Brewing and Stewing
Being a part of any trend, you are inevitably part of a backlash against that trend. Road biking has become a very popular thing here in Salt Lake. The more cyclists on the highways and back roads, the more drivers who do not ride (and some that do ride) are bothered by all the bikes. In return, there are many cyclists who are equally upset by the attitude of some drivers who seem oblivious to them as they ride, or worse, drivers who purposely put riders in dangerous situations.
This morning I was witness to mistakes on both sides, and guilty of poor judgement myself.
I rode Emigration canyon this morning and it was glorious. The weather was perfect. A wonderful sunrise added to the beauty of the surroundings and I was thoroughly enjoying myself. As my brother and I neared the end of the climb, two cyclists ahead of us had chosen to ride tandem. The bike lane at this point is wide enough for three bikes to ride side by side, but these two had decided to both ride to the left of the white line, the outside rider actually touching the double yellow center line. If we were to pass these riders on the left (as is the usual convention), we would have to ride in the face of oncoming traffic, where cyclists and cars easily eclipse 35 or 40 MPH. Instead, I chose to pass on the right.
It is the obligation of the passing rider to make his presence known. I was angry because these riders were out in the highway and said nothing. The rider on the inside started to move back into the bike lane. We nearly collided. words were exchanged.
I was angry at the whole situation. The riders out in the road, my poor passing choice, all of this contributing to an unsafe situation where someone could have been seriously injured or killed. A car coming from behind would hopefully see us have time to slow. The danger was from ahead. A cyclist coming down the mountain does not have the same safe bike lane to travel in. The shoulder is littered with rocks and gravel and almost every cyclists rides to the left of the white line while descending. A car traveling down the hill would not have enough time to stop and would certainly try to pass the cyclist on the left, putting them over the center yellow lines. You can imagine the result if that passing situation took place where the four of us were having our poorly timed pissing match.
Later on the ride as I made my way down the canyon, I was passed by a couple of stronger riders. The lead rider passed and immediately moved back to the right, just inside the white line. The trail rider passed and stayed a bit too far to the left. A driver coming from behind intended to warn the riders of his approach and honked his horn twice-right next to me. Scared the holy hell out me and I wobbled a bit. My heart refused to slow down for another fifteen or twenty minutes.
Every rider and driver has made mistake at least once, most likely several times. This is the nature of accidents-someone makes a poor choice cars collide. Sometimes cars and bikes collide. When that happens, the bike always loses.
I have been pondering this list for months.
1. Regardless of whether you’re ‘allowed’ ride in the middle of the road (and in most situations, legally you can), if a car hits you, your being right won’t matter.
2. Talking to your buddy might be part of the riding experience, but riding tandem on narrow shoulders is dangerous to you and to me.
3. Helmets are for your protection. You are free to not wear one, but here’s the deal- if you ride where I ride, you are putting me in a bad situation. If you fall or get hit, it is me that hast to deal with the consequence of your bad choice.
4. None of you, not one, is a world class cyclist. Stop acting like your better than everyone else on the road. Don’t look down on my bike or clothing choice. Your smugness is unwarranted.
5. We are out here together, riding, getting better and stronger. It wouldn’t kill you to wave or acknowledge each other. Look out for each other, care about each other. Be kind.
6. Learn the hand signals and use them for turning, changing lanes, stopping. Also, be damn sure its safe to merge into traffic to turn left rather than expecting the cars to just know what your extended left arm means. You don’t get to ignore traffic laws because they are inconvenient.
1. No matter how big your car or truck is, cyclists really cannot hear you approach until you are almost right behind us. Being frustrated to the point of shouting as you pass (we cant hear your words), is pointless.
2.Don’t honk unless the situation is dire. Remember, we can’t hear you approaching. Honking is most likely going to cause a situation to get worse, not better.
3. If you can, pass wide. Even if the cyclist is riding in an unsafe position, passing close is dangerous. Slowing down might be annoying, but it is better than hitting someone.
4. Road bikes do not do well in gravel or dirt. They cannot go over rocks or glass very well. If you see a rider moving out of the bike lane, assume there is a terrain issue, not that a rider is challenging your road sovereignty.
5. Learn the hand signals and recognize them. Be ready for a cyclist to merge, turn, come into your lane. Better to be safe than kill someone.
6. Remember that cyclists in most cities have equal rights to the road and can if they need to, ride right in the middle of the lane. They are allowed in left turn lanes, they have to stop at stop lights. In SLC, cyclists are allowed to roll through stop signs but are expected to stop if you are already stopped at the intersection.
I feel better. Sorry if this is too over the top or angry. I tried to tone it down. I really just want to be safe when cycling or driving. I know that might be an unrealistic expectation with so many people out and about, but I do my best. I try to do my best. Do better.