An Open Letter to Cyclist-Hating Motorists. ~ Jodee Anello

Via elephant journal
on Sep 11, 2012
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There is a human being under every helmet.

Before I begin my letter, you should know that I am new to cycling. I have only been riding for two years. There are many others who could do a better job at this because they have dealt with much more than I have, having put many more miles on their skinny tires. I am writing this from my view. A newbie to a road bike, but nonetheless, I have experienced my fair share of folks in cars with a bad attitude toward me and my fellow riders.

There are a few things that have occurred in my world recently that are prompting me to write this. I live in Sonoma County, a cycling destination. We have everything from weekenders out on rental bikes to world-class professionals sharing the same roads. We also have cars on these roads.

In the past three months, five cyclists have been killed in my county and one seriously injured. There was also an incident where an elderly man chased down a cyclist in his car and deliberately hit the rider. According to the California Highway Patrol, the speed of the vehicles involved played a major role in the deaths of these cyclists.

Also a factor in my writing this letter is a verbal altercation I personally had with a motorist in which I was doing nothing wrong except momentarily inconveniencing him. I slowed him down. He had to wait until it was safe to pass me.

I have found myself defending cyclists on numerous occasions to people whose misconceptions make me crazy. Recently, I’ve seen what people think is harmless joking in relation to the hatred of cyclists, but to me, this kind of humor only perpetuates the problem. So here I go…

Dear Mr. (or Ms.) Motorist,

I am terrified of you. I know that every time I get on my bike, I am risking my life. I know that I will not win in a collision. The fear that I must conquer each and every time I ride is beginning to do a number on my head. I am beginning to think it’s not worth it.

I am a person. You see a cyclist. My loved ones see me. There is a human being under that helmet. There is a human being under every helmet. We are mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, husbands, wives and grandparents. Please, do everything in your power to start looking at us as the people that we are. I am a mother, daughter and friend. There are people in my life that love me.

Perhaps if I told you a little more about what brought me to cycling, it might help you to begin to see all cyclists a little differently, because like everyone, cyclist or not, we all have our own story.

Initially, I just wanted to go out and ride. I had friends that rode, so I borrowed a bike. Shortly after, I joined Team in Training with the intent of completing a cycling endurance event while raising money for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society. My son is a blood cancer survivor. I rode in his honor. And I’m doing it again. This will be my second year. Please think about that the next time you drive past me and yell at me to get off the road as I battle a headwind on a solo training ride.

Now I want to tell you a few things you may not otherwise consider:

Please do not assume that I am being an idiot for riding inside the white line and not riding on what appears to you to be a perfectly good wide shoulder. You can’t see what I can and often times the conditions of the shoulder are not safe. More than likely there is either sand or gravel making it unsafe to travel on. Believe me, that last thing I want is to be any closer to you than I have to be, but I am not going to risk going down on gravel and be thrown across the road into your path.

Do not expect me to weave in and out of parked cars. It is far safer for me to take a straight line than having to keep turning round to see if it is safe to come back out from behind a parked car.

Speaking of parked cars, if you are in one and are going to get out, please look for me first.

Please don’t fault me if I don’t wave you around me on blind corners. Yes, I can see sooner than you if it is safe to pass but I am not going to take that responsibility. You need to see for yourself when it is safe. I am not being rude.

Like a car, I have the right-of-way when I am traveling straight ahead. Do not pull out in front of me or make a left hand turn in front of me when it is not safe to do so. I don’t mind slowing a bit for you, but having to stop my bike when I have the right-of-way is simply wrong and dangerous.

Don’t wave me through intersections or left turns when you have the right-of-way. I realize you think you are being nice but this can be dangerous. I will yield to you when you have the right-of-way and take my proper turn just as a car.

Give me a wave when in doubt. I will wave and smile at you. You have no idea how comforting it is to come upon a stopped vehicle waiting to move into the flow of traffic and be acknowledged that you see me.

Please, please, please, slow down when you see me and please, put away the cell phone.

I know there are rude cyclists out there, just as there are rude people in all walks of life, but please don’t assume that of me just because I am on a bike. It isn’t fair to any of us that are out there on the roads doing our absolute best to be courteous and safe.

In closing, I know that not all motorists hate cyclists. I know there are many out there who are conscientious and careful, because I see you out there, too. Thank you. I am addressing those not like you. It only takes one reckless moment and deep in my heart, I know that the majority of hateful motorists are not hateful people. I know you would feel terrible if you were to accidentally hurt or kill me, or any other human being on a bicycle.

Sincerely yours,


I welcome any fellow cyclists to add anything in the comments that I may have missed or correct me, if needed. Motorists, your comments are welcome, too. We need to co-exist harmoniously. Neither bikes, nor cars are going away any time soon.


Jodee Anello lives in Healdsburg, CA, where upon arriving there three years ago, was finally cured of a near fatal case of wanderlust. She works at a popular winery while she tries to figure out if modeling will ever work out, but even better would be writing, which is her passion. She uses her blog to improve her writing skills with poetry, memoir and personal essays. She is a runner and cyclist and enjoys home improvement projects, landscaping and making garage wine with friends. She is also the number one fan of her son’s band.


Editor: Sarah Winner

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56 Responses to “An Open Letter to Cyclist-Hating Motorists. ~ Jodee Anello”

  1. Cyclist Hater says:

    Stupid letter. Almost all cyclists are hated because they feel they can ride in the MIDDLE of the road and NOT obey stop signs. Get your cycling buddies to understand if you’re on the road obey traffic lights and signs and THEN well respect you. Otherwise you’re just a granola loser who should workout at the gym and drive a car like a normal person.

  2. kdanek17 says:

    Hey, Cycle Hater,
    I, too, get annoyed when cyclists don't obey traffic signals, signs, etc., but I think you are missing the point here; not all cyclists are like that. I, myself, just started riding again, and was recently almost hit by a motorist who came to only a brief stop before proceding through a stop sign, when I was directly in front of him. I screamed, startled and terrified, and cried out "Goddammit!" His reponse was "Fuck off!" That must have been you.

  3. Matt says:

    “granola loser”?!?, dude, you fail at insulting people. Yes, lets all work out in the gym, drive cars and be “normal”. Lets not bike, run, surf, ski, skateboard, rock climb or anything abnormal.

    I look forward to reading in the paper when you pick a fight with someone who took too long on the tradmill in front of you. Hopefully you don’t get your butt stomped by some skinny, granola eating chick.

  4. lyn says:

    Wow Cyclist Hater, you've got a lot of rage in you and are the kind of person that makes it dangerous for everyone on the road…not just bikes. Just an FYI before you climb back on your high horse, cyclists are allowed to ride in the MIDDLE of the road when it is unsafe to ride in the right due to debris, obstruction, pedestrians, oh and quite often…illegally parked cars.

    So maybe educate yourself before you get all aggro because it just makes you come off as silly and ignorant (and so do the pointless blanket insults). And if you think that working out only in the gym and riding a car everywhere is normal maybe you should travel outside of your personal bubble a bit. Quite a bit of the world uses bikes for health and commuting purposes and would look at someone like you as being abnormal.

  5. Jules says:

    Cyclist Hater,

    WOW. You’re a mess, I bet you’re unhappy in all areas of your life. Where in the rules of the road does it say motor vehicles have priority, I don’t believe it does. You may have encountered a rude cyclist, Jodee touched on that, one bad guy doesn’t make the rest that way. I’ve been ticked off at that crazy person that drives a car, rides a motorcycle, rides a bike, I don’t judge everyone by one persons actions. If I were to do so, I’d have to say most people are kind and considerate, it’s unfortunate we have to put up with the likes of you.

    Give kindness a try, it feels great.

  6. Corey says:

    Wow, this is the type of sh-t head the author was describing… a self-righteous, lazy, bitter human being who probably needs to exercise just a bit… you know, to get out all that aggression from being stuck in car traffic all the time, and from being an unlikeable certified @sshole. He is probably trolling, but whatever..

  7. Harry says:

    I think that "Hater" says it all. You are a hater, period. And a troll. To me, you are worthless. Take your hate, go back to your cave and shove it.

  8. Thanks, Jodee. As the father of a son for whom his bicycle is his primary mode of transportation throughout NYC, I hear horror stories all the time, and worry a lot.

    Bob W. elephant journal
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    Yoga Demystified, Gita in a Nutshell

  9. Jodee says:

    Thank you, Kelly. "That must have been you." 🙂 xo

  10. oz_ says:

    Well, I was gonna comment that you were preaching to the choir by posting in EJ, but the first comment shows how wrong I was!

    Great letter, Jodee – I'm totally on board. Unfortunately, we cyclists are up against an entire culture that incentivizes, rewards, and in many cases demands precisely those traits that render cyclists at acute risk on the roads. It's that culture that needs to change before we can breath a little more safely. In the meantime:

    – Oz

  11. Jodee says:

    Thanks, Corey. I knew they were out there, still that comment surprised me…

  12. Jodee says:

    I think you covered it, Harry….

  13. elephantjournal says:

    Wow! If it were not for the great responses here, I'd happily delete this as it violates our comment policy. In any case, I think you've illustrated Jodee's point nicely. ~ Kate

  14. Jodee says:

    Thank you, Matt.

  15. Jodee says:

    Thanks, Lyn. I appreciate your comments and including the California Bike Laws. If only people would read them. Let's hope…

  16. Jodee says:

    Thank you, Jules. Kindness…yes, please.

  17. knittinginnc says:

    Maybe you live in the middle of nowhere. But us urban folk live in rather congested places and bike everywhere because traffic is impossible, and parking is a joke. Public transportation…only if you like being packt like sardines in a crushed tin can.

    So, to all the cyclist haters who who live some place other than nowheresville: have you ever considered how much more time you would spend in traffic if people did not bike? Or, how much more impossible it would be to find parking if we all drove a car like "normal" people? Or, how much closer you would have to get to the sweaty hairy dude on the bus if we rode stationary bikes at the gym instead?

  18. Jodee says:

    Thank you, Bob. I'm sure you do worry. I know my family worries about me. I doubt this post will make much difference, but I thought I would give it my best shot.

  19. Jodee says:

    Thanks, Oz, and thanks for that link!

  20. Renee says:

    Here in Boulder in 15 minutes yesterday I watched 9 bikes blow Through stop signs, 4 through red lights, and my car was kicked by a cyclist

    When I pulled over due to an ambulance coming… He had his music

    On so loud on his earbuds I could hear it from the car but he

    Couldn’t hear the sirens. I have yet to see a cyclist get a ticket.

    I would gladly pay higher taxes for cycle only roads or widening

    And maintenance of the cycling road space so we can all be safe and

    Comfortable using our chosen mode of transportation.

  21. eleanor says:

    Thank you very much for writing this letter. I risk my life every day going to work. Good luck and safe travels. And thanks for trying to help educate the masses. Keep up the good work!

  22. Jodee says:

    Thanks, Eleanor. You be safe out there, too!

  23. thoreau2 says:

    I wish the letter had also said something along the lines of:

    In exchange for your respect I promise to follow the same traffic laws as you. I'll stop at red lights and I won't roll through stop signs. I won't ride diagonally across the road from the far right line to the far left. I'll use hand signals to let you know when I'm turning. And most importantly, I'll carry insurance in case I accidentally hit you.

  24. Harry says:

    Renee, I (as both a cyclist and a motorist) fully agree that cyclists should follow the rules of the road. I was in Boulder a couple of weeks ago, as was struck (as a pedestrian) by a cyclist that was riding at night, no light and no helmet. I fully support cyclists following road rules. I feel that riding without a helmet is unfathomable, riding with headphones on should be ticketed at any and all opportunity, and all bikes should have proper lighting at night.

    That said, the fact is that in all the actors — cyclists, motorists, motorcyclists, pedestrians — you find a certain percentage who will not obey the law. My gut feeling is that cyclists become a target precisely because they are vulnerable. Motorists run lights and stop signs at least as often as cyclists do. Yet people go ballistic over one, pretty much ignore/accept the other. The cyclist, completely vulnerable, is at the mercy of the person enclosed in tons of steel. Therefore, it is safe for the motorist.

    One thing I think is critical is to do a simple risk analysis. Compare a cyclist and a motorist running a light (or a stop sign). What are the odds in each case that a collision will cause serious injury or death? I can't give the exact numbers, but I think we can all agree that if one had to make a choice, I will choose being hit by the bike every time.

    That risk analysis is missing from most of these discussions.

  25. Harry says:

    Perhaps. But you are missing the point that those are all rules of the road that we should all follow. *Everyone* on the road should be according respect. One group should not have to "beg" for respect. What cyclists are asking is really that we all follow the rules of the road.

    As I mention in an earlier response, within all of the groups of road users you are going to find bad actors, a certain percentage who are not going to follow the rules. I'm not upset with all drivers, just the bad actors. I'm not upset with all motorcyclists, just the bad actors (like the ones who get a kick out of buzzing less than a foot from me). BUT I am incredibly wary of any and all drivers and motorcyclists. Even the most careful, conscientious and well-meaning driver is a serious threat to my life. Just by the nature of the physics involved, in all but the most dire circumstances, cyclists do not threaten my life. They may annoy me, but do not threaten my life. If a car runs a light, it is immediately life-threatening. Most likely a bike is not.

  26. Harry says:

    Please excuse the typos 🙂

  27. Harry says:

    Oh, and I also feel that drivers with headphones, drivers on cell phones, drivers doing their makeup, etc. should be ticketed. Also drivers going over the speed limit, running red lights, running stop signs, not using turn signals.

  28. Maria says:

    Who would have thought that a person like "Cyclist Hater" would be on a site like Elephant. Surely he goes against the whole ethos of the site….weird.

  29. sinead says:

    I cycle everywhere. I'm in my mid30s and don't (never have) owned a car, even though I can drive, which I think is an important skill to have. Cars are terrifying, partly because you never know if the person inside has decided that they'd rather risk injuring or killing me rather than adding 10 seconds to their travel time, as are other cyclists who don't follow traffic laws and piss off drivers. But I don't much see the point of standoffs where either side says "I'll follow the rules if you do first". Um… *everyone* has to follow traffic laws. And bikes are traffic. And just like I don't automatically assume that everyone behind the wheel of a car is a jerk who is going to scare me for fun and/or shout at me and/or try to door me (yes, I've actually had someone try to door me and then get upset when I managed to swerve out of the way), drivers shouldn't assume that everyone on a bike breaks traffic laws.

    Finally, cyclists do slow drivers down. Big whoop. Roads are a shared resource that we all pay for and all have a right to use, regardless of the number of wheels we have on our vehicle. Just like drivers have to take into account that there will be traffic in the form of other cars on the road during their commute and leave enough time for that, they have to take into account that there is also traffic in the form of bikes on the road and leave time for that. I know it sucks to be running late, but your disorganization should not cost me my life or limbs.

  30. Jodee says:

    Well said, Sinead. Thank you.

  31. thoreau2 says:

    If it's just the physics that worry you, then the best answer is separate bike lanes that are clearly marked and painted a blue or similar color. Physics 101 tells us that if a bike and a car try to occupy the same space the bike will lose. So they should be separated.

    We see a good example of this approach in Denmark.

  32. thoreau2 says:

    I posted this link above in a reply, but so others can watch this video:

    Copenhagen seems to have the best approach. Keep cars and bikes separate.

  33. Jodee says:

    Wow. If only. It's so much more than the separation, though. It's the mentality. There are still roads without bike lanes, but everyone in cars owns bikes as well. Children are trained to ride in school. Cycling is a way of life for all, therefore there is no separation. Thanks for sharing.

  34. sycat says:

    I understand your letter. Statistically, double that number in pedestrians have been killed or maimed.

    Multipurpose roads or paths (wherever they are) must have multi or cross education.

    My state doesn’t have bicycle safety elements as part of its driving education, how about yours?

    Just as cars and motor cycles have licensing so too should bicycles.

    What organizations are you working with to bring this about, as a suggestion to me.

    Thank you.

  35. Mark Ledbetter says:

    Are there none of those renegade cyclists here that several of the comments (including the first one) are complaining about? Is everyeone here really as pure as the driven snow? Ok, I'll admit it. I can play pretty loose with the rules of the road when I'm on a bike (but only when I'm riding in traffic, I'm very careful in places that might have pedestrians). But here's one rule I rarely break, or else I'd be in the Tour de France. I rarely spped. In places where children play, people walk, and cyclists cycle, the speed of cars should also be severely restricted, and not just by speed limit signs but by cameras. Cyclists are more dangerous than we riders like to admit, but the real monster driving the structure of our neighborhoods and restricting the movement of both children and adults, with its sheer speed and danger, is the ubiquitous automobile.

    So what's my real point out of these many points? I'll save that for another time, but I can't believe y'all are reallly such good citizens when you're on a bike!

  36. coco says:

    I am a driver. I used to cycle but the area near my residence has many tight streets very busy and 3 major stoplights which are always congested and facilitate illegal and unpredictable behavior from bicyclists and car drivers. I see so much of bikers running the red lights.. you know jjust skimming through.. and stopsigns.. nto putting their foot to the ground.. and weavign in and out of traffic. I understand why some car drivers have become bicyclist haters..

    We are scared. We are scared of killing or maiming fo rlife another human being. We are scared of what could happen to our own lives if we hit someone.
    We are scared when you run a red light in front of us or weave past cars in a narrow rain gutter. ththen pull out in front of the line of traffic you wove by and YOU GO REALLY SLOW.
    We are scared when youwear NO HELMET and hav eno hands onthe handle bars and make a left hand turn in front os us. We are scared and infuriariated when you ride on a crosswalk amid pedestrians and then SWOOP off and make an unanticipated left turn in front of cars.
    We are sick of feeling scared and becoem ANGRY>

  37. TNTcyclist says:

    I ride my bike to work on an almost daily basis. Yes I stop at stop signs and obey traffic laws. It's the LAW. I've seen cars who don't stop at stop signs, I've seen cars run red lights. Do I hate all motorists because I assume all motorists run stop signs and red lights? In my state bicycles are considered a vehicle and have every right to the road including the middle and are subject to the same laws. Do we ride in the middle in traffic? Only when it's absolutely necessary. I also did my first endurance cycling event with Team in Training in October 2009. I've done several different events since then. From America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride to the Wildflower Triathlon in Bradley California. I don't hate you for your ignorance and stupidity. If you drive with that attitude you will eventually injure somebody if not kill them. I feel sorry for that cyclist and sorry for you because you will end up in jail. Do you have the same animosity towards motorcycles? How about school buses? Tractor-trailers? Bicycles have the same rights as all of those other vehicles. Or should all of those other vehicles drive a car like a "normal" person and leave the road to the closed minded ignoramus?

  38. TNTrider says:

    I agree thoreau2, we should also have separate lanes for buses, trucks, motorcycles, and "smart" cars. After all they are all different shapes and sizes, have different top speeds and abilities. Either that or we could ALL learn to follow the rules of the road and respect each-other's right to that road.

  39. Jeff says:

    Cyclist Hater you obviuosly are not enlightened in Human understanding and sharing. Please use your big boy words cream puff. What are you twelve, you need to use insults instead of being a grown up and discuss this issue. I hope and pray that you do not kill or injure any cyclist.

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  41. kellis chandler says:

    I was vising Sonoma from San Antonio, and rented bikes one day with a buddy. The bike lane ended, so I quickly entered main traffic and procceeded to signal and attempt a left hand turn. Talk about risking your life!!! I was yelled at, honked at and swerved at. Amazing!!!! San Antonio (that's in Texas folks) is 3 times as bike friendly as stressed out Sonoma commuters. I'm in the wine biz, and know that most folks in Sonoma are very laid back and excepting. Hopefully a little education will help everyone be safe!!

  42. Draper says:

    I understand the message of the letter, and support anyone trying to exercise and/or connect with nature, and I would never try to endanger anyone on a bike or not. However, I think that cyclists should ride in parks unless there is a designated bike lane for their own safety and for the mental health of those who have places to be.

  43. Debbie says:

    I wish this article was true, most cyclist are rude and DO NOT OBEY the traffic laws, such as stopping at Stop Signs, or 4 way stops. I live in Danville and they even go through RED lights. I have yet to see a cyclist in my home town that is nice.

  44. Tim says:

    In the UK, apparently statistically 50 percent of drivers in free flowing traffic in a 30mph limit break the speed limit.

    A lot of cyclists break the rules. So do a lot of drivers. I guess we all have our reasons for the way we behave but as Harry points out the drivers are *a lot* more likely to kill or injure the non-drivers than the converse. So let's not judge anyone based on the most inconsiderate road users who happen to be using the same mode of transport.

    But I agree on the segregation (especially on roads over 20mph). The Dutch know this. Cycling is far more popular there and all the road users are happier. We should learn from them.

  45. Tim says:

    The Dutch have been doing it even longer than the Danish (not that it's a competition :). As far as I can tell they have e few very good but simple ideas about this.

    – On smaller residential roads speeds are kept low and through-routes are often closed to motor vehicles to discourage rat-running.
    – On faster roads (ie over 30kph/20mph) bikes are segregated from motor vehicles and life is more comfortable for everyone concerned. The gap has to be a decent size. If there are parked vehicles they are between the "road" and the cycle path. The Dutch know that everyone makes mistakes, but this ensures those mistakes are far less likely to be dangerous.

    Common misconceptions about dutch cycling:
    – "The cycle paths are slow due to all the doddery old people and kids." This is not true. Where they are congested (eg around schools at drop off time) they are slow like roads, but otherwise they are wide, direct and good quality for some cyclists to be fast if they want to, especially between towns.
    – "100% liability, motorists are always held responsible for any crash." Again, not strictly true – it wouldn't really help, and sometimes the responsibility is genuinely shared. The important thing is not that the driver is blamed. The important thing is that cycling is safer in the first place (and even more importantly, it feels safer).

    Great letter by the way, for all the good it will do.

  46. Tim says:

    When you state "…cars and motor cycles have licensing so too should bicycles." you don't say why you think this is true, and I'm guessing you might not have researched the subject much.

    The following page has a useful summary of the pros and cons:

    Where licenses? A couple of places license bikes (rather than cyclists) as an anti-theft measure. Pretty much everywhere else has decided that the cost of the idea hugely outweighs the benefits, including the countries where cycling is most popular and safest (Netherlands, Denmark, etc).

    What about kids on bikes? And do you want pedestrians to be licensed too?

  47. Phil says:

    Thanks for this thoughtful addition to the cycling debate. I wrote a similar piece myself from a UK cyclists perspective a few months ago. It’s at if you’re interested.

  48. Greg says:

    It's only a matter of time before Cyclist Hater kills someone who rides a bike. One of the things we need to learn as a society is that crazy, violent people who are filled with anger and hatred do see their rage play out in their lives. I'm just hoping that I don't ever ride my bike anywhere near where he drives.
    Renee in Boulder – I live, drive and ride in Boulder too. How come I only very rarely see the kinds of cyclist infractions you experience? I do see college kids sometimes run stop signs and stop lights on their bikes, but I can't think of an instance where that was problematic to me as a driver. As for me and the vast majority of people that I ride with, we put effort into obeying the rules of the road. We're not perfect as a group, but most cyclists are conscientious and want to ride safely.
    The two big problems are that 1) too many drivers don't know the law, don't know for example that cyclists have as much of a legal right to the roadway as drivers do; and 2) too many cyclists don't get the fact that sharing the road is a two way street.
    Let's be careful out there. I ride my bike 5,000+ miles a year, and cycling is the joy of my life, but I also want to live to see my kids and eventually my grandkids grow up.

  49. Greg says:

    Since I wrote the reply above I discovered that Iris Stagner, a wife and mother in Texas was killed yesterday riding her bike. See:
    I also read an article related to the subject for Jodee's posting:
    Definitely worth reading for both drivers and cyclists.

  50. Jodee says:

    That was great! It's quite obvious that we are experiencing the very same issues from many miles away. Phil, thanks so much for sharing.