Op-Ed: The Road is for Cars and Bikes
For the last eight years I have been in love.
It's a love that helps build my moral character. It keeps me grounded, mentally strong, and humble. But it's not an individual, it's not a group of friends or family. That's a different kind of love than what I am writing about.
I'm writing about my love for cyclists.
But because this hobby/passion requires the use of public space it can sometimes run into opposition. I feel its necessary to establish a little exhibition before diving into the subject of this opinion piece.
It all started when I moved to Highland Heights for college and wanted a cheap, reliable way to get to NKU's campus. My first bike was a Raleigh 3 speed town cruiser. It was dirt brown, clunky, and shifted with the speed of a lumbering dinosaur. But I loved it! I learned to clean and maintain it with pride. Since then I have amassed a small fleet of bikes. They are less a collection than they are tools I use to interact with the world around me.
You see, in the past eight years, I have worked part-time at a bike shop and learned practical bike skills. I've traveled with my bike to Montana and climbed mountains. And most important of all, I made a diverse group of friends.
We've built a community out of our shared love.
But I am, too, a motorist.
I am not of those extreme, dedicated folks you may see biking to work everyday. Rain or shine, winter or summer, they are out there, and as cyclist/motorist I have a unique perspective when using our streets and public infrastructure.
Daily, I see traffic laws being ignored or bent.
Both motorists and cyclists are guilty.
State laws require motor vehicles and bicycles to use the same roadways. As a result, conflict is inherent. Cyclists and motorists have different behaviors and habits they employ in order to make their trip easier, some legal and some, not so much.
There are studies that show motorists and cyclists commit traffic violations with a relatively equal frequency, but I can only speak from anecdotal experience. I constantly see motorists skirt the law, like not coming to a complete stop for a right turn on red or gunning it on a yellow in order to “beat the red”. Cyclists, too, break the law. How often have you seen a cyclist roll a stop sign or lane-split several stopped cars in order to get to the front of the pack?
These are all illegal maneuvers.
One thing I have noticed in my many years of sharing the road is the unfortunate hostility towards folks on bikes. I say unfortunate because most of this road rage comes from a lack of understanding. You may see a cyclist riding on the right side of the lane, when all of a sudden they take the center and impede your ability to pass. What gives? Why are they being a jerk? Many times, cyclists will behave in ways motorist don't understand. A cyclist may “take the lane” for myriad reasons. The most common is blind turns. I can't begin to tell you how many times motorist have overtaken me while veering into the oncoming lane without being able to see around the bend. It didn't take long for me to learn the behavior of “taking the lane” through a blind turn.
This, by the way, is completely legal for a cyclist to do.
There are many behaviors cyclists perform that a motorist may not understand.
Two ideas I would like folks to think about:
• Cyclist aren't inconveniencing you as much as you think.
• Cyclist are people just like you.
I know it can be frustrating to be slowed by cyclist. But I would urge you to actively think about how little time a cyclist is really adding to your drive.
Humanizing each other is critical.
I mention how my love for cycling keeps me humble.
Sometimes people elevate their own frustrations and place them incorrectly. Folks can sometimes cope with struggles in the wrong way. It's human. Whether it's a person on a bike or a person in a car we're all just people.
So the next time a cyclist impedes you please stop and realize the road is for them, too. And, like you, they are just trying to get to where they are going.
By putting these two concepts into practice the next time you are behind a bicycle and it's rider I feel we can make roadways safer and build a better sense of community in Greater Cincinnati.
Opinion-Editorial written by Tim Moore, a resident of Covington