My friend Ramon H. from the Rio Grande Valley recently had a shock when a drunk driver plowed into several members of a group ride he was in. Two were banged up, and one went to a local hospital’s ICU. Ironically, the group was riding in honor of another of their cycling circle who was killed a year ago — again, by a drunk driver.
The crash rattled Ramon, and he is reassessing his commitment to cycling.
“At this point,” he wrote me, “I am not sure what the future holds for me as it pertains to pre-dawn cycling or road cycling in general. This event hit too close to home and emotions are very raw still. Not just for me, but for my wife as well.”
A lot of Ramon’s riding is done on a trainer now.
I have noticed an increase in traffic on roads I’ve biked on for years. Until the shoulders were recently widened on one popular (but high speed limit) highway, I had stopped riding it. Too many cars going too fast. However, on our longer cycling routes into the country, I can’t say motorists are any more of a threat than they have ever been.
So I was concerned when two members of my cycling club posted about one of their recent rides. Going down Cement Plant Road near Buda, Texas, a cement truck passed so close that it touched the arm of one rider, and left a disturbing cement dust print on his shoulder. Neither of the two was hurt, but we probably will confine our riding on that road to Sundays in the future.
However, a heightened sense of danger on the roads is far from universal. Our guest poster, Don Blount, says he hasn’t seen a problem.
“I have found drivers to be remarkably courteous, giving me plenty of space,” he said. “I could probably count on one hand the number of times I have been buzzed and most of those times will involve some knuckleheads in a pickup truck.”
Don surveyed members of his cycling club in California, and they had similar impressions.
- “Motorists are pretty mellow in my experience.”
- “Having lived and biked in the foothills since 1997, I see no real difference in the autos.”
- “I have not noticed a greater danger, bad drivers are still bad and don’t count on anyone giving you three feet clearance.”
Our other guest poster, Jeff Hemmel, checks in from Florida: “Not sure if I would say that it feels like things are getting worse, but there are definitely moments.” Jeff says he’s noticed more anger on the roads, as well as more disregard for traffic laws. So, he’s adjusted some of his riding practices.
“I always ride with a very bright, Blackburn Flea blinking taillight day and night,” he said. “I’m also really conscious of watching taillights, looking ahead to intersections, etc, to try and anticipate what might happen.”
Jeff said it’s up to the cyclist to be proactive. “I think about what hours I’m out there,” he said. “I pretty much stick to morning, and especially avoid later afternoon as kids are out of school, people are starting to go home from work, etc.”
Frankly, one of the reasons I’ve started doing some mountain biking is that it gets me off the roads. If I hit a rock and do an endo — well, that’s my fault.
And even Ramon hasn’t given up. “I am not ready to stop cycling because I have seen the tremendous weight-management and stress-relief benefits it provides,” he wrote. “I have seen very positive changes from when I started back in 2009 to where we are today. Drivers have started to look out for us, and we have slowly started to instill a ‘share the road’ mentality.”
And Saturday, Ramon finished a 100-mile organized ride with his best time ever for a century.
I rode 5,100 road miles last year and only was buzzed a few times. I ride primarily by myself. Other than redneck pickup drivers, I find people to be generally polite. However, I’m careful to avoid busy roads and busy traffic times, keep myself well lit in the dark, and make it a point to follow traffic laws. But I’m always wary.
Mel Hughes says
I too ride alone. I have to say that most drivers seem to be aware and respectful. But the ones that aren’t are the ones that scare the hell out of me! I see a lot more texting while driving now. I concur with the observations about road rage and angry drivers. I have had people buzz me with their cars then turn around down the road and come back to do it again. What is up with that? It certainly shakes my faith in my ability to take care of myself on the back roads in the rural area where I live. I am not sure what the future of my cycling will be. I surely do resent having it come to that.
Thank you for the post. Just wanted to clarify that I was not riding with the group that was hit. However, they are part of our 5AM Wake-Up ride group and have ridden with them plenty of times. What was particularly disconcerting about the incident was that they were doing everything right: they were wearing safety equipment, they were all wearing lights, and they had a huge truck following them and offering SAG support. Of course, none of these measures can compete against the onslaught of a drunk driver.
The issue in our corner is drunk and distracted drivers, although I don’t think this is unique to our area either. Not only do they endanger people on bikes, but every body else in the community as well. There are several news headlines about runners, pedestrians and other vehicles being hit as well.
This is the issue that must be addressed, but at this point, apart from entirely separated/dedicated bicycle lanes or a dedicated veloway, I am not sure what can be done 🙁
Drivers round our way (Central Scotland) aren’t too bad on the whole. The lowering of the drink driving to almost zero may make a difference. The whole country seems to becoming more cycle aware generally. You’ll still always get the odd nut though.
Since almost getting hit 2 years ago I am riding on the road a lot less. I think drivers and traffic has gotten worse
Mountainstroh (Tony) says
I have lights flashing day and night when I ride. I also use the rear view mirror and if a semi is coming up i,will move off if possible. Haven’t had any more issues than the occasional jerk yelling or a cup thrown at me. Seattle area people are pretty much used to us
I have been hit and most of my longer rides take me past the spot of the crash. It is difficult to get back onto the road even after a few days riding the trainer. I am constantly getting buzzed even on a wide shoulder. My biggest threat is from cars passing in the oncoming lane. my rids should be a relaxing few hours of exercise but they turn into unnerving white knuckle experiences. I was almost taken out right in front of my house ( twice in three days) as I was making the left and using hand signal the driver passed me on the left.
I ride in semi-rural Wisconsin (but not in winter) and as a middle aged woman, I haven’t had many problems on the roads from drivers. I know younger women have been harassed in my area, though.
And a couple of years ago an elderly man got confused and drove on a bike path, hitting a biker and dragging him several hundred meters. I don’t think he even lost his license. And that’s the general way it is here with drivers who hit/kill bikers.
And then there’s drunk driving “laws” in Wisconsin, which are so lax as to be laughable.