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“How to stay alive as a cyclist in North America”: Florida man spotted riding with ‘Armed Cyclist’ jersey, close passing flags and countless bike lights sparks cycling safety discussions

James Whelan says he’s just on a cycling trip across the country, but the reaction to his choice of attire and accessories has ranged from respect to uneasiness that such a set-up might be necessary to feel protected

Images of a man riding across the US with a vast array of lights and technology and the message 'Armed Cyclist' on the back of his jersey have led to discussions about cycling safety, and just how much is too much when it comes to protecting oneself from harm on the bike.

The pictures were taken by Jonathan Maus, who explains on his BikePortland website that he happened across the 'Armed Cyclist' on the Interstate 90, east of Coeur d’Alene in the US state of Idaho.

"When I looked at the images, I was amazed at what I saw", says Maus.  

"This guy was not messing around."

As pointed out by some of those replying to the original Twitter post, it turns out the cyclist in question is James Whelan, a resident of Florida who has built up something of a cult following on his Instagram page and YouTube channel (called Armed Cyclist, of course) where he posts images from his cycling trips across America and, sometimes, run-ins with local law enforcement officers. 

Whelan told road.cc that he runs 28 lights on his rear rack and eight on the front handlebars.

"I don't get people turning left or right in front of me at all because they pay attention when they see a bright burst of light coming towards them", says Whelan.

"For the tail light I came up with that idea because I got tired of people not seeing me. Now people typically change lanes a half mile behind me when they see my lights." 

Whelan also attaches flags to his bike to stop drivers from passing him too close, runs two GPS computers and carries a search and rescue beacon. He says that motorists bother him much less while wearing the Armed Cyclist jersey compared to a regular one. 

"In South Florida there is a lot of road rage against cyclists just for being on the road.

"Most people can read what it says. When they see my jersey it has a huge calming effect on the people that don't like cyclists." 

> Texas cyclist shoots driver who deliberately crashed into his riding partner

With statistics showing that cyclist fatalities have been steadily rising in the US over the past ten years, the extreme set-up has led to some conversations about cyclists' safety in the country, and some mixed reactions.

Some praised Whelan for exercising his rights, suggesting that the not-so-subtle warning could do much to deter careless or dangerous drivers, while others expressed dismay that someone would feel the need to take such drastic action to feel safe. 

While the message on the back of Whelan's jersey informs those around him that he is armed, whether his provocative outfit would break any local laws or customs in US states that allow concealed or 'open' carry of firearms is a grey area (Whelan says he always openly carries a gun where it is allowed).

Indeed, the video above that Whelan uploaded to his YouTube channel in 2020, that has racked up 3.4 million views at the time of writing, shows two police officers pulling him over due to alleged complaints from members of the public about his Armed Cyclist jersey. Whelan refuses their request for identification, saying he is not breaking any laws and goes on his way, leaving the cops "speechless" as he puts it. 

Whelan is currently on a bike ride across America, having embarked on 27 previous trips over 43 years. He says he's been stopped twice by the authorities on his latest adventure. 

"One time the guy just asked me about my lights. It was a consensual stop. The other some deputy didn't like my jersey. I reminded him of the First Amendment and then went on my way", he said. 

Whelan's current trip started in Key West, Florida and will have to end in a different location to the one he originally planned -  Prudhoe Bay in Alaska - due to wildfires. He said he has met some "great people" along the way, and we're assuming he wouldn't count any law enforcement officers who might want to disrupt his journey for spurious reasons among them... 

Arriving at road.cc in 2017 via 220 Triathlon Magazine, Jack dipped his toe in most jobs on the site and over at eBikeTips before being named the new editor of road.cc in 2020, much to his surprise. His cycling life began during his students days, when he cobbled together a few hundred quid off the back of a hard winter selling hats (long story) and bought his first road bike - a Trek 1.1 that was quickly relegated to winter steed, before it was sadly pinched a few years later. Creatively replacing it with a Trek 1.2, Jack mostly rides this bike around local cycle paths nowadays, but when he wants to get the racer out and be competitive his preferred events are time trials, sportives, triathlons and pogo sticking - the latter being another long story.  

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69 comments

Avatar
Demon1x replied to Paul J | 8 months ago
1 like

Nato went 5.56mm so grunts could carry more ammo in this smaller calibre, majority of engagement is under 400 metres, 7.62 is still used as a machine gun round or for short/mid distance sniping as opposed to the long range .50 antimaterial rifles such as the M82 or AX50.
Though am sure if you live in Texas you could probably still buy the any of the above.

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Peter Aretin replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
6 likes

Americans feel they need a gun to protect themselves from all the other people with guns.

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hawkinspeter replied to Peter Aretin | 8 months ago
4 likes
Peter Aretin wrote:

Americans feel they need a gun to protect themselves from all the other people with guns.

The evidence doesn't support that view though

https://www.acpjournals.org/doi/full/10.7326/M21-3762

Quote:

Conclusion: Living with a handgun owner is associated with substantially elevated risk for dying by homicide. Women are disproportionately affected.

There's also some gun myths debunked here: https://publichealth.jhu.edu/2022/debunking-myths-about-gun-violence

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chrisonabike replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
3 likes

The disconnectfulness between human beliefs and evidence is terrific!  (See e.g. "if our customers can't drive to our shop we'll have no business" and thousands of others).

I wonder if the beliefs themselves are secondary to our general psychological "style" and our need to fit in with others.  I think ideas normally come as a package deal too.

I used to be a bit nonplussed or even turned off at what seemed to be empty rhetoric and appeals to emotions in "debate".  Without being all "Kirk vs. Spock" I think of it differently now.  It's not "the only language they understand" but this seems to be our primary or most powerful communication and decision-making mode.

Even the more geeky are prey for the salesman.

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ktache replied to Peter Aretin | 8 months ago
2 likes

And those with a darker skin tone too.

Orange doesn't seem to count...

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Turk replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
1 like

69 in September licenced for decades. None of my peers advertise, nor have any of us used a weapon to date. 

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hawkinspeter replied to Turk | 8 months ago
0 likes
Turk wrote:

69 in September licenced for decades. None of my peers advertise, nor have any of us used a weapon to date. 

In some ways, it's similar to running bike cameras. Some people like to advertise it and some don't, and I can understand both approaches (I'm in the non-advertising group). It would be clearly wrong for police to go around stopping and harrassing cyclists for advertising that they're running cameras.

As with most media frenzies, the actual odds of being involved in a gun fight are exaggerated and it's human nature to focus on the unlikely, big events (e.g. plane crashes) versus the common but small events (e.g. car crashes).

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wtjs replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
5 likes

 It would be clearly wrong for police to go around stopping and harrassing cyclists for advertising that they're running cameras

Particularly when the dodgy forces (Lancashire and, I'm told on here, Sussex) insist that you advertise it: this is on the opening page of OpSnap Lancs. The motive for Lancashire, since they know that essentially zero % of the people reporting to OSL display these notifications, is to discredit the reporter if they need to.

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hawkinspeter replied to wtjs | 8 months ago
3 likes
wtjs wrote:

 It would be clearly wrong for police to go around stopping and harrassing cyclists for advertising that they're running cameras

Particularly when the dodgy forces (Lancashire and, I'm told on here, Sussex) insist that you advertise it: this is on the opening page of OpSnap Lancs. The motive for Lancashire, since they know that essentially zero % of the people reporting to OSL display these notifications, is to discredit the reporter if they need to.

As you well know, that requirement is utter bollocks

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wtjs replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
3 likes

As you well know, that requirement is utter bollocks

We know that but, unfortunately, Lancashire Constabulary and the Information Commissioner don't. They're fighting me at the Information Tribunal in favour of that and in favour of the right of the police to tell you nothing at all about what happened about indisputable offences against you!

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Paul J replied to wtjs | 8 months ago
1 like
wtjs wrote:

Particularly when the dodgy forces (Lancashire and, I'm told on here, Sussex) insist that you advertise it: this is on the opening page of OpSnap Lancs. The motive for Lancashire, since they know that essentially zero % of the people reporting to OSL display these notifications, is to discredit the reporter if they need to.

"footage taken is in the public domain"? This is clearly bollocks. Whoever wrote this text is obviously not a lawyer, nor sought legal review of this text.

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lonpfrb replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
Turk wrote:

69 in September licenced for decades. None of my peers advertise, nor have any of us used a weapon to date. 

In some ways, it's similar to running bike cameras. Some people like to advertise it and some don't, and I can understand both approaches (I'm in the non-advertising group). It would be clearly wrong for police to go around stopping and harrassing cyclists for advertising that they're running cameras.

A misunderstanding of the GDPR that you are identifying Natural Persons has led some police services to reject 'improperly collected' video.
However they are in error because vehicle registration doesn't identify a Natural Person. Only the police service can request the Registered Keeper of the vehicle (DVLA data) because they are data controllers going about their lawful primary purpose. Thus the video provider doesn't need to advise that they are capturing video like a building CCTV.
So showing a PassPixi badge to advise video capture is for the purpose of Deterrence.
Personally I'm not convinced that visually inattentive road users would even notice words or symbols but don't have the data to prove that. Thus I don't advise video capture.
Just like most motor vehicles fitted with a dash camera.

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quiff replied to lonpfrb | 8 months ago
2 likes

Also, the Information Commissioner acknowledges that dashcams are not subject to the same rules (e.g. advising that recordings are being made) as fixed CCTV: https://ico.org.uk/for-the-public/domestic-cctv-systems/ 

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hawkinspeter replied to lonpfrb | 8 months ago
1 like
lonpfrb wrote:

A misunderstanding of the GDPR that you are identifying Natural Persons has led some police services to reject 'improperly collected' video. However they are in error because vehicle registration doesn't identify a Natural Person. Only the police service can request the Registered Keeper of the vehicle (DVLA data) because they are data controllers going about their lawful primary purpose. Thus the video provider doesn't need to advise that they are capturing video like a building CCTV. So showing a PassPixi badge to advise video capture is for the purpose of Deterrence. Personally I'm not convinced that visually inattentive road users would even notice words or symbols but don't have the data to prove that. Thus I don't advise video capture. Just like most motor vehicles fitted with a dash camera.

Also, there's exceptions to GDPR for the purposes of crime detection/law enforcement. If someone stabs you and runs away, there's not really any problem with using your phone to video them. Of course, with dashcams and their ilk, it's slightly different as they're recording constantly, but they're used in a public place where there's little expectation of privacy.

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wtjs replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
2 likes

Of course, with dashcams and their ilk, it's slightly different as they're recording constantly, but they're used in a public place where there's little expectation of privacy
However, the Information Commissioner thinks that the Lancashire Constabulary requirement I display below is perfectly OK. If this were to be accepted as anything other than 'a load of bollocks' you can imagine all the shyster lawyers lining up to get their clients off, because they 'didn't see the notification that they were being filmed '

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Laz replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
0 likes

guns are for cowards

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Turk replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
0 likes

How'd it work out? Road side with law enforcment, soley to stoke his ego mouthing the cops.That is a confrontation that could go as sideways as a close pass.

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hawkinspeter replied to Turk | 8 months ago
3 likes
Turk wrote:

How'd it work out? Road side with law enforcment, soley to stoke his ego mouthing the cops.That is a confrontation that could go as sideways as a close pass.

Why do people get causes confused so much?

On the one hand, you've got someone wearing a slogan on a shirt and on the other hand you've got law enforcement that decide to target a cyclist for a made up reason. How do you figure that the cyclist caused that?

As Car Delenda Est mentioned, it's not unusual to have gun positive stickers on cars and they're never pulled over for that reason. If you want to blame anyone for encounters with police going "sideways", then you need to consider the police's behaviour first as they are supposed to be trained to deal with the public and uphold the law. Stopping a cyclist for no sensible reason ("you've got a lot of lights") doesn't seem like a good use of their time and it's bizarre that you think that the cyclist was to blame for that.

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Turk replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
1 like

"supposed to be trained", you're not paying attention to US law and enforcement here. That you can banter on obviously not knowing US firearms laws, the current crime climate here, and firearm laws enforced by at least 51 jurisdictions is painfully obvious. OK here ya go, as a 140 lb bicycle rider, head in a bar/pub with a tee proclaiming I am the baddest toughest SOB in the place. Give it a 30 mile bike rides time and then get up n leave. Now imagine on a bicycle with a small hand gun, and a sign proclaming same. When you encounter a cop here which I never have on a bici, have twice in a vehicle.No1  you don't argue, you tell him I have a CCW and I am armed. This confrontation is real imagined, or what ever. It would not have happened with out the TEE shirt !!!  Or piss off a nitt witt in a vehicle, ride away and find he had a rifle capable of a 1 mile shot. Your proclamation is asking for trouble from any loon, scared, pissed off or derainged person. There is always a tougher guy out there this is a good way to find him.

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hawkinspeter replied to Turk | 8 months ago
4 likes
Turk wrote:

"supposed to be trained", you're not paying attention to US law and enforcement here. That you can banter on obviously not knowing US firearms laws, the current crime climate here, and firearm laws enforced by at least 51 jurisdictions is painfully obvious. OK here ya go, as a 140 lb bicycle rider, head in a bar/pub with a tee proclaiming I am the baddest toughest SOB in the place. Give it a 30 mile bike rides time and then get up n leave. Now imagine on a bicycle with a small hand gun, and a sign proclaming same. When you encounter a cop here which I never have on a bici, have twice in a vehicle.No1  you don't argue, you tell him I have a CCW and I am armed. This confrontation is real imagined, or what ever. It would not have happened with out the TEE shirt !!!  Or piss off a nitt witt in a vehicle, ride away and find he had a rifle capable of a 1 mile shot. Your proclamation is asking for trouble from any loon, scared, pissed off or derainged person. There is always a tougher guy out there this is a good way to find him.

The fact that there may be some other people looking for trouble does not mean that the intention of the shirt is to pick a fight with people. Is it common for every U.S. citizen that visibily open carries to get into constant gun battles as everyone tries to prove themselves tougher or did you make up quite a bit of your statement?

To be honest, it sounds like victim blaming to be trying to blame the cyclist rather than the anti-cyclist police or some supposed nutter with a 1 mile shot rifle. Put the blame for violent actions on the person performing it, not a slogan on a shirt.

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Turk replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
1 like

Open carry is a bit different than a CCW, the dude doesn't have a hawgleg strapped to him, it's advertised CCW.  Obviously your view is the proper one, from far too much time unarmed save for a keyborad. Carry on you win.

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TheBillder replied to Turk | 8 months ago
3 likes
Turk wrote:

When you encounter a cop here which I never have on a bici

Over here, I encounter police on biscuits daily (mostly kilted polis on shortbread, actually). Your country is amazing but ours has its advantages.

Turk wrote:

Or piss off a nitt witt in a vehicle, ride away and find he had a rifle capable of a 1 mile shot.

Here, perhaps, the USA could be ahead of us. Imagine being able to compute the parabolic flight of the bullet over that mile to hit the target, knowing the muzzle velocity, projectile mass, acceleration due to gravity, wind velocity and take account of a wobbly cyclist. Almost too good to be rhetoric. I salute you and the country you doubtless inhabit.

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chrisonabike replied to TheBillder | 8 months ago
1 like
TheBillder wrote:
Turk wrote:

When you encounter a cop here which I never have on a bici

Over here, I encounter police on biscuits daily (mostly kilted polis on shortbread, actually). Your country is amazing but ours has its advantages.

Quite right.  There are a lot of peek freans out there; you never know when some bandit from Abernethy might be away with your gold bars - or even your empire!

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lonpfrb replied to hawkinspeter | 8 months ago
0 likes
hawkinspeter wrote:
Turk wrote:

Armed cyclist with a CCW in the US are not happy with this character. One tail camera and the weapon suffice much better than the proclamation and desired confrontation..

Isn't the entire point of the proclamation to avoid confontation?

To deter confontation

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brooksby | 8 months ago
5 likes

That footage of a stop was hilarious. "We're stopping you because there's been a complaint about your lights" "Are they illegal?" "Well, no..." "Okay, thanks, I'll be on my way then"

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yupiteru | 8 months ago
4 likes

 I know how he feels.

I used to carry a blank firing 22 starting pistol/revolver in the 80's to frighten attacking dogs off mainly, but one or two motorists got the six shot routine. (so satistying)

Used to work very well, unfortunately it was stolen in a burglary along with my Bowie knife, machete, hunting crossbow and replica blank firing 357 magnum handgun. (Strangely they left my Weihrauch HW 35 air rifle which was worth the most!)

Police caught the culprits (neighbours) and returned my replica blank firing 357 magnum but never recovered the other stuff. (did get a victim payment)

Obviously society has changed since then and it would be frowned upon these days to do such a thing, (so I would not recommend it) but luckily I do not see so many unaccompanied savage dogs around the place like I used to.

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Cugel | 8 months ago
0 likes

Violence, often of the extreme kind, is the Number One go-to "solution" to any and all problems in the minds of many denizens of the benighted Disunited State of Amerika. Those of a more amenable and tolerant disposition are labelled "pussy" or "snowflake", deemed fit only for a good Billy The Kidding should they disagree with one's dogmas.

The problem is that extreme violence, along with the means and inclination (even permission, in the form of "stand your ground" laws) to apply it, is an immense tradition there with much of the mass media devoted to celebrating and cheering it, one way or another. Large organsiations also exist to employ the corrupt mechanism of US so-called government to keep it that way.

The cyclist in question is an emblem of the tradition. He has no faith in any kind of human goodness but rather a religious belief in another pervasive and associated US dogma of social Darwinism - "a war of all against all", as Thomas Hobbes long ago described his concept of the human "state of nature" (nasy, brutish and short) in "Leviathan". "They're out to git me. I'll git them first".

Even in Blighty, a carloon confrontation usually results only in a bit of foul language; maybe a small prosecution if a camera is drawn (rather than a gun) and a polis can be bothered to take note. Presumably the armed fellow will, if confronted by a car loon unwise enough not to thoroughly run him over as the first loon-move rather than just bump him, will find themselves in a high noon situation toot-sweet; or dead of armed cyclist pre-emptive action, lying in a morgue.

***********

If Toryspiv go the Full Repuglican, you can see them rescinding the law curtailing the freedumb of loons to have handguns, in Blighty. We too would soon be jes liike Idyho. The Daily Hate Mail would be more than happy to promote the condition 'cos think of the increased sales!

 

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NOtotheEU replied to Cugel | 8 months ago
8 likes
Cugel wrote:

Violence, often of the extreme kind, is . . . . .

. . . . practiced every day by drivers of lethal weapons all over the world against pedestrians and cyclists and tolerated by society but everyone loses their s**t when a lone cyclist puts on a 'armed cyclist' shirt, a few extra lights and a close pass flag?

We might not have guns in the UK but we are just as bad as the US. I recently complained to a driver that he had nearly hit me with his car so he got out and tried to hit me with a golf club!

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Cugel replied to NOtotheEU | 8 months ago
0 likes
NOtotheEU wrote:
Cugel wrote:

Violence, often of the extreme kind, is . . . . .

. . . . practiced every day by drivers of lethal weapons all over the world against pedestrians and cyclists and tolerated by society but everyone loses their s**t when a lone cyclist puts on a 'armed cyclist' shirt, a few extra lights and a close pass flag?

We might not have guns in the UK but we are just as bad as the US. I recently complained to a driver that he had nearly hit me with his car so he got out and tried to hit me with a golf club!

'S a good job you ain't got no gun, eh pardner? Mind, I'd confiscate that carloon's clubs as well (golf and otherwise).

It may not be that long before the polis disappear altogether, except from around Toryspiv locations where they'll be crouched behind the razor-wire keeping the millions of disaffected serfs at bay. We will all then be free to deal with our many enemies as we choose. Golf clubs will be the least of it!

I'll be hiding somewhere well away from that Ingurland, me. I'll probably get loon-clubbed anyway.

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mattw replied to NOtotheEU | 8 months ago
6 likes

The UK seems to be less effective at killing people.

Killed on USA roads in 2022: 43,000 people.

Killed on UK roads in 2022: 1700 people.

Ratio of 25:1.

The population ratio is 5:1.

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