This week is Virginia’s first Cyclist and Pedestrian Awareness week, a good opportunity for everyone on the road to pay a little extra attention to everyone else on the road. In recognition of the event, Car Less Brit, MyScoper, and RIDE Solutions encourage you to share the love on Friday afternoon, September 18th, in downtown Roanoke, as we pass out balloons and host an impromptu love-fest-parade for cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers alike (check out the Intermodal Love Facebook event page for more).
The number of bicyclists on the road in the Roanoke area has grown dramatically over the last 18 – 24 months, which makes safety of an utmost concern. For example, I rode my bicycle down to the Veer showing at the Taubman with my daughter in tow in a trailer last Friday evening. At a stop light, the car behind me was a bit impatient to turn right while I was waiting for the light to change to continue on ahead, so she decided to squeeze past the trailer and gun it down the road, coming within inches of my daughter. The light changed almost immediately, making her impatience and dangerous action all the more infuriating. If I had been a car, would she had taken the chance? Maybe, but if so and she misjudged the distance, what would have been the worst of it – some scratched paint and angry words exchanged? Instead, she took a chance with my daughter.
Cyclists on the road deserve the same respect as any other vehicle; car drivers need to keep that in mind, and be more aware that we’re a bit more vulnerable than other vehicles. So have a little patience.
On the other hand, if cyclists want to be respected as vehicles on the road, they need to act like it. Too often on my commute home (in a carpool), I have seen cyclists blow through a stop sign on a certain well-traveled Tuesday night riding route, even as they approach the intersection three or four abreast. At Roanoke Memorial Hospital one morning, I saw a cyclist squeeze between two rows of cars, one waiting to go straight up Belleview and another waiting to turn left onto Hamilton Terrace. He rode to the front of the line and didn’t bother to signal, so none of the drivers knew if he intended to turn or go straight, and when the light changed there was some confusion as folks waiting for him to start moving. In each of these cases, the cyclists decided not to act like vehicles and injected unpredictability and confusion onto the road. Behaving like a vehicle is not just a right, it’s a responsibility, a way to signal to all the other vehicles on the road that you know the rules, you’ll obey them, and they can trust you.
If an automobile had tried either of these stunts, they’d be ticketed, and if someone got hurt they’d be cited for reckless driving. So should the cyclists, frankly. It’s not just the automobile drivers who need to pay attention to safety.
This week, take a moment to show your fellow road-users some love, no matter what kind of vehicle they’re on or in. But you don’t really have to hold hands if you don’t want to.