Sunday, January 27, 2008

Cycling safely

Okay, please forgive me, but I'm going to take a break from writing about wonderfully brave cancer survivors this morning to rant about something else entirely...irresponsible cyclists.

Every single morning when I leave my home to join friends for breakfast, I encounter packs of men (and the occasional woman) cycling together. These are the folks for whom climbing onto a bicycle is a serious sport, or at the very least serious exercise. They're also adults. They should know better. Sometimes as I drive along there will be two or three cyclists riding in a row in the designated bicycle lane, but more often there are a half-dozen and sometimes many more stretched across the road.

Now two of my friends -- one of them a triathlete, who might be found in one of those packs at least back home in England -- love to remind me that bicycles are vehicles. They are entitled to use the road. But, based on what I've read of the traffic laws, that means they are also to abide by the same laws that apply to cars.

Not these folks. They go through red lights, they weave between cars, they're certainly not going the speed limit. But what makes me craziest is that they don't use even halfway decent common sense when riding.

Keep in mind, I'm on the road at 6:30 a.m. It's still dark, at least at this time of the year. Some of these riders are wearing dark clothing and have no lights on themselves or their bikes. If they don't like the pace of the cyclist ahead of them, they will happily swerve into the next lane to pass, never mind that a car that could crush them might be about to pass in that lane.

There has also been a huge amount of contruction on this route in recent months, which has narrowed it to one lane in each direction. Rather than making their turn before they get to the contruction and avoiding it, they insist on riding the same route, which has early morning rush hour traffic backing up behind them.

And forget them stopping behind a school bus like the rest of us. They just ride on by. Given the human nature of the kids who are running from every direction to try to catch that bus, one of these days that's going to have a disastrous outcome.

So here's my plea this morning. If you have children who ride their bikes to school or around the neighborhood, make sure they have helmets, lights on their bikes and wear light-colored clothing, if out after dark. And make absolutely certain they understand the rules for riding on the road. And if you or anyone you know is an avid cyclist, please remember that you may be 100 percent entitled to your part of the road, but cars, SUVs and trucks are bigger than you are. Years ago, I heard a saying that applies: He was right, dead right as he sped along, but he's just as dead now as if he'd been wrong. Make sure that everyone you love is not only right, but smart and safe.

And if you have something to add to this discussion, click on the comment link below. If you have another hot topic about which you'd like to blog, please email me directly. We're having trouble with the link on the right, so send your suggestions to me at That's now set up just to receive emails from this blog or from my website, We'll see if this system works until we can get the other one corrected.

Sherryl Woods

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Blogger karende said...

I’ve been thinking about the cyclists. The area where I now live encourages them, in some areas, with bike lanes and bikes for rent, for summer tourists. The bike lanes are mostly in the area where tourists are most likely to spend money, though. The rest of the area not only doesn’t have bike lanes, most of the roads don’t even have shoulders big enough to walk on. There’s road, then there are ditches up to 5' deep. Some of them have standing water with cattails growing in them! And more than one kid has been killed while riding, just in the seven years I’ve been here. It’s sad, but not uncommon.

I think people tend to lose what minds they have when they get on a bike. I don’t know what it is, maybe some kind of retro-childhood thing, but they seem to feel safe on bikes no matter where they are. Then there are the ones who feel superior either because they are getting healthy exercise, or because they are ecologically friendly. I have no idea whatsoever is in the minds of parents who don’t insist that their offspring don’t use helmets, but it might be instructive to see some people who have suffered traumatic brain injuries. I had one friend back in Alaska who just shrugged and said if she insisted, her kids would ‘lose’ them as soon as they were out of sight. That would have been my cue to follow and check up, and confiscate their bikes should that happen. My own son doesn’t use a helmet, but he’s an adult and makes his own choices, no matter how much I, ah, complain at him. He’s had his share of accidents, too, so he should know better.

January 29, 2008 11:04 PM  
Blogger Sherryl said...

Karende, your comment about the mom who doesn't enforce the helmet rule because the kid would "lose" it as soon as he's out of sight reminds me of the mom I saw on Dr. Phil who came on the show because she worried about her daughter texting while driving, but then absolutely refused to do what it took to make it stop. In fact, that's another rant. I think I'll go there in tomorrow's blog.

January 30, 2008 11:26 AM  

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