Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Can't we all just get along?

As road riders, we often have to deal with the delicate nature of riding alongside 3-ton vehicles with little protection (lycra and a bicycle helmet constitutes "protection"?) on busy roads. Motorists yell at us to get on the sidewalk, pedestrians yell at us to get on the road. What's a cyclist to do?

Most cyclists, myself included, try to be courteous to drivers. We know that we're not speeding along at 55mph most of the time, especially not UPhill, so we hug the white line and ride inches from the curb to allow cars room to pass. We stop at stop signs and follow traffic signals, trying to keep ourselves safe by acting like the vehicles Maryland law considers cyclists to be. Of course, just like the drivers on the road, we have some bad apples too, those who refuse to follow the rules of the road and are an annoyance to drivers. The problem with their behavior is that it only sets off driver's fuses, which are already far too short in today's "road rage" world. While they might be safe from the driver's ire, it's likely the driver will drive recklessly around the next cyclist they encounter in order to exact some revenge. So this is my plea to all cyclists to be courteous to drivers and share the road. Act like a vehicle and be treated like one!

Now for my rant on drivers... It's rare that I ride on the roads for any length of time and not encounter at least one driver acting carelessly. Whether their intention is recklessness out of anger or carelessness stemming from just plain ignorance, the result is the same -- endangering the life of the cyclist they encounter out on the road. I truly wish that Maryland (where I live) would become more cyclist friendly, requiring drivers to take a driver safety course that emphasizes the need for caution around cyclists, and building more bike paths, bike lanes, or even simply paving wider shoulders for cyclists to ride on. Unfortunately, we know this is not going to happen overnight. So I ask that drivers respect the right for cyclists to be on the road and drive cautiously around us. We are your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, husbands, fathers and mothers. We have lives too, and people that care for us. We'd like to make it home safely to our families and continue to go on living our lives.

Today on my ride, I encountered:
  • A driver that honked at me while I was attempting to stay as far right as I could without crashing into parked cars. The car refused to pass by moving over the double yellow line, although there was no traffic and plenty of room. (You may cross the double yellow line to pass a cyclist, but please give us 3 feet of room. We should not be able to touch your car with our arm outstretched. And please, don't honk. It can deafen and/or frighten a cyclist and cause a crash.)
  • A driver that insisted on passing me on the left, completely over the double yellow line, when I clearly had signaled that I was making a left hand turn and had moved into the left lane. The right lane was clear and there was plenty of room to pass there. (This one actually frightened me because it was so unexpected. Please treat us like vehicles... you would never do this to another vehicle!)
  • A driver who sped up to pass me, slammed on the brakes and swung a hard right directly in front of me at an intersection. Fortunately I encounter this behavior often enough that I expect it at intersections and was able to stop before I was clipped and ended up crashing into the side of the car and sliding across the hood. (This is the single most stupid move a driver can make, and the most preventable. You have to slow down for the hard right anyway, so why not just slow up for half a second? Causing an accident will not get you to your destination faster, trust me!)

If you need to brush up on how to drive around cyclists, please visit Far too many cyclists are killed or seriously injured in collisions involving vehicles each year. We all know someone who has been hit by a car while riding their bike. Most of us know at least one person who was killed by a vehicle while riding. There is no reason for this to happen, ever. Please, share the road and help keep everyone safe.

1 comment:

bethbikes said...

Check out a similar post by "Fat Cyclist", an awesome blog - and very well written post (as was yours, Heidi):