I am fairly new to cycling. Before I took up cycling a few years ago I was one of those people who saw cyclist riding down the road with those colorful logo enriched outfits and spandex shorts and thought “what’s the heck’s the attraction”? At the time I never really thought about or understood the tension between cyclist and motorist until I threw a leg over a bike and went for a ride. Boy did I learn quickly. I’ve been run into the dirt, cut in front of while someone turned into a driveway and had a side mirrors miss my ear by inches. I believe most of the time motorists do not understand how close they are to us, but sometimes they really do know. You want a wakeup call to the problem? Have an 18 wheeler blast his horn at you for some unknown reason as his 30 tons of metal, 2 feet from your head, blast by you at 55 mile per hour. I am definitely not professing to be an expert on the relationships between cyclist and motorist. I only took up cycling as a way to combat my own aging knees and joints that were starting to ache from years of getting my exercise from just running. When I think about it, my viewpoint on the relationship should probably be a little lopsided towards automobiles. Out of my 53 years I have spent 37 of those years driving automobiles and recently have spent only the last 3 years on a bike. But it is really not about if I am a motorist or a cyclist. Again, I believe it goes back to that thing called respect. And yes, now I also am wearing those colorful outfits and spandex shorts. And believe me, I have found what the attraction is and love every peddle stroke I make.
Respect relates to trusting that your fellow human being will jointly share his privilege to the use of the road. I saw this guy riding his bike the other day wearing a jersey with the writing on the back “DON’T RUN OVER ME”. I’m thinking to myself how sad it is that this guy feels he needs to remind drivers in automobiles not to run over him! Here is a guy who probably has a family and wants to get in a few relaxing miles in on his bike after work. He leaves his house and the last thing his wife and kids read on his back as he mounts his bike is a warning to automobile drivers not to “Take Out” their Dad and Husband.
I am now both a motorist and a cyclist. I liked to think that during those 37 years of being just a motorist I showed some respect to the cyclist on the road. I did this because it is the right way to treat and respect your fellow human being. I wouldn’t push someone out of the checkout line at the grocery store the same as I wouldn’t pinch a cyclist to the curb to save myself a couple of seconds in my day. Believe me, I am normally in a hurry, but I have never been in that much of a hurry.
Now that I am a cyclist I hope I can show that same respect back to motorist while I ride. I don’t run stop signs or red lights. I don’t ride down the middle of the road with an “I own it also” attitude. I don’t weave in and out of stopped traffic. And as we are riding down the road and you are behind me I will wave you to pass when I see it is clear and safe for you to go. Again, I do this because I think it is a respectful way to treat people and ride. I will even ride in the gutter for you to make a little more room as long as it is smooth and safe gutter to ride in, but I will not ride in the dirt.
So in turn I don’t ask for a lot back. Just give me a little extra room to enjoy my sport. Maybe a second or two wait until it is clear to make a safe pass. I believe as this country adapts to the amount of cyclist out there that the roads will also adapt making it a safer place for bicycles and automobiles to share the road. In the meantime it is up to all of us to share, respect and have a little courtesy on the road.
A jersey with a slogan “Bestow me a little extra room” looks a heck of a lot better to my wife and kids as I leave the house then one that asks “DON’T RUN OVER ME”.