I was bicycle commuting to work the other afternoon, as I often do. I was on northbound 24th Street, came to a rolling stop at “S” Street, observed no automobiles approaching, so continued into the intersection. From the right, a cyclist on a shiny red and white carbon road bike barreled towards me at about 20 mph, completely blowing through the four-way stop. He only missed me by inches… thanks to my good brakes. The rider didn’t even acknowledge my existence but just sped on through the intersection.
I would like to think that this was an isolated incident. However, it was not. Every time I ride to work, I observe midtown cyclists completely disregarding stop signs and red lights, oftentimes not even slowing down or looking… as if they were in a whole alternate universe by themselves.
I’ve also noticed that it’s not just one “class” of cyclists. I’ve seen fully kitted roadies, pierced dudes on their fixies, young skirted women on their cruisers, and businessmen on their hybrids, all seemingly oblivious to their own safety, and the safety of everyone around them.
And unfortunately, we often read about unpleasant conflicts between motorists and cyclists, sometimes with severe injuries involved. Many motorists hate cyclists… and judging by the way many cyclists ride, who can blame them?? And unfortunately, those motorists attitudes towards all cyclists are being shaped by those riders who don’t seem to care, making it dangerous for all of us.
Safe riding isn’t just about safety. It’s about courtesy and respect for those with whom we share the road. Many in the cycling community are quick to blame the motorists, many of whom don’t even seem to be looking, or don’t want acknowledge a rider’s right to be on the road.
So here are some suggestions for riders, who might want to send a positive message to those motorists we encounter:
1. I know… it’s really difficult to come to a full stop at every stop sign. But it is possible to make a rolling stop at a stop sign, without having to un-clip or dismount from the bike. Red light?? Just stop, even if you have to dismount/un-clip.
2. If it doesn’t seem safe to dismount, then at the very least, slow down and look at who/what is coming.
3. Look at those motorists at the intersection… make eye contact, so that they know you are watching them. Maybe they’ll learn to watch for you!
4. When a motorist gives you the right-of-way (even if you are fully legally entitled to it), acknowledge them with a wave and/or “thanks.” A little courtesy goes a long way.
5. Never assume anything… never assume that the car will stop because it’s a stop sign or red light… and never assume that motorists or other cyclists can see you unless you’ve made eye contact.
6. And for gosh sakes, wear a helmet! I had a crash on my road bike recently… my helmet hit the ground and got a nice dent in it. If I hadn’t been wearing the helmet, that nice dent would’ve been in my skull
Now, I don’t want to come across as being self-righteous about this. There are times when I’m feeling lazy and not giving 100% attention to the road, and have occasionally ticked off motorists, pedestrians, or other riders. But most of the time, I try to be conscious of others when I’m out there. A little courtesy and safety goes a long way! And with more people commuting to work on bicycles (excellent!), the more important that courtesy and safety will be.