We were thundering down a semi-rural road on our weekly ride. The road was deserted, for a change no cars or trucks were on hand to buzz us.
Off in the distance, we saw a bicyclist turn to cross the road at a right angle. Although the road was empty, traffic does travel fast: 55-60 mph, and sometimes faster. It’s a two-land road with no shoulder. We thought the cyclist was putting herself in some danger.
But she got to the opposite side of the road, and as we got closer, we could see she had taken out her phone, and was using it to take a picture of something.
Just before we pulled even with her, she put the phone away, got back on the bike, and started pedaling in the same direction as we were going — without checking to see if any traffic was coming up behind her. (We were — she never knew we were there, until we passed.)
“Not only that, but did you notice she had both earbuds in her ears?” asked Maggie from behind me.
“Yeah,” I answered. “Earbuds, and no check on traffic before getting back on the road.”
Maggie smirked. “She’s making it easy for natural selection to weed out the stupid ones.”
I would never wish ‘natural selection’ on anyone but riders wearing ear buds drive me crazy. They endanger themselves and the rest of us by extension as drivers tend to judge us all based on the actions of a few. Anytime I see someone wearing ear buds, which fortunately is not that often, I make sure to stop them and tell them they are putting me in danger as well as themselves.
As I ponder the endless Driver v. Cyclist debate, I wonder what should be done about the huge numbers of cyclists who simply can’t be bothered to follow the rules of the road. I get it – they are not nearly as big a danger as drivers who don’t follow the rules – but we could go a long way to lowering the temperature in the room if we could get folks to do some basic things, like ride on the correct side of the road, stop for lights/signs, etc… From where I sit in Northern Virginia, the process of Natural Selection is not solving the problem.
The problem, as I see it, is not Driver v Cyclist, but rather People Who Know How to Use the Roads v People Who Don’t. We need to push for much much stricter road-use education. I would say this should begin in kindergarten (bike rodeos etc) and continue all the way to getting a license to operate a motor vehicle. The test should be hard and thorough. The first time passing rate should not be 100%.
I see a lot of weekend warrior type cyclists doing the dumbest things. They seem to be in car-driving mode, even on a bike. I think everyday transpo cyclists generally have a better understanding of how to ride safely. If you ride to work every day – and don’t get it right – you will have many opportunities to pick up the coveted Darwin Award.