Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"SIDEWALK!" Sidewalk? Where Do You Ride Your Bicycle?

There are many things I observe and/or experience while on a bicycle that perplex me. For example, I don't understand why people in vehicles honk at those on bicycles, I'm never quite sure why teenage boys in trucks like to yell various remarks while I'm riding my bike, and I still cannot figure out why cars cannot wait behind me to make right hand turns while I'm riding my bicycle. Although there are many of these similar activities that take place, one that confuses me most is those in cars who insist that a bicycle should be riding on the sidewalk. While the incident I will share momentarily is not isolated to this one event, it seems to be turning into a far greater occurrence for me to run into drivers who think my bike should be ridden on the sidewalk.
The intersection in question
So, here is my brief tale. There I was, pedaling down the road, singing to myself and approaching a red light. As I pulled up to the front (as I was the first to arrive), I could feel a car inching its way toward me. This never really bothers me because 1) I have grown used to it, and 2) I swear it makes the light change faster when there is a car at the line rather than a bicycle alone. Soon after, the light turned green and I pedaled across the intersection, into a roundabout and up over a bridge. Just as I was reaching the top of the bridge the car that had been behind me since the signal (a whole whopping 10-15 seconds) rolled down her window (from the passenger seat nonetheless) and yells, "SIDEWALK!!" To which I muttered under my breath, "Sidewalk? There isn't even a sidewalk to ride on... let alone it not being a safe place to ride."
A cropped image from the above photo, you can see that the distance to where the bike lane begins isn't far
I continued to mutter (and admittedly cursed a bit) to myself a bit more as I rode down the road and wished that I could pedal a bit harder to catch up with the vehicle's passenger to ask why she thinks I should be on the sidewalk and where exactly the sidewalk was that she thinks I should be on. There is a sidewalk just before and through the roundabout, but then it turns into a bike lane in the road or onto a multi-use path and there is no more sidewalk on the street. Additionally, there is no out from the short segment of sidewalk to get back on to the road. Unfortunately, cars travel faster than bicycles when there is no traffic and I wasn't able to have the conversation I wanted desperately to have with this person. As I have said before, there are a few places in town that I absolutely do use the sidewalk because it would surely be a death sentence if I attempted to pedal in traffic, but as a whole, I use the streets because it is the safest place for me to be on a bicycle. In this particular instance, I was actually using a road that has a dedicated bike lane (except for the brief portion from the signal to the top of the bridge), so telling me basically to "get off the road" makes no sense at all. The lane is there specifically to be used by bikes. Why would I get on the sidewalk (even if there was one)?
In the winter months, I use this sidewalk when heading this direction because the opposite side of the street almost always has slippery ice in the bike lane.
For the life of me, I have tried to figure out why people think bicycles should be on sidewalks. Does it go back to our childhood days of parents telling us to stay on the sidewalk? Is it the multi-use paths that bicycles frequent which cause drivers to believe that these are the only places cyclists should be? In many cities it isn't even legal for bicycles to ride on the sidewalk, so I guess hearing people tell me to get on the sidewalk always confuses me, and I can't help but wonder why people don't take the time to educate themselves about the rules of the road. While it is legal here to ride on the sidewalk (unless designated otherwise), I still don't think it's the safest place to be on a bike.

So, my question to you dear readers is where do you ride your bicycle, and if you've encountered these types of incidents with cars, how do you respond and/or deal with them?

6 comments:

  1. I'm like you in that if I have a choice between road and sidewalk, I'll take the road unless I deem it to be unsafe. Pedestrians have right-of-way on sidewalks and I hate riding up on them and having them move out of the way for me, not to mention the hazard of not being seen by vehicles turning into/from driveways if I'm on the sidewalk.

    I got buzzed by a cement truck as he passed me on a blind corner of a two lane road this morning. He then turned right into a new subdivision directly in front of me. You couldn't wait those extra few second, dude??

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  2. That always kills me when drivers insist upon turning right in front of me. It's as though there's no level of patience at all. It would literally take 2 seconds for me to get by, but sometimes there are those who really want to cut the bike off for some reason. I often wonder if they think about it, or if they're just oblivious to what they are doing?

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  3. My personal least favourite are the buses. I ride home along a 2-lane road (2 lanes each direction) and it's also a bus route. I have to say, it's sometimes nice, since I have a folding bike, and I do sometimes take the bus home with my bike, but when I'm riding, in the right lane (I do tend to take the lane to avoid getting pinched by the bus), the bus will pass me, and then cut right in front of me (at like a 45-degree angle) to get to the stop. I feel the same way - it would have taken me maybe 5 seconds to pass the bus stop. I don't know why the bus just doesn't wait for me to be out of its way instead of basically plowing into me.

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  4. I think it's fairly simple to explain this behavior; bicycles are an annoyance to these drivers as you slow them down. I honestly think that 50% of drivers do not believe it's legal for bikes to be on the roadway at all. They grew up in a time when it just wasn't done.

    In addition, I think driving skills in this country have gone from bad to worse. There is no road courtesy any more. Some young drivers approach it like playing a video game, weaving in and out of the line of traffic. When I was 16 years old, this type of driving would have got you a wreckless driving ticket and an automatic suspension of your license. Now, policemen don't even enforce traffic laws unless there is a wreck (in my town).

    Chris, regarding the bus cutting you off, call the dispatch office and file a complaint. You need to do it when it happens, not the next day. When these start to accumulate, the safety officer will be required to take action on this driver. I work for public transit and this is not acceptable behavior.

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  5. I think it's so sad that we (as a whole) are so impatient. I think riding a bicycle helps to reinforce patience for me because I know that it's going to take a certain length of time to get anywhere I'm going.

    Chris, I'm with LuckyChow99 - I would report it to RTD because every time we let these incidents go, it causes the driver to think it's okay to do it again - and potentially s/he could injure someone down the line.

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  6. The nasty part of me want's to attack these people, flip them off, yell obscenities, etc. The realist part of me knows that won't work, so I think ignoring them is best. One day, gas prices will be so high, they will be on foot, or on bikes, possibly travelling on a SIDEWALK. *I can picture them, in their early 2000's Dodge, lifted, diesel smoke stacks, the fake bull scrotum hanging off the never used tow hitch*. Searching Google images for "bull scrotum" or "white trash pickup" did not provide the desired results... so use your imagination!

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