First and foremost I have to start with a confession: I’m one of those crazy cyclists. I use my bike as much as possible as my primary mode of transportation in the summer and I even use it for a fair amount of workday commuting in the winter. In nearly two years of using my bike first for going to work, then going to friends’ places, then for errands and most anything else I’ve logged over 3000km and hope that increases every year.
I have another confession: I also drive. I have since I was 16 and have consistently been a car owner for a decade. I drive when I’m going places with other people, have too much stuff to carry on a bike, am going somewhere that I can’t show up to sweaty in shorts and when I’m too much of a wuss to brave the weather. I’ve driven too many miles to count and a car was my primary mode of transportation for years before I took up cycling.
Last confession: When I drive I hate cyclists. When I bike I hate drivers.
At least that’s the way I used to be.
It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that, perhaps, I was being a tad hypocritical. Did I say perhaps? I mean I was absolutely being a giant hypocrite.
What I noticed is that it was very easy to get annoyed at the group of people that weren’t participating in the activity that I currently was and while I’m not a psychologist, I think it’s safe to say that it has something to do with evolution and our tribal past. Seems like that’s an excuse for a lot of things these days. Anyway, moving on.
In all seriousness, for the next little while I tried to take note of the behaviours of both cyclists and drivers that annoyed me. From there I then did as much as I can in order to correct my own behaviour while participating in both activities and have some suggestions as to how to take a step back and maybe share the roads in a more equitable way.
Drop the holier than thou attitude in public discussions. We get it, you’re saving the world and reducing wear and tear on the road, but that doesn’t mean you should throw it in our faces. Advocating for better cycling infrastructure is fine, but it’s going to take time and public money, so respect that. The only way to suddenly wake up and be living somewhere as cycle friendly as the Netherlands is to move to the Netherlands.
Give us space when passing. Please. I understand it can be frustrating to have to slow down and pass someone on a bike, but next time you do count out how long it takes. My unscientific data says 5 to 10 seconds, which is nothing. Not only that, but you’ll probably end up catching up to traffic pretty instantly after you pass the person.
The rare time you’ll end up hitting a light, that sucks, but really an occasional 30 seconds tacked onto your drive is probably worth the human life that is put in danger by passing too close. I know as the driver it seems like you’re a safe distance, but remember you’re coming up from behind someone and we all use the same streets, so having to avoid potholes is part of our life too. To be quite honest, when a car passes right beside you, it’s terrifying.
Stop, stop, STOP weaving in and out of traffic. Also, no more on and off sidewalks. If you want the rights as cars, you need to obey the same rules. Here is a list of things that all cyclists have to stop (and start) doing immediately:
- STOP passing cars at the red light so you can be at the front of the line.
- STOP using roads and sidewalks interchangeably. Pick one based on your speed and comfort level, and stick with it.
- STOP merging or changing lanes to go around things without checking. It’s not every other driver’s responsibility to slam on their breaks for you.
- STOP going the wrong way down one way streets.
- STOP drifting (or full on blowing) through red lights and stop signs.
- START signalling. Drivers will be less erratic around you if you notify them on your intentions.
You are the one choosing to ride a bike, so the rest of the world doesn’t have to accommodate whatever ill-conceived shortcut you think you’re entitled to. Act like a car.
Take some responsibility for the 2000lbs+ machine that you’re piloting and look for us. We know that we’re easy to miss and I also forget to should check (or do the Dutch Reach) when opening my car door, but do your best. Really, the fact that people have to be reminded to pay attention while driving is sort of troublesome in and of itself, but looking at how some people act on the road I think it’s warranted.
Cut drivers a break. Even if there are a few jerks on the road during your ride, odds are the large majority of people gave you space, didn’t honk and generally forgot about you as soon as they passed you. They’re doing it right.
Cut cyclists a break. We know we’re not as fast as you, but we’re doing our best. Also remember that one more bike on the road means one less car, which I’m sure we can all be happy about! At the end of the day, all that matters is that everyone gets to where they’re going safely.