Two of my biking friends recently had unpleasant encounters with drivers. In one case, a car passed unnecessarily close to a cyclist, and he was concerned about being hit. That didn’t happen, but it upset my friend enough that he followed the car to the next stop sign, and started a dialogue about car-bike safety.
The driver didn’t take to it well, and my friend — one of the most mild-mannered folks you’d want to meet — thought it could have escalated to blows. He pulled away and continued his ride.
My other friend is naturally cautious while riding the roads, and most often stays on the suburban-style residential streets in our immediate area. But even there, problems can arise. At a stoplighted intersection, he had the green light and started across the intersection. An oncoming truck started to turn left across his path without signaling. My friend yelled and waved, and the truck stopped just five feet from him.
“I would have let it go at that,” he said. “But then he starts yelling at me like it was my fault. I had the right-of-way!”
He threw down his bike and started toward the truck with clenched fists. Believe me, you don’t want to tangle with him one-on-one. The truck driver figured that out, and drove on.
“What gets me is that some people figure if they’re in a motor vehicle, they’ve got the right of way,” my friend said. “They need to be better educated about the rules of the road regarding bikes.”
The guy in the first incident had another point of view. “We really need to start showing our neighbors who we are,” he said. “We’re just like them. We live in the same kind of houses, we work jobs — the only difference is, we choose cycling as a form of exercise or recreation.”
He suggested making an affirmative effort to talk to our neighbors about our biking, why we do it, how we hope cars behave around bikes, how they should expect bikers to behave around them.
People for Bikes, an organization that aims to promote cycling to more prominence in public discourse, offers the same idea in this video.
Others suggest that as more people ride, biking will become more a part of our culture. This article on Business Insider urges more commuting by bike.
I agree with all of the above. I’m just not optimistic that things will change much. Recently, the city laid chipped stone over a lane of one of the main streets in our area. As my wife was riding along that section, a pickup truck passed her, and spun his wheels to throw the stone-gravel mix at her. “Some people,” she said, “are just asshats.”
Mark X says
I ride in a group with a lady that calls the Sheriffs Department at the slightest provocation. Their number is on her speed dial, and she does not hesitate to drop a dime on them.
Bike Noob says
And how do they react? Are they prompt and courteous, or do they consider her a crank?
Mark X says
As far as I know they take her calls seriously. She is unofficially our club’s incident reporter, LOL. But, she does not make calls frivolously.
I live in suburban Kansas City. We have what I consider a fairly large cycling community. 99% of the time our rides go fine. I think folk (autos) in our county are use to seeing cyclist about.
jon fair says
Greetings from Jacksonville Florida, currently ranked at the 5th worst city in the U.S. to bike in. Unfortunately situations like these are DAILY occurences here. As for the passing traffic buzzing too close, well even the police dont seem to know about the 3 foot law, as i have personaly been nearly hit by a speeding squad car (no, no lights or sirens, he was just driving). Its unfortunate but i think most cyclists here are just resigned to the fact that unless they’re in a pack of riders, they’re quite literaly gambling with their lives. If you have any ideas regarding motorist education, i would absolutely love to hear them, both on a national level and a local level (what ideas are effective in your home town) so that i can forward these ideas on to my friends at the Jacksonville Bike Coalition, and our North Florida Transportation Planning Committee.