Monday, August 11, 2008

A step backward for understanding between cyclists and motorists

On July 25th, Maurie and I witnessed Critical Mass ride down 1st Ave in Seattle. As we watched, we talked a bit about the rides and how our opinion about them has changed a bit. We used to see them as trying to anger people, but after seeing this group rolling at a decent rate, with riders “corking” intersections to allow the rest of the group to pass safely, I had different feelings about the group. Maybe it was the lack of overtly angry motorists we saw waiting for the riders to pass.

Then I saw this article in the Seattle Times on Tuesday, July 29.

Now, I don’t know all the details about this incident, and it saddens me to see it happen. For several years I’ve commuted by bicycle. I have tried to follow all the rules of the road and be a good representative of the cycling community. Nonetheless, I’ve heard all manner of negative comments about cyclists. Those who know I ride would often add, as an afterthought, something along the lines of “but I know you’re not like that.”

Sadly, when I ride around town and see some other riders, I feel like I’m in the minority. I see so many cyclists who don’t bother to follow traffic laws; riding through stop lights and signs; weaving between cars and riding against traffic. I know that many cyclists around Olympia do follow traffic laws and try to help improve our reputation, but I don’t seem to remember them as easily. I’m afraid that many motorists feel the same way.

I want to encourage those who cycle to pay attention to the rules of the road, no matter where or when you ride. The moment our bicycle tires hit the road, we become traffic and are subject to those rules as well. Show drivers the courtesy we ask of them and try to help them remember the responsible cyclists more than the scofflaws who happen to ride bikes. Remember, a smile and wave goes a long ways to helping ease tensions.

Some Bicycle Commuting Resources

Cascade Bicycle Club Commuter Resources

League of American Bicyclists Tips for Commuters

Bicycle Alliance of Washington Transportation and Commuting

Bicycle Commute Guide


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