Listen Up Knuckleheads!

(Did I get your attention?)

I’m a cyclist…

A cyclist who has had several close calls with automobiles (including tonight) and even been sideswiped once this year.  I wear bright and reflective clothing.  I always have a tail light flashing (even in the broad daylight).  I’m careful.  I get it.  I’m a Cyclist!

I’m a driver…

I drive my kids 30 minutes to school every morning.  I own a convertable and love to put the top down and just…. drive!  I enjoy the country roads.  I enjoy the Dan Ryan Expressway.  I’m aware.  I’m safe.  Being a cyclist makes me a better driver.  All that to say…Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 10.55.52 PM

I’m gonna take off my cycling helmet and go on a motorist’s rant.

I had two run-ins this morning with cycling noobs.  They didn’t look like noobs, but they acted like noobs.

Scenario #1 – The aggressive kamikazee

This is the guy who approaches a major intersection with cars lined up, and proceeds to pass everyone and run right through turning traffic without ever looking or slowing.

Scenario #2 – The clueless center of attention

(Evidently) This person wanted to turn left across four lanes of traffic.  How did I know?  Well, she was meandering around and between cars across all lanes through the intersection.  When I came to the corner to turn right she was headed right toward me and into my lane.  I looked her right in the eye and came to a stop in traffic.  She just looked at me and made no indication of what she was doing.  Impressive balance, but that’s about all that was impressive.

These are the people that give cyclists a bad name.  I’M A CYCLIST AND IT TICKED ME OFF!  C’mon you noobs!  Get with it and get smart!  If you don’t care about your own safety, fine.  You wanna be a hood ornament that’s your choice, but I prefer to live without the image of your sorry spandex flying across the hood of my car, and I definitely don’t want my girls learning that cycling is dangerous because you choose to be an idiot!

(deep breaths… deep… cleansing… breaths)

Screen Shot 2013-09-10 at 11.03.13 PMNow, I’m not one to rant for ranting’s sake.  So… without further ado I offer these tips for improving cyclist/driver relations.

  1. Use your hand signals people!  Do I need to go over this?  You point the direction you intend to go.  You point down with an open palm when you are slowing down.  Not rocket science people.
  2. Be Predictable.  If I’m turning left across traffic I get into the turn lane early and signal the whole way.  Leave no doubt in anyone’s mind as to what you will and are doing.
  3. Talk to Drivers.  When I’m at an intersection with a car next to me I wave to the driver and get their attention.  Then I tell them, through gestures or actual conversation, what I’m intending to do.  “I’m gonna go straight and get all the way over to the right.” Or, “I’m gonna turn left with you but all the way to the outside.”
  4. Read the Eyes.  Make eye contact with every driver who will come into your path.  When a car pulls up to the intersection I’m about to go through I will often slow until I look them in the eye.  That’s the most certain way to know they see you, and I have found that in some way I can discern their intentions by reading their eyes.

In the end, it’s not always up to you.

You’re going to run into (pardon the pun) clueless automobile drivers.  They WILL pull out into your path.  They will come too close.  For some it doesn’t matter how careful they are, accidents happen.  But let’s do the best we can to be as safe as possible.  Better to communicate with them before they communicate with us (if you catch my drift.  Hand gestures go both ways.).

Enjoy the Ride My Friends!

How about you?  What safety tips would you offer?  Let’s get a good list going here people!

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9 thoughts on “Listen Up Knuckleheads!

  1. Where I live stop signs are a big one. Allot of riders blow through them without even checking for cars. If your at a stop sign, by law you have to stop. To be safe, if there is a car that gets there just after you, ley it go first and all is good. Good post.

    • I slow down for stop signs, but if there are no cars there (or pedestrians) it doesn’t make any sense for me to stop. The laws were designed in mind to control vehicle traffic. We shouldn’t just blindly follow every law without even questioning it. The original intent matters.

      Drivers don’t have to use physical energy to (a) slow down, (b) move foot off pedal and/or unclip (c) tilt (d) put foot on ground (e) hoist self up and (f) push hard to get going again and build moment. So, stop signs when no one else is around only take a little extra time — none of this extra effort. (Yet, I constantly see drivers blow stop signs…) Drivers also don’t have to contend with headwinds or crosswinds, either.

      If others are there, it’s a different story. Again, having to actually stop and put your foot down, etc makes for a horrible time if you don’t actually have to. What I do is slow down a lot, to a near stop, and try to time it right so that I go through the intersection next to a car traveling in the same direction.

      The worst is when I see a car coming, but there is no car traveling in the same direction. I stop — following all the steps above — and the driver just waves me on! UGH! I stopped, okay, so JUST GO. It’s your right of way!

      • I don’t think I’ve ever heard such a detailed description of what it takes to stop and restart a bike! I’m exhausted! 🙂 (I do the same at stop signs btw)

  2. The best safety tip is to improve infrastructure that protects the vulnerable and makes roads safe for everyone. Education must be improved for drivers so they know how to act around cyclists. I don’t think most drivers hate us, I think a lot of times they panic and just don’t know what to do!

    One thing I would add to your list that a cyclist can do to improve the odds that they will be seen, is to wear headlights and taillights at night.

    Rant Alert:
    It’s a sign that cyclists are a marginalized group when we get upset at another cyclist for ‘making us look bad!’ Drivers don’t do that. Yet, drivers blow stop signs, red lights, cut people off, and do all sorts of horrible things…with MUCH more deadly consequences! yet people say things like “Asshole” or “fuck you then” and the like. They don’t say, “See?! Now that driver makes us all look bad!!” Funny how people do that — when they are part of the majority group and someone IN THEIR GROUP does something wrong, it’s a problem of that individual, with their personality.

    Once someone in a more marginalized group does something wrong, all of a sudden they are a representative of their ENTIRE GROUP! And, what’s worse, is that both people within the same group do it AND people in the more powerful group do it, too. This is exactly how stereotypes are allowed to continue in our minds.

    My turn for a shameless plug 😀 I touch upon the issue here: http://echointhecity.wordpress.com/2013/08/27/are-you-a-good-cyclist/

    How another cyclist rides has nothing to do with how I ride. Same goes with driving. or Reading a book. Or watching TV.

    How a driver perceives me has little to do with how I behave in the moment, but it’s a rater complex process of past experiences, stereotyping, confirmation bias, and how they feel at that moment. I can do some things to protect myself and be predictable, but at the end of the day the driver will probably only notice or remember me if I confirm their stereotype anyway. Or, they’ll just think I’m some weird case and still stereotype cyclists as a group.

    Not that there is anything wrong with educating people on how to ride their bike in traffic. It’s a scary and confusing thing, and education is a good thing!

    • I believe I “liked” that post! 🙂

      “I can do some things to protect myself and be predictable, but at the end of the day the driver will probably only notice or remember me if I confirm their stereotype anyway.” How sad and unfortunately true eh? We tend to remember negative things. Perhaps…PERHAPS and HOPEFULLY because good things are the norm?

      Always appreciate your thoughtfulness my friend.

      • Oh 🙂 Awesome!!

        It is unfortunate, BUT we can stop ourselves from doing it. So, that’s why I talk about it so much. As people become more aware about how we tend to think, and how we get “stuck” in our thinking, it can actually change! If, that is, we want it to. That’s the positive end 🙂 There’s hope!

        Thanks! and likewise! I very much enjoy your blog!

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