I feel for the Zimmerman family and all those that commented about Bike and cars sharing the road (see link).
I bicycle the new trails for fitness but also sometimes bicycle commute or ride to Centennial Beach etc. Other times I admit I…….. Drive a car! (OH MY). I am over 50 and had to give up running after 2 hip replacements. At my speeds, (12-25 mph) bikes can be silent and invisible to cars and pedestrians alike. Both treat bikers like they are “out of place” everywhere. The Riverwalk does not allow bicycling. Other busy paved paths with 25’ dog leashes, iPods, cell phones and tricycles do not mix well with 20 mph. So I observer that many riders and drivers both need more compassion. It is on all of us to share the road. I am amazed at drivers who act or talk like they have never ridden a bike. (Many of us look like a 20+ mile bike ride would do us some good).
I am even more amazed at bikers who post and talk like they have never driven a car in a hurry. Really, is it that hard to put yourself in somebody else’s cleats? When in college I was assigned to attempt an entire week in a wheel chair. I learned a lot but, I still have no business to spewing advice to those full time in a chair. So in the mean time lets encourage all motorists to bike more thereby learning some patients for the other guy while getting in better shape.
I do not hate drivers. I am really writing about the link between consideration and safety. Here are examples where we can gain patience through perspective:
Unpredictable adult bicyclists.
Riders, including my wife and friends, rationalize ignoring stop at stop signs when cars are present. They feel it’s too much effort to clip in and clip out then rebuild all that momentum. (Any biker can relate). However, I feel those bikers who rationalize their unpredictable riding put me and other riders at higher risk. Not only are they setting a bad example for kids but drivers assume a bike group is going to stay together. Bikers in a group each doing different things at an intersection are just overwhelming for many semi conscious drivers. Drivers that see bike groups acting un-predictibly begin to hate all riders. Here is my advice for bikers. Work together ride together. Devide in advance that you are either going to stop at ALL stop signs unless somebody ahead yells “clear”. Of course never yes “clear” when there are drivers near the intersection. God phrases that all bike groups should know include: Car Back, Car, Truck and hole! Any rider pulling the group taking a turn pulling from near the front takes extra responsibility to watch for and announce road hazards and motor vehicles. Other riders hearing the verbal warning “car!” must stop at this intersection. If not you do not follow the leader you risk injury and making the rest of the all bikes look as foolish as you.
Drivers who are surprised by kids.
Really were you never a kid or around kids? No excuses for any driver when it comes to a kid. Any drivers who assumes a kid is going to look when they change directions etc risks killing their friend’s kid. Assume any kid on a bike is oblivious. Slow down and give a wide space. Make eye contact before passing.
Right and left turn drivers near cross walks/ Post encounter horn blasters.
Yes, this should sound familiar. I have been stuck in a cross walk blocked by speeding cars or cars that are also stuck in the intersection. Some driver on her cell phone charges the intersection to make a right turn but only looking left. She then floors it illegally crossing 2 lanes and finally looks forward to discover me still stranded in the cross walk. She gets indignant for having to brake until I point out that I am a pedestrian standing in a crosswalk. (Have you ever tried to run on pavement in bike cleats?) Now the light changes and cars blast through the intersection at speeds of up to 70 mph. Hello, I am still stuck standing in the cross walk. Cars are stopped I other lanes. T he speed limit is 45. Really, Blasting your horn 5 seconds after you break the law just further distracts everybody in the intersection. You have just broken three laws and threatened my life. Are you also completely positive all bicyclists are unarmed and immune to road rage?
Drivers who cannot understand a painted Bike turn lane.
Eagle Street near Aurora Ave in Naperville has a painted left turn bike lane. It is out near the middle of the 3 lanes so some cars do not think a bike should be allowed to use a left turn lane. Regardless of the paint drivers will blast their horn at me for being bold enough to properly use the bike turn lane.
Drivers who expect bikers to left turn via 2 cross walks.
OK driver, you show us how you slip slide across a crazy busy intersection. Get on a skinny tire bike and wear slippery hard cleats on pavement. Now try to use a cross walk at a busy intersection. YOU have to clip out and jump each curb, Wait for the light to change 3 times to get a walk signal if available. Thank you I will take my left turn where I can put rubber on the road. Before you say “other people should”. Try it yourself. Public bike paths often do not provide for bridges or signals when they cross Busy roads. So even public “bike path” may cross a busy road at a busy intersection. (Left turn from River onto Ogden in Naperville because nobody (me included) wants to pay for a pedestrian bridge along the north DuPage River Trail.
Drivers who are overly courteous about 4 ways stops.
OK you sweat overly considerate SUV drivers here is a tip. All bike riders hate clipping out and putting their food down on the road. We can balanced stopped for only a few seconds before a clipped rider risks falling into an embarrassing “Marty Feldman.” If we have to wave with our hands we can not operate our hand brakes. (Try it at 0 or 20 mph some time). When it is close, SMART bikers, know we are safer to arrive at the four way stop AFTER you. So please do not wait to play “red rover, red rover” with us 100 yards before we hit the intersection. When you have a safe gap or established eye contact guzzle some gas and get out of the way already! BTW thank you for your understanding. I apologize for the idiot rider that made you screech your breaks when they blew that same stop sign last week or 5 seconds before me.
No bicycles allowed… anywhere:
Those who believe bikers are too small or slow to be on the road need to hold a meeting with those that feel bikers are too fast for sidewalks and paths. Then maybe write some laws the clear this all up for the rest of us are who are considerate and aware on the road. But’ don’t stop there. Next deal with cars that hate trucks, and farmers who hate ranchers etc.
Fast bike on the path meeting oblivious pedestrians is like a Semi encountering a drunk driver. It suddenly becomes very scary for everybody. The design of most paths and sidewalks are not compatible traveling over 10 mph. Curbs, drop off edges, pot holes, rough un-even surfaces and slow oblivious pedestrians with 50′ dog leashes, iPods, cell phones or toddlers. These are not compatible with a road bike. Which begs the question: What surface was a road bike designed for? By the way, lime stone paths are worse to bikes than gravel roads are to cars. You bike will soon be filthy and your gears may stop working.
Some cars think that bicyclist should never be on busy roads.
NEWS FLASH! bikers do not like to ride on busy roads either. So why are they there? Consider turning the tables. Since the bicycle was invented before the car perhaps you should consider that every road is a wide bike path that has been over run by all these crazy drivers! Consider this. In Wheaton an famous outdated law requires drivers of motor cars entering town to send a runner ahead to warn the horses. Obviously obeying that law would end our nations obesity issues. So, maybe cars should all stay on special race tracks if they they need to honk horns and drive so fast! LOL.
OK back to reality. Most bikers are drivers but the reverse is not true. Bike paths are not everywhere because it would be too expensive. Bikers pay taxes, own houses, work, run errands, feed their family, go to the doctor, get their car fixed etc. In the real world, bikers can be running late, get lost, make a wrong turn, travel home in the rain or break the law. In short bicyclists are busy people with all the same faults, responsibilities, commitments and destinations that drivers have. Sure, bicycling could help fuel prices, environmental and obesity issues in the USA. However, where the rubber meets the road the key differences between bikes and cars are speed, size and 3000 pounds of protection. Nobody wants to risk an bike vs car accident. So, if you have never regularly bicycled to work, been ticketed for biking on a sidewalk, never biked to the auto shop in the next town, If you do not have friends and family that have been involved in bike vs car accidents then perhaps log another 500 miles on a bike or spend a week without a car before you blast your horn and scare some law abiding taxpayer off the shoulder of your road.
Update 5/14/13 related articles: http://www.dailyherald.com/article/20130513/news/705139714/