Why riding my bike has me worried

June 14, 2012 | By | Comments (3)

I’m not sure why, but it’s feeling a lot more dangerous to ride my bicycle.

As you may know from my past cycling-related posts, riding my bike on the road with my friends, husband or to work is one of my primary ways to keep in shape. And, for the most part, my rides have been uneventful and incident free.

I have, on the rare occasion, cringed as a driver looking to pass me on a curve has nearly driven into an oncoming car. I have also experienced a moment of road rage when a hopefully well-intentioned driver honked at me, nearly causing me to run my bicycle off of the road. But, generally, I have always felt very safe riding the back roads of Massachusetts.

Until this summer.

Maybe it’s because I’m on the road more than in past years as I train for the triathlon. But I think it’s more likely to do with some of the comments I’ve read, or had said to me, that really leave me cold. Comments along the lines of “if a cyclist gets killed it’s their own fault.”

I’m not going to try to position myself as an expert on bicycle laws and safety. And there are many great articles (linked below) with tips for drivers and cyclists. But I do have a couple of requests for both drivers and cyclists:

Know the rules of the road – I don’t know about you, but the last time I reviewed my state’s driving laws I was sixteen years old, preparing for my driver’s license exam. For example:

  • Drivers, do you know that, in general cyclists have a legal right to the road, same as cars?
  • Cyclists, do you know you are expected to follow all of the same traffic laws including signaling and stopping at lights?

(Obviously, the rules in your state may differ, so do your research).

Stay calm – I know it’s hard, but we all need to stay calm when we find ourselves in sticky situations. I must confess that after the honking incident referred to above, I swore very loudly and, for more than a few minutes tried to catch the driver so I could either a) give her a piece of mind or b) beat her with my bicycle helmet.

It was not my finest moment.

Remember – I have a couple of things I’d like you to remember.

  • In the game of chicken  between car and bicycle the cyclist always loses. But imagine what damage will also be done to the driver’s life because of both legal and emotional ramifications of a fatal accident.
  • To drivers, I ask you to remember the cyclist sending you into a rage spiral is not just some guy or gal on a bicycle. Instead, they are someone who most likely fulfills many important roles such as father, husband, friend, brother, son and uncle.
  • To cyclists, I ask you to remember you are not above the law and that, as the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Obey the laws and through best practices, be a good representative for the rest of us.

What do you think – can cyclists and drivers learn to get along?