I feel like I can trust you, so if I go off on a rant, can we keep it just among the six of us?
Bike riders have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers. Ever heard that? Ever tried to ride your bike through the In-N-Out drive-thru?
While I also drive a car, I have never had a person say to me, “You drivers never use your turn signals.” But I have had people say to me, “You cyclists always (or never) blah blah blah (fill in any number of automobile-oriented complaints here).”
Why am I responsible for the behavior of every cyclist?
I have to think this is why a few drivers will yell or honk at us for no apparent reason. Some bike rider somewhere did something wrong and, by gosh, these eight old men on bikes up ahead are going to hear about it. It might even be a good idea to scare them a little, because, you know, bike riders are all the same and not like me.
I’m told that there are countries in other parts of the world where people who ride bikes are just, uh, people. People like everybody else.
While it may perpetuate the feeling that bike riders are a special subset of humans (emphasis on the “sub”), the truth is that we cyclists need to help each other. Individually, we must do everything we can to stay alive. The obvious is to wear a helmet, bright clothes, use lights even in the day, stay alert and follow laws.
But we can do more.
First, help take care of other riders. When you pass a rider beside the road, make sure everything is OK. If they seem to know what they are doing when fixing a flat, make sure they have everything they need. You might have a better pump or a spare tube.
Stop to assist the novice rider with a dropped chain. You may get some grease on your hands but that’s why you wear black shorts.
You’re a local: make sure that puzzled-looking rider knows how to get to where he is going.
It’s a small thing but look like you’re having fun. Smile. Wave.
Because bike riders are conspicuous in this driver-centric world, people are always looking at you. Be courteous and communicate your intentions to drivers, pedestrians and other riders. I like to wave and say “thank you” to drivers who have waved me through an intersection or were very patient on a narrow road.
We don’t all have the talent or temperament to be an outspoken bicycle advocate but most of us can do something. If there’s a local politician supporting cycling infrastructure improvements in your town, put his/her sign on your lawn. You got any money? Donate to your local advocacy group.
Write a column or at least a letter to the editor.
And speak up. If you are an avid cyclist, you’ve been around people who don’t know that and rant how bike riders are always in the way and how they shouldn’t be allowed on country roads, blah blah blah.
Don’t let them get away with it. Let them know that you are a rider and resent being painted with a broad brush. Tell them the riders you know are careful, considerate and are drivers, too.
Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.