Fighting the Citibike salmon in NYC
April 28, 2017 1:27 PM   Subscribe

So for the past several years I’ve been happily using Citibike, but this year I’ve twice encountered the most frustrating phenomenon, and I fear it’s just going to get worse as the weather gets better.

On the narrowest one-way bike lanes, I’ve run into twentysomethings going the wrong way. Not in a mood to fight, since I’ve gotten used to the pedestrians in the bike path now — I’d run out of breath if I yelled at every one — I scoot a little to the inside, closer to the curb, to let them pass.

But sometimes these salmon — the cyclists moving against the current — seem to want the inside too, and then it winds up in this slow game of chicken that ultimately has us facing each other at a dead stop.

The expectation from the salmon is that I should slide into the stream of traffic to let them pass. My thinking is, you’re already putting your life and mine in danger, I’m not going to help you more by jumping out of the bike lane and going into traffic for you.

What’s more insulting is that in both instances, there was a bike path going the opposite direction just a block over, and in one, the street was two-way, but the way the salmon was going didn’t have a bike path.

It seems the height of entitlement to me to be too lazy to take the right bike path one block over and too cowardly to ride in traffic, and therefore go the wrong way down a one-way bike path, and then expect people to get out of your way and ride in traffic for you.

Is this an accepted thing now? Is it just the vaunted entitlement of young people in the city? Have you experienced it? How do you deal with it? I’m tempted to just pass these salmon next time and let them have the curb -- but give them a shove as I’m passing them.

(I admit, I will salmon sometimes for a block or at the most two, to reach a station rather than going around the block. But I don't go down the narrowest lanes. I am consistently deferential about it. I don’t expect others to give way to me when I’m doing the wrong thing.)
posted by Borborygmus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Which side is the right side for you(not right-as-in-correct, right as in right-vs-left)? People are going to try to go right, they're likely not thinking about inside-vs-outside. Even (especially?) if they're already doing the wrong thing, they're not going to think about inside-vs.-outside, they're just going to try to go right.

If they're going to the left side though, then, you know, they suck even more.
posted by brainmouse at 1:33 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]


From a daily biker in NYC: I see this all the time, but haven't noticed the youth connection (considering that bikers skew younger than the population as a whole). I never give up the inside to them, on the same rationale as you--they're going the wrong way, I'm not going to dart out in traffic because of them.

It's not generally accepted. Do what I do and let them know they're going the wrong way!
posted by benbenson at 1:34 PM on April 28 [7 favorites]


You (and they) should not salmon at all. It is incredibly dangerous. Just last weekend we were Citi-biking from our place in Downtown BK to prospect park and my spouse wanted to go the wrong way down the one way street where we had undocked the bikes, but just for one block.

Only later did I think about how there are TWO parking garages on that block and as a driver, if I were making a right turn onto a one-way street out of a driveway I would realistically never check to see if there was non-automobile traffic coming against the flow of cars (and in this case the designated bike lanes would have put us directly in the path of cars making their legal entry into their lanes of traffic. We wont ever be going that direction down that block again.

As to whether its accepted practice? I mean clearly not for all of us, but also don't understand how anyone could walk down an NYC street while face timing their friend, and that's something I see daily also.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:34 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]


brainmouse has a point, but expecting others to follow traffic conventions (when passing opposite facing traffic keep to the right) while fundamentally ignoring basic rules (like following the flow of traffic on a street) is a low caliber move, imo.
posted by Exceptional_Hubris at 1:36 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


Ugh, I have experienced this many times and it really, really is the most disappointing thing about biking in the city. I get mad at fellow bikers more than I do at cars, it seems.

The thing I do, which is the same thing I do to entitled big guys who think they can walk on the wrong side of a busy street and force me to move, is to slow down while I'm holding my safe space on the inside. Even if I basically have to come to a stop. It's a form of playing chicken, but it's not at a high speed, and it works as a safe subtle message for those times when you don't have the energy to holler at them for being in the wrong.
posted by knownassociate at 1:38 PM on April 28 [5 favorites]


I just read this earlier NYPD cracking down on cyclists riding outside bike lanes. So if you "give way" to them, you might even end up getting ticketed for it. I would not give in to them (but I am a very confrontational cyclist who almost always shouts "BIKE LANE!!!!!" at entitled pedestrians, too).

Which side is the right side for you(not right-as-in-correct, right as in right-vs-left)?
I think the issue is that the salmon going contra-traffic flow obviously CAN'T "join" the car traffic, whereas law-abiding cyclists going the right way more easily can.
posted by ClarissaWAM at 1:39 PM on April 28 [1 favorite]


If you're slowing down or coming to a standstill anyway, you might as well say something. An amused "Dude, you're the one going against traffic, don't look at me" will probably get better results than a stern "DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU ARE INCORRECT," even if you have to force it a little. Depending on whether bike traffic rules are ever actually enforced in your city, a helpful (or fake-helpful) "Hey, uh, watch out, you could get ticketed for that?" might also be an okay approach.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:40 PM on April 28 [4 favorites]


I would try signaling your intention as you get closer. Either pointing towards the inside ("I'm going to go here") or waving them away towards the outside ("I want you chumps to go there"). I have no idea if this will be effective, but vaguely remember trying it out once.
posted by Phredward at 1:45 PM on April 28


Not in nyc and never actually stopped one but what I want to say is not "incorrect" but "please please just say out loud that you are entitled to stop a cyclist riding the correct direction on the right. just want to hear it from your lips" but I'll never get that out.

Really (from a single ER visit cyclist), it doesn't matter what others do, it's total awareness/concentration defensive biking where EVER you are - EVERY moment! Crazy dangerous stuff can come at you from any direction any time and that includes the surface you're on. With that I'm going out for a ride!
posted by sammyo at 2:31 PM on April 28


Although I love that Citibike makes cycling accessible to people who wouldn't ordinarily incorporate it into their everyday commute, it also opens the door to people who have absolutely no fucking idea how to ride in traffic safely. Which in turn makes cycling less safe for everyone stuck sharing the road with unpredictable, unsafe riders.

Which is to say that you should follow the traffic rules yourself: if you have to go upstream, just dismount and walk your bike on the sidewalk for a block or two. Or ride in traffic, like most cyclists do every day, unless it's specifically illegal where you are. Bonus: then you can feel entitled to hassle cyclists riding the wrong way by not budging while yelling WRONG WAY and possibly appending an epithet depending on your irritability level.
posted by tapir-whorf at 2:32 PM on April 28 [5 favorites]


Longtime NYC cyclist who says you will not be able to change anybody's behavior, but oh do I appreciate your frustration. At the most, you could say "not a good idea" as they sail past, and possibly it will get into their (earbud-stuffed) ears, but all you can really do is assume everybody around you is a moron prone to do anything at any moment and stay aware.

If you really want to help change habits, volunteer with Transportation Alternatives on one of their many campaigns to make streets safer for all everybody.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:18 PM on April 28 [2 favorites]




Not a NYC biker but this happens more frequently than I'd like in Chicago now that it's getting nicer.

To be honest, I tend to play chicken with them. I'll move myself to go head on toward them like we'd crash and then only move out of the way at the last second. Usually people's instincts are to veer to the right so they end up going into traffic going the wrong way.
posted by astapasta24 at 11:11 PM on April 28


Thanks. Glad to hear other people experience this too, and I’m right to hold my ground on the inside. I just don’t like the fact that I have to have these confrontations.

I say inside because the bike lanes can be on either side of the street. The latest was on Central Park West, and the lane is on the right side. On Bleecker, the lane is on the left side.

Both times these salmon have made the obnoxious move of expecting me to go into traffic for them. I don’t think they’re instinctively pulling right — they’re just lazy, cowardly and entitled.

I do try to take most things in stride and not be aggressive about it. When pedestrians are in the bike lake, I no longer yell at them, but just ring my bell to let them know I’m there and go around them.

When I came to a stop against the salmon on Bleecker, I said calmly, “you know, you’re going the wrong way.” She said, “yeah…” I said “You should go around me.” She fluttered her eyelids at me and said “why don’t you go around?” I glanced at the traffic speeding by us, put both feet on the ground, rested on the handlebars, and gave her a look like “come on.” There was a break in the traffic, and then she rode on. As she passed me, she laughed to herself and said “what a douchebag.”

When I came to the stop against the salmon on CPW, there was enough room to go around him, so I did. I gave him a little sarcastic/congratulatory “nice job” as I passed him, and he yelled after me “yeah, you should move to your f*cking right!” — which I actually did. What the cretin actually wanted me to do was move left into traffic.

In both instances the salmon were twenty-something, well-groomed, and out on leisure rides.

Sometimes I see the working class and deliverymen not obeying the rules on bike paths, but I’m much more likely to overlook their transgressions.

They’re working, they’re tired, I’m not going to attack them for taking shortcuts… nor are they likely to waste time fighting battles of ego and pride with me as these entitled brats would.

I donate to TA regularly.
posted by Borborygmus at 3:20 AM on April 29


Maybe I've been living in NYC too long, but my first instinct would be to say, "this is a one-way fucking bike lane and you're fucking it up for everyone else, you asshole. Grow the fuck up and go over to the next street/avenue like a person."
posted by slkinsey at 8:28 AM on April 29 [6 favorites]


Is it just the vaunted entitlement of young people in the city? Have you experienced it? How do you deal with it? I’m tempted to just pass these salmon next time and let them have the curb -- but give them a shove as I’m passing them.


Wow. Please don't assault anyone.

Without defending the behavior of people misusing bike lines, what you're describing sounds like road rage. It's not healthy for you and it can lead to dire outcomes that ultimately make our streets less safe for everyone.

It sounds like you have a fairly robust visual profiling system alongside some strongly held generalizations about different groups based on perceived age and class and your conception of where and how you fit in or are perceived, and it doesn't sound like it's really doing good things for you.

fighting battles of ego and pride with me as these entitled brats would.


None of these people, neither the ones who are younger and seem wealthier than you nor the ones that are older and seem poorer than you, are riding the wrong way down the bike lane at you. I guess none of them thinks about you nearly as much as you are thinking about them. It sounds like when you have tried to engage them in confrontation, they generally decline to take time out of their day to fight with you.

(I admit, I will salmon sometimes for a block or at the most two, to reach a station rather than going around the block. But I don't go down the narrowest lanes. I am consistently deferential about it. I don’t expect others to give way to me when I’m doing the wrong thing.

So when they do it, they are a salmon with a bad attitude. When you do it, you are a human who is salmoning, with a good attitude.

When I am biking and see someone coming down the bike lane in the wrong direction, I don't generally think, 'oh, well they are doing it deferentially so it's ok.'

I really don't understand why it's the height of entitlement to me to be too lazy to take the right bike path one block over on the part of someone else, but reasonable for you to salmon one or two blocks to avoid riding around the block just to get to the station a little faster.

Whatever is going on for you this spring, it sounds like there is more to it than Citibike use in bike lines.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:47 AM on April 29 [4 favorites]


Life's too short to get bent out of shape by dumbasses who don't bother to learn or follow the rules. Instead of assaulting them, maybe try barking at them? It does tend to make them pay attention.

I got the idea from Twin Peaks.
posted by aspersioncast at 12:11 PM on April 30


I’m tempted to just pass these salmon next time and let them have the curb -- but give them a shove as I’m passing them.

I get your frustration but hope you are being hyperbolic here. As someone who rides a bike you know that "a little shove" can easily lead to a fall and serious injury (to the victim and/or you).
posted by mikepop at 6:52 AM on May 1


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