Understanding can help cyclists, drivers better share the road
I was recently bicycling down a DC street, and a driver honked at me. I was breaking no law and doing what bike safety advocates, such as those who teach the Washington Area Bicyclist Association's Confident City Cycling classes, say is safest, but this driver apparently had some misconceptions about how people on bikes ought to ride.
Later, I was driving, and encountered a few people biking in ways that made me want to honk at them (though I did not). We're all told to "share the road," but we could all share better if we understand what is legal, and safe, to do.
I collaborated with Bob "Dr. Gridlock" Thomson for this past weekend's commuter page in the Washington Post. I suggested 5 things for drivers to keep in mind as they interact with cyclists on the road:
- Cyclists might be on the left side of the road (such as when turning left).
- Riding outside a bike lane is often okay (and, in DC in VA, always legal).
- If turning right across a bike lane, move into the bike lane first. More on this.
- Bicycles are faster than you might think.
- Don't honk.
Bob added 5 requests to cyclists, which I agree with as well:
- Be obvious, be predictable.
- Think like a driver.
- Wait for right-turning drivers (in other words, respect drivers doing the right thing to turn right across a bike lane as in #3 on my list).
- Obey traffic laws. (Though personally, I'd like to see us adopt the Idaho Stop.)
- Respect pedestrians.
You can read the whole thing on the Washington Post site.
A number of people brought this up in the Dr. Gridlock chat today. Most echoed a similar point best captured in this question and Bob's fantastic response:
Sunday's column regarding cars and bicycles sharing the street with each other did not address what I consider a major point. While I won't intentionally do something that would endanger a bicyclist, I find little reason to respect the "rights" of people who choose to ignore laws that I must obey. I live near a street with a bike lane, and regularly see riders who don't even slow down at a stop sign, and only hesitate at intersections with a red light. Why do they feel that laws they find inconvenient are no more than suggestions?Another great comment came in a little later in the chat:
I completely understand how you feel and see the same things. But I think this is a slippery slope.
Our goal in all "share the road" situations should be to survive and help other travelers survive. Along those lines: We don't have to prove our righteousness to total strangers who may be doing the wrong thing in traffic. We just have to do the right thing.
And there's too much of this dividing ourselves into categories of travelers. Like it's our category against all the other categories
— whether it's drivers, bikers, pedestrians — or Lexus drivers, pickup drivers, sedan drivers motorcyclists. What's the point?
Cyclists and walkers know how rare it is to see a motorist stop
— rather than just slow down — for a Stop sign. Why wouldn't they have a similar bad opinion of drivers?
From my office, I can see the bike lane on Q Street, NW at 16th. Routinely, and I do not exaggerate, I see cyclists riding the wrong way on Q Street. More often than not, they are on BikeShare bikes (but not always) and generally don't have helmets on. I also see cars that veer into, and sit in, the bike lane on red lights.
We're all selfish (says this driver/cyclist/pedestrian). I think everyone needs to watch out for everyone else. Being dead right on your bike is still being dead. And I would think that being the cause of the death or maiming of another human whether on the right side of the law or not would be a horrible thing to carry through life.
Yep. I think you've gotten to the bottom line.
Travelers sometimes write in and say, "Dear Dr. Gridlock: Who's right in the following situation ... "
I love to discuss such issues, because it can raise our consciousness about traffic situations, but I worry about creating the appearance that under some circumstances, it's okay to hit somebody.
Travelers are never in season. As our commenter pointed out, the fact that you didn't get a ticket won't be much consolation if you wind up injuring another person.
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