It’s been a little while since I moved from the suburbs into midtown to be closer to Streetside HQ. One of the advantages of my proximity is the ability to ride my awesome bicycle all over the place. What? You exclaim. Stig rides a non-motorized vehicle? Fear not my friends. It’s only for exercise.
At least it was until a snap ring slipped off inside my differential and blasted the whole front unit to spangly little pieces. So the wagon is in the shop, and I’ve been pedaling up and down the exhilarating/excruciating hills of Kansas City.
There always seems to be a war between cyclists and motorists over the dominion of the road. Why? Flared tempers, short patience, comfort zones, and sometimes even political stereotypes are all contributors. Therefore, like some kind of mystical avatar with inconveniently large thighs, I’ve come as a gearhead cyclist to make peace. Heed my words and end the strife.
Have some patience. Bikes are slow out of the gates. When the light turns green, we’re already working as hard as we can to go as fast as we can before getting out of your way. Frankly, that’s more than we can say for alot of drivers, who seem to think a red light is enough time to squeeze in a quick episode of Duck Dynasty on their phones.
Give us some space. The average cyclist seems to have been commissioned by REI to be chiseled from marble as the model human being. But some of us aren’t in the same shape, and we’re already nearing cardiac arrest just from riding. Make a little effort to move over so we don’t wet ourselves. The last thing we want, and the first thing on our minds, is getting hooked on your curb feelers and dragged for a mile before you notice.
If you’re driving a diesel, be like the awesome guy who passed me this morning in his Ram dually and mind your exhaust. We have to breathe, and rolling coal straight into our lungs is seriously uncool. If you’re coming up behind us, just let off the gas for a second and coast past, then feel free to drop the hammer again.
Speaking of exhaust, you should upgrade yours. You probably already have, but if not, check out a performance system. Because they’re awesome. I mean, because they let us hear you coming so we can do a better job of getting out of your way. Also, a great exhaust note is extremely inspirational, as we like to imagine our little pounding hearts are supercharged V8s.
Finally, can the stereotypes. Not all cyclists are tree-groping gas-haters. Many of us just want to save some money while getting exercise. Others are just trying to work through our snap-ring bitterness. Some of the weirder ones just like to have giant thighs. We don’t all hate you for rolling that coal.
If you want to minimize angry motorists, minimize their volume. Plan your routes accordingly. Use less-traveled streets when you can. And leave early, before the roads are populated with gigantic metal Parallaxes. Check Google Maps for bike paths and bike-friendly routes. Riding on the sidewalks is usually illegal, but when you can find one, a great bike path or rail trail is amazing.
Move over as much as possible. Even on “bike friendly roads,” you can’t always predict the patience level of drivers behind you, so keep right. Even if we drivers see you making an effort to move over, it can diffuse a potentially angry situation. The rules for preventing road rage still apply to pedal power. After all, you don’t cruise in the fast lane while driving, right? Right?
Maintain your bikes. The last thing we want to see is your startled face engraving our hoods because you couldn’t stop in time. Just check your brakes, oil your chain, keep your tires inflated. Basic stuff.
And while we’re on equipment, use your lights. Even if it’s late dawn or early dusk, a good headlight and a blinking red tail light will do wonders for drivers who are used to seeing light signatures on the road. I recommend this extremely inexpensive but somehow still well-built and reliable unit from Cree. (If it looks cheap and Chinese, you’re only half right.)
Remember, you don’t get special rules just because you are your own engine. You still have to stop at stop signs and red lights (this morning the former saved me from being detonated by a bus into a thousand little giblets of thigh muscle). Do your best to signal the drivers behind you, and pay attention to their turn signals, too. If you’re not allowed to lane-split, don’t do it.
Finally, understand that not all drivers are money-burning chubbers who are determined to hide your city in smog cloud to rival Beijing. Some of them actually ride bikes, too. Like me.
Andy Sheehan is a staff writer for StreetsideAuto.com and is airing out his riding clothes in the conference room. Don't tell anybody.
Article originally posted on the Streetside Blog on 4.9.13.