Driver: “Spring is when those stupid bicyclists ride in a pack, hogging the road and sailing through stop signs.”
Bicyclist: “This is when drivers, especially in pick-ups, whiz by us too close and yell something derogatory out the window.”
These scenarios happen every day during warm weather and are precipitated by ignorance.
Many drivers who do not ride bicycles do not know that cyclists have the same rights and privileges as drivers of cars and trucks. Bicyclists can ride two abreast as long as they are not impeding traffic. Bicyclists don’t have to ride on sidewalks or the extreme edge of the road. They should ride in the direction of traffic and stay as far to the right as practical avoiding narrow shoulders and pot holes.
Cars must give cyclists a wide berth (at least 3 feet) when cautiously passing.
In Wisconsin, as in most states, there are bicycle safety laws. Many times, your local bike shop will have a supply. Cyclists, the kind who wear helmets, sport brightly colored clothes and safety lights probably know the rules. That does not mean they always obey them. Drivers who don’t ride bikes probably don’t know the bike laws.
Most people who drive cars are careful and courteous around bicyclists. They know that their 4,000-pound vehicle can do much damage or even kill a cyclist. Many drivers realize they could be committing a serious crime if they hit a bicyclist. They could also be liable for injury of death which could cost a million dollars or more.
Drivers should consider the cyclist who angered them probably lives and works in their community. They may even be a neighbor or a friend.
Some of the people I ride with are a stay-at-home mom, house cleaner, retired electrician, cabinet maker, doctor, dentist, veterinarian, factory worker and even a judge. These are good people out to get some exercise, while enjoying the outdoors and having fun with other like-minded folks.
Professional truck drivers are generally very cautious around bikes. They are educated and know a truck/bike collision will end very badly. Last week I was riding on a designated bike lane in Milwaukee when a guy in a work truck cut me off to make a right turn. He yelled that I should get out of his way. He was totally wrong and didn’t know or care about the rules. Many cyclists have Go-Pro or phone cameras and are starting to call the owners of those businesses or police and complain.
Personally, I would rather ride on trails and not have to deal with cars and trucks. However, trails cost money and unfortunately to get from A to B the cyclist many times must share the road with much bigger vehicles. Therefore, cyclists must learn the rules and obey them.
Will cyclists cease rolling through stop signs? Probably not. Drivers need to learn the rules and have more patience with cyclists as they are someone’s, father, mother, brother, sister, son or daughter.
Terry Nolan is vice president of the Kenosha Racine Bike Club.