Imagine if your hometown banned bikes on city streets – impossible, inconceivable? Well, it’s already a reality in the United States.
In the October issue of Bicycling Magazine, in the ‘Hubbub’ section, there is a tiny paragraph article talking about local government initiated bike bans in Black Hawk, Colorado and St. Charles County, Missouri. WHAT?!!!
When I read this, I literally couldn’t believe it, but, in Black Hawk, Colorado, due to ‘safety concerns’ the town council actually voted in favour of banning cyclists from riding on most city streets… Then a few months later, a councilman in St. Charles County, Missouri, proposed banning cyclists from some state highways.
Think this couldn’t happen in your hometown? You may want to think again. If someone at city hall was to raise the ‘safety’ argument, it could be a really difficult one to get around. As a cyclist, and a motorist, I see the potential risk for accident and injury all the time. When I’m on my bike, I need to be completely focused on what I’m doing so I don’t get smucked, because it could be as easy as me swerving a little, hitting a pothole and slipping out on some sand or gravel. As a motorist, driving past a cyclist on the road can be almost just as nerve-wracking as you try to give them room while staying in your lane. It’s always a little dicey.
It’s when motorists do things that are ‘unpredictable’ to those around them that accidents happen.
If bikes and cars want to co-exist on the roads, short of major bike lane infrastructure, both cyclists and motorists need to be committed to it because there are undeniable safety risks. As motorists, we need to pay attention, display more patience, and be willing to give cyclists the space they need. If your lane is too narrow to pass safely, wait till it widens, or you can change lanes to go by. Here in Edmonton, I find motorists are generally pretty good about this, but I’ve still had a few too many close calls for comfort with aggressive drivers.
Now, as cyclists, I am calling you out! We really need to get our act together. I’ve been watching how cyclists behave in traffic here in Edmonton, especially downtown, and sorry to say it, but we’re brutal! It really is no wonder motorists get frustrated with us. As cyclists, we want motorists to acknowledge us on the roads, and we expect motorists to obey all traffic laws. In fact, we rely on motorists to obey the laws so that we stay safe. But, then we do things like jump on and off sidewalks, blow stop signs and red lights, cross multiple lanes of traffic without signaling, ride the wrong way down one-way streets, and on and on… I’m here to tell ya, we can’t have it both ways…
Cyclists are a huge wildcard, and we’re freakin’ out the motorists!
We can’t demand to be allowed on streets with motorists in traffic and not obey traffic laws ourselves. We’re just frustrating the motorists, putting ourselves in greater risk and strengthening the ‘safety’ argument against cyclists on city streets. I mean, it’s not rocket science – if we want to be on city streets and in traffic, then we need to obey traffic laws. The whole traffic system is based on the fact that we all know what the rules are, and therefore, we know what we’re doing, and we ‘should’ be able to safely assume so does everyone else. Traffic safety is based on predictability. We all know red means stop, green means go, lines on the road keep us in our lanes, etc… It’s when motorists do things that are ‘unpredictable’ to those around them that accidents happen. This is essentially what cyclists are like when we’re out there choosing to opt out of the rules whenever it suits us. Cyclists are a huge wildcard, and we’re freakin’ out the motorists! Now, I’m not saying I’m a model cyclist. I’ve been as bad as anyone – I admit it. That’s why I’m including myself in this when I say, let’s get it together. If we’re on our bike and on a city street, we have to start using a little more common sense and obeying the rules of the road.
I’ll end with a question. What’s the biggest ‘bonehead’ move you’ll admit to making on a bike in traffic?
Here is pretty crazy photo stream of a confrontation between a motorist and bike courier: link here