Today is the anniversary of my friend John’s birth. Forty-eight years ago he was born and two and a half years later he moved across the street from me. We have been friends ever since. On this wonderful day, he likes to call the most important day of the year, I’m going to write a bit about cycling responsibly. After all, he is a cycling commuter in the scary gigantic city of London, home of the 2012 Olympics, where Simon Whitfield will be getting his third Olympic medal. Congratulations in advance Simon, oh and no added pressure…
I see cyclists get angry at motorized vehicles all the time. I understand cyclists have rights, but is it worth exercising those rights if it just creates more anger in the world? Aren’t there enough drivers who dislike cyclists already? How about we change the attitude cyclists have toward cars and in turn (maybe) that will change the attitude drivers have toward us cyclists! After all you are on your bike for enjoyment, aren’t you?
I propose, never getting angry at a car. Never flipping them off, spitting on them, screaming at them, or anything else that can promote unnecessary conflict with them. How about when someone drives too close, you wave and say, “Hello, I’m here.” – with a smile on your face. Because after all you are still alive and they could have run you down without even knowing it. This may seem rather passive to some of the aggressive people out there, but I promise you, in most cases, there will be a positive outcome. In most cases the driver will be made aware of your presence and pay more attention in the future – as opposed to screaming at each other and making one more driver think cyclists are jerks.
Wave and smile, perhaps a “Don’t forget about me”, or “Hello?” will go a lot farther than going berserk at each other.
Smile and wave at other cyclist too. We are a community of two wheelers. There are no classes. Yes, some of you are better than others, or faster, better looking (although not better looking than me) or whatever, but we are all part of the cycling community and the more the merrier. I smile and wave, or at least give a nod if I’m suffering a bit, at everybody on a bike – and kids in cars. I might be recruiting a future cyclist. What’s the big deal? It might make someone else happy. It certainly won’t make anyone hate you or want to drive you off the road. And since we decided a few days ago that trying to be tough was ridiculous (see post), and being happy and nice was the way to go, this turns out to be truly appropriate behavior.
Let’s move on the to mindset on the bike. You are invisible, unless it’s bad to be visible, like in front of the police, then you’re visible. So rolling through lights or stop signs is a no no! Proceed accordingly. Cars, truck, semi’s, they can’t see you. It’s up to you to pay attention and avoid them. Keep your head up, look around, most accidents can be avoided if you pay attention. If one of them is kind enough to slow down for you, then make sure you wave and thank them for sparing your life.
Yes, there are a certain number of collisions that will happen no matter how well you’re paying attention. But let’s eliminate the ones we can.
Riding on a narrow winding road, for me, is the the most fun, unless cars are coming of course. What I do in these situations only, is claim my space. I ride in the middle of the lane when I feel it’s not safe for a car to pass me. I make sure they can’t pass. You might think that this will enrage the driver, but it doesn’t seem to. When there is a straight section, or the road becomes wide enough for a safe pass, then I move over and wave them by, with a smile saying, “Thank you for waiting.” I always figure that 5, 10, 15 seconds of their time isn’t worth as much as my health or life for the matter.
City riding is tough at the end of a long ride when you’re tired and bonk’ish. But that’s no excuse for not paying attention, you need to expect drivers to pull out in front of you, stop suddenly, cut you off, among other things, at any moment. In most cases they are not being malicious, they just didn’t see you! Remember you are invisible. It’s up to you to avoid these collisions. And if you have a close call, remember, no one cares more about your safety than you do! You must be responsible for your own safety. Accept that responsibility, and enjoy your ride.