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Cars and bikes must get along

Guest Column by Larry Sage

Thank you for Andrew Becker’s excellent article on bicycling in the Truckee-Tahoe region (Sierra Sun, June 7).

As a long time bicyclist – commuter, tourist and racer – I have had the opportunity to cycle throughout much of the United States, as well as in several foreign countries. Bicycling offers tremendous health benefits, a great way to see the country, and remains the most efficient mode of transportation on the planet. Every cyclist on the road is gaining personal health and recreation benefits, as well as reducing motor vehicle congestion and emissions. And every cyclist that comes here to ride contributes tourist dollars to our local economy. The promotion and accommodation of regional cycling benefits individuals and the community alike.

When I started cycling seriously over 30 years ago, cyclists were a rather eclectic bunch; an oddity riding along miles from nowhere. Motorists didn’t seem to hesitate to give the two-wheeled curiosity a wide berth. As time has passed, the numbers of both cyclists and motor vehicles have increased dramatically, especially in California. Many drivers now perceive what was once a curiosity as an inconvenience. While there are drivers that are truly “bicycle friendly,” there are many who apparently just “tolerate” cyclists, and a very frightening few who appear to have little if any regard for another human life – especially if that human is sharing the road on a bicycle.

Every road cyclist that I know has many times experienced riding as close to the right hand side of the road as possible, only to have an irate driver speed by inches away, blowing their horn and glaring into their rear-view mirror to see the reaction. Those people are flirting with murder.

Someone once said, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could all just be nice to each other?” The obvious answer is, “Yes!” In that context, I would like to offer the following ideas to both motorists and cyclists:

Motorists

1. Operating a motor vehicle is a privilege, not a right. A license is required, and with that comes the responsibility to operate the motor vehicle safely. Cyclists and pedestrians have the right to share the road unless the law specifically prohibits it.

2. A bicyclist’s safety is both the cyclist’s and your responsibility. If it is not safe to pass the bike, slow down and wait until it is. Don’t be afraid to take your foot off the gas!

3. Look at every cyclist on the road as a human being, riding to get or stay in shape, enjoying the outdoor beauty, saving you gasoline and reducing pollution of the air you breathe. Consider what it must be like to have a 2,000-pound weapon pass by inches from your elbow, then, move over and give them some space. Remember that a cyclist or pedestrian is an inconvenience only if you choose to make them one.

4. Try riding a bicycle yourself -the benefits are many.

Cyclists

1. While sharing the road with motor vehicles may be your right, you are also compelled under the law to obey traffic laws and ride as far to the right as is safe and practicable. You do yourself and all cyclists a disservice by unnecessarily riding in the traffic lane, regardless of your personal reasons.

2. Give a second, or third or fourth, thought before reacting to a hostile driver. Remember that the driver is at the helm of a lethal weapon, and if they have already threatened your life, showing your anger could make a bad situation much, much worse. I have taken the approach of forcing a smile and saying to myself, “I am so glad that I am not like you.”

3. Consider that your actions and cycling behavior reflect upon all cyclists. It seems to be human nature to equate all apples with one bad one.

4. Support local, regional, national and international bicycling coalitions and organizations. These groups are at the forefront of cycling legislation that will determine the future of cycling in our communities. Lend a hand or a dollar or both.

5. Keep riding – and ride courteously and safely!


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