Growing up many of us probably heard “don’t ride in the street!” yelled after us as a kid. I heard this all too often, spending a majority of my time on my bike commuting between friend’s houses,school or just out for a ride. Unfortunately, as an adult this shouting continues to ring in my ears, but instead from the mouths of irate drivers. Drivers like this however are not shouting at us out of parental fear for our safety. Their cries instead are based in their own “inconvenience”. It’s frustrating to me as well to be stuck in traffic when I’m in a hurry or running late. I’ve made the conscious and sustainable choice to commute via bike for this reason in fact. The reality is that if you count the amount of time you spend stuck in traffic behind cars and compare it to the amount of time you spend stuck behind a cyclist, you’re likely to realize the former outweighs the latter.
I consider myself lucky enough that my current city of Lincoln, NE has a excellent bike infrastructure of paved trails throughout the city. After I committed to the idea and eventually practice of bike commuting, the benefits quickly became clear. Once I got over the initial shock of waking up a little earlier the first few times to ensure my route would be punctual, I began to embrace cycling on another level. It feels great to hop in the saddle and get the blood flowing naturally first thing in the morning, also prepping my body for the influx of coffee on arrival. It’s also the perfect opportunity to enjoy some peace to set goals for the day while avoiding the frustration of morning rush hour. Parking is another huge hassle that is easily avoided with bike racks located all over campus and downtown. The Outdoor Adventures Center at UNL also offers enclosed bike lockers on campus if you’re concerned about theft. So you can save a little cash not just in your tank but also on your public parking tab.
Despite all of these benefits of commuting in a city with a great bike system, there is still an anti-cyclist attitude present. Within the past year as I have started training for triathlons venturing out on to local roads, I’ve noticed there certainly are a great number of courteous drivers that are cautious and happy to let me take the lane. The increase of cyclist fatalities and awareness of sharing the road could be a major factor. Here is a report outlining the straight facts on Bicycle Crashes in Lincoln (courtesy of Chris St. Pierre)
A recent BBC article investigated The Psychology of Why Cyclists Enrage Car Drivers
It’s not these courteous drivers that are the culprits, it’s those that indulge in the culture of “Don’t ride in the street!” Many in this camp argue that we don’t belong on the road with no explanation as to why. Others feel that we are an entitled community that are taking advantage roads they pay for with wheel taxes and registration.Truth can be found in some of this argument, although most cyclists myself included do in fact own a vehicle and pay wheel tax. Another hole in this argument comes from the simple fact that the physical impact bicycles have on the road is minimal at most compared to cars. Let’s take the time as cyclists to engage in conversations about the positives of cycling and what it can bring to the community through educating those not involved in riding. Sharing the road should be a goal not an ultimatum that can be reached through knowledge and mutual respect.
I will be the first to admit that when I roll up to a clear intersection I may sneak through that red light or stop sign. Drivers take this opportunity every time to pin cyclists as unlawful hooligans. The question then begs, what do we really have to gain by saving that extra 10 seconds and not having to pause our Garmin? On our end as cyclists, this is a step towards sharing the road, setting the example of mutual respect and not entitlement. Simple steps won’t change the world immediately, but can plant the emotional and logical seeds to change the culture.
So the next time you’re out on the road and a driver decides to buzz close to you, speed by and yell profanity, just give them a smile and wave or peace sign. It’s highly unlikely that they’ll yell next time ” Go ahead, ride in the street!” but engaging in a positive way will make you feel better, and also make them think “why is this person on a bike such a big deal to me? They actually look like they’re loving life!”
So get out there and share the road, after all it is a two-way street.