As a cyclist, I’m constantly amazed at the poor behavior and bad judgment displayed by many drivers. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re not one of these drivers, and for that I thank you. Despite my time spent walking on glaciers and hanging on the sides of rock walls, nothing in my life is scarier or makes me feel more vulnerable than riding my bike on a busy road. The number one reason most commuters don’t cycle is because of safety. Sharing doesn’t even begin to express the experience of what it’s like to occupy the same space as an object twenty times my size, moving over four times as fast. If you’re a recreational cyclist, a commuter, or a sometime tourist, most likely you know what I mean. Whether you’re pedaling a bicycle or piloting an automobile, it’s clear that the playing field is not even. The next time you who find yourself behind the wheel or in the passenger seat, remember these three simple ways to help open the roads and make traveling a safer experience for everyone.
The three foot rule is bullshit. Between the big pick-up truck that doesn’t budge and the silent Prius that veers completely into the other lane, it’s clear most drivers have no idea actually how big their vehicles are, let alone how much room to give. Speed and Proximity are two very important things when you’re on your bike. If you find yourself approaching behind bicyclists and there is oncoming traffic, slow down. Despite how most drivers display their understanding of space, there is usually enough room on the road for two automobiles, and yes, often cyclists on both sides! The next time you’re in the car with a passenger, drive slowly with your front tire on the double yellow, have your co-pilot lean out the window and take a picture of how much space exists between your front right wheel and the curb, you’ll probably be surprised. But don’t let this get you too excited, the point is that while there is space, the important thing is to slow down as you pass. A driver passing two feet away only a couple miles an hour faster than me is much less threatening than one passing by four feet away at 50 miles per hour.
Wait Your Turn.
Share the road, this is possibly the most popular road sign regarding cycling. What was it mom say about sharing? Something about waiting your turn? Listen, I know how it feels to be behind the wheel, drunk with power and freedom, it’s something like that feeling you get right after you fix a flat on your bike, maybe a small fraction of what you feel starting out on your first bike-tour. Anyway, I know it’s easy to get lost in the illusion of control an automobile gives, but when you see cyclists on the road, remember that they are travelers too, they’re just piloting a different craft, moving at a different speed, and on a different adventure. Remember the first rule, wait your turn, and give them some space. Sharing The Road is not much unlike sharing a room with an old person. For a minute it’s charming and endearing, then they’re just holding you up and you want to get away but they hold onto your wrist with a viselike death grip, pleading with you to let them feed and clothe you. Compared to automobiles, bicycles move slowly, it’s like that – old vs. young people. Slow down, wait a minute, share the road and your time, respect your elders.
A horn is sharp and spikey.
According to Dr. Phil, communication is the most important part of any relationship. When you’re driving, protected by panes of glass and sheets of metal, incubated in an artificial environment away from the wind and rain and sun and bugs, it’s not unlike wearing a mask. Behind the mask you are The Car, and you forget that you are just A Person. The next time that you find yourself sharing the road with a cyclist, remember that they are A Person too, that you can speak to them or even drive ahead, stop you car, get out and greet them. Don’t use your horn to communicate with cyclists, unless you know them and do it in a respectful manner. Think of your car as a large and affable dog, now usually this dog is all smiling tail wagging slobbering happy, but sometimes it just gets that crazy notion in it’s head and it’s snapping frothing barking wildly at your neck! Your car is something like that. Using your horn to communicate with cyclists is shouting in the face of a complete stranger, if your intention is to be threatening, then it’s a great tool, but remember that, it’s a threat. Drivers use their horns to remind people of impatience and etiquette, if you approach two cyclists riding side by side, and you don’t feel comfortable passing, by all means, give the horn a gentle toot to inform them of your presence, but first, Slow Down and Wait Your Turn. And remember, when you pass you can actually roll down the window, wave, and say hello, we’re people too.
See you on the road.