Sign of the Times: You’re Doing it Wrong

A sign that say "Bike with traffic"

"You're doing it wrong!" says the sign near the Capital Riverfront

I wonder if this sign actually encourages people to ride with traffic on 1 st SE.

Authority figures can have a profound affect on people’s behavior. Stanley Milgram’s Obedience to Authority experiment measured people’s willingness to obey an authority figure. An authority figure (a guy in white lab coat) would tell them to shock people or perform other acts that conflicted with their conscience. Despite their personal reservations, the subjects carried out what the lab coat just told them to do.

This experiment has been repeated many times over. However, cyclists defy the results everyday.

  • If you put up a sign that says “don’t bike here”, the cyclists scoffs and says “watch me.”
  • If you put up a gate that says “Stop”, the cyclist scoffs and rides up on the curb, nearly hitting a pedestrian, and goes around the gate.
  • If you put up a fence that says “No bikes”, cyclists portage over the fence with panniers et al. in tow.
  • If you put up an electric fence, cyclists dig a hole and ride under the fence.

As long as it saves them 30 seconds, they’re going to do it.

In general, I don’t know what inspires people to salomon down the street, but they’re going to do it whether you put up this sign or not. If you’re not afraid of facing a 3000 lbs car head on but you follow the guidance of small sign off the side of the road, I’m not sure what’s going on inside your head.

If you don’t want people riding against traffic, maybe both sides of the street should have a bike lane.


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