Tuesday, May 27, 2008
Share the Road?
The law says we have to share the road with bicycles. And in this age of high gas prices, perhaps we'll have to share the road with more of them at some point. But when that point gets here I'll be fine with it, because the bikes we're sharing the road with are going somewhere. Going somewhere? What could I mean by that? Aren't all bikes on the road going somewhere?
No. Most are really just exercising. How do I know? They are out on the road riding bikes that cost more than a lot of cars on the road. They're wearing skin tight clothes and aerodynamic helmets to reduce drag. They're riding in small trains and taking turns leading for the draft effect. The bikes are on half inch wide tires that would puncture if they hit a single pothole at speed. Worst of all, many folks are doing this exercising on two lane, 55 mile per hour, country roads that are narrow, have no shoulder suitable for a bike of this nature, and have many blind curves.
I know why they seek out those roads...they aren't that busy. They can pedal at full speed for long stretches without interruption from traffic lights and stop signs. Oh, not that most of them stop for traffic lights and stop signs anyway if the coast is clear...oh no. Heaven forbid they should unclip from those pedals and sit there like the rest of the traffic. Or, should I say, like the law says they should do. Nope, most look both ways and roll on through if the coast is clear. I've even seen them do it with a police officer looking on, and the officer did nothing about it. Talking about steaming me. If I hadn't been in a hurry I would have reported the officer. There's a chance he wasn't even on duty, I suppose, but it still seemed unlikely.
So, what's my real fear or beef with having to share the road? Simple. I fear that someone I love will be driving that country road at the posted speed limit and come around a curve and get hit head on by someone who is illegally passing a bicyclist. Is that the fault of the bicyclist? Not entirely, no. Maybe not even at all, really. But the reality is that people will continue to pass these folks in an unsafe manner. The cyclists see it happen all the time. Many even know someone who was hit by a car or were hit themselves. Yet a lot of them continue to do it, and they do it on the roads near my house even though the town of Carrboro has a lot of roads with bike lanes. I know, can't get the same amount of exercise in. But at least they should be safer than mixing with dump trucks and other high speed traffic on tiny roads.
The other reality is that you can get a lot of good exercise on a bike by heading off road if you get a mountain bike. There are great trails in this particular area and in many areas of the country. There's nobody to hurt but yourself that way (and don't I know that!).
Now, I can somewhat sympathize with triathletes who actually need to train at least some on the road. Somewhat. But that's still a choice you're making, especially since there are now more off-road triathlons you could participate in.
No, I'm not one of those folks that intentionally passes closely when passing a cyclist somewhere I don't think they should be, and I certainly don't condone that kind of dangerous behavior. I wouldn't ever even get in someone's face when stopped about it. I do believe courteous dialog on this topic is a good thing, and I do think cyclists should strongly consider alternatives to riding on 55 mile per hour roads. Please. Before more people get hurt.