Personal Crusades: Stop the Salmon (Wrong-Way Cyclists)

09/20/2010 2:17 PM |

gandhi on a bike

You guys know I’ve been pretty pissed about this for a while: cyclists riding the wrong way down one-way streets. It’s called “salmoning,” apparently, and I am not alone in my anger. This City Room post talks to some other New Yorkers (including the wife of a man who was killed by a wrong-way cyclist) upset at the practice, which in my mind stems (justifiably) from the old pre-bike lane approach to New York biking, which really had to be a lawless, take-no-prisoners style. I concur wholeheartedly with Times “ethicist” Randy Cohen, who says, regarding the best way to rectify the situation, “I believe it is a duty of every cyclist to speak up—gently, nonconfrontationally—in such situations. To simply keep silent isn’t courtesy; it’s dangerous passivity.”

Yup, peer pressure and shame are the only way to fix this, and it definitely needs fixing. To me, salmoning is less about the safety of pedestrians (though seriously, to the guy going the wrong way on Berry Street, with the strawberry-blond goatee, fuck you for glaring at me for almost getting hit by you) than it is about the legitimacy of the bicycle as urban transportation, because we can’t have idiot columnists saying things like this: “It’s gotten worse. I have a strong feeling that there’s too many bicycles.”

As cyclists, we have to be better than the asshole drivers, and exhibit a code of honorable conduct at all times, not just when it’s convenient. I’m certainly not suggesting we stop slapping hoods or cursing at idiot pedestrians, but that we do so from a position of moral authority, the kind gained by following the rules. (And look, I know the very idea of “following the rules” is anathema to a lot of cyclists, but what I’m suggesting is more like a massive Gandhi-style passive revolution, a “laying down in front of horses” kind of thing. Except for the hood slapping.)