Cyclist and cagers* often have partisan views of how the roads should work. Cyclist insist they are traffic and demand to be treated as such. Cagers see bicycles as obstacles and annoyances to get around at all costs (commonly referred to as “Must Get In Front,” – MGIF syndrome). Then we’re told to “Share the Road,” and each group yells, “Yeah!” To cagers, sharing the road means, “Get out of our way.” To cyclists, it means, “Treat us as equals, even though we’re no match for a combustion engine and 1,000 kgs. of steel, oh, and let us break a few rules here and there.”
There are psychological theories that address why these factions act the way they do. They’re to extensive to delve into, but suffice it to say:
1. We like to put ourselves in “us verses them” groups.
2. We tend to exaggerate the failings of the opposite group while overlooking our own group’s failings.
What does “Share the Road” Really Mean?
For cars, it’s really simple. It means:
- Treat cyclists as if they were your own blood. You wouldn’t honk, shout, and bully your own kid, would you?
- Have patience. Does that 5 seconds you gain passing really get you where you’re going more quickly?
- Be aware of what is down the road. Don’t focus on the cyclist as if they are there to impede your journey. Look ahead and see what’s coming. Does it really make sense to pass if you’re just going to be a red light in 100 feet or behind another car that the cyclist is keeping up with?
- Pass when safe.
- Pass when you can give enough room. Generally, laws call for 3 feet or 1 meter of distance between the car and bike.
- Understand that cyclist are trying to get somewhere, just like you.
- Know when to break the rules. Cyclist and cops really don’t care if you use the left-turn-only lane to pass a bike. Just pass safely.
- Realize that your 1,000 kilogram car is a deadly weapon against a cyclist.
- Signal your intentions. Just use your indicators. They were free-with-purchase when you bought the car.
Cyclist would be happy if the list ended there. They love to play the victim when mixed with motorized traffic. However, cyclists need to follow a few “Share the Road” rules, too. One, it’s a social contract that goes two ways. Two, it makes cycling safer. For cyclists, “Share the Road” means:
- Plan your route. Yes, you have a legal right to the road, but you’re safer if you stick to low-traffic roads, low speed-limit zones like residential areas, and only mix with high-speed, high-volume traffic when absolutely necessary. When you inevitably have to get on a major street, make it one that has multiple lanes or at least a left-turning divide. This gives motorists room to pass safely. Check your local government’s website. They keep statistics on the roads. You can see which roads are used more heavily and plan accordingly.
- Have confidence, not arrogance. Confidence comes from doing, so get out there and bike. If the situation calls for you to take the full lane, take the lane. Just don’t do it when the situation doesn’t warrant simply because you legally can.
- Have patience. The most direct route isn’t always the safest. If you have to add a kilometer or two to your route to decrease your dance with death, leave early.
- Light it up! Put lights on your cycle. Put lights on your body. Put lights everywhere you can. Be seen. Consider a head-lamp. Sure they look dorky, but when you make eye contact with a driver approaching from a side street, you’ll know that they see that strobe on your forehead.
- Take a break if you can. If you see there are 20 cars piling up behind you, consider pulling over in a safe place to let them pass. This reduces the risk of road rage and gives you a breather, too.
- Do what is expected by following the rules of the road. We know the bane of the cyclist is stopping, but traffic lights and stop signs are there for a reason. Mainly, they keep you safe when people do what is expected. Don’t put yourself in danger and give cyclist a bad name by running signals and signs.
- Know when to break the rules. Bikes can go where cars can’t and sometimes that’s safer. Learn the peculiarities of your route. Know of a traffic light sensor that won’t detect your bike? Route around it, make a right then u-turn then right when safe, or move over and invite a car up to the line to set off the sensor.
- Know the laws in your area. Is riding on the sidewalk illegal in your city/state? Then stay off the sidewalks. Cyclist are generally good at this one.
Most know the cycling laws better than the police.
- Realize that your 20 kilogram bike and 80 kilogram meat sack are no match for a car. Give them room whenever possible.
- Signal your intentions. Signal early. Signal often.
Do what is expected of you and signal your intentions. These two things will do more to keep you safe whether you’re in a car or on a bike.
*cager: an automobile operator.