It is the time of year when everyone gets outside to enjoy our best weather of the year, get some exercise and, often, co-mingle with the cars.
It is also the time of year we begin to see cyclists from Columbia roll through town.
Wearing what one cycling dissenter calls their “Captain America” suits, the cyclists typically arrive in Southern Boone via Andrew Sapp Road from the west or Rangeline Road to the east. Often they stop at BreakTime or Casey’s for a break and to purchase a sports drink. They hope not to make any other sudden stops, veer off into any ditches or wind up as a hood ornament for any Southern Boone automobiles.
Yep, it’s time for the annual argument of bikes vs cars.
It is also a good week to remember that the Optimist Club is getting out in front of this debate by providing some sound bicycle safety tips this Saturday at the Optimist Club. The event will be held on Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon.
Those Optimists could likely tell some of us older cyclists a few things to remember about safety. But mostly, bicycle safety is just common sense. Many drivers will complain – especially on social media – that cyclists have no business riding two and three across on county roads, such as Andrew Sapp Road or Rangeline Those who ride in packs in that way and take up an entire lane while riding 15-20 mph bring cars around them seemingly to a crawl.
“It makes me want to bump them right off the road!” wrote one of the more kind social media responses to cyclists clogging rural state highways. Most of these posters are simply airing their frustrations – and I don’t blame them. The frustration of being held up by cyclists riding shoulder to shoulder when they could be riding single file is right up there with calling customer service and talking to someone in India. You know they are in India because their pronunciation of every word that comes out of their mouth is 27-times better than anything else you will hear this week.
But more than one cyclist I know will tell me there is no doubt about it in their mind – riding two cyclists side-by-side and taking up an entire lane is safer than riding single file. While it is true that most cycling crashes involving vehicle hitting cyclists from behind when there is a group – thus riding shoulder-to-shoulder tends to give off a better signal from a distance for a car to slow down – I can’t help but think they are asking for it.
And while Andrew Sapp Rd and Rangeline Road can be relatively safe places to ride, Highway Y and its rolling hills are an accident waiting to happen for any cyclist. There are some roads safer than others for cyclists. While many have said that the pedestrian/bikeway on Henry Clay was inviting a kid on a bike or skateboard to get hit by a car, it hasn’t happened yet (knock on wood). The safest roads for cyclists have a decent shoulder and a very good escape route. Some drivers will tell you the only good place for a bicycle is the Katy Trail.
I agree – it’s great to ride on the Katy Trail. But it is also one-dimensional. And then there is this: Bicycles have the right, by state law, to be on those roads (excepting, of course, Interstate Highways) and there are laws regulating their usage. Any cyclist pedaling on those roads has the right to be there. Even if you live on that road and your great-great-grandfather built the house you live in back when Stan Musial was playing in Sportsman’s Park.
Some say there are no easy answers to bicycles and cars getting along. I say there are many easy answers:
Both need to obey the rules of the road – stop at stop signs, cyclists. Drive the speed limit, drivers.
Both need to give focused attention to the task at hand. Cyclists need to pay attention to their surroundings at all times. Drivers, put the cell phone down and, while you’re at it, please do not apply your makeup while you are attempting to pass a cyclist.
Both cyclists and drivers need to extend a bit of courtesy – and some eye contact wouldn’t hurt.
Drivers are often surprised when they come upon a cyclist, moving at less than half their speed. While some with a lot of hot air make idle threats online about what they would like to do with cyclists, nobody really wants to get into the mess – and potential lawsuit – that comes with being in a crash.
Worse yet, for cyclists, we all know that we could be in the right if we are hit by a car…..but we could be dead right.
It’s the season for being outdoors and riding a bicycle is plenty of fun. Do so safely. And drivers, watch out for us cyclists – and motorcycles too.