I’m sitting at a red light on my bike, waiting to turn left. There’s a string of cars behind me, all of whom want to get through the light before it turns red again. I’m well aware of this. I’m also well aware that my acceleration speed is well below even the ancient pickupÂ spewing fumes behind me. I’m on the right side of the lane so I can make a wide turn and the cars can go inside me. But there’s gravel in my path and I’m worried about sliding. Also, I have to watch for the cars turning right from the oppositeÂ direction, who may not be paying close enough attention to notice a cyclist. As the light turns green, I hold my breath as I push off into the intersection.
In 2012, 726 bicyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles while 49,000 were injured. The average age of cyclists killed in crashes was 43 (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts).
Image from Confessions of A…
I’m a cyclist and a triathlete.Â I love riding my bike outside. I love how it feels to move much faster than my running pace. I enjoyÂ getting out into the VirginiaÂ countryside, away from traffic. I enjoy riding in a group and I’m also happy riding alone. But I’m scared. I’m scared of the drivers out there who aren’t paying attention, who are on their phones or otherwise distracted. I’m scared of the drivers who hate cyclists. Who cut me off (yes, it happens), yell insults, throw objects (yes, that happens too), drive too close (the law states motorists must give riders three feet of clearance, but many drivers are unaware of this), threaten to hit me or my riding partner (which is threatening assault with a deadly weapon and is reason to call the police), or post on public message boards how much they hate cyclists and how they should be banned from certain roads in my neighborhood. Yes, all these things have happened.
My bike weighs 18 pounds. I weigh 112. So combined we’re 130 and clearly no match for several tons of steel. Yet a fewÂ drivers seem to think it’s fun to play cat and mouse with a cyclist. It’s not. It’s terrifying. I always ride with my Road ID, insurance card, and cell phone. I have an ICE-dot sensor for my helmet.Â I tell people where I’m going and how long I expect to be out.
Thankfully, the majority of drivers are courteous around cyclists. But it only takes one who is not, to change a life forever. When I am driving and see a cyclist, I am hyper-aware of the need to give the rider some space. It might mean waiting to pass (a few extra seconds out of my day) or changing lanes, but I know how that rider feels. There are times when I encounter cyclists on roads I would never ride my bike on because I just consider them too dangerous. That doesn’t mean they don’t have a right to be there and I don’t have a duty to give them room.
I have friends who have been in biking accidents. Thankfully they have all recovered. But falling off a bike going 30 mph is not pretty. And that’s when it doesn’t involve contact with several tons of steel. I know the majority of people reading this are probably cyclistsÂ and/or don’t have a grudge against cyclists. But if this post just makes one person a little more aware of what it’s like to be a cyclist, then it’s worth the time I took to write it.