Wednesday, July 27, 2005


It must be one of those perennial rites of summer, a complaining letter to the local newspaper about all those lawless cyclists on the road. And it’s true. Some cyclists are indeed lawless. They have little regard for courtesy, common sense, or the law. I’ll get to them in a minute.

Before talking about the cyclists, I want to write about some recent experiences with those other lawless road users – motorists. My commute takes me past an off ramp from a local freeway. Earlier this week, a small truck came flying down the ramp as I approached, and without ever slowing, turned right onto the city street. Right turns on red are legal in Oklahoma, but only if you stop first. There’s another red light a little further down the street. He ran that one too.

The third light was red as well, but rather than run it, he turned left just before the intersection and cut through a business parking lot at about 30 miles an hour. Then he roared away on the cross street.

Where’s a cop when you need one?

This morning, the event was nearly repeated. Another motorist flew down the ramp, and was about to turn right when she suddenly noticed a bicyclist (me) almost directly in front of her car. I have the ability to magically appear like that, apparently. She was miffed that she had to slow down. Never mind about the stopping bit. Once I’d cleared the intersection, she floored it to go around me. I must be really fast because so many motorists find it necessary to downshift in order to pass.

But the cool part was that the next light had just turned red. I caught up to her and stared into her passenger side window from the right hand lane. She stared stonily ahead. That’s another one of my abilities. I can make myself invisible to women sometimes, but it’s an ability I haven’t quite mastered in that I can’t turn it on and off. Regardless, she was off in a cloud of exhaust fumes as soon as the light changed.

What about lawless cyclists? In the last week, I’ve encountered sidewalk riders and wrong-way riders. I suspect that sidewalk riders see themselves as pedestrians-on-wheels rather than as cyclists. In my town, it’s illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk within a business district, though to be honest, I’ve never heard of that law being enforced. Still, the chances of crashing are about three times greater for sidewalk cyclists as compared to those on the street. Every ramp, doorway, or other sidewalk is an intersection, and as we all know, intersections are where the crashes occur.

Worse, I saw two twenty-somethings riding on and off the sidewalk. They swerved onto the road when it was clear, but at the first approach of a motor vehicle, they zoomed up onto the sidewalk again. I was doing almost 20 mph and barely overtaking them.

Pedestrians on wheels. I think it’s the perfect description for these people. And when you consider the wrong-way cyclists, it fits even better. Consider this – we teach children to walk facing traffic, and in fact, that’s the best position for a pedestrian. So these people are acting like pedestrians. They just have a pair of wheels beneath them.

We have to change the mindset of those pedestrians on wheels, convince them they’re on a vehicle, before we can educate them further.


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