Following is a guest response to my post on April 25th about city cyclists by Jeff Williams.
Playing Well Together, Sharing Our Toys (and roads)
I’m sorry to see that some of you have inspired the ire of my friend and increasingly influential writer, Diane Markins. Would you please consider behaving yourselves as much as possible on the streets of Phoenix so that “we” (yes, the collective “we” of road cyclists) might be treated with more respect than disdain? In effect, respect means a better chance to live than to be maimed by drivers incensed by the arrogance of some of us. With that said, I have some rebuttals for you, Ms. Markins.
Road Hogs — Bike lanes should be used when available, but sometimes they aren’t user-friendly. Why? Drivers throw out trash, including broken glass onto the side of the road. It’s not always easy or safe to ride through such debris. To the roadies: Why not drive your bike to less traveled sections of pavement to enjoy less threatening cycling?
Flow from red lights — When we hog the road it is usually to protect ourselves. Some driver’s can’t stand to be delayed 2 seconds by a cyclist approaching a stop sign, so within 20 yards of the intersection they speed up then screech to a halt, endangering themselves and us by the reckless maneuver. If we go into the middle of a lane as we approach intersections we assert our right to obey the same traffic laws as drivers. We also hog the road in order that you might see us, and not try to pass where there is no room. When we hug the side of the road drivers think they have room to pass…not always true. We move out onto the road to protect us from being sideswiped, and you from being charged with a crime. Hogging the road helps to keep you out of jail, and your conscience free of the idiocy of saving five seconds at the cost of a life.
Blasting past slow traffic — You’ve got us here. I’ve done it. But sometimes it prevents more confusion and problems. For instance, if I “sneak” through a light before it turns green, then you get off the line as fast as you want, and turning cars don’t get confused about right of way. However, the hypocrisy of arrogant cyclists that obey traffic laws when convenient can’t be ignored. If we truly want to improve our reputation with motorists, this is a great way to do it. Yep, there are no excuses for us on this one, but crowded roads and lengthy waits at intersections is plenty of incentive to take the time to get out to country roads for safer riding for everyone. What? No country in Phoenix? Well, if cycling is that important to you, move somewhere that you can safely enjoy it.
They don’t pay their fair share — That’s a non-starter, in my opinion. The majority of cyclists in the U.S. also own and drive cars. We pay like the rest of you. So what if we’re masochistic and want to travel more miles of roadway than if we simply drive pollution machines?
Finally, the goofy bike attire. Diane, you don’t know what you don’t know. The goofy attire prevents tremendous pain. Have you ever tried to sit atop the tip of a spear for hours on end? Well, those skinny little seats turn into spears UNLESS there is padding between our sitting area and the saddle, and the padding of cycling shorts comes embedded in tight, bright patterns of sponsors who sometimes greatly subsidize the cost of the clothing. The fact that they are tight-fitting and made of special moisture-wicking material is both a comfort and performance issue. Chafing is averted, and wind resistance is minimized. AND, the bright colors are strategic. They help drivers who are going too fast and doing too many illegal things in their vehicles so that we all can avoid senseless tragedy. What would you propose we wear? Try twenty miles on a road bike in your most comfortable summer attire and I’m sure you’ll agree.
Thank you to the many patient and kind drivers that help us crazy cyclists to enjoy our passion for two-wheels. We hope to improve our reputation and safety by treating you with the same respect that we want to receive.
Jeff Williams, a roadie in the Midwest
OK, so I may be a bit more sympathetic after this explanation, but only when cyclists share the road with good manners! Share your thoughts below. Contact Jeff here.