How to be a Considerate Cyclist in an Inconsiderate Infrastructure
I can’t count how many times I’ve breezed through stop signs, crossed diagonally at residential intersections, or ridden the wrong way on a side walk to avoid traffic while on my bike. When I do this, I know I’m breaking the law and of course would never drive this way. However, in a city that has few bike lanes and drivers that feel like they own the road (I drive, too, so I’ve witnessed this myself), I sometimes need to cut corners, literally, to get from point A to point B quickly and safely. And let’s face it; a bicycle’s maneuverability far exceeds a car’s, so riding in places cars can’t go is sometimes just too tempting.
Yet how can cyclists and drivers coexist peaceably in a car-centric society?
As a cyclist, I always make sure to give drivers plenty of space and the right of way. I’ve become very good at “reading” individual drivers, for the most part. If someone is in a hurry and has a lead foot, I wait patiently for that person to pass by me. A bicycle is no match for a two-ton car, so as far as I’m concerned, there’s no point tangling with an automobile.
Now that’s not to say I’m not cursing the driver out under my breath. I’ve just learned to outwardly give the appearance of a calm and care-free spirit, though I may be seething underneath at a driver’s unabashedly unsafe driving skill-set.
As a driver, I know cyclists ride the way I do – often breaking the rules. I drive as if at any moment a child or cyclists might jut out in front of me. At intersections, I double check crosswalks and glance up and down sidewalks to make sure there isn’t a skateboarder or bicycle approaching. If a cyclist is riding alongside traffic, I give them plenty of wiggle room in case they need to adjust their position due to a car door opening up unexpectedly. When I parallel park, I check my side mirror before swinging my door open.
It would be wonderful if all drivers had this sense of responsibility and safety toward pedestrians. Perhaps the lack of responsibility is due to the fact that driving is the norm in the sprawling US, drivers feel safe and comfy in their cars and have forgotten that cars are dangerous. If there were as many commercials about pedestrian safety as there are about all the things you can now do in your car, maybe the tension between cyclists / pedestrians and drivers would ease.
Of course, it all boils down to individual responsibility; each person needs to be considerate of the other irregardless of a city’s given infrastructure.
Need tips on what to do if you get yelled at? Take these with a grain of salt:
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