from Westchester, Ill.
He leaned on his horn as he sped up to pass me, his side view mirror barely clearing the edge of my left handlebar. The blare from the horn and the revving of his engine caused a wild rush of adrenaline to grip me. My brain switched into survival mode, causing me to hold the straightest line possible.
I remember he looked back, perhaps to see how I would react. I calmly stared ahead at the road, focusing on where my bike was going rather than on the three-ton pickup truck that could have quite possibly ruined two lives that day.
I arrived at my class in the Carman Pavilion shaken, upset and embarrassed. In the world of cyclists we have a term for what I had just encountered: getting buzzed.
It was something I have experienced countless times before while on my bike. Nevertheless, it’s something one just does not get used to. Not only does it send my heart pounding, but it also makes me feel as though everyone I encounter on the road wouldn’t mind running me under the wheels of their vehicle.
Of course, I know this is not the case. I could not even begin to count the number of vehicles that have passed me with adequate room, at a low speed or even with a friendly wave.
This past spring one amiable postal worker was kind enough to slow down and initiate a pleasant conversation with me.
So why the disconnect? I ride my bike to the Carman Pavilion five days per week for class. I also experience some kind of unnecessary hostility from random drivers a few times each week.
According to MapMyRide.com it’s 0.93 miles from my residential college to Carman. While I understand College Farm Road is narrow and not the ideal place for cyclists, it also happens there is no other road that leads to that particular building.
I suppose I could hop on the Racer Route Red line, but I spent my whole life before college (and this past summer) commuting around a big city by bus. It’s not my favorite pastime.
I also suppose I could just drive my car. But it seems kind of superfluous to me to waste all of that gas when my class is only a mile away.
As anyone who rides a bike can confirm, there is something special about commuting on your trusted two wheels. The beautiful weather we’ve been having makes it that much more enjoyable. Nothing relaxes me more than a five-minute bike ride between classes.
I guess what I’m looking for is respect on both sides. Cyclists and motorists both have a right to the road. Motorists need to understand that a few tons of steel moving at a traveling pace is a machine that can take a human life. Give cyclists at least three feet of elbow room and slow down for a few seconds if you can. Blaring your horn or buzzing a rider could cause that person to swerve into your vehicle out of a fear response.
According to the Kentucky Revised Statutes, bikes are to be ridden in the streets and not on the sidewalks (Title XVI, Chapter 189). People generally don’t look for fast-moving traffic on sidewalks.
As for cyclists, always obey traffic signals and road markings. You can and will be ticketed if you blow a stop sign or ignore a traffic light. Ride on the right side of the lane in the direction that traffic is going. Use your hands to signal. And leave a foot or so to your right in case someone passes a little too close and you need to swerve. Also try to make eye contact with drivers and be predictable.
There’s no reason why we all can’t share the road. If we’re patient with and empathetic to one another I think we can make this work.