High On Bike

A Bellinghamster On Wheels


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Driver — Fear Thyself

Car running stop signDriver — Fear Thyself Today, apropos of nothing, I decided to count the number of cars breaking obvious traffic rules. Riding home from the gym that takes me on approximately three miles of road, I counted 20 cars that rolled through stop signs, zoomed through a “pink” light, didn’t signal, or drove above the speed limit. At the same time, I noticed that out of the numerous cyclists on the road, not one did anything wrong. In fact, they didn’t even come close.

The misconception that bicyclists are scofflaws is rampant in our society. Sure some are, but no more so than those who drive a vehicle. I’ll go so far as to say that proportionately, cyclists adhere to traffic laws more than drivers. But I’ve had numerous conversations with non-cyclists over the years who declared that they weren’t against cyclists on the road per se but that it would be a lot easier to tolerate them if so many didn’t break the rules. I’m not going to get into the conversations I’ve had with the idiots who hate cyclists whether they follow the rules or not. The people I’m talking about here are otherwise normal and rational. In fact, many of them think cycling as transportation is kind of cool.

I believe that part of the problem is that except for psychopaths, no driver actually wants to hit a cyclist. Even the Neanderthals who believe that bikes don’t belong on the road really don’t want to be involved in a collision with one, if only to save them the inconvenience. So drivers view cyclists as obstacles to avoid instead of simply considering them as a normal part of traffic and that makes them uncomfortable, even scared, and yes, sometimes hostile. And, when you’ve invested all of those emotions in a group of people it’s easy to slap a label on them. But it’s probably safe to say that most cyclists riding the streets are to varying degrees more alert and more cautious than their driving counterparts. We don’t want to be hit either. A driver might be inconvenienced but we could easily be dead—and we know it!

imageAs a driver you might shake your head at another person running a light or stop sign but you wouldn’t then condemn all drivers (or even most of them) as scofflaws. In fact, you probably just take it for granted and, unless there’s a major collision, don’t give it much thought at all. And isn’t that interesting? When someone operating a ton of metal does something risky or illegal, isn’t that infinitely more dangerous than say someone operating something as flimsy as a bicycle? Just sayin’!

I’m glad I did this little exercise. The next time somebody tells me that cyclists would be easier to tolerate if they followed the rules, I’ll whip this nugget of observation out and see where the conversation goes.

 


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Owning the Road

As I become more comfortable on my bike, I’m a also more comfortable when my rides include spending time on the roads. Changing my mindset from feeling like an interloper to knowing that I have as much right to be there as anyone else has made all the difference. I call it my “owning the road” mentality. Riding like I belong there has turned fear into a healthy respect for road travel. However, it doesn’t mean that I am fearless. I am all too aware of my vulnerability against cars and trucks so I exercise great caution, wear bright clothing, use my lights in flash mode on cloudy or overcast days, follow the rules of the road scrupulously, and am hyper vigilant of my environment. Always at the forefront of my mind is the fact that there are drivers out there who don’t pay attention or worse, have no respect for my right to share the road. It’s just the way it is when you’re on a bike.
No matter how comfortable I am on the roads though, I always breathe a bit easier when my journey takes me back to the trails where I can relax and enjoy the relative peace and quiet of riding under the trees—something that not even the quietest road can offer.