Sunday, March 14, 2010

Just be the better person...

Spring seemingly has sprung! For the first time in years, here in MN we had a true winter. 100+ days of the snow pack, and we are all antsy to see it leave. Today the temp topped out close to 60 degrees, and with the fact that I was cooped up all day at work (which is in the basement of a hospital with no windows), I was ready to be outside. More specifically, the roads have been drying out nicely with the recent warm weather, and the conditions have turned favorable for bike riding again. Even though I have been dealing with a bad back for a while now, I decided to suck it up and go for a ride when I got home. So while Elli went running, Dav and I went over to Erik's and picked up some essentials to get the bike ready for a spin.

I was suited up and on the road by about 6:30 or so. I was almost hit by my first car of the season about 4 minutes later.

Now brace yourself, because I'm gonna stir up the old argument about where cyclists should be on the road. In MN, it is LAW that we be on the road. If there is an available shoulder, meaning that little stretch of pavement separated from the main road by a white line, we CANNOT ride on the walking path. That's why they are called walking paths. "But Jake, don't I see people riding on the Gateway trail or the Bruce Vento trails?" Yes, yes you do. However those are different from the paths that line Lexington and even Hwy 96. Those have been widened and built for use by both walkers and cyclists. The thing to take away from this paragraph is not only do we have a right to be on the road, in most cases, the law requires us to be there.

OK, now that I have all you non cyclists heated up and swearing under your breath and muttering all kinds of nasty things, I concede there are plenty of law breaking cyclists out there. First and foremost, many of us cyclists, even the ones all decked out in fancy bike attire and having freshly shaved legs, blow through a stop sign from now and then. Personally, I make a point to at least come to a almost complete stop every time. While I don't put a foot down each and every time, I never blow through a red sign or light. Lots of cyclist do, and if they do, you have every right to honk at them or yell at them. Not only is it not safe for everyone involved, it's illegal. Technically we are a motor vehicle, so we have to abide by the same laws of traffic signals. This means stop at red, go at green. If there is no one around, and I have double checked, then yes, I roll through a stop sign every now and then. But you never do that in your car right?

Now, how about the most irritating one, and the one that I hear griped about on both sides of the coin many times over. The group of cyclists riding in a pack all over the road. First, the law. By MN statue, we cyclists have a right to ride 2 abreast in the bike specific lane, i.e. shoulder of the road. I readily admit, unless there are just 2 cyclists together, this rarely, if ever, happens. When Ian and I go ride, we make a very pronounced point to follow the law. Hardly ever do we ride side by side. But many cyclists do, and it sucks. It impinges on traffic flow, it's unsafe, and it's just downright rude of them. But sometimes, there is justification for not riding right on the shoulder of the bike lane. Now before you start spewing your venom again about getting the hell off of your road, let me just say again there is JUSTIFICATION, but that doesn't make it right, it's just reasoning for why it's simply not feasible to ride right on the side of the road. For starters, especially this time of the year, there is a lot of sand and other hazards piled up on the side of the road that make running skinny tires through at a high rate of speed not possible. We try to avoid that because we want to remain upright. Glass and sand on the side of the road are hazards to us, and much like when you are driving your car, you want to avoid hazards so you move over. Personally, and I know a lot of cyclists who do this, we will try and get back on the side of the road as quickly as possible. But sometimes the sand trail goes on for a few miles. Secondly, we live in MN, the land of potholes. They are in the middle of the road, and they also occur at the side of the road. You think hitting one of those bad boys with your car sucks, try smacking one going 20 mph on tires pumped up to 120psi and see if you don't knock a few teeth out. My point here is that sometimes we don't see things until we are right up on them, and at that point we swerve out of the way so that we don't go flying over the handle bars and eat some asphalt.

There are plenty of bad cyclists out there. Those that feel that they are entitled to the road just because they are on a bike give those of us who are responsible riders a bad rap. But if you're coming up to us in a car, or even one of those jackasses ignoring you and riding right in the middle of the road, I implore you to just be the better person, wait a few seconds for an opening, and then give a very wide space as you pass. I don't care if you scowl or give us the finger or roll down your window and yell obscenities. Just please give the cyclists room. They may not deserve it, but god forbid they hit a pot hole or something forces them unsuspectingly into your path. You have a thousand pounds of metal, we have 20 lbs of carbon fiber. You're gonna win that meeting. Everytime.

Still not convinced? Then think of it this way: If something happens to me out there, Elli is widowed and Daven is young enough that he won't remember what his Dad was like. This situation will be true for thousands of other cyclists who have families.

Be the better person. Whether or not we deserve it, just give us some room. That's all I ask.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN Jakey! Good information, some that I did not know. I am very respectful of bikers (even the not so deserving ones), probably more now that I know you are one of them. It sure has made me so much more aware of them. Be careful out there, there are many people that should know this info but still do not. Love, Mom


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