As I have read articles on bike safety, I have been alarmed at how many motorists hate cyclists. In too many cases, the motorist is quoted as saying that cyclists have it coming if they get hit, or they do not belong on roads in the first place, or they can foresee themselves hitting a cyclist.
Even when an educational article is politely pointing out what the law is and how motorists and cyclists should safely share the road (as I do in this blog), some motorists simply respond by saying cyclists should not be in a lane where cars are and if they get hit, it’s their own fault. How do we respond to that kind of thinking?
Yes, I know and have stated here many times that cyclists can be their own worst enemies when they ride through stop signs or do other things they’re not supposed to be doing on a bike. I continue to have to deal with this when I ride with others; they figure that if an intersection is clear, then they can run the stop sign. But not only do others observe this behavior of ignoring the law and lose respect for cyclists, but in a long line of riders, the whole group wants to continue on through even if a car comes to the intersection after the lead riders are through. Recently, I came to a full stop near the back of the group and waved the car to go since it was his turn, even though the other riders just kept pedaling through the stop sign in front of him and forcing him to wait. When he finally made his left turn, he rolled down his window and yelled to me, “At least someone follows the law.”
That fellow was exasperated at what he was seeing, but at least he didn’t try to teach us a lesson by running us over; it’s distressing that many motorists feel we deserve to die. When generally law-abiding citizens observe others breaking a law or are inconvenienced by a rude person, do they harm or kill as a solution? I don’t think so, but there sure seem to be motorists who think aggression is justified when it comes to bicyclists (maybe it’s because they are protected in their cars and cannot be hurt themselves, or they don’t have to confront the situation face to face). The ironic part of this is that the cyclist may be completely legal and in his rights, yet the uninformed or aggressive “redneck” motorist feels he should “teach him a lesson” regardless.
Here was a recent headline: “A man in London has told a cyclist that cyclists deserve to die because they are their own worst enemy and are incompetent.” The man decided to just tell a cyclist this as she legally walked her bike across a street (she had him on video). In the same vein, I’ve read numerous newspaper articles and blogs explaining the rights of cyclists, and many of the online comments ignore what was just explained and rail on against cyclists not belonging on the road and deserving to get hit. Perhaps they disagree with the law, but by golly, they’re going to teach cyclists a deadly lesson on what they believe the law should be!
What to do?? Some states, such as my Ohio, are trying to get their legislatures to pass laws specifying three feet as the minimum passing clearance. Having that law won’t, by itself, change a whole lot, but advocates agree that it provides a base for educating the public about all cycling laws and bicyclists rights. In other words, having a 3-foot law is a platform for education efforts. Other solutions: 1) Cyclists – follow the law! 2) Be courteous by signaling your presence in the lane with your left arm waving at an angle downward, and waving thanks when a car has slowed down for you and finally passes you safely. 3) Use a ride-able shoulder even though you’re not required to. 4) Write considerate letters to the editor or online comments to an article expressing hope that everyone can share the road legally and safely.
Or, maybe you don’t have to be considerate. In one cyclist’s blog I read about motorists, he took the confrontational approach as he explained the law and the safest way for cyclists to ride and demand their rights. Here’s how he ended: “In conclusion, you’re a fucking asshole for honking at me. I’m not a second class citizen and you don’t own the road anymore than anyone else. I don’t belong on the sidewalk and if you think I do then maybe it’s time for you to take your drivers test again. Cyclists belong on the street
. They are not getting in the way of traffic, they are
traffic. Get used to it.” (If you wish to read his entire posting: http://antranik.org/hey-asshole-yea-you-the-one-driving-the-car/)
As my book, Head Over Wheels, describes, I broke my neck in a bad bicycling accident, but it did not involve another vehicle. I’ve been fortunate that in my 36 years of cycling, I have not had an incident with a motorist other than when they’ve passed me far too closely. I want to keep it that way!