Frustrated cyclist "jegrgic" poses this question at the New York Cycling Club (NYCC) website.

They say:

When I see this, I want to just go over to the person and try to give them some common sense. But typically, I just do my best to avoid them (usually by going into traffic) and swear under my breath while shaking my head.

Is it productive to be confrontational in this situation? Has anybody been able to educate them? Should we let the salmon swim upstream unimpeded?


5 Answers 5


I want to just go over to the person and try to give them some common sense.

If I felt like that, I'd have to tell every second cyclist I see at night that they ought to have lights.

Is it productive to be confrontational in this situation? Has anybody been able to educate them? Should we let the salmon swim upstream unimpeded?

Ring your bell. :-)

  • 1
    "Ring your bell!" - one of the best responses I've seen here - Not that I have a bell. Does anyone? Sep 28, 2011 at 13:58
  • It's legally required to have a bell where I live. So I have one. But I actually find it quite useful. Had it not been law, I would have never purchased one in the first place, but now that I have one, I find it comes in quite handy.
    – Kibbee
    Sep 28, 2011 at 14:14
  • 4
    Isn't having a bell one of the funnest parts of having a bike? If you weren't on a bike, people would look at you like you were looney tunes running around ringing bells. Riding a bike is a license to ring bells. It's great. If you don't have one, you should get one. Useful and fun.
    – DC_CARR
    Sep 28, 2011 at 19:28
  • 1
    @SamTheBrandΨ I have a bell, which I knew was required by the Ontario Traffic Act (by the way I recommend you read section HTA 147 - Slow moving traffic travel on right side of that link for a good description of 'vehicular riding'). The LBS would have sold my bike without one, but I asked: they sold me a little Incredibell, which I find very useful.
    – ChrisW
    Oct 5, 2011 at 2:49
  • I loathe The Bell, because I don't like having to take responsibility for someone elses lack of situational awareness. The bell doesn't improve the situation, only makes it worse as others rely on it.
    – OMG Ponies
    Apr 11, 2012 at 4:19

I have in the past stopped and held up my hand in a 'stop' gesture and had a short conversation with people riding the wrong way. If they stop, which they normally do, I typically and quickly try to point out:

  • Wrong way riding is illegal.
  • It's substantially more dangerous.
  • Our state is a contributory negligence state, so if you are in an accident you will likely collect much less or nothing at all.

And I finish with:

  • Maybe it's none of my business, but everyone is better off when we all follow the expected traffic rules.

Generally I get a response that ranges between acceptance and indifference. The anecdotal evidence that it works is that they usually cross the street and on my typical route I seem to see fewer 'salmon'. Truth is, they may be thinking I'm a crackpot and crossing back over as soon as I am out of sight.

Only once has someone yelled or argued with me. That said, I don't stop messengers. They generally know the rules and are choosing to flaunt them.


I'm sure there are cultural differences between NYC and where I live, but I've found that any attempts at yelling "Don't go the wrong way!", "You're gonna kill yourself! Ride with traffic!" or something like that at a passing cyclist get no acknowledgment, get dismissed ("yeah, yeah, whatever"), or hostility. There's very few wrong-way cyclists that seem open to being educated.

I'm really hoping somebody can share some techniques that have seemed to reach the salmon.

I think the one thing I know of working is police ticketing them, especially since here one of their options for dealing with the ticket is taking a bicycle safety class from a LAB certified instructor via the local cycling advocacy group. In the US there's been federal grant money for "bicycle safety" that police departments can apply for to pay for overtime for police officers to concentrate on ticketing cyclists for dangerous illegal behaviors. It might be possible to convince your local police department to apply for some of that funding.

As far as how to keep yourself safe, hugging the curb and slowing down works great. Since they can see the oncoming traffic they're better situated for a dodge out of the bike lane. Slowing down so that you can stop quickly is helpful, too. If there's cars next to you, this doesn't work as well, since wrong-way cyclists are generally willing to ride in the door zone without thinking twice about it.


It's not your problem. Leave them be. Do your own thing, swim your own path.

It's easy to say that but life's too short. If they're not going to listen to what you say and it would just annoy you even more than it apparently already does, then just leave them to it and go on about your day.

Unless someone has actively endangered me with their stupidity, then I'm inclined to just ignore it. I'm not a cop, they'd not pay me any attention anyway. If I'm feeling particularly belligerent then I might deliberately get in their way (I do tend to do this with pavement riders when I'm a pedestrian), but generally that's just risking their anger and they wouldn't learn anyway.

  • 1
    Right. When I see an obvious newbie doing something that he needs to correct (such as pedaling too slowly or with the seat too low) I may speak up in a kindly fashion. And when momma passes with her kids behind, all in helmets, and she doesn't have one, I'll ask "Where's YOUR helmet?" And I will likely say something if some idiot actually endangers me somehow. But instructing stupid people is a fools errand. Sep 28, 2011 at 11:13
  • 4
    It's your problem when you're contending with them for the lane. Nov 24, 2011 at 18:06
  • your advice is the best here.
    – fady
    Apr 25, 2012 at 18:04
  • 1
    "It's not your problem. [...] Unless someone has actively endangered me [...]" It is my problem precisely because they have endangered me by riding the wrong way down the cycle lane that I'm trying to use. They have endangered me directly by putting their bike where they have no right to be and forcing me to react to their presence. They have endangered me indirectly by me, and all the motorists who I'd like to be concentrating on not driving into me, devote a large amount of our attention to avoiding the hazard they have created, reducing awareness of all other hazards. Nov 9, 2016 at 12:57

It'd be best if they simply obeyed the traffic laws, but the few times I've brought this up with wrong-way riders, I've encountered everything from disbelief to hostility.

I simply do my best to avoid them and not collide with them. To that end, I've found that you can usually "direct" these riders within the bike lane or shoulder. When I see them in the distance riding towards me, I'll point at them, then left, while I simultaneously move to the right. (If time permits, I'll point at myself first, to make it clear I'm saying "How about if we both ride on the right side of this lane.)

It almost always works, and many wrong-way cyclists actually seem to appreciate this; I've gotten a few friendly nods from doing this. This technique has worked on the streets of New York City, various locations in New Jersey, and also while on tour in Rhode Island. However, note that some areas may have laws that make signaling like this problematic, possibly opening you up to liability if there's an accident caused by your signals. (Here's an example.)

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