Below is my response to a question on a survey administered by a Tech student, about commuting in Atlanta. The question asked what were my concerns about commuting in Atlanta. I've said these things before, and I haven't edited what's below, but I feel that it's true and, what's more, universal to American cities that are home to anyone that calls himself a cyclist.
Ignorance on three sides of the traffic issue: motorists/drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians. It is easy to point fingers and say drivers are all menaces or cyclists are all entitled hipsters or pedestrians are all clueless, but each group also needs to look within itself and recognize that, at the same time they are painting another with the same brush, they are doing so within their ranks.
1. Motorists need to realize that bikes do have a place in traffic and on the road, and that cyclists ride defensively in part because of those motorists who are unaware of or indifferent to that place, and by doing so are often making the way safer for all involved. Motorists need to realize that a momentary inconvenience for them (such as waiting until passing through a 4-way stop before going around a cyclist, as opposed to speeding up to pass a cyclist before the intersection, only to abruptly stop immediately in front of said cyclist) may well cause a cyclist injury or cost him his life. As a law-abiding cyclist, I am weary of being yelled at by passing motorists with an axe to grind, getting buzzed by inattentive or indifferent motorists, and of being told to do something incredibly illegal and demonstrably less safe than my current behavior for the convenience and due to the ignorance of the law of motorists.
2. Cyclists need to recognize that not everyone on two wheels has been educated about their rights on the road, how to intelligently share the road, or what they may *not* legally or safely do (e.g., make left turns in front of stopped traffic from the right lane at a light). Not all cyclists are angels, just as not all motorists are demons, and cyclists must realize that motorists may drive too closely or express frustration or rage (however dangerous or illegal it is) because of previous experience with cyclists who behave erratically and ride as if they are above the law (whether deliberately doing so or simply due to aforementioned ignorance of their rights and responsibilities). Cyclists must realize that, though they have the right to the road, so do the motorists, and that a peaceful coexistence is possible. As a motorist and a cyclist, I am tired of cyclists running red lights *in the presence of traffic*, hopping between the streets and sidewalks to avoid traffic, and going the wrong way on one-way roads.
3. Pedestrians must realize that vehicles (motorists and cyclists) have a right to intersections, and that there are traffic signals that they, too, must obey for a city's infrastructure to be successful and safe for all commuters. As a pedestrian, motorist, and cyclist, I am weary of pedestrians behaving like the proverbial lemming and following the other pedestrians en masse across a road (regardless of the presence of a cross-walk) in the midst of traffic, using bike lanes for running or walking dogs when a readily available and serviceable sidewalk is not two feet away, and ignoring traffic signals at their own convenience.
The biggest thing is to remember that the person behind the wheel, walking across the street, or riding a bike is just that: a person, a fellow human-being.