We've all seen them on the road: tight spandex shorts, brightly colored jerseys, often flocked together like some kind of wheeled formation of tropical birds, migrating from one place to another. Cyclists. They're slow, they get in the way, they put themselves and others at risk just by being there.
Or is it really our burden as drivers to be alert, responsible, and to understand the rules of passing bicycles on the road? Fortunately, car makers are working on technology to help us avoid the unseen cyclists on the road with computer-aided detection systems. But what about the times when you can see them? Are you still driving dangerously, perhaps without even knowing it?
One cycling advocate, Albert McWilliams, takes an extreme stance. He says it's not a matter of if, but when, you'll kill a cyclist if you keep up the driving habits most of us seem to exhibit around the two-wheeled pedal-pushers.
While McWilliams is a bit polemic in some of his statements, he takes the time to phrase his explanation of how to drive around cyclists in several logically and/or rhetorically effective ways.
For example (excerpted):
NOW YOU MIGHT SAY:
“But, I have places to go and people to do! You’re in my way! Too slow!”
Okay, great, I appreciate your sacrifice. Let’s look at the math. This is math mind you and not subject to opinion. I’ll be generous and assume you’re on a 45mph speed limit road ... Again, being generous, you might be stuck behind a cyclist for 8 seconds. ... This means that slowing down, waiting for traffic to clear and passing the cyclist safely costs you about four seconds… max. Do you want to risk my life (permanently) and you being a murderer (forever) for four seconds? Really?
And another (again, excerpted):
“But, I pay taxes/registration fees/gas tax.”
This one is really dumb. See, you pay usage fees because your heavy-ass car destroys the road. Guess what, bikes don’t wear out roads like cars do. ... You see where I’m going with this? You should take this argument and hope no one ever hears it because it works against you.
As an Ann Arbor, MI resident, some of McWilliams' points seem to rely on Michigan law (and some of the relevant traffic laws do vary state-by-state), but on the whole, it's a smart, salient look at the issue of cyclists on the road from the other side of the window--and one we could all learn from.
Thanks to Ian C. for the tip!
Volvo's Pedestrian and Cyclist Detection system - image: Volvo