Loving the Commute: Safety
In light of recent tragic cycling events, this post is going to have a slightly different tone. This post is aimed at the bike commuter and those of you driving your cars. Unfortunately, I know that most of those who will read this spend much of their time on the bike and already know a lot of what I will say. So first and foremost, I implore you, the simplest thing you can do is share this post. I challenge you to send this post to at least one person you know that DOES NOT ride a bike regularly. Email it, Facebook it, tweet it, post it to the ends of the earth. Feel free to copy the text right out of the article and post it on your own and take credit yourself, because this isn’t about me or Lovingthebike.com, this is about all of our lives and the lives of those who care about us.
We have as much responsibility for our own lives, as do those around us. It’s easy to point fingers at careless drivers, or yell and scream when someone gets too close, but as a member of the traveling public, we have a responsibility to minimize the inconvenience that we can present on the road.
Yes, I know, I just admitted that I indeed can inconvenience 4-wheel commuters when I ride my bike. But, “I have a right to be on this road as much as you do!”. Have you ever thought that to yourself as someone nearly took your head off passing too closely? I assure you, I scream it in my head at least 5 times a commute, right or wrong. Consider this, Speed Limits are recommended safe traveling speeds. Lots or research, laws, time, and money go into ensuring these limits are fair and average. One thing that many forget is that these limits aren’t just a maximum suggested limit, but a minimum as well. This means that if you look over as you pedal past a 45 or 50 mph speed limit sign… chances are you are impeding traffic. If you were you in a car, you could actually be ticketed for such an offense. We live in a time when laws have not necessarily caught up with the trend of growing cyclists on the roads. Many cities and towns are beginning to leap into the current world and provide bike lanes, and paths, but rest assured that the vast majority of local governments are not there yet.
It is up to you to make your biking community known to your local government, so get involved, start talking, make some noise, get noticed. Change doesn’t happen on its own. May is National Bike Month, it’s the perfect time to get noticed as most cities in the US are already hosting some sort of events. Your city officials will be much less likely to ignore you this month than next. Another small tip for raising local awareness, this month your local media outlets are also looking for stories on cycling…..so consider writing something.
I discussed planning in last month’s Loving the Commute. Next time you plan your commute, try to plan it in a way that will minimize your effect on car traffic. If drivers won’t heed our advice, then perhaps it’s time to try a different tactic and lead by example and show that we can compromise. One day we will all have a rightful place on the road, but until then, take your safety into your own hands.
Hello driver, I am a cyclist, and I would like to be friends. I love to ride my bike to and from work. That said, I realize that sometimes my being on the road in front of you can slow down your morning commute, and for that, I sincerely apologize. I would like to take a moment and let you in on a few facts. In my city, and many others in the USA, it is actually illegal for a cyclist to ride on the sidewalk. It is for this reason that I ride on the road. I am required by law to abide by all of the same laws as you while in the road, which means that I will stop at stop signs and lights, and I will signal lane changes and turns. I will do my best to maintain a speed that is as close the limit as possible. I have even been known to speed occasionally (which I assure you is always for your benefit, not because it’s awesome.)
All I would like is for you to pay attention and follow the laws that you always have while driving. That means you shouldn’t try to pass another vehicle (like a bicycle) in the same lane, or by crossing a solid line to do so (solid lines mean stay in your lane, dashed mean you can pass). That also means that you shouldn’t follow too close or do anything while driving that could distract you from objects on the road in front of you (like a bicycle). Perhaps you wouldn’t mind trying the following technique. Pretend that the cyclist on the road in front of you is actually a large semi pulling a load of Zombie virus in a trailer that doesn’t have a lid. Avoid it…at all costs. Give it plenty of room. Don’t yell at the driver because he or she might be a zombie themselves that will then follow you around the rest of the day hunting your brains for yelling at them. Don’t try to pass unless you can make it without getting in a crash yourself. I think if you take this approach then cyclists like me won’t have to be scared to ride their bikes to work.
More cyclists on the roads means lower health insurance premiums for you, improved road quality due to all our whining about potholes and less global warming due to our efforts to decrease the collective carbon footprint (not to mention eventually less traffic as more bike lanes are installed to make room for all the cyclists). We can help each other, and it’s really not that hard. Please consider it. 17,000 deaths or injuries occur in the cycling community each year and over 90% of them are due to drivers not following the rules. Just obey the law, and be careful, and we can all get along.
We are talking about human lives here people. Just be careful, be respectful, and be kind… my daughter and wife will appreciate it.
Image c/o www.rospa.com