Stephen Colbert’s Tips for Drivers and Cyclists

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Stephen’s Driving Tips via Twitter Service
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Meryl Streep

You know an issue has hit the mainstream when it’s mocked on the Daily Show or the Colbert Report.

Colbert, on his mock-conservative talk show, took aim at the dangers created by texting while driving.  After a series of jokes that end with the problems of texting a 911 call; Colbert introduced his new twitter series, Stephen Colbert’s tweets for drivers.  His first tweet is, naturally, an advertisement followed by "You’re in the wrong lane!"

However, as Colbert rambles on, his desk is struck by a cyclist causing an air-bag to shoot out of it protecting him.  Apparently in their zeal to make New York the Portland of the east coast, NYC DOT painted a lane right up to it.  After a brief exchange, ("Didn’t you see the bike lane?" "Didn’t you see my desk!?") it’s revealed the cyclist was busy reading Colbert’s "tweets for cyclists" all of which are reminders that cyclists look stupid in spandex.

While Colbert’s humor is absurdest, there is a hidden reminder that cyclists are a heck of a lot more exposed on the street than car drivers.  When a driver misses a signal because he’s distracted, he not only has thousands of pounds of steel protecting him, he also has a defense system built into the car.  When a cyclist makes the same mistake, he has no such protections.  Maybe that’s why I’ve never actually seen someone texting while riding their bicycle and I saw two people texting while driving just on my way to the store this morning.

  • “When a cyclist makes the same mistake, he has no such protections.”

    Which is why it’s vitally important for both drivers and cyclists to minimize mistakes and obey all traffic laws.

  • The difference is, when a driver makes a mistake, he could kill someone. When cyclist makes a mistake, he could get killed.

  • Peter

    …which would mean that it would make more sense for bicyclists to make certain they obey the traffic laws and are aware of what’s going on around them, rather than grooving to their iPods.

  • angle

    Hey, Peter, on behalf of cyclists everywhere, I say “THANKS!” for your patronizing, parental advice!

    Now that you’ve fulfilled the prerequisite “lawbreaking cyclists” comment requirement, please STFU.

  • Didn’t we just have a huge thread about aggressive posters here…? Did we not learn anything? :)

  • M

    I’ve seen someone texting (with both hands!) while biking! That was the only time I’ve seen someone do that though and I was somewhat horrified at what I was seeing. They were biking down a fairly busy street in Pasadena.

  • angle

    Hey, where were you guys when I could have used a strong father figure in my life?

    I didn’t mean to be quite that snappy, but in all seriousness, the implication that cyclists as a whole break traffic laws and are irresponsible road users is something that comes up repeatedly every time there’s a discussion about transportational cycling, no matter what the context – ask anyone who’s attempted to advocate for cycling. Not only is this an insulting sterotype, it also suggests that cyclists using public roads (again, as a whole) are an inherent danger to themselves and other road users (if not to the very fabric of American society). This conclusion is always drawn purely from anecdotal evidence of cyclists’ behavior.

    Discussion of cycling as a mode of transportation, or the rights of citizens to choose a bicycle to get around on public roadways, should not center on laws that are broken by individuals. Imagine if a similar standard were imposed on motorists… or corporate executives, for that matter.


    One thing I would like to add to your comment, which is a viewpoint I hear a lot, is that a cyclist’s fatal mistake (say, running a red light) can involve a legally-driving motorist, who involuntarily becomes the cause of death. So I would say that the repurcussions of a cyclist acting irresponsibly could extend beyond his or her own life.

  • Ah yes, the unlawful cyclist red herring. This is such a delight to read about over and over and over again. “Bike riders don’t obey the law” QED they get what they deserve.

    When was the last time you drove your car under the speed limit for your entire trip? When was the last car ride that you didn’t illegally text message or use your cell phone? QED, car drivers are hypocritical bastards.

  • joe

    When I see idiocy on the road, weather it be a Car, bike, Motorcycle, scooter or bus. I always think to myself.

    If your in such a hurry to get somewhere, Running over a cyclist/pedestrian will only delay you on your journey. The last time I had an auto accident ( 6 years ago) It took me 3 hours to get to my final destination.

    In a city as large as LA you see motorists eating their morning cereal while putting on makeup. And you also see cyclists with headphones on running red lights and talking on cell phones.

    Either way, if a cyclist makes a mistake its a higher chance that he life is at risk. If a motorist takes the chance, he might get hurt. but likely he will be late to work and his insurance rates will go up.

    Either way, Pedestrians can be killed by both parties (yes cyclists have hit and killed pedestrians)

    So just be careful.

  • mcp

    If bike advocates are worried about being stereotyped, then get onto the people that ride their bicycles with iPods, on their phone, or no hands in traffic. It’s hard to make a convincing arguement when there’s so much wreckless behavior.

    I love riding my bike in the city, but I do so defensively, with two hands and both ears.

  • Many videos on YouTube of driver or cyclist behavior attempts to say, “See, I told you so! (insert driver or cyclist here) is reckless!”

    cambridgecyclist on YouTube recorded his commute every day for a while and posts results for all to see here:

    The verdict? Everybody his screwing up out there. Some of his videos are voted down because the driver or cyclist thinks he is targeting him. He is targeting everyone. I highly recommend that everybody look through his videos.

    “”Bike riders don’t obey the law” QED they get what they deserve.”

    Except that no one is saying or implying that they get what they deserve, at least here.

    “Imagine if a similar standard were imposed on motorists… or corporate executives, for that matter.”

    But that is what cyclist advocates discuss, drivers behaving badly. Also, can you please clarify what you mean here? Corporate executives are watched now more than ever after Enron. Where I work, the big bosses were talking about how paper work has gotten ridiculous after Enron, but that they had to do it whether they liked it or not.

  • Common sense is the only thing both driver and cyclist should follow. Cyclist shouldn’t be ignorant of a drivers weaknesses such as blind spots etc.

  • kenny

    This covers some good points. For a follow up article, go to


L.A. Weekly Claims the Mantle of Defender of Dangerous Drivers

There was a decent amount of outrage aimed at Hillel Aron at L.A. Weekly for his web-exclusive op/ed boasting about his driving prowess and defending his habit of texting-while-driving. I’ve considered myself something of a Hillel fan since his “Bikeroots” piece in 2011, so I was both surprised and a little dismayed while reading a […]

Ad Nauseum: Really? Zombies?

Last week, the California Highway Patrol and California Office of Traffic Safety unveiled their newest Public Service Announcement Campaign encouraging drivers not to drive while distracted.    Using zombies as the protagonist, the ads attempt to link unsafe driving practices to the driving dead. The ad-campaign is based around research showing that talking on a […]