Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Biker’s Manifesto

[a change from the political-based stories I usually share... but something important nonetheless]

Having lived life as both a driver of a car and as a biker (an actual commuter, in-the-streets-everyday biker, not an “I love using my $2,000 bike after Sunday brunch” biker), I feel it is time to give some tips to both sides of the wheeled traffic universe as to how to better get along and not kill one another. There is an inherent antagonism between these two species of transportation, each stubbornly clinging to their own ideals and beliefs while thinking the other side is either, a) tree-hugging hippies; or b) gas-guzzling capitalists. The truth lies somewhere in between.

To Cars
: Your innate momentum and inertia gives you a certain feeling of supremacy over others on the road ((until you run into that 18-wheeler), and it tends to dilute your thought processes and perspective of others on the road. To you, I say the following:

  • Don’t squeeze us out. Bikers have as much a right to the road as you do; don’t try to run us off onto the curb or onto the sidewalk. Since we are smaller, we usually leave the majority of the lane to you so you can pass if necessary and so we do not take up a lot of room, since we know we are smaller and slower. But, when you approach a red light and know a biker is coming up soon, do not slide as far to the right as you can to prevent them from scooting up to the front. That just annoys us and makes us more likely to scratch your car. Likewise, do not shout at us to get off the road or other such nonsense. Bikes do not belong on sidewalks, and don’t try to relocate them there by force (Bikers, see below for your own admonishments).
  • Signal. For the love of all things holy, making sudden turns without signaling is dangerous, and very, very rude. Even when turning right, give us a signal so we know to slow down or swerve to avoid you, since bikes usually are traveling to the right of your front door. And when you do turn, do not speed up in order to beat us to the light. Most likely you will have to slow down to make the turn, and that has led to many an accident with a bike plowing into your passenger side doors. Just sit back, be patient, and
  • Relax. Bikers do not have your acceleration or stability; sometimes they wobble, and it takes us a little longer to start up from a stand-still. So if we’re in the left-turn lane and it clears, don’t honk or get annoyed while we get up from 0mph to cruising speed. The extra two seconds it takes us is not worth losing your head over. Remember, you’re faster than us. You can make up the time.
To Bikers: You have taken on the ideas that you are some sort of privileged pedestrian pedaling through the streets; this must stop. Sharing the road with cars has great advantages, and is mandated by law, but also by that law you must obey.
  • Obey traffic signs. If there is a red light, do not assume you can “jay-bike” across and everything’s cool. I have nearly hit bikes who did not see me and ventured into an intersection against a red light. If it is red, stop and wait for the light to change. It aggravates drivers to no end when you dart away, weaving through cars and busing lights. Similarly, if there is traffic and you approach a stop sign, YOU ARE REQUIRED TO STOP. Do not roll through like some bougie pedestrian. You’re part of traffic. Get with the program.
  • Signal. Just like cars, make sure you signal when you are turning. Especially when turning left, bikes tend to wobble in the intersection while waiting for a clearance in traffic, and that makes drivers nervous. Giving them a sign as to your intentions will help ease the strain on both sides.
  • Stay off the sidewalks. You are a part of wheeled traffic when you are on your bike. You are not a pedestrian; you move to fast and cannot stop as easily. Thus, do not ride your bikes on the sidewalk. Not only is it illegal, it is against common courtesy. Stay in the street where you belong.
If all of us could heed these suggestions, we’d be much better off as a transportative society. Be respectful and considerate of your fellow travelers; they share the same road with you and are facing the same set of problems and frustrations. Don’t hate; be at peace with one another, and you will all get to your destination on time and unfrazzled. Safe commuting!

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