My Own Ignorance

While living in Miami, FL, I had toyed with the idea to ride my “Target Special” bicycle to the gym and around my neighborhood.  Being a “Bike Noob”, I clung desperately to the sidewalk with fear as I made my way around town.

Having to deal with cars, trucks, and buses was too much to ask.  It took forever to get anywhere!  I gave up riding the bike out of pure frustration.  It was sent to its resting place in the backyard, where it had been waiting quietly in the previous ten years.

Fast forward to 2006.  When I moved to Orlando three years ago,  I decided to locate housing close to work.  Little did I know that I would find such in the two weeks I had before starting my new job.  The area looked good, especially with such little recon.  Car traffic was minimal and we drove around effortlessly.  Car use was still our main source of transportation.  October 2007 would be the beginning of my “enlightenment!”

A co-worker, an avid cyclist from Miami, FL, would entice me to try riding my bike to work.  I felt that commuting would be possible, except for the fact the sidewalks ended about halfway and would be forced to ride the road.  Not what I really wanted to do.  We both were gutter bunnies, while on the road, and it made for a very stressful ride to say the least.

One day while surfing the internet, I decided to search for bicycle laws.  One of the first hits was the Florida Bicycle Association website.  After reading there, I surfed more and came across our blog CommuteOrlando.com.  Interesting enough, both FBA and CommuteOrlando referenced Street Smarts, by John Allen.  I requested my free copy and read the online version numerous times in anticipation of the hard copy.  I would recommend you get yours today.

Finding the Florida Statutes, led me to the fact that bicycles ARE vehicles and ARE allowed use of the road.  Imagine my astonishment that after getting off the sidewalks and taking the road, I reduced my commute by 8-10 minutes.  No more waiting for cross-walk signals, no more having to save my friend from becoming a hood ornament due to right hand turning cars,  and no more NOT BEING SEEN by drivers!

My ignorance was no more.  I began studying all I could about bike laws, commuting, vehicular cycling, and bike maintenance.  It has been almost two years since taking up the commute and cycling and it feels great.  I am no longer dependent on the auto for my local transportation needs.  Self-reliance is an awesome thing!

However, ignorance still exists, even here on our blog.  But what exactly IS ignorance?

Dictionary.com defines ignorance as follows:

  1. the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc.
  2. The condition of being uneducated, unaware, or uninformed.
  3. The condition of being ignorant; the want of knowledge in general, or in relation to a particular subject; the state of being uneducated or uninformed.

By utilizing blogs like CommuteOrlando.com and others of the like, we can gain insight and learning from others on how to change our thinking, our way of doing things, our way of making a positive change in ourselves and our communities.  But alas, there are those who do not or will not agree to see how to make things better for themselves and others.

The term “willful ignorance” better describes the state of those, who after being given correct and proper information, choose to stay their misguided course.  We are only human and there is no one right answer for everything or everyone. Ignorance is one thing, but willful ignorance is another.

The goal of CommuteOrlando.com is stated on the home page as:

This site is dedicated to Orlando Metro Area cyclists who are currently using their bikes for transportation, or want to.  Commuting by bike is a great way to save money, get exercise, unwind and feel like you’re doing something good for yourself and the environment.

The state and local governments enact laws to protect us form ourselves.  Some help and others don’t.  As users of the roads, we cyclists (as vehicle drivers) are to obey and adhere to the laws as if we were driving our cars (after all, we are using the roads, right?)  Even pedestrians have to obey the laws put into place to protect them!

Vehicular cycling has been an eye opener for me.  I can easily, effortlessly, and confidently control my bike in just about any traffic condition.  Does this mean that I always have to take the main arterials?  Nope!

Making the transition from car to bicycle, the “get-there-itis” mentality fogs the cyclists point of view.  We no longer have to think about taking the most direct, widely used, heavily congested route.  Sure, it may take a few minutes more to zig-zag the neighborhoods, but I have found out that the ride is much more enjoyable and I don’t have to keep looking at the SUV’s tail lights ahead of me coming on every 5 seconds!

Vehicular cycling, a highly recommended tool embraced by many on this blog,  isn’t a panacea for our woes, but it is very effective in our gaining confidence in our skills to safely navigate our roads and streets. Vehicular cycling is a tool, people.  For some, it has become a way of life and  it can be both.  Too often the properly educated cyclists suffer from the attitudes of motorists that all cyclists are scofflaws and hoodlums that don’t command respect, don’t belong, and shouldn’t be on the road.

CommuteOrlando.com is trying to change the perceptions of our communities and country.  By acting with respect towards other users of the roads and practicing vehicular cycling on the road, we are making progress with this blog and others of the like.

For those willfully ignorant, give yourself a chance.  This blog can help you to understand a better way to ride.  My own ignorance was cured and I am learning how to do things better every day.  Together we can make a difference.  The bicycle is making a comeback.

Choose to be one of the front runners of the effort before the masses get the idea!  God Bless and Tailwinds!

22 replies
  1. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Better than reading Rodney’s latest long post, read the evolution and tone of his comments since he first commented on this blog until now.

    It’s like watching a time lapse sequence of a flower blossoming – and he inspires me not to fall behind. I just hope I may return the favor at some point. In two words, “well said.”

  2. José
    José says:

    Nice post Rodney! I can relate to most of your experience. I was also a gutter bunny for a few months of my bike commute; even though I had already read Street Smarts. The concept of riding farther left into the lane remained an abstract idea because I never saw anydoby actually doing it. This blog and Kerry’s enlightening videos helped me to venture out into the lane. I have been riding as a vehicular cyclist for a few months now and I feel more and more confident and save.

    I think that fear (especially the fear of getting hit by a car from behind) and the absence of direct visual examples (not just from text and drawings in a book) are some of the major blocks that prevent people from giving it a try.

  3. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    It is not intuitive to just start riding in the middle of the road. We’ve been conditioned not to venture there ….. and without someone to show/tell you it can be done and done safely, many will not.

    But it starts with a few giving example, and then others will look, question, and then (hopefully) follow …..

  4. MikeOnBike
    MikeOnBike says:

    Andrew said “It is not intuitive to just start riding in the middle of the road.”

    To be more precise, I would rephrase that as “middle of the lane”.

    Of course, for any other driver, it’s totally intuitive to drive in the middle of the lane.

  5. José
    José says:

    Sorry for totally mispelling your name Keri.

    Rodeny wrote: “Choose to be one of the front runners of the effort before the masses get the idea!”

    I think about that a lot when i ride my bike. I figure there has been a lot of work done to put cyclist laws where they are now. They are not perfect because there seems to be a lot of misinterpretation about our right to ride on the road, but still our rights have been established.

    I think if I ride “in the middle of the lane,” I am doing my part to perpetuate the notion (and law) that bicycling is a bonafide mode of transportation and that we belong on the road.

  6. Keri
    Keri says:

    Mike said: “Of course, for any other driver, it’s totally intuitive to drive in the middle of the lane.”

    It’s hard work to undo the psychological baggage that’s been heaped upon us. To teach safe cycling, you first have to undo the enculturation.

    Which is a hard enough job without “end-justifies-means” bike advocates REINFORCING the enculturation with crappy segregated facilities.

    I just finished riding a series of passes on the Pinellas trail cycle track in St Pete with John Allen. What a boondoggle! It’s a slow, conflict-ridden obstacle course that makes cycling frustrating as hell. All in the name of coddling misperceptions and getting political brownie points with a symbolic showpiece facility. Who cares if it’s worthless to actual cyclists. Who cares if a 1000 useful things could have been done for cyclists in this downtown for what it cost to build that of 9 blocks of nonsense.

    Talk about ignorance.

  7. Keri
    Keri says:

    Said José:
    “I think if I ride “in the middle of the lane,” I am doing my part to perpetuate the notion (and law) that bicycling is a bonafide mode of transportation and that we belong on the road.”

    I LOVE YOU, MAN!

    I’ll smile all day for that statement.

  8. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    Last night, on a two lane 55 MPH road with 3 foot shoulders, a passing motorist slowed to ask me; “Are you asking for it, man?” He went on to express that as someone who has bicycled in the past, he would “never do something as crazy” as what I was doing.

    I said not a word to him, but it made me wonder, didn’t he see me? Wasn’t he able to avoid crashing into me? Why does he think others would not?

    This is the power of enculturation. A motorist believed I was endangering myself over the evidence presented by his experience. I guess he can’t believe his lying eyes!

    A Google map street view:
    http://maps.google.com/maps?hl=en&ei=Y6IVSuvvN4yW8gS4_OHHAg&q=lancaster,+texas&ie=UTF8&ll=32.578895,-96.75921&spn=0.017322,0.024762&t=h&z=15&layer=c&cbll=32.576914,-96.7574&panoid=rVgmu7CW2l_AK61wwON-mg&cbp=12,55.09,,0,5

  9. José
    José says:

    Oh no! now I misspelled Rodney’s name (see comment#5), sorry.

    Keri wrote:
    “I LOVE YOU, MAN!
    I’ll smile all day for that statement.”

    Sweeeeeeeeet! right back at you!
    You’re my bicycle Guru!
    I never even dreamed that bicycling around the streets could be so sophisticated.

  10. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    So, ChipSeal, after the exchange, did the motorist illegally cross the double yellow to pass you?

  11. Wayne Pein
    Wayne Pein says:

    Just the other day my wife and I were on our narrow 2-lane low traffic neighborhood collector when a driver a good distance behind us started honking. We were on a curve and climb which in a short time opens up to a 3 lane road. The driver kept honking so I stopped in the middle of the road, turned around and approached her. Me: “Don’t demand that I get out of your way.” Female driver: “I’m sorry sir. I was concerned for your safety.” Me: “Don’t be concerned. Wait your turn.” Her: Zooms away.

    Wayne

  12. ChipSeal
    ChipSeal says:

    Steve A asked me:
    “So, ChipSeal, after the exchange, did the motorist illegally cross the double yellow to pass you?”

    This fella had already done so! He was facing oncoming traffic while pacing me. He seemed to want to deliver a far more lengthy lecture, but oncoming traffic prevented it!

    About a third of the traffic that overtook me on that portion of my trip passed on the right. (Scofflaw motoring!) The majority of those did so when there was no opposing traffic in sight!

    I should note, however, all traffic I encountered displayed due care and passed me in a safe manner*- more than five feet of room and lower than the speed limit no matter which side they overtook me on.

    *That is, if passing on the right could be described as a safe manner! What they did is illegal by statute in Texas.

    • Rodney
      Rodney says:

      (Emphasis mine)

      Seeing as a bicycle is defined as a “device” and not a vehicle,(TX) SUBCHAPTER C. Sec. 541.201. VEHICLES. In this subtitle:

      (1)(G)(2) “Bicycle” means a device that a person may ride and that is propelled by human power and has two tandem wheels at least one of which is more than 14 inches in diameter….

      (TX) SUBCHAPTER B. Sec. 545.051. DRIVING ON RIGHT SIDE OF ROADWAY. (a) An operator on a roadway of sufficient width shall drive on the right half of the roadway, unless:

      (1) the operator is passing another vehicle;

      (2) an obstruction necessitates moving the vehicle left of the center of the roadway and the operator yields the right-of-way to a vehicle that:…

      I would interpret this would be the exception for crossing the solid double yellow lines for overtaking a cyclist. Obstruction is a misnomer to say the least when discussing cycling in the travel lane. I am normal and reasonable traffic.

  13. Keri
    Keri says:

    I’ve had several drivers slow to my speed in the left lane of a 4-lane (thus obstructing traffic) to lecture me about where to ride.

    The most ridiculous was when a small group of us were claiming the lane on a winding, narrow 2-lane where it was unsafe to pass due to sight lines and oncoming traffic. As soon as a shoulder developed, we moved aside to allow several cars that had stacked up behind us to pass. The driver of the first one slowed to our speed and began to lecture us about how he’s a cyclist and blah blah blah. Meanwhile, the self-righteous ignoramus impeded all the cars behind him for an additional 10 or 15 seconds.

  14. Fred Oswald
    Fred Oswald says:

    Nice article. I have a couple comments —

    On ignorance —

    Will Rogers made the famous quote: “It’s not what he doesn’t know that bothers me; it’s what he knows for sure that just ain’t so.”

    There are three kinds of ignorance: (1) The simple ignorance of those who do not know. (2) The compound ignorance of those who do not know that they do not know. (3) The dangerous ignorance of those who “know for sure” but it is based on superstition.

    One little typo: The state and local governments enact laws to protect us [form FROM] ourselves.

  15. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    “it’s what he knows for sure that just ain’t so.”
    Especially when it’s law enforcement!

  16. Rodney
    Rodney says:

    While doing some reading on another subject, I came across a fine quote from Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    As quoted in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson-

    “Mankind have a great aversion to intellectual labor, but even supposing knowledge to be easily attainable, more people would be content to be ignorant than would take even a little trouble to acquire it.”

    Wow, what a thought! The information is at our fingertips, yet we refuse to readily accept it!

  17. Barry Cercone
    Barry Cercone says:

    I’ve read some of the posts on the blog, and have ordered my copy of street smarts. I’m hoping it gives some new insights to bicycle safety on the roads. I’ve got to tell you though I’ve been riding on the roads since high school in Pittsburgh. I’m 54 now and an avid roadie. Never had an accident until recently I was hit in the middle of the afternoon by a driver who was DUI. I was riding in the bike lane. I’m upset to hear that the new state HB 971 allows DUI offenders to have their licenses reinstated by undergoing an educational program. I say let them ride their bikes on the road for a while, then they may get a better understanding of the physics of car vs. bike. They may start to care. I’m lucky to be alive but there are many who are not so lucky as me.
    Be careful out there!

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