Monday, September 29, 2008

Why fight a fight that you know you are going to lose

Continuing our discussion of proper cycling etiquette, today we will discuss how one should behave when coming in contact with an automobile.

Actually, that's a bit of a misstatement. If you're out riding your bike and you come in contact with a car, the proper course of action for you to take would be to fall off of your bike, lay on the ground, and bleed profusely. Feel free to sprinkle in as much cursing as you feel the situation calls for. What I should have said was, today we will discuss how one should behave when coming in close contact to people driving cars.

There is one thing that we as cyclist need to realize and accept if we are ever going to truly "share the road" with automobiles. This is that this isn't a fair fight. There are a lot more of them than there is of us. In case you haven't noticed, a large portion of them don't want us out there. It also saddens me to report that this is one of those cases were "might makes right". In one corner, we have Fred the cyclist and his bicycle, weighing a combined total of about 230 lbs. It should be noted at this time that his bicycle offers Fred almost no protection at all. In the other corner, we have Joe car driver, with his 2,000 lbs car wrapped comfortably around him. Joe's car protects him from almost any obstacle that he might encounter out on the road, including Fred and his bicycle. Who do you think is going to win this fight? The smart money is on Joe and his big shiny car. In any confrontation out on the road, Joe and his car are going to kick Fred's skinny butt every time. The first rule of cyclist vs automobile etiquette is this: Avoid confrontation at any cost. There is almost nothing to be gained by confronting a car driver. You might encounter an idiot in a truck out on the road, but if you antagonize him, well now you've got a p*ssed off idiot in a truck to deal with. I know this doesn't sound terribly brave, but soooooo what. In this fight, believe it when I say that a large percentage of the car drivers out there are going to be rooting for the cowardly automobile driver, and rooting against the brave cyclist on his bike. And the argument that "I'm just standing up for my legal rights" doesn't hold a lot of water for me. When you have that 2,000 lbs car parked on your chest, if it makes you feel better that you were legally right, well I'm glad for you. To tell the truth, it wouldn't make me feel that much better. Right or wrong, dead is dead.

As far as the rules of the road in relating to car drivers, they all fall under our previously discussed "be nice" philosophy. You might not know it, but Texas law states that cyclist riding on a two lane road, meaning only one lane of traffic in each direction, are required to single up and move to the right to allow the automobile traffic to pass. I say you might not know it based on the number of you I see riding down the middle of the road with cars stacked up behind you. Notice the use of the word "required" in that law. And to state the obvious, cyclist are required to stop at all stop signs and stop lights. And to state the ridiculously obvious, cyclist are required to wait at the light until it turns green. I actually had a conversation, (ok, a screaming argument), with another cyclist who firmly believed that all he was legally required to do was to stop at the red light. His claim was that once he stopped, he could go ahead and go when he felt it was safe. For the record, no. You have to wait until the light turns green before you go.

When thinking about how I should ride out on the road, I try and let this phrase be my guide, "Legally, safely, and courteously". I know that sounds like the title of some sort of after school special promoting safe sex to teenagers, but that's how we should try and behave out there. Ride legally, ride safely, and ride courteously.

Next post, we tread into dangerous waters, and attempt to discuss how car drivers should act towards us out there. It's either going to be very insightful, or just pathetically naive. Stay tuned to see which.

Peace out........Nearly Famous Fred

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