I went for a nice long ride today…almost 50 miles.
Where I live has some great cycling-- some nice hills to climb, flats to cruise, roads with nicer shoulders, and bike paths stretching for miles.
My town has embraced the “Bicycle Friendly Community” label and has worked hard to include cycling education in the schools, as well as host cycling events, painting “sharrows” on the roads, and even some bike lanes.
My town is pretty rural—although some would call it suburban. But how many suburbs have a running Facebook page entitled “Simsbury Bears Unite”, to show all the bear citings in town? Trust me I see a bear almost every week—sometimes walking through my front yard. We are rural!
Anyway, I say all this because as a cyclist, I have had to deal with automobiles, since I ride on the road.
When you travel anywhere from 15-20 mph, the bike path is just to crowded for that kind of speed. Ok for running, walking, or very casual rides with the kids, but not when you are training for an Ironman.
So, I spend a lot of time on the roads. I avoid, when I can, the heavy traffic roads, and roads with no shoulders, but even so, there are times when it can get a little scary.
There is a love/hate relationship with cyclists in my town.
Being a Bike Friendly Community, and having the infrastructure to support it means that a lot of people from out of town come to, or are traveling through.
And a lot of these folks don't understand the "rules of the road."
Cyclists are supposed to treat themselves "as traffic". What that means is that you pretend you are a car...stopping at stop signs, signaling your turns, etc.
Not everyone follows this advice.
Then again, there are motorists that don't follow this advice.
There was a recent thread on a town Facebook page about a cyclist that hit someone who was crossing the road, in a crosswalk. Supposedly, the cyclist "was in a hurry" and did not stop to make sure the person was ok.
I have been on rides, where I have been stopped at a stop sign or stop light, and watched a fellow cyclist blow right through it.
Hence why some folks hate us cyclists.
So, during my ride, I was thinking...why is this? Is it because they have never been taught cycling etiquette?
There have been several stories recently about cyclists who have been killed during rides; most recently, a New York Jets assistant coach, who was hit while riding in a designated bike lane in California.
It was reported by the mainstream media as a "bicycling accident". The bicycling media has for years stressed the importance of not calling it an accident. Some have even taken to social media to take up the cause.
I was leaning toward this point of view, that maybe they just don't know how to ride on the road, until I was coming home from my ride.
I was on the bike path, which wasn't too busy, but busy enough that I slowed down and just rode patiently.
When on the bike path, it is important to let people know you are coming up and about to pass them. Typically (loudly) saying, "On your left," before passing; letting people know you are coming around.
I passed a couple, walking along, and announced I was about to pass. I said good afternoon as I passed slowly by. They thanked me, and wished me good day.
I could hear something behind me. I moved over to the right, and flying by me was another cyclist.
There was no announcing he was about to pass. He didn't even slow down. He had to be going almost 20 mph (I was going about 12mph).
I saw him come up upon the next group of walkers, and he didn't announce his passing to them either.
It was like he couldn't be bothered.
It was then I decided that it wasn't that people didn't know about cycling etiquette--although I am sure there is some of that. It was that they don't care.
He had places to go, people to see. He couldn't be bothered with a little thing like telling someone he was passing.
I watched him go through 2 stop signs while on the bike path, where the path crosses 2 roads. He was lucky there wasn't a car coming.
I have also been on rides where I am stopped at a stop sign, looking to see if traffic is coming, and have a cycling behind me, ride right on by, not even slowing down.
I'm sure the same cyclists that blow through stop signs, are the same drivers that are talking on their phones, and go 15 mph over the speed limit, and tailgate.
You see...they too have places to go.
Don't people understand how important their trip to wherever is. That they are in a hurry to go wherever they need to go. They can't be bothered to turn on their turn signal.
They are important.
Bottom line...we are selfish.
It is all about me, me, me.
I have been guilty of it too.
I'm running late to a doctor appointment. The kid need to get to karate practice. I'm late for work.
There are a million excuses. But the more I ride my bike, the more those excuses are just that...excuses.
In fact, there are also times when it is just a fuck up.
Like the other day. I was at a stop sign, and was waiting to turn left. It was a busy road, so I looked a couple of times both ways.
There is a small dip/hill to the right of me.
Seeing no cars coming, I proceeded to turn left—and almost into a car that was coming up from that dip!
It was totally my fault. I should have looked one more time. But I too, was a little selfish, wanting to get my ride done so I could get the day going.
I could’ve looked a third time, and to hell with the car behind me that was waiting to turn too.
That was my bad. And it scared me.
I am older and wiser, and I value my life a little more. I'm ok with slowing down and stopping when the light turns yellow instead of gunning it.
I know better.
And let‘s face it, I’m not 25 any more.
I'm ok with waving someone through at a 4-way stop if we all arrive at the same time.
I'm ok with pissing people off by going 5 mph over the speed limit instead of 15 when driving.
I'm also ok with telling cyclists while I am riding that they are not behaving properly. Maybe "educating" is a better word, maybe "yelling" is better yet.
I did that today too.
And when riding my bike, I will definitely ride even more defensively than I drive. I have even found myself stopping and checking on folks if they are stopped on the side of the road--making sure that if they have a flat tire, or some other issue, that they that are ok.
Because in this crazy world we live in, I'm ok with pausing for a second, making sure that others are ok, and having patience.
And living to see my boys grown up, and ride another day.
I think we all just need to practice a little more patience, kindness and humility.
My son's middle school principal always includes a quote in his newsletters. In his start to school letter to parents, he included the following:
“Always be a little kinder than necessary” J.M. Barrie
And I think that's what we should all do everyday, whether driving, cycling, running, shopping, or just waiting in a waiting room.
Ride and drive safely friends.