I ride quite a bit. As a friend pointed out to me once, even when I don’t think I’m riding my bike, I’m generally riding my bike. In other words, just because I’m not pulling on a Lycra kit and carbon soled shoes, doesn’t mean I’m not riding. I have an old steel bike with downtube shifters that I use for my neighborhood bike. If you see me in my neighborhood riding in street clothes to the store, you will see me on the old steel steed.
Riding around town
I have the bad habit of not considering any type of riding in street clothes as an actual bike ride. It’s been said,“You can take the racer out of the race, but you can’t take the race out of the racer.” In my mind, if I’m not training, I’m not riding. This is despite the fact that I haven’t pinned on a number in quite a while.
I have had my fair share of confrontations with knuckle headed drivers. The kind that yell at you out of the window as they buzz as close as possible to your handlebars in an attempt to bully you off the road. Just today, I witnessed someone minding their own business, riding well to the right of traffic. All of a sudden, an enraged driver, floors it and nearly takes the helpless cyclist out. The cyclist, shocked, responded with a string of profanities. That begs the question, how can we as cyclists minimize such blood pressure raising incidents?
Choose your route carefully
Considering the fact that I ride my bike nearly everyday, I avoid major roads and intersections at all costs. The San Diego Bicycle Crashes Study that EB Cycling Law published a couple months back reaffirms this strategy. I go out of my way to find b-lines and less traveled roads to avoid traffic. In my opinion, the less interactions I have with cars, the better. This of course comes from years of experience, and my knowledge of the many roads in San Diego helps out considerably. Most towns and cities I’ve been to have their roads laid out in a grid pattern, so a less traveled route may be as simple as heading over one block in either direction. Sure, it may mean more stop signs, but I’d much rather stop at a stop sign if it means avoiding a collision with a car.
Keep a cool head
I don’t know what it is. When people drive, it’s as if they have no regard for other people. Regardless of if I’m on my bike, or in my car, road rage seems to be the norm these days. Cycling has certainly helped my driving, as it has elevated my level of awareness of my surroundings. If there was a program, where in order to maintain your driving privileges you had to ride a bike for a day on city streets, people would likely be a bit more understanding. Hey, I guy can dream!
Until my great idea takes hold, it is up to us as cyclists to keep a cool head. I admit, it is incredibly difficult. Even I find myself seeing red when faced with incredibly dangerous situations at the hands of a malicious driver. But I have also found that if you don’t fall into their trap, they don’t know how to react. I’ve been honked at from behind on a narrow road, but rather than confront the driver, I will simply smile and wave. This usually causes a short circuit, and they back off until it is safe to pass. This is not always the case, but give it a try. You may just find it effective.
Overall, it is important to be aware of your environment when riding around town. Keep an eye on the mirrors of parked cars for an indication of someone about to opening a door. Find quieter routes with less traffic. If someone tries to get you to sink to their level, take the high road. It’s all we can really do, considering the way we expose ourselves to the dangers of riding on city streets. Stay safe out there, and as always, keep the rubber side down!