I generally like to think that most cyclists out there have a good head on their shoulders. They know that biking is a healthy way to get some quality exercise, and it also has minimal impact, so it is sustainable for longer periods of time as well as longer into your lifetime. However, over the past couple weeks I have been noticing a bit of lack of knowledge, responsibility, and mostly just some straight up ignorance. Both on the parts of bikers and automobile drivers.
I highly recommend reading this article written by Enzo's which actually got me started on paying attention and eventually writing this one for myself. The group of riders in that article are much more skilled, seasoned, and faster than I am, but the story itself rings true all the way down to the beginner ranks. The main premise being that if you're biking, if you want to be treated equally as an automobile, you have to follow the same rules as well. Stopping at stop signs, signaling for turns, lining up at lights, and so on. If you're out there being a jerk, expect to be treated like one.
In comes my additions to the article mentioned above. On my big ride last weekend, I was about 30 minutes out from finishing, legs aching, just cruising down the home stretch. I came to a crossing where only the road I was on had stop signs, as the crossroad was a high speed, fairly busy road. I kind of wanted a break anyway, so as I pulled up to the stop sign, I unclipped and eased to a halt, planning to rest for a couple minutes and let a few cars go by before I made my cross. However, a lady on the crossroad had different plans.
Now I was completely stopped, both feet unclipped, and drinking some water from my water bottle. You couldn't ask for much more obvious of signs that I wasn't going to cross unless I pulled out a hammock and took a nap. Instead of just cruising on by, the lady decided to stop, in the middle of the busy road, slamming on her brakes and frantically try to wave me across. I merely shook my head and waved her along. Thought that would be the end of it as I finished drinking my water. NOPE! She persisted in waving me across, going as far as honking her horn as if I weren't getting the picture. After a few cars backed up behind her and a couple screeched in, the car that lined up next to me went ahead, and I clipped in and took off. I wanted to go over and knock on her window and say "Thanks for being courteous, but this is a bit much. I've been riding for over 4 hours, and am in no rush to cross such a busy road." I was too tired for this, so I just shook my head at her and gave an apologetic shrug of the shoulders the other motorists waiting behind her.
The next three incidents all happened on the same ride I took two nights ago. The first being with another cyclist. As I was leaving my house to go out on a 90 minute ride or so, I saw another bike cruise by on the street just north of me. At first I thought, "Great to see people getting out on such a beautiful day". As I got up to the stop sign to jump on another decently busy road, with not much of a shoulder to speak of, I began to retract my previous thoughts. This guy was a sight to see. Probably about 6'2", big broad shoulders, no helmet, no shirt, and cranking his tunes. I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, so as I checked behind me and made my pass, I gave a courteous wave and a smile to a fellow cyclist. He was on a mountain bike in about the biggest gearing, so why he was on this road completely phases me.
As I'm approaching the four way stop ahead, I tuck in behind a car and take my place in line, acting like I am part of traffic, instead of avoiding it just to make it through faster. What's the point of putting yourself at risk when it takes an extra 30 seconds to wait for a few cars to get through from all the corners of the 4-way stop? As the car in front of me takes off for it's left hand turn, and I am about to follow as the other cars are about to go, what do I see? My big meathead friend in the left lane, not signaling, slowing down or giving any clue to the cars as to what he's doing. He makes a sharp left turn in front of the car in front of me and cuts it off. The car honks, as the man should have been hit, and I sit back shaking my head as shame has just been brought on to the cycling community.
I take my turn and continue to catch the man again, but this time, I'm not so friendly. I wanted to run him off the road and give him a full piece of my mind, but where would that get me? So instead I just give him a small tidbit saying, "You've gotta (expletive) kidding me dude, you're going to get yourself killed!" And I sped away, figuring he probably didn't even hear me through his headphones and large ego.
Simultaneously as this is happening, I had checked behind me to be sure I could pass him. I was clear, however there was a car coming, so I planned to make it quick. As I got about even with him, I could hear the car downshift and speed up. "You're kidding right?" Instead of maybe gently braking, or most likely just taking his foot off the gas, the car speeds up to prove a point and swerves around me. All the while this is happening in a no passing zone (bikes should be treated as cars, too). And as we crest the top of the hill, a car is coming from the other direction and has to veer off the road in order to avoid being struck head on.
Maybe a bit of this was my fault, but I truly feel I had plenty of time to pass, and the fact that the driver sped up instead of maintaining his speed speaks for itself.
My last bit is about another driver as I was coming down the long steady downhill about 5 miles from finishing the ride. I was tucked down in aero, cranking away pretty well around 29-30mph with pretty light feet and a fast cadence. Being in a passing zone and there being no cars I could see ahead, I gave myself an extra foot of space to my right as the only shoulder was a few feet of gravel then a large ditch. Seeing as how there was so much room to get around me, and being in a passing zone, I figured I was safe. However, some hick thought otherwise. Instead of just passing me at whatever speed he likes (I could care less), he decides to be sure he's right on my rear wheel before moving into the other lane and as he's just to my side, blares on the horn and takes off. My question to him is, "What are you trying to prove?" Do you honestly think I'm in the wrong here? Are you showing off to your girlfriend that you have more horsepower than I do? Or are you just trying to make me crash? I always wonder where the cops are when things like this happen to cyclists. Scaring a cyclist while you're driving is about the worst idea out there. It's one thing to pass us closely, but we're used to that. I wanted to catch the guy and ask him how he would feel had I gone down and got my wheels wrapped up under his car, injuring or possibly killing me? You don't see people passing motorcycles and blaring their horns, so what makes a cyclist any different?
All of these incidents only further my credo when I go out riding: never trust anyone else out on the road. Don't assume anything. And least of all, don't assume anyone is looking out for you. Unless you're out with a group of good friends riding. But even then, they may make mistakes.
Get out there, have fun, be safe, and please be conscious of what is going on around you. If you're head isn't ready and in the right place before you clip in, pack it up and get on the trainer. Save the road for another day when you're mentally ready.