Friday, May 17, 2013

Cycling on roadways: How to spread the "Rules of the Road?"

The other day, I was in a vehicle with a couple of friends and somehow bicycles came up as a topic of conversation (shocking, with me in the car, I know). Anyway, neither of these two lovely ladies ride - or at least not very often, and it's always interesting to hear the perspective of those who don't ride a bike versus those who do. The conversation turned at one point and one of these friends said, "Some cyclists just think they own the road. They're just rude." Of course, being the snarky gal I am, I had to say, "Yes, and some drivers are rude." I said it as a joke to lighten what seemed to be on the verge of turning into an argument, but I wasn't really kidding. There are rude drivers AND there are rude cyclists. In fact, there are lots of inconsiderate people in every day life, and it may have absolutely nothing to do with their mode of transportation.

We continued to talk and they both stated that they dislike it when cyclists ride on the sidewalk, particularly when traveling on the "wrong side" of the street. I agreed that it is not the safest place for a cyclist to be, but here in Colorado, unless stated otherwise, it is legal to ride on the sidewalks.  They had a couple of other complaints about cyclists and the things they do on the road, and I had to point out some laws that they weren't completely aware of when it comes to riding and driving on the road.  I have found that sometimes I am expected to be the representative for all people traveling via bike, and honestly, I'm not exactly comfortable with that role; however, I also don't like to hear drivers say things that don't actually coincide with the law. I'm always amazed at how many people don't know the rules of the road.
A sharrow indicates that cars and bikes share the lane of travel (on the left) vs the bike lane indicated to the right of the photo above
*Image found here
As we continued to chat, I wondered (as many others have over the years) how to get this information out in mass to drivers without coming across as just another a$$hole cyclist, or as a holier-than-thou sort of rant because that is never my goal. As both a driver and a cyclist, I do my best to be aware of everyone out on the roads. Sure, I have bad days, and perhaps I do a random stupid thing once in awhile, but I always try to be safe and have patience with everyone on the roadways.

Some days are better than others. For example, when riding home from a kickboxing class recently, I pulled up to the middle front of the lane at a signal so that those who were turning right could do so when safe. Apparently, the car behind me (who was going straight across, as I was, and had to sit and wait for the light to turn green, just as I was) didn't like this and decided to honk and rev his engine behind me. Mind you, I'm in a residential neighborhood with children playing in yards, people out walking, and so on. When the light turned green, I mashed my pedals to get going (it was on a slight uphill) and started moving to the right where the bike lane began on the other side of the signal, but before I could get there, he squealed his tires and raced around me. When I'm on my bike, it's not my goal to piss off all the drivers on the road; just as when I'm driving, I have no desire to run pedestrians or cyclists off the road. As corny as it sounds, can't we all just get along?

The reality is, however, I had the right (and really, the responsibility) to be where I was so as to not impede traffic. Too many times I have stayed to the right and had someone in a car come around me on the left to try to make a right hand turn, only to have the light turn green. Then, I'm being cut off by the car trying to go right when I'm attempting to go straight. It's just not worth the potential danger, and it's a lot easier to just ride like a car. The quick video shown above is hardly all-inclusive, but it's a nice reminder to everyone that cyclists are vehicles and should ride as such. What I dislike about the video is that it's aimed specifically at cyclists rather than both cyclists and drivers. While there are often cyclists who don't know the rules of the road, I find that drivers are often confused when a bike rider takes his/her spot in a lane.

In Colorado, these are some of the most common things I have heard or read drivers complaining about when it comes to cyclists, so I thought it might be nice to share them here. Colorado statutes for bicycles can be found by clicking here, or here, and there are some quick cycling tips here, but I thought it was worthwhile to pick a few to put here specifically.
Bike signals * Image found here
1. A bicyclists may use a lane other than the right-hand lane when:
a. Preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private roadway or driveway (heads up drivers - that means a cyclist has every right to be in the left hand turn lane to make a left turn);
b. Overtaking a slower vehicle; or
c. Taking reasonably necessary precautions to avoid hazards or road conditions.

2. A bicyclist shall not be expected or required to:
a. Ride over or through hazards at the edge of a roadway (this means, as a cyclist, I may have to come out into the lane), including but not limited to fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or narrow lanes; or
b. Ride without a reasonable safety margin on the right-hand side of the roadway.

3. Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding bicycles two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

One thing to also point out is that it is the cyclist, not the driver who decides what is an unsafe condition.  Above all, I think drivers tend to forget that a cyclist is at a disadvantage when it comes to size/weight. When a driver behaves unsafely, s/he is driving a several ton piece of machinery designed to go at much higher speeds than a bicycle. Hitting a cyclist, even at slow speeds can do some very serious damage (perhaps even kill him/her). The blog author of Cyclecious, sadly, has frequent reports of drivers hitting cyclists - and it rarely turns out well for those on a bike.

So, dear readers... how do we get the word out to those who aren't likely to seek out this information? How do we get safety across as a message of cooperation rather than using it as a tool for argument? A lot of us choose to use the method of riding responsibly ourselves - a model of "do as I do," but that really doesn't educate drivers who insist that a bicycle shouldn't be on the road at all. A quick search of the web turns up a slew of anti-cyclist rants/blogs (of which I will not link to because some of them are just flat out scary and I don't want to encourage bad behavior), and Tom Stafford wrote an interesting article for the BBC recently on why motorists have such disdain for bike riders, but none of these things seem to really help the situation. I don't want to ask how to "educate motorists" because it comes off as prissy and elitist (I think), but there must be a way to get information to everyone who uses the road without it turning into a ridiculous argument that doesn't help anyone. Suggestions? Thoughts? I'd love to hear.

In the meantime, I continue on, attempting to be a "representative" (at least among the people I know) of all cyclists - hoping that I don't anger the drivers even more.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! Yes, a difficult question indeed about getting the word out.


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