26 September 2011

Open Letter to Non-Cyclists

Good People of the World,

Bicycles are slower than cars. That's the reality. We wish we were faster. (Oh, how we wish we were faster.) But we're not. We can't keep up with most traffic situations, and sometimes we slow you down. Again, we wish we didn't. But that doesn't mean that bikes and cars can't share the road. We use bike lanes when they are available, and we do our best to avoid inconveniencing drivers whenever we can.

Sometimes, even when we're in a bike lane, a car that's right behind us wants to turn just ahead of us, and we waste maybe fifteen seconds of your time. That happened this weekend as Steve and I were riding our usual 18-mile route around town. I was a few yards ahead of Steve when I heard a honk. I looked back and saw a car right behind him. Right behind him. Steve continued along, and after he passed the driveway of the church we were driving by, the car raced in and sped ahead to the next driveway, which led back out to the road. I assumed the driver was trying to pass us by driving through the parking lot, and I passed that second driveway right as the car was approaching it. Fortunately, the driver applied the brakes in time to avoid hitting me, but as I turned back, I saw it peel out right in front of Steve. But what happened next was the weird part -- it turned left, not right, going back the way it came, and then turned back into the first driveway again and found himself a parking spot. This guy was going to church -- CHURCH! -- and was so irritated that Steve delayed him by fifteen seconds that he honked impatiently in front of his church, sped through the parking lot of his church, and intentionally cut Steve off in front of his church. I followed him to his parking space and had a conversation with him (where, to his credit, he apologized...sort of). I'd like to think he realized that his actions were stupid, dangerous, and unnecessary (and certainly didn't save him any time), but I know he is just one of many, many drivers who are prone to crossing a line from merely frustrated to downright reckless when dealing with cyclists. Over a mere fifteen seconds!

I'll admit that I'm an impatient driver, and getting stuck behind a bike can drive me crazy. But what really makes me mad is when I see a cyclist ignore the rules of the road -- run a stop sign, fail to signal, cut off a car, etc. These kinds of things give drivers justifiable grounds to resent cyclists and put all of us in danger. Cyclists bear a lot of responsibility to be safe and courteous on the road, but drivers do, too.

Fifteen seconds.

1 comment:

  1. This is so very true. My good friend & her partner are avid cyclists (they even cycle in winter ice & snow around their city) and I cannot believe the number of times one or both of them has come close to or actually been hurt due to the carelessness and impatience of drivers.

    If it's a bike lane or a bus lane, regular drivers aren't supposed to be there anyway, turning or no. I've heard too many drivers say that cyclists should stay on the sidewalk.. but what their forgetting is that bikes are vehicles too, not pedestrians.

    I'm forwarding this to my friend, she'll enjoy it as a cycling-safety advocate & enthusiast :)