Conflict and cooperation: Readers speak out on cyclists, cars sharing the road

By  |  5 Comments


Cyclists take part in the Ride of Silence, a yearly international event to commemorate cyclists killed or injured while riding on public roads, in Ypsilanti on May 17. | Barbara Lucas, 89.1 WEMU

A number of people were inspired to comment on Friday’s lead ANNthology article from WEMU 89.1 about the conflict between cyclists and auto drivers:

Bicycle riding two-by-two or more is a dangerous act. To do it maliciously makes it even more dangerous. There is no sense to this behavior on the part of bicyclists. One would think they would wish to preserve their lives above making an aggressive statement about why their lifestyle is superior. It could cost them their lives.
Thank you for the opportunity to express my opinion.
Linda Peck

I don’t bike anymore around Ann Arbor, it’s too dangerous. I only use bike trails now. Very disappointing because I hate driving my car to town, parking, paying for parking. Ann Arbor has bike lanes on some streets and then “poof” they are gone on the next stretch of the very same road. My main roads to town are Miller, Dexter, Jackson — way too scary. Drivers speed and don’t care. There should be bike lanes on every street.

T Kane

There’s a bigger issue than cyclists vs. drivers. The confrontational environment that’s infected most social discourse is also prevalent on the roads. The issue is too may drivers of both cars and bicycles find it too easy to be self-righteous in their behaviors. Cyclists (full disclosure, I am one from April to November) justify ignoring traffic lights and other rules for vehicles. Drivers (full disclosure, I am one from December to March) justify yelling and blaring horns if they are forced to accommodate others. 
Please, our time is simply not that precious. The minutes saved by ignoring lights or blaring horns probably won’t improve our lives even an iota, but these acts of self-righteousness diminish the quality of our community (and make you look like a jerk). 
Stop acting a jerk. And, if you’ve never ridden a bike in Ann Arbor, try it. It’s easier to be forgiving once you’ve experienced both sides of the issue.
Perry Samson

Protecting bikers and drivers begins with better road design.  Some European countries have downtown raised lanes which are shared by bikers and pedestrians away from cars.  The surfaces of these lanes are smooth for pedestrians and rougher for bikers, so it’s easy to see and feel what lane you’re on.

Helga Haller


This is one reason I use a combination of roads and sidewalks; roads where there is a clear bike lane and the road isn’t very busy, and sidewalks otherwise. Drivers shouldn’t have to poke along a major road at 10-15 mph — that’s ridiculous.

When there are a lot of pedestrians on a given sidewalk, I get off my bike and walk it or, if there’s a bike lane on the road, I use that to go around them.

At least to me, the idea of treating non-motorized vehicles as though they are regular traffic is ineffective and dangerous.

Dawn Weirauch

“Who do you think should have the right of way?” As if the conversation about sharing the road isn’t already tense, you have to throw out an inflammatory cue?   Are you trying to conflate fact with opinion, as is the wont these days.  “Right of way” is a legal matter, not the subject of personal whim.

Beyond that, however, this is my reaction to the WEMU Green Room broadcast:

One would think we could all be guided by the three B’s: “Be Lawful; Be Civil; Be Safe.” But two quotes from the broadcast highlight the issue: “Drivers [in Europe] are taught to be exceptionally careful, just as part of general societal training,” as contrasted with, “Can a [U.S.] society that prioritizes personal rights and saving time achieve a transportation system that is more gentle?” 

Jeff Gaynor

P.S.:  European cities, when driving gets too congested, find ways to decrease car usage, such as road diets, decreasing parking spaces, etc.  Of course they also have excellent mass transit systems.


I and my middle-aged son find cyclists next to us in the road a serious worry. It looks dangerous to both of us. It’s my understanding that the city spent $600,000 setting up those cycle lanes in our roads. When I notice all the mostly unused sidewalks in this area, I wonder about our priorities.  Not sure how much it costs to maintain the “walks?” Are we getting our money’s worth?

Most cyclists should use the sidewalks in the areas where they are empty most of the time, which is most of the city outside the downtown area. [Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should.]

I don’t ride a bike at present; if I did, I would feel a lot safer on the sidewalks than in our crowded streets.
​Margaret Bennett

I think it’s a mistake to cast this issue as a “Drivers vs. Bikes” situation. Co-locating bikes and cars has always seemed like a bad idea to me for many practical and physical reasons. The issue is not (or shouldn’t be) about rights or values or legal technicalities, it should be about what makes sense in terms of safety and efficiency of mobility for everyone equally. As such, Mr. Lazarus’ comments didn’t make much sense, failed to address any of the practical realities and were very unhelpful. Co-locating bikes and pedestrians would produce a safer and probably more efficient outcome for all with the easements along the sidewalks and roads reserved for bikes, thus providing the needed real estate solution to this problem. As things stand, we’re just trying to make a flawed idea work.
Jeffrey Nicholls
Jim McBee

Founding partner, creative director and ink-stained wretch with The Ann magazine.


  1. Avatar

    Robert Frank

    July 4, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Sidewalks are for pedestrians, not bicyclists. Unsafe for pedestrians if bicyclists are also using the sidewalk. That is why it is illegal for bicyclists to use the sidewalk.

  2. Avatar

    James W Kopf

    July 4, 2017 at 3:20 pm

    I am both a motorist and a cyclist here in A2. I do my best to avoid riding on any major street in A2. We are a town that attracts lost out of towners and drivers who can’t put down the cell phone for 15 minutes. I once drove up the hill on Miller behind a cyclist who insisted I stay behind him as he huffed and puffed at 7 mph in the middle of the lane because he was a vehicle and it was his lane rather than coexist and ride by the curb. As a cyclist I want to enjoy the air and slower pace of a bike ride. I don’t want my headstone to read “I was right, I had the right of way”.

    • Avatar

      Sam Firke

      July 7, 2017 at 10:41 am

      James: that’s a good example of the need for better bike infrastructure in Ann Arbor. When did you get stuck behind that bike? Things have improved there recently.

      Miller got wider bike lanes between Maple and Newport earlier this decade, and now also has (not-as-good) bike lanes between Seventh and First. That means there’s now a bike lane on both sides of Miller from First out to Maple, except for a short stretch near Seventh.

      I ride my bike up Miller most days, huffing and puffing at 7 mph, but in the bike lane – while cars safely go up the hill at full speed without incident.

  3. Avatar

    Sam Firke

    July 7, 2017 at 10:27 am

    The unfounded fear in these reader responses shows how much work there is to be done in educating our community. In brief, it’s established fact that you’re safer in the road than on the sidewalk (with a few exceptions, e.g., small children) and that in terms of life expectancy, cycling is *safer* than driving.

    Just today the New York Times notes that “even factoring in the risk from traffic accidents, people who bicycle statistically improve their health over all and extend their lives.”

    I wrote a response to these comments and the issue of cycling safety in Ann Arbor: http://samfirke.com/2017/07/07/ride-your-bike-in-traffic-live-longer/