A call for "rants" was put out by the Cleveland Plain Dealer about bicyclists and drivers "sharing the road". Here is my response:
A “rant” implies anger, outburst, and rage; discourse on the other hand, is about dialogue, conversation, and communication. The real problem between the cyclist and the automobile is a misunderstanding about the rules of law. By law, a bicycle is considered a vehicle and thus entitled to use the roadways as such. This includes obeying the laws – stopping at stop signs and red lights, yielding where appropriate, and the use of signaling when turning. It also includes being respectful as well as attentive.
As gas prices continue to inch up toward the $5 mark, more and more people are going to rethink their transportation alternatives. When approached as transportation, a bicycle is efficient, non-polluting, and offers a healthy alternative to the rider and, in turn the employer.
The real issue is the lack of safe infrastructure for bicyclists in NE Ohio (and elsewhere of course). This is changing – access for cyclists as well as pedestrians and disabled is essential for a balanced and safe community. Many bicycle lanes, paths, and other marked roadways are either in the works or being planned for the not-too-distant future. As of now, many of these “bicycle routes” don’t go anywhere – they start and end in places people don’t want or more importantly NEED to go; rather they are landlocked recreational paths.
A cyclist who has good bicycle handling skills should have no trouble keeping up with the average speed in city traffic; in fact, many times the bicycle will be able to maintain higher speeds in congested, grid-locked traffic.
For those who are new to on-road cycling, it is advisable to learn how to ride in traffic safely. It IS unnerving to a driver to have a wobbling cyclist or one who weaves in and out of traffic.
For the driver who is fraught with frustrations and upset, perhaps putting yourself on the seat of a bicycle will give you that sense of well-being and satisfaction that most bicyclists feel. The actual amount of time that a driver might be “held back” due to a cyclist on the road is a lot less than you might think – usually seconds. Perhaps leaving a few minutes early might give you time to relax instead of fret on your way to work?
Those who ride bicycles, for the most part, also own a car. We work, raise our families, pay taxes, and yes, we ride bicycles. We are not freaks, free-loaders, or asking for anything special.
Finally, as a note of history – many, if not most of the roads in the United States were originally paved to accommodate this new-fangled machine – the bicycle - around the turn of the 20th century.
So, SHOULD bicycles and cars share the road? Yes and no. One can always argue on whatever side one wishes.
Diane Lees, producer and host – The Outspoken Cyclist on WJCU-88.7FM
Co-Owner, HubBub Custom Bicycles – Chesterland, OH