(pic source Cristian Science Monitor)
It was a typical situation we all deal with. But we’ll get to that …
The day didn’t start out so typical. I began my (typical) commute home from work. As I rode the bike lane east on Livingston, I had a pleasant surprise. A gentleman rode up behind me and shouted a hello! We chatted as we stopped a red light, and it turns out this fella rides his bike twice a week from L.B. McLeod to somewhere in Tuskawilla, for a round-trip of 40 miles!! Nice guy. Then as we look ahead we see another rider in the bike lane. We catch up to her at the next intersection as the light turns red. The young gal has left the bike lane and is in the center of the lane. I’m not sure what she will do …
I grimace for what I think I know will typically happen next.
But it doesn’t!! Everyone sits at the red light, waiting for the green. She glances back, see us, and says hello and that she’s shocked that we have a “crowd” of bikes here at the end of the day on the street. We all laugh, and I said I wished I had a camera to record the moment. Grins all around.
But by now, cars have come up behind us, and there are cars in the opposite lane as well.
The light turns green. And yes, this is when it happened …
Nothing. Nothing extraordinary happened.
The cars behind the lady cyclist waited for her to make her left-hand turn. No honks, no revving engines, no shouts. The cars then passed myself and my new riding friend safely with more than enough clearance. Later down Livingston, my friend again merged out of the bike lane in order to make a left. He turns on a road with no designated bike lanes. He positions himself in the lane. Every car treated him as another user of the road. They pass him safely (as far as I could see, as I continuing straight).
Really, it is typical. But unfortunately, the non-typical situation is the one that gets all the press. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Go take a look at any bicycle-related forum, and count the number of posts relating to negative car-bicycle interaction (ie. “I almost got hit!” or “How many times do you get honked at?”) vs the positive ones (i.e. “I had an great/uneventful ride today). I guess that’s human nature — it’s the exception we are interested in, not the norm, and it’s “newsy”. That’s too bad, since the only news people hear about is negative and scary.
We need more positive news about cycling to make it to the mainstream. Something like this (apologies to Mighk for stealing his idea)
“This just in — today in Orlando, hundreds of bicyclists got on their bikes and road to their destinations. They were passed by hundreds if not thousands of motorists going to their destinations. Nothing happened.”
OK, probably is not going to happen just like that. But positive messages can get out: messages about health, about the environment, about can-do attitudes. And even positive messages about safety can make it to people who may have interest, but don’t have all the facts.
We need to be sending this message over and over: Bicycling is fun. Bicycling is healthy. It’s environmentally friendly.
And — bicycling is safe; as safe as driving a car (maybe even safer). The typical car-cyclist interaction is not aggressive or dangerous; it’s relatively benign — a non-event. Yes, there are idiots out there, but typically most people do not go out of their way to make your life dangerous or miserable. There are things you should know about cycling on streets that are particular to cyclists. But it’s not rocket science; it’s something that can be taught to just about anyone of any age.