by Kevin Eng
First off, all of us here at Cycle Craft hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. With the new year approaching (possibly the last one, if you believe the Mayans), its time to start making your resolutions. Over the next few days, I’d like to suggest a few that we cyclists should make for our two-wheeled 2012. Let’s start with one that can benefit us all.
I spent a few days in sunny San Diego over the Christmas holiday. There were tons of bicycles out, but how could one resist when its 73 degrees in December? Unfortunately, I was without my bicycle for the trip, so I was relegated to a car for the duration. One morning, while driving back to my hotel from breakfast, I came upon two cyclists riding two-abreast in the bike lane. Well, only one of them was actually within the bike lane. The other was outside the bike lane and halfway into the already narrow road, blocking traffic. And he didn’t seem to notice, and if he did, he didn’t care.
As a driver, this behavior agitated me because there was a long line of drivers beginning to queue up behind me, each with an increasing disapproval of my low rate of speed. However, this rider’s inattentive behavior angered the cyclist in me more.
When I’m in a car, I always treat my fellow cyclists with extra care. I always slow down and pass only when there is enough room to do so safely. I’ve been buzzed at 50 mph with inches to spare too many times, and I would never want to give another cyclist that experience no matter how far into my lane they stray. However, judging by the gesticulations of the driver behind me, he didn’t seem to share the same level of understanding. I reached my left turn before having to pass and didn’t see how much (or little) room he left when he eventually passed them, but I have a feeling it was less than three feet.
What was missing in this situation? Spell it out for me, Aretha.
That r-e-s-p-e-c-t, however, needed to come from the cyclist first. His disregard for the rules of the road most likely led to the driver’s subsequent disregard for the cyclist’s safety. If bikes and cars are to share the road harmoniously, both parties must realize that sharing is a two-way street. If we cyclists want drivers to respect our right to the road, then we have to respect theirs as well.
And this particular cyclist’s behavior doesn’t only reflect badly on him as an individual cyclist. His behavior reflects badly on all cyclists, even those of us who do follow the rules. Cyclists with bad habits don’t wear jerseys indicating that they are leading the offensive riding classification. Motorists won’t be able to distinguish between the Freds who ride three-abreast blocking the road and the good guys and gals who will gladly single up and wave them through. Maintaining and improving our reputation is everyone’s responsibility, and we all need to do our part for our own sake and the sake of our fellow cyclists.
I’m by no means saying that all non-cyclists driving cars are irritable maniacs with little to no regard for cyclists’ safety. There are plenty of good drivers out there who give us our space and respect our right to the road. Unfortunately, there are also those who are short-tempered and irresponsible and will never be convinced that we belong.
However, there are those who haven’t quite made up their minds about us yet. We can still get them on our side. Here’s a few good habits we can all adopt to make them believers.
1. Pay attention
Be aware of who and what is around you. Always look and listen for cars (leave the earbuds at home).
2. Know Your Place
Always ride with the flow of traffic. Stay on the right side of the road, near the solid white line if there is one. If you’re in a group, never ride more than two abreast, and be ready to line up single-file to let cars pass.
Use hand signals to communicate any change in direction or speed well in advance. If you’re in a group, alert fellow riders of hazards ahead and approaching vehicles both ahead and behind.
4. Obey The Law
If you’re under 17, wear a helmet (if you’re over 17, you should wear one too, even though there’s no law). Stop at ALL red lights and stop signs. Don’t use your cell phone while riding. Turn on your lights when riding in the dark.
Bonus for Mountain Bikers: Don’t fret, MTB’ers! You can do your part too. Some of your favorite trails might be multi-use trails, so make sure to respect other trail users. Keep an eye out for hikers, joggers, and runners (or even other riders) and use your voice or a bell to let them know you’re coming. If you’re really motivated, volunteer to do some trail maintenance. It can be hard work but it keeps your favorite trails fun for everyone all year long. Check out this article from JORBA (Jersey Off Road Bicycle Association) for more information on what a trail maintenance workday is like.
So in 2012, make sure you ride with respect. Respect the rules of the road (or trail) and the ones you share it with, whether they’re rolling on two wheels or four. Then maybe, just maybe, we’ll all get some respect back.