, and my experience is that restaurant delivery men–who are neither hipsters nor arrogant alphas–are among the most aggressive cyclist law-breakers. To me, this suggests that enforcement of traffic laws for bikers is non-existent. That suspicion in itself may be one of the things that most aggravates pedestrians and drivers about bikers.

Posted by PhilipW | Report as abusive

In Switzerland the law allows for cyclists (bikers ride motorbikes with engines) to travel up one way streets – they even have special lanes in them. But they still ride through stop signs, red lights, across zebra crossings when pedestrians are walking across, and swear at any motorist that dares question them.

When I am out cycling myself, I always stop when required to but get very frustrated behind other cyclists who are too lazy (or ignorant) to change down a gear or three when they start off from the red light and I have to try to squeeze past them without getting knocked by a car. I think the reason many don’t stop at lights is they are just too lazy to change down to get a fast getaway. That pisses car drivers off as well as any cyclists behind them.

One big problem cyclists have though is cars, lorrys, busses, vans cutting them up on roundabouts and many cyclists now wear headcams to capture these events on film in case they have an accident. Some of them are pretty hairy moments, and some cyclists are killed by these trucks turning left across the path of a cyclist.

Posted by FifthDecade | Report as abusive

Yes! Pedestrians who take right-of-way from cars annoy me when I’m a pedestrian or a driver; cars who (e.g.) fail to yield to pedestrians with a walk light on a left turn annoy me whether I’m a pedestrian or a driver. It’s not the pedestrians, drivers, or cyclists who are annoying, it’s the people who think they’re above the rules that prevent us from crashing into each other or causing all transportation to grind to a halt.

Posted by dWj | Report as abusive

Hey, it’s not just the Maserati drivers who behave like that. It’s most all drivers – from the first STOP sign they roll at the corner of their street in the morning to the last red light they run when crowding through an intersection on a left turn…

The difference between scofflaw cyclists and motorists is the former are a nuisance while the latter kill.

Posted by DavidHuntsman | Report as abusive

Glad to see the reference to former NJ Gov. “Jon Corzine’s 91-mph seatbelt-free car crash” in 2007. But the most egregious aspect was that Corzine effectively initiated the crash by instructing his driver to use emergency lights to clear traffic — which led to the vehicle in Corzine’s path losing control as it tried to get out of Corzine’s way. See for details (search for “Rasinski”). Corzine’s bigger sin was to drive aggressively.

Posted by Komanoff | Report as abusive

If Arnold rides a bike like this, just be glad he’s on a bike and not in his hummer. I’m sure he drives his hummer just as inconsiderately. In that he’ll be much more likely to do damage to others.

My question to the author though is why would you hate other cyclists for this one cyclists behavior? Each cyclist should be judged for their own actions, just like anyone. I ride a bike, obey the law, share the road. I don’t blame and hate every driver for the ones that try to right hook me.

Posted by estherc | Report as abusive

In other words, you could tag him with a car and get away with it?
Oops! He came out of nowhere!
If you did it right you could probably sue and make a few $$$ too!
How awesome is that?

Posted by ibnozn | Report as abusive

When I lived in Boston, I ran red lights on my bike all the time. I basically acted like all the pedestrians there. But I wouldn’t take the right of way from anyone – I would stop for that. My theory was that people are lost in Boston quite often and as soon as the light turns green, they change their mind and make a turn they weren’t signalling for, usually by hitting the gas hard and yanking the wheel over in a sort of panic. This was dangerous for a cyclist. So I went through intersections whenever they were clear, regardless of what the light was. Others, of course, were more reckless. I don’t condone that, but I also don’t make a big deal out of pedestrians or cyclists going against a light (or through a stop sign) as long as it’s clear, go for it.

Having too much respect for a red light reminds me of a Sunday morning I spent in Hamburg (I was just walking around killing time between trains). There was a tiny street (one lane, no shoulder), maybe 10 feet across. The light was against the pedestrians, but you could see 100 yards in any direction. There were no cars coming, you could get across the street in about 4 steps. But most people waited for the light. Why? It is not actually performing any impressive safety function when there are no cars on the road on a Sunday morning! Trust yourselves to make it 10 feet safely on your own. (I know, there are societal norms and that’s what they were really respecting. That was one morning 22 years ago. I’ve been back to Germany and seen more reasonable pedestrian behavior.)

Posted by temple64 | Report as abusive

Felix, it sounds like you need an introduction to the weird and wonderful world of recreational bike subcultures: u4

Posted by Goonie1976 | Report as abusive

quit picking on my favorite governor/actor…i love his boldness…try it sometime instead of whinning

Posted by haltoc | Report as abusive

Here’s motorists attending to traffic laws and upholding the basic tenets of civility:


Posted by DavidHuntsman | Report as abusive