Editorial: Danger on the roads

Posted: January 22, 2007 in Bikes, Cycling, Safety

Amid reports of another cyclist almost killed by another apparently negligent driver a cyclist wrote, “it be nice if all cyclists could file a class action suit against any drunks/aggressive drivers who we all face but are lucky enough to escape from.”

I think this would only be fair if the reverse would be true if good motorists could also collect from aggressive cyclists who create a dangerous situation with the possibility of causing an accident the good drivers are lucky enough to escape from.

Just as there are bad drivers there are also bad cyclists. A week ago my wife Sue and I were driving west on Shannon after a hike. We passed a cyclist who was going up hill. As we descended the road at the speed limit the cyclist pulled up behind us, inches from our rear bumper, filling up my rear view mirror. He was a big guy with a white beard who looked like Santa Claus and was riding what looked like a green Masi. There was no place for me to pull over to let him pass. Everytime the road pitched up he dropped back. When the road pitched down he was back in my mirror. I maintained the speed limit (as I always try to do) no matter the incline.

If a deer had pulled out in front of me I would have had to hit the deer or else, had I hit the brakes, have this idiot cyclist plastered all over the back of my Subaru. Had the idiot cyclist been driving a motorized vehicle his tailgating would have been clearly against the law. But, some cyclists seem to think it is okay to “draft” vehicles at any time without the drivers consent. Had I not been a cyclist myself this dangerous behavior might soured me on all cyclists.

I think we should prosecute all folks on the road who drive or ride dangerously and should be able to file appropriate suits. I wonder how we would identify this class though as it involves both motorists and cyclists as well? Perhaps we could call them “idiots on the road”?

As a driver/cyclist I am constantly amazed and frightened by what folks on the road do these days. I always try to leave at least four seconds between myself and whatever is on the road in front of me except when I pass. When cyclists draft cyclists, even when both are consenting and working together it is hazardous But, at least both parties are consenting. I crashed my bike a couple of years ago when I was on my way to work drafting another cyclist. A car pulled out of a side street, through a stop sign in front of my riding buddy. I broke three ribs when my buddy had to stop quickly and I hit his rear tire. The car that pulled out in front of my riding partner kept going without stopping. When cyclists draft cars that do not consent to being drafted, it can be frightening for the driver and add to road hostility.

I was almost hit twice within about 5 minutes last Friday by lunatic drivers; and I was in my car! I think there is a growing level of anger and selfishness that is manifesting itself on our roads. Cars are lethal weapons! Have you seen car ads on TV lately? They show people driving like lunatics and sell cars based on how they can be used aggressively!

In my opinion: Anything that can be done to lower the tension level on the road and increase civility among road users is a positive thing. I believe only by treating each other with respect, building change one user at a time, refusing to give in to anger, giving folks space and at times returning kindness for rudeness can we diffuse the mess our roads are. In my opinion it is not about car vs. bike, or even car vs. car. I think it goes deeper than that.

If you have time for a video, I wish we had this kind of patience and respect for each other and could manifest that in how we use the roads.

Too many innocents are dying, both cyclists and motorists!

  1. karlmccracken says:

    Hi Steve –
    A good reminder that none of us has a monopoly on being right! I regularly overtake queues of cars who’re waiting for traffic lights, but do so with a lot more caution than some of my fellow cyclists seem to appreciate. I learned the lesson well when I was a 20 year-old testosterone-fuelled student cyclist. In three months I had three very near misses that were all down to my own stooopidity in playing with the traffic. After the third, I had a moment of clarity, and realised that perhaps the guys in their tin boxes weren’t the only jerks on the road . . . .

    . . . . I still get near-misses now. But I tend to see them coming – drivers who’ve only cleared a 10 inch circle in the windscreen ice is my particular favourite at this time of year!

  2. […] I left a comment on Sloan’s Cycling Blog just over a week ago about how I’d got over my ‘Yeeehah I’m […]

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