All too often, motorists attempt to justify their poor treatment of bicyclists by blaming so-called “scofflaw bicyclists”, as if somehow it’s OK to mistreat one bicyclist simply because some other bicyclist disregarded the law at some point in the past. Even if there were large numbers of bicyclists who disdain the law (this has certainly not been my experience), it would still not justify the mistreatment of bicyclists by motorists.
What I believe is really at work here is the fact that bicyclists are vulnerable and somewhat powerless when up against motorists, and that this inequity emboldens a few motorists to abuse bicyclists in a way they would never consider if they were face-to-face with the same person outside of their vehicle. The anonymity of being inside a car causes some people to behave more aggressively than they would otherwise, and when up against a bicyclist who has very little ability to defend or retaliate, it’s just all too easy to mistreat the bicyclist. In my opinion, it’s these underlying attitudes, not the behavior of a small group of mysterious “scofflaw bicyclists” who are “ruining it for the rest of us”, that are fueling the mistreatment of bicyclists by motorists.
Bob Mionske summed it up best when he said, “If every cyclist obeyed every traffic law, do you think we’d have harmony? No. Look at how motorists treat each other.”