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Things Cyclists Wish Motorists Knew February 26, 2015

I watched as the truck came to a screeching halt and stared at me. I had the right of way, but it was clear he hadn’t seen me. It was also clear that he was more upset about not having seen me than I was about not being seen. (I had seen him and was able to stop well in advance of our anticipated collision.)

As I continued my ride, I began to contemplate the many things that I wish motorists knew about cyclists. (Like that we don’t all get angry just because you didn’t see us. After all, sometimes we don’t see you, either!) With that in mind, here are the top entrants on my personal “wish you knew” list:

1. Just because I’m small, doesn’t mean that I can’t (or don’t) move very quickly. I’ve been riding for a while and can easily keep pace with most residential traffic. The result is that if you suddenly pull out in front of me, you’ll be risking a collision. It may take a cyclist less time to reduce their speed than is required for the driver of an SUV, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t take time. The faster I’m moving, the more time it takes.

2. My skill level is not evidenced by the clothes I wear. I’ve seen some amazing cyclists who wear street clothes and a backpack and some incredibly inept bikers who wear a full riding kit. Don’t presume that just because someone is on a road bike and wearing a jersey that they have the skill to stop or reroute themselves without getting hurt or hurting someone else.

3. Cycling laws don’t always mirror traffic laws. That means (at least in my State), that I get to treat stop signs as yield signs and red lights like stop signs. It also means that I can ride on the road or the sidewalk. If you see me hopping onto a sidewalk, to avoid falling prey to a light or claiming a lane to preserve my safety, it isn’t necessarily because I’m a dangerous or impulsive rider.

4. Sometimes traffic laws are in conflict and it leads to conflict between those using the road. We’ve both dealt with the turn signal that goes green at the same time the crosswalk sign lights up. The pedestrian has the right to cross the very lane that the driver also has a legal right to cross. It isn’t your fault because you’re a motorist. It isn’t my fault because I’m a cyclist. It just is what it is.

5. There are good cyclists and bad cyclists… and sometimes good cyclists do bad things. Just as with motorists, our differing skill levels, degree of fatigue, and whether or not we had a good day at the office can influence our alertness and ability to react. While many of us are good at following the law, that doesn’t mean that we don’t occasionally “run a red”. Show us grace when we do.

6. Sometimes I don’t see you. You may be bigger. You may be louder. But that doesn’t always mean that I know you’re coming. Just like motorists don’t always expect to see me on the sidewalk, I don’t always expect to see you dashing between those two oncoming vehicles.

7. I don’t ride to thumb my nose at people who drive. Yes, I like to ride because it provides me with exercise, saves me money, and helps to preserve the environment. But I’ll tell you a secret: I also own a pickup truck. I recognize that just as I have reasons for two wheels, you have reasons to get around on four. My choice of transport isn’t a judgment against those who choose another form.

So there’s my short list. To sum it up: mutual respect and a measure of grace can go a long way – regardless of the size of our vehicles!

 

How Borrowing a Book Might Have Saved My Life or a Treatise on the Danger of Empty Intersections December 4, 2014

Filed under: Bicycling — acgheen @ 12:00 am
Tags: , , ,

I confess that I do my best to be a careful and conscientious cyclist. I know and obey the laws… and I do my best to keep an eye open for those who don’t. I know where the dangerous intersections are and at what points I’m safer using the crosswalk than the road or vice versa. I always look in every conceivable direction before crossing a busy road (even when I have the clear right of way). And I obey the laws for motorists whenever I encounter situations in which the motorists may be unaware that there are separate laws which govern legal cycling.

On this particular evening, however, I was being extra vigilant. A friend of mine had loaned me a rather valuable book and had charged me with its protection and preservation. (Including a directive that I was not to spit in it… something I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.) Despite the humor involved, I viewed the charge as a serious one and had carefully wrapped the volume an over-sized beach towel and nestled it into my backpack alongside another, similarly protected work. I also determined that I should work extra hard to ensure that if I were in a wreck of some sort, the book would be preserved.

Realizing the unlikeliness of any scenario in which I was sent sprawling across the pavement while my backpack and its contents remained unharmed, it became imperative for me to keep my ears open and my eyes on the road. I made it quickly and safely through downtown without incidence and was feeling pretty good as I approached the empty crossroads.

The particular intersections was used sparingly even at the height of traffic and was usually quite empty at this hour. My light was green and there was no car in sight, so I headed across.

I was about a quarter of the way into the road when an old car appeared over the crest of the nearby hill. In a split second, I recognized that its speed was significantly over the posted limit… and that stopping for the red light was the last thing on the driver’s mind. Gripping my brakes, I halted my bike mid-lane and watched as the vehicle sped through the intersection.

To be honest, it didn’t feel like a close call, despite the fact that it might have looked that way to an observer. I saw the vehicle coming and I reacted appropriately. I didn’t even have to slam on the brakes. What I did wonder, however was whether I’d have seen the vehicle in time had I not been trying to protect my friend’s book.

While I’d like to think that I would have been riding safely with or without the volume, I’ll never be quite sure. What I do know is that I will never view an empty intersection as a danger-free zone again. Cars can come out of anywhere and it pays to be vigilant!

 

 
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