by Tao Oliveto, Carrboro, NC
My leg is getting strong again and I am back on my bike, commuting around town, enjoying the new Spring weather. But, in my exuberance and glee, I found myself tempted to forget that there are rules to the road – and cars are not the only ones who need to follow them.
Like other cyclists, I like to complain about drivers who don’t share the road respectfully or carefully. When I first started riding my bicycle to work in another busier city, I proudly (but also rebelliously) wore a black t-shirt which – in big white letters – said, “ONE LESS CAR”. I just wanted “a little respect” and maybe some admiration, but perhaps should not have been shocked when I instead received a couple drive-by epithets.
Still, it would be nice if there was more communion between cars and bicycles and I think it’s time for cyclists to bear some of the burden. If you ride like I used to, you don’t always stop at signs or lights. You only occasionally signal a turn or lane change. Maybe you hop on and off the sidewalk, or take a shortcut around a corner through a parking lot. All these things may make you feel like a real road warrior, but they also put you and others in danger. And they certainly don’t help the wobbly relationship that already exists between riders and drivers.
Granted, cars kill cyclists, not the other way around, but copping an attitude as a rider won’t move us towards a more bike-friendly world. If you want to brush up on bike safety and etiquette, this is the best source I’ve found. More here on urban cycling. Of course, always wear your helmet, lose the headphones and sacrifice speed for caution.
PS. If you like that t-shirt, it’s still available from the San Francisco Bicycle Coaltion at sfbikes.org.