Rules of the Road

I’ve been biking (as in riding a bicycle) for over a decade. It’s only been in the last five years or so that I’ve spending more time in the saddle, and in that time it’s clear that if you want to ride on the road with cars and motorcycles, you have to obey the rules of the road — or else suffer the consequences of people trying to run you off the road, throwing things, yelling and other enjoyable things like that. Of course, just because you play by the rules doesn’t mean those bad things won’t happen. Luckily, I live in a part of the Bay Area where motorists are very good at sharing the road. However, when I’ve ridden in other parts of the area, it’s been kind of iffy in terms of way in which people relate to cyclists. Nothing bad has really ever happened to me, but there’s clearly a more hostile vibe from motorists that’s easy to pick up on when you’re out and about. So, I often have to adjust my route so I’m not in high trafficked areas. It’s not that big of a deal, but if I want to live a long life, I have to make choices that increase my odds that I’ll be around for my so-called “golden years.”

In the San Francisco Chronicle, Caille Millner wrote a column about riding bikes in The City and sharing the road. What she surmised is that motorists who hate cyclists with a passion are not really driven to rage because said cyclists do not obey the rules of the road. Rather, it’s because (and I quote) “The big SUV you bought isn’t making you the most powerful person on the street, or that you’re jealous because you’re not fit enough or brave enough to bike with us.”

Okay, I’m sure that’s too simple of a reason why some motorists hate cyclists. Critical Mass, blowing through stoplights, jumping onto the sidewalk, riding against traffic, or just being completely oblivious to anything around you = major cycling douchebaggery. But those cyclists are the exception. The vast majority of people on bicycles (at least the ones I’ve seen in both the city and the suburbs) obey the rules of the road. Cars, trucks, and, yes, pedestrians break the rules more often than cyclists, but while we are more forgiving (or just ignore) crappy divers by trying to stay away from them, when it comes to cyclists, it seems like it’s open season on the hostilities.

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