I was reading this post by the Citizen Rider that discussed “feeling safer” while riding, and I was reminded of thoughts I have had many times while talking with co-workers, family, and friends about cycling.
Many people don’t feel safe riding on a road without a separate bike lane or ample shoulder in which to travel. Drivers who have no intention of hitting anyone worry about cyclists not being safe when taking the lane. Other, less polite, drivers think that a cyclist is wasting their time and in their way.
To me, these view point out an attitude that we in the US are subtly taught from birth, and reinforce every time we travel anywhere. An attitude that is demonstrated by transportation design, and strengthened by everything from gasoline prices to penalties to drivers for harming cyclists.
ROADS ARE JUST FOR CARS
To anyone that regularly bikes using a vehicular cycling technique, this is not a new thought. However, for those that don’t ride, the idea is not that obvious.
I read on in a webpost once (Sorry I don’t remember where) an account of a bicycle commuting speaker presenting to a community group. During the Q&A portion, a nice older lady talked about cyclists riding through an area that included an interstate highway. As one can imagine, there were no bike lanes on this part of the road, so the cyclist took his lane.
As the lady came up on the cyclist from behind, she says that she was worried about hitting him, and asked what she could do. The speaker very politely told her that she should slow down to the cyclist’s speed until it was safe to pass. She was shocked, and maybe a little embarrassed.
If it were a tractor travelling at the same speed, the answer would be obvious. However, we are not taught to think that way about non-motorized traffic – or pedestrians for that matter.
I don’t have a solution that will change the attitude of drivers in the US (and maybe other countries as well) except this:
- Ride your bike safely, legally, consistently, and considerately. Only by demonstrating to others that not all bike riders are dangerous scofflaws can we ever obtain an equal footing.
- Teach your children, friends, and cycling mates about proper biking behavior. All riders must understand the laws and best practices in order to follow them. “Common sense” is what tells people to ride on the wrong side of the road, use sidewalks, run stop signs, salmon on a one way street, etc.
Based upon the readership of this blog, I imagine I’m preaching to the choir with this article, but I hope I can convince a few riders to think a little about what they are doing and how it could affect everyone’s safety and enjoyment while travelling.