Cycling and Motorists – A Few Thoughts

Cycling and Motorists – A Few Thoughts

Every once in awhile, I feel the need/desire/want to share something that is more than just fashion and fitness and all rainbows and butterflies. There are times when there are issues that need to be addressed that I feel are important to humanity. I am a cyclist, a triathlete, an adventurer. Someone who truly enjoys the outdoors, and when I first moved to San Diego, I was so moved by all the people I saw every day out running, biking, surfing, etc. It was my heaven. I’m deeply saddened by how much my love and experience of those moments has changed. And I’m honestly just trying to understand.

There needs to be a balance of understanding the rules of the road, and respecting humans. We know we already have a texting and driving problem. Our culture needs to slow down and reprioritize if you ask me. If we don’t respond to an email or text right away, people are wondering where we are, and why we haven’t responded yet. We live in a world of the instantaneous. And in some ways that’s fun and awesome, and in other ways, it’s ruining our lives.

To me, living life to the fullest doesn’t mean speeding through life, and doing as much as one can. It doesn’t mean making as much money as one can, and sacrificing others to get there. Living life to the fullest to me, means truly enjoying life, loving each other, and living a life full of love, honor, respect, trust, and community.

2010…

When I first started riding bikes competitively for triathlon and training, I was living in Chicago. I was terrified to ride outside, and so I did most of my rides on the trainer. To me, it wasn’t worth a crash to ride outside. Not only that, there isn’t a lot of riding in Chicago. Then, I moved out to San Diego, the mecca and birth of triathlon, and I was so excited to ride outside, but again, I was afraid. I spent more time on the trainer than riding out on the roads, until a friend of mine encouraged me to get out there. There were so many beautiful roads to be ridden. So, eventually I mulled up the courage and started to head outdoors. Before, I knew it, I was doing practically every ride outside – group rides and solo rides.

I have been living in San Diego now for almost 5yrs, and have spent the majority of riding my bike outdoors while living here. I have seen the city take steps to making the roads more bike-friendly. In fact, Encinitas, took one whole lane and made it a “shared” lane, so that cyclists had more room to ride, since there was no bike lane. It has been a step in the right direction. I have seen the shared lane continue to be created in cities all over the country, as well as designated bike lanes. How amazing it is for cities to respect and encourage exercise and outdoor activity. Unfortunately, so far, I am finding that there is little education on the rules of the road when it comes to cyclists. This guy is a prime example of that…Watch the video below…

I’m writing this post, not only because of what I have seen happen to other people, but because of my own experiences, as well. Yesterday, was my last straw, and now I have to speak up. I have to do my part, even if it’s just a little bit, even if only a few people read this post and share it.

It feels like nearly every day, these days, I’m hearing about someone who has gotten in an accident being struck by a car. I think the truth is, we live in a distracted, fast paced world. We all do it, I’m at fault for texting and driving, and speeding, or being in a rush, but something has to change.

Things got real for me, when a dear friend, John Abate was struck by a car while riding a couple weeks ago. The most bizarre part is, the driver, after hitting John, parked his car, ran out, and as he was approaching John, John came-to, and the driver ran back to his car and sped off. And since then the driver is nowhere to be found. Read more about his story here. I am so saddened by this event.

I believe we are all good people at heart. I don’t think that this was a malicious act, or intentional, and all these accidents, I believe are truly accidents. But, sometimes the choices leading up to the accidents are intentional. Answering a text when we should be paying attention to the road. I’ve even seen people doing their make up while driving. But, I also think that we’ve gotten to a point where we are living our lives unaware or subconsciously making decisions that are causing accidents.

I am a driver. I DRIVE the roads. The best part about this whole conundrum is that almost ALL cyclists are also drivers (I’m sure there are a few who don’t drive at all or might be too young to have a driver’s license), so we get it. We know what it’s like to be in a rush, in your car, and have a cyclist be on the road. They aren’t in the bike lane, and they are making you even later. The unfortunate thing is, you don’t know what’s in the road. There could have been glass, or a pothole, or a dead animal that they are avoiding in the bike lane (if there is one).

The law states to give cyclists 3 feet distance between them and your car. Cyclists just like driver’s are watching the road, and sometimes have to avoid things in the road (just like a driver would if suddenly a blown tire, or dead animal or live one for that matter is in the road).

I know what it feels like to pass a cyclist, it can be scary, and so sometimes we slow down. Sometimes we misjudge how big our cars are, or the distance between us and the cyclist, but when in doubt, slow down and give even more room than you think you need. If you can’t move over into the next lane, be patient. It is not worth taking the risk to see if you can squeeze by.

cycling

DSCF9871_1 DSCF0100

Photos by Topher Riley

My story

Yesterday, I was out riding with friends, and had dropped off the back, suddenly I had this gut feeling that I shouldn’t be riding alone. Before I knew it, a white cadillac SUV came by, and moved to the right closer to me, slowed down and brushed my shoulder. I was inside the white line. It gave me such a fright, I stopped, threw up, and then started sobbing. Not far away, Topher, Jené, and Courtney all rode up and were there to calm me down. I was super grateful, but, all I could think was, WTF just happened?

Did a car literally just slow down, move over toward the right? Were they distracted? There were lots of cars coming on the other side, did they move over toward me accidentally? Did they not want to slow down and wait for those cars to pass to give me room while they passed me? In some ways it felt almost intentional, like a bit of road rage, but I want to believe it was an accident because I just can’t imagine someone actually wanting to hit me or give me a fright.

What I’m starting to understand is there is a lack of attentiveness, awareness, or understanding when it comes to motorists and cyclists on the road. The road is a shared place. According to California Law, any road can be used by cyclists, even if there isn’t a bike lane. When there isn’t a bike lane, cyclists are to be as far to the right as possible without being in danger of hitting a curb, falling into a ditch, etc. If there is no shoulder, cyclists are allowed to be in the lane closest to the right, on the furthest right of the lane. This is the law.

Which brings me to another story…

Topher and I had woken up a couple weeks ago to ride at sunrise, when there’s barely any traffic out. As we were riding, and pulling up to a stoplight, a guy in a truck with a surfboard in the back yelled out to us “Get off the road you fucking idiots”. Literally, we were just sitting at a stop light. We had done nothing wrong. It was so angry, it made me want to chase him down and ask him, what are you so angry about? Why on earth would you speak that way to someone? I was shocked – the guy was about to go surf. I associate surfing with peacefulness. Nothing was peaceful about this guy’s energy and what he said.

I’m at a loss of words for this situation. Although neither of us were physically injured in this situation, the hatred that was spoken, was unprovoked, and makes you wonder…why?

I understand the frustration as a motorist when cyclists are in the middle of the road, or taking up the road, but is it because there is no shoulder? What is the reasoning? Are they trying to protect themselves because there are parked cars on the right, and they are trying to avoid being clothes-lined by someone opening their car door into them?

Rules to understand:

  • Shared lanes – a shared lane is when there is a symbol of a bicycle in the “car” lane. This means that a cyclist or group of cyclists can take up the whole lane.
  • Bicycle Lane – this is a lane specific for cyclists to ride in. They legally are designed at a certain width for cyclists to be able to ride. The only reason a cyclist would leave the designated area is for a hazard.
  • No lane – a cyclist must be as far right as possible by the white line without causing hazard to potentially hit the curb or fall into a ditch, etc. They can move left to avoid any hazards.

I think simply understanding these rules and accepting them as the law, can help to better alleviate tension between cyclists and motorists.

In terms of the guy yelling at Toph and I, that just starts with accepting people’s differences. It is changing words like that into something encouraging like, “have a great ride!”. It is rejoicing and celebrating the different ways we all enjoy this journey and our time here on earth. I don’t have the exact answer, but educating people on the laws is a start. And the guy who yelled at the cyclist at the beginning of this blog post is a prime example of that. Watch this video of the follow up with the driver below…

 

 

Always wanting to make the world a better place for us all to live in…

xoxo!

Katie

  • Katie Morse

    Agreed! Education is HUGE! Most people have no idea what a “shared road” is.

  • monika wize

    Thanks for writing this – such an important message! I live and ride in Toronto and we experience the same thing up here. They are really trying to improve road infrastructure, but unfortunately there should be a driver (and cyclist) education piece about sharing the road. I also wish that most people would just leave early and be more patient with other drivers, cyclists and pedestrians.