An Open Letter to Drivers
I imagine that unless you’re a Cyclist, it is quite difficult to understand what it’s like to ride a bicycle on the open road amongst traffic. It is a vulnerable feeling to be riding along a road with limited or no escape routes, surrounded by vehicles who outweigh you by several orders of magnitude. Particularly when you take into consideration that the driver likely does not hold your safety in the same esteem that you yourself do, but that they in all likelihood consider their Instagram feed to be of equal or higher priority to the task at hand, which in this case hopefully involves not hitting cyclists.
For as many sketchy encounters I’ve experienced between myself and a motor vehicle, I have found that only in rare situations do the drivers have any real malice towards us as we pedal along; normally the problem with vehicles are those of inconsideration and a lack of appreciation for the plight of the Cyclist; using the bicycle lane as a turning or passing lane, for example, is an case of ignorance, not malice. The good thing about ignorance is that it is curable through education, assuming the afflicted party is willing. The bad news is both are equally deadly to the Cyclist.
In the spirit of communication and in the hope that communication might lead to education, I humbly submit the following observations:
- Observation #1: There is no Venn diagram that shows the intersection between human, car, and bicycle as a “win” for any involved party. Best to avoid this, irrespective of who is at fault.
- Observation #2: As we are move along together in traffic, the best practice is to move predictably and consistently; I will do my best to do the same.
- Observation #3: If we’re both at an intersection, chances are that I can’t see you inside your car window to notice you kindly waving me through; treat me like any other traffic and we’ll all wait our turns. No one likes a Seattle Standoff at the stop sign.
- Observation #4: We take much longer to stop than you do, even in dry conditions. If you pass us before slowing abruptly, we are going to be in a very bad situation very quickly. Leads to observation #1 above.
- Observation #5: At a stop light, I may turn to look you directly in the eye. This is simply to make sure you see me and to reassure myself that you know I’m there. It is not to intimidate you, although I do appreciate how badass I look in my super hero outfit and my dope-ass shades.
- Observation #6: The bicycle lane is not a turning/merging lane and neglecting this fact will lead to an impromptu empirical study of the legitimacy of Observation #1.
- Observation #7: If you are following (im)patiently behind me while you wait for the right time to pass me, give me enough room so I don’t have to listen to you rhythmically hitting the gas pedal every time you think there might be an opportunity to sneak by. When you do decide, move quickly and assertively; don’t hesitate. Most of us don’t carry toilet paper.
- Observation #8: If I’m riding in the middle of the lane, it means it isn’t safe to pass me, not that you should squeeze into the gap between me and oncoming traffic.
- Observation #9: If I look back at you while I’m riding and move to the side, then that means I know you’re there and you can pass as soon as you’re comfortable. If I then also wave you through, it means I feel it’s safe to pass if you also do.
- Observation #10: Yelling at me will not discourage me from riding my bike. Also, I do, in fact, pay taxes so don’t hold the fact that I’m not also burning fossil fuels against me. In return, I’ll only yell at you if you scared me to death, but I promise to feel bad about it later.
Share the road, and let’s all return home safely to start it all over again tomorrow. Vive la Vie Velominatus.