Recently I attended a community event in my neighborhood about some proposed bike lanes and a discussion of motorists vs. cyclists.
There were about 50 people in attendance. The saddest part was there were about a dozen or so cyclists and the rest were motorists determined to keep those pesky bike lanes away from their asphalt wonderlands.
When more than one motorist spoke up about us crazy, dangerous bikers (sic) riding in the streets instead of the sidewalks where we belong — a very patient sheriff’s deputy explained how bicycles are “vehicles” and it is actually illegal for us to ride on the sidewalk. We are required by law to obey the same laws that motorists do.
This provided an Aha! moment for some of the motorists in attendance, which was great to see, but it definitely went in one ear and out the tuckus of a few others, who I could tell, were still planning on counting coup with every cyclist they encountered.
But here’s the interesting part of the evening and what led to this post… at one point in the evening, an older woman raised her hand and said that what she hates is how nervous and panicky she gets when she passes a biker (sic) because “you never know if they’re going to wobble into your lane of traffic.” That’s a direct quote.
At least six or seven other motorists all agreed.
As most of the cyclists rolled their eyes and snickered, I started thinking about this. It occurred to me that most motorists with no knowledge of cycling have a fixed idea of a bike rider in their head — the one from their own experience. Everyone has ridden a bike. Usually in childhood. And most were cruising around on some sort of fixed gear contraption at 8 or 10mph max. What is certainly not in the movie theater of their mind is a rider on a carbon fiber rocket, cranking a big gear at 20-25mph.
Then I did the math. If one is riding at 10-15mph, the passing motorist will be in the “panic zone” (I’m having that trademarked) longer than if one is riding at 20-25mph. Obviously, the terrain we’re riding on dictates to a large extent our speed, but this gave me an idea…
Today I went out to a busy section of road — little less than a mile, slightly undulating, a couple of sweeping curves — that is four lanes with a 35mph speed limit.
I rode the section at 12-14mph and had two horns honk at me, and nearly every driver make that ridiculous over-correction where they move an entire Hummer width away from me (see my open letter).
Then I went back to the same section and rode it at about 85-90% of full effort. I managed just over 23mph and a weird thing happened. No one honked. And only one of the at least two dozens cars that passed me did the stupid over-correction.
Most all of them either drove right by me without so much as a thought, or else just moved slightly to the left. I was amazed.
Now… this is obviously a very unscientific test, with numerous uncontrolled variables. But I think there might be something to this.
Ride harder and faster, and not only will you improve your cycling ability and your fitness, but you might save your own life!
Ride your bike.
See Rule No. 5
Watch out for the road idiots