Both sides …

Now that I’ve joined the ranks of the cyclist commuter, a couple of things have become blindingly apparent.  Okay, it’s only been two weeks, but if these things are so obvious after only two weeks … it begs the question, how could they have been missed in the first place?

Simple.  Unless you’ve been in the other situation, you’re just oblivious to it.  Cars and bikes are to each other like cats and dogs.  They glare at each other at best and do battle at worst. It’s a scary enough standoff in the daylight, but in the wee small hours of the morning … the stuff of nightmares.

Drivers, I’m talking to you now.  There’s this thing called a cross-walk, and a walk light that will periodically indicate it’s safe to cross.  It’s called the right of way, and when you are trying to make a right turn on a red light, odds are the person in the crosswalk has the right of way and is preparing to cross the likely busy road.  Please, for the love of all that you hold dear, LOOK before making that right turn!  Twice last week, at one intersection, cars blew right past me even though I’d begun to venture into the crosswalk with the right of way on my side.  I may have been in the right, but when a 3,000 pound vehicle meets a 40 pound bike … the outcome is pretty easy to calculate.

The rate of fatalities of cyclist has been increasing, on average, since 2001.  In 2016, the officially reported number was over 800.  This is an average of several websites I researched.  Injuries are in the thousands.  A cyclist I know was clobbered by a car making a quick left turn, resulting in several broken ribs and a concussion.  He was lucky.

This is my new fear of the day.  There are two places on my commute to work where I have to cross particularly dangerous roads – both have a crosswalk, but neither have cross walk lights and so I have to wait for a lull, and dash across.  Technically speaking, people, if you come up to a crosswalk and there is someone in it, you BY LAW, have to stop!  This is, apparently, an unknown fact to a majority of the drivers out there.  The result is now I cycle and sprint to work, arrive sweaty and without the need for any kind of caffeine or other stimulant!

There is a plus side to this bike car equation.  It’s making me a better driver.  I’m keenly aware of cyclist, especially at intersections.  I look at more than just other cars, and the biggest pet peeve of the cyclist – when pulling up to the light, I stop short of the cross walk instead of on it.

It only takes a few seconds to make that extra visual check … and, it may just make a cyclists’ day a little safer.  Just think of it this way, a cyclist is one less car on the road and therefore one less car you might get stuck behind!  We’re helping to alleviate the crowded roads, so think on us kindly and please, don’t run us over!

Sharing the road …

While sidelined from cycling (due to a broken shoulder), I have been noticing how many cyclist are on the roads.  It’s one of those things where, if you’re prevented from doing a thing – you suddenly notice it all around  you.  Last week, driving to work, I was idly watching a cyclist at an intersection.  We had a red light, and he was in the far right hand lane.  Out of nowhere, he suddenly started forward and for a moment looked as if he was going to shoot the red light, but he stopped as soon as he started.  A few seconds later, the light turned green and off we all went.

This got me to thinking of that bumper sticker, “Share the road” often referring to cyclist (motor and bike).  In that moment where the cyclist seemed as if he was going to run the red light, I sensed hypocrisy in the air and felt a flash of anger.  Share the road, in my opinion, means obeying the rules of road … and if a car were to run a red light, well … an observant police officer would pull him over in a flash.  What about a bicycle?  Probably not, well, not that I’ve observed anyway.

If you’re riding on the road, you’re considered a vehicle and therefore subject to obeying the rules of the road.  This being said, why do some (most, I’d venture) cyclist blow through red lights as well as stop signs?  You might have guessed by my choice of words, this pisses me off to no end.  I’m happy to share the road, but I’d ask a small favor … obey the same rules I do.  Or, if you’re going to blatantly disregard them, stop giving me dirty looks if I’m accidentally block your path when you don’t have the right of way.

According to what I read online, it seems cyclist do this for many reasons, but the main one seems to be to avoid loss of momentum.  Stopping and starting again does require much more effort on a bike, and in some cases the red light works off a sensor that doesn’t register a bicycle.  This has happened to me more than once.  I stop at the red light, another cyclist goes shooting past, while I dutifully wait for the green light which … tick tock tick tock tick tock … it takes a car pulling up to trigger.  Then again, I’m such a girl scout that I’d stop at a red light in the middle of the night with no other car in sight.  I might not stop for long, or completely, but I will stop.

This business of cars and bikes on the road is complicated.  We’re not supposed to ride on the sidewalk, but riding on the road can be a nerve wracking experience.  Given the choice, I pick the sidewalk so …. guess I’m breaking the law as you wouldn’t drive a car on the sidewalk.  Most cities just aren’t pedestrian or cyclist friendly … so, it’s up to the driver and the cyclist to be friendly.  Share the road, but … please … look before shooting that light!