When you are ‘known’ as an avid cyclist (and I think I qualify) you start to hear the same questions and have the same discussions time and time again. One of the most common, here in the great northwest, is, “I guess its OK to ride in the summer, but what to you do in the winter when it rains?” My answer is always the same, “I get wet.” I swear, to a person, I just get a blank look, a head shake, and soon a subject changer “So how bout them COUGS!”
The other most common statement is: “I’d get a bike, but I don’t have anywhere to ride it, there’s NO WAY I will ride on the road!”
This always results in me giving a blank look and rueful head shake. In fact, a good friend today likened riding a bike in the city as a prime example of Darwinism the weeding out of those who aint that smart.
Now, I will admit, I DO get it. Cars have 4 wheels, and are a 1000+ lbs of metal. They go MUCH faster (sometimes)
than bikes do, and when a bike and car tangle up, the bike loses.
But then again, cars share the roads with Semi’s and giant dump trucks every day. And, as we know, a car will lose every time to the much bigger vehicle. This doesn’t keep us driving back and forth to work every day. Why? Because we are careful, and obey the laws. Which is the same reason I don’t worry about riding.
First off, when I ride, I stay to the right side of the lane. If there is a wide enough shoulder, I will ride on that. I want to enjoy my ride, AND have others enjoy their days as well. This way I provide as much room for cars to pass as possible.
However, all bets are off if I need to be in a certain lane. If I need to make a left turn, then I am in the left most lane, JUST like any other vehicle. If I am on a road with a right turn only lane, and I am going straight, then I am in the straight lane. When this is needed I take the lane, and hold it till it is safe to move over. Granted, the car behind me might lose a minute (the horror!) , but we both are obeying the law.
Second. I will pull over if I think its needed. There have been many times I’ve been on a long uphill and have seen. in the rear view mirror,
A semi or dump truck coming up behind me. It is tough on these guys to slow to my speed and then get going again on a hill. If there is a driveway, or turn out or anyplace I can pull over to let them maintain their speed I will use it. Hell. I am out having fun, and they are stuck working, so it’s just a nice thing to do. I always get a wave or a horn blast when I do it as well. Its nice to be appre
Third, communicate with the drivers. It is MUCH easier to make eye contact, or even talk to drivers of the cars when on a bike. I have slowed and gestured for them to turn left in front of me instead of making them wait. I have pointed to where I am going and stared them down when I had the right of way. If I can see the road is clear ahead, I will wave them around me, and I will stop them if they try when it is not safe. Eye contact and courtesy go a LONG way.
Fourth, confidence. I KNOW I am supposed to be there, I know what I am doing and I will not be intimidated by the few asshats I do run into. Yes bikes are allowed everywhere BUT the interstates, and even some of those it is ok. (Hell the roads with the widest shoulders, and therefore the safest sometimes are state highways!) My riding a bike means one less car congesting the road, and damaging the pavement. The drivers should be thanking us for helping them get home sooner.
Finally, just pay attention. I have the mirror to watch behind me and I watch ahead as well. Just like with a car. I can see those in cars who are texting, talking on the phone, or doing their makeup, and keep a close eye on their actions. Plus I can stop or swerve a whole lot faster than they can and therefore avoid the few issues that come up. But then I do the same in a car!
But, some still ask. “Why the hell would you want to ride on the same roads as cars?”
- I can always find parking, even downtown
- Traffic jams mean nothing to me, I can always get past them.
- I get there smiling and energetic instead of cranky and stressed
- I get the benefit of exercise and health
- Its fun
- And I see things that people in cars never will
So, bottom line. I love multiuse trails, and bike lanes,
and I am very lucky to live in a state that is building more all the time. But if I ONLY rode there, I would miss most of the world, and my 20,000 miles, so far, plus the many 1000’s to come would be much more boring!
To quote the immortal band Queen, from the Song Fat Bottom Girls. “Get on your bikes and RIDE!“