Thursday, December 5, 2013

Dear motorist friends...

Dear motorist friends,

I'm a bicyclist. Try to remember when driving that any bicyclist in the road might be me, or a friend of mine, or someone like me. We’re just using a bike to get somewhere, or get some exercise, or have some fun… just like people use cars. Don’t be annoyed or angered.

Yes, we’re usually moving slower than you are. But this is an urban or suburban surface street or a rural road, not a freeway designed for high speed unencumbered travel. There are all kinds of reasons you might have to slow down or change lanes. Encountering a bicyclist is only one of them. It’s not a big deal. Really.

Know that there is no better or safer place for us to be than where you can see us and we’re away from hazards, which is often right in front of you. Just because we’re riding two abreast or in a big group doesn’t mean we’re more in your way than we would be if riding single-file. Riding single-file at the edge invites unsafe close passes, so we shouldn’t ride there anyway. So, single-file or not, you have to slow down or change lanes to pass either way. Understand and remember that we are not asking too much, even if we’re not in single-file.

 In all 50 U.S. states and in many other countries, bicyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers of vehicles, even though we don’t directly pay gas taxes or license fees (though most of us drive motor vehicles too). Road wear from bicycles is negligible. We pay income and property taxes that pay for roads anyway. Motoring on public roads is a revocable privilege; bicycling on public roads is an irrevocable right. Please respect our rights.

Yes, many bicyclists often break rules like running stop signs and even red lights. But that’s no reason to be angry at all of us. After all, motorists often break rules like speeding, tailgating, running stop signs and red lights, not to mention drunk driving. And scofflaw motorists endanger others, killing about 40,000 Americans per year. Bicyclists almost never hurt anyone other than themselves when breaking the rules. Let’s keep things in perspective, okay?

So, understand, accept and remember that bicyclists are traffic and bicyclists belong in the traffic lane. It’s normal. Relax. Slow down. Change lanes to pass. It’s not very difficult nor unsafe.  There is plenty of room, and time, for everyone.

Thank you.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Yes, herd the beasts.

I really like the analogy drawn by cafiend on the Citizen Rider blog comparing a cyclist managing larger/faster traffic to a border collie herding a flock of larger beasts. Here's an excerpt that reminds me of what often happens when I'm riding in similar situations:

When traffic volume permits it, herd the beasts. Yesterday I swung into the traffic lane as soon as I saw how things were shaping up. This blocked the drivers behind me, forcing them to slow down sufficiently to let the oncoming motorists come through. The instant the oncoming motorists had cleared, I snapped back to the right to release the overtaking set.

No one honked. No one yelled. No one stomped the gas pedal and made a big fuss about resuming their speed. They all got it. I thought so they didn't have to.
I do have a few points of clarification, however. Instead of swinging into the traffic lane, it's often more expedient to already be there, taking the lane by default, a method I will expound and promote in this blog, and then moving aside only when it's safe and reasonable to do so. Also, "swung into the traffic lane" brings to mind a cyclist swerving into traffic unpredictably. It's important to always look back to make sure you have the right of way and won't be swerving into anyone's path before "swinging" over, and to negotiate for right of way when necessary.

But yes, many drivers are often confused and nervous about overtaking cyclists, and direction from the cyclist, offered clearly and assertively, including by taking the lane, is often helpful and appreciated.