Friday, April 22

An Open Letter to Motorists

Dear Motorists,

First off, I hope this letter finds you well on this Earth Day 2011. Not sure why you chose to drive a car today, but whatever. I have a few things I'd like to say to you and I ask that you turn off your ego for a few minutes and see things from my side of the windshield for once.

Your car is a luxury that you have chosen to adopt as your personal mode of transportation. I would like to point out to you that there are other forms of transportation that are actually more efficient, more economic and at times more feasible for your transportation needs. Just sayin'...

I know we all like to throw around words like "rights" and "freedom" all the time and for the sake of argument forget what you know about those two vague concepts. Here we go...

You do not have the right to put the life of a cyclist in danger because of your impatience. Traffic laws remain in force no matter if you agree with them or not. Your chosen mode of transportation is not superior to all others no matter how much you paid for it.

Sometimes its not safe to pass a cyclist. In these cases you should exercise patience and common courtesy. It is absolutely not appropriate to gun your engine to squeeze past a cyclist when there is no room to do so. If you hit an oncoming car or the cyclist you will be at fault. Whatever damages may occur will not be the fault of the cyclist if he or she is adhering to traffic laws and you choose to pass when it's unsafe. It doesn't matter if you agree with the presence of the cyclist on the road. It doesn’t matter if you think the laws pertaining to cyclists should be changed. On the road, moving at speed in your steel behemoth is not the proper place to affect the changes you want. There are legislative channels you can work within to try and change the laws to suit your personal preferences. Harassing, injuring or killing someone is not a legislative process.

It is true that some people make poor fashion choices or sometimes do not adhere to traffic laws or do things that make no sense while riding a bicycle. In no way do these behaviors make a cyclist deserving of injury or death. You do not have the right to endanger a cyclist's life even if they are doing something stupid. You will still be held accountable for your actions as they should be for theirs.

Sometimes it's perfectly safe to pass a cyclist and you may choose to do so in an unsafe manner, either at a high rate of speed or unacceptably close to the cyclist. In most states this is illegal, and you are not exempt from the laws of the land due to the presence of a cyclist on the road. Wherever you’re going there is absolutely no reason you can't slow down and/or give a cyclist ample room as you pass. If you pass too close going too fast you're making a poor choice and unnecessarily putting another human being's life in jeopardy.

Also, it does not matter if you're in a two tone black and white car with lights mounted on the roof or not. The three feet to pass law still applies to you and your car can do as much damage to a cyclist as a non-law enforcement vehicle can. You should be the example to other motorists on the road. It is unacceptable for you, as an officer of the law, to endanger cyclists with your poor behavior behind the wheel.

Just because you can haul yourself into an oversized gas-powered wheel chair does not immediately bestow wisdom or significance upon you. Significance on the roadway is not determined by how much you have paid for your vehicle or on the size of your vehicle. Traveling in a motor vehicle on a paved roadway is not a RIGHT. Having the freedom to drive as fast and as recklessly as you want on the roads is also not a RIGHT. Getting to pass a slower moving vehicle on the roadway is not a guaranteed RIGHT. Harassing and endangering other travelers on the road is not a RIGHT. In fact, by doing most of these things you are breaking laws.

You can argue all day about scofflaw cyclists blasting through stop signs and ignoring traffic laws. Realize however, that motorists are just as guilty and break just as many (if not more) laws as cyclists. Tickets are handed out every day for speeding, failure to come to a complete stop, illegal u-turns, improper take-off, failure to signal, failure to stay in lane, etc, etc. If the argument is that cyclists have no right to the road because they break traffic laws then by all means, lets remove all forms of transportation from the roads that people use to break laws.

When you see a cyclist get angry at the behavior of a motorist and perhaps curse and use hand gestures their mothers would not approve of, understand that the cyclist is behaving so because they typically perceive a physical threat against themselves. On the other hand, when motorists get irate, scream out the window at cyclists (or other motorists or pedestrians), turn red, curse, use obscene gestures…what physical threat are they perceiving against themselves? How can they justify their anger? What valid argument do they have for their childish behavior?

As a cyclist I will promise not to try and run your car off the road. I promise I will not get behind you and blow my horn or rev my engine. I promise I won't roll down my window and curse at you. I promise I won't turn around and come back after passing you to harass you a second time.

In return I expect you to give up an appropriate amount of roadway so I have enough room to travel safely. I expect you to travel at a reasonable speed, both for my safety and yours. I expect you to be courteous and considerate, stay off your phone, leave the radio volume alone and use your brain at all times.

Two last thoughts:

Bicycle manufacturers construct bicycles in adult sizes on purpose.

"Share the Road" means exactly that. Hopefully your mother taught you how to share.


The Cyclist You Almost Killed This Morning

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