Dear Doctor Wally...
This is Wally's column from the Red Dirt Pedalers "Wheel Issues."
Dear Dr. Wally
I was riding home from school a few days ago when a car ran a stop sign and almost hit me. The driver never even looked my way since he was holding a cell phone to his ear. What can we do to protect ourselves from distracted drivers?
Shaken in Choteau
I'll forgo the usual snark and give it to you straight - short of staying off the public roads, there's little we can do to protect ourselves from distracted drivers. Obviously, we need to stay alert and be aware of our surroundings in all directions. A rear view mirror is a good long-range warning device, but in close we need to both look and listen.
Traveling on the public way involves a kind of social compact. We each exercise due care, that is, we look out for ourselves and others, and we assume that all other road users are doing the same. When they do not, as in the case of your self-absorbed driver and his cell phone, we're angry and frustrated because that person is being irresponsible.
Sadly, however, when the injured party is a cyclist, there's a tendency to blame the victim. "He should have known that cycling is dangerous! He shouldn't have been on that busy road, even if he was on the shoulder." Police, prosecutors, and judges exhibit this anti-cycling bias far too frequently.
But there is some good news, and that's the simple fact that road cycling isn't particularly dangerous when we follow the rules of the road. That means obeying traffic control devices, riding with traffic, and using lights and reflectors if we ride at night. All of this stacks the odds in our favor. It can't eliminate risk, but it goes a long way toward minimizing it.
Next month: A cyclist's guide to surviving the zombie apocalypse.
Labels: Wally Crankset