Steamboat Springs I’m certainly no stranger to the ongoing struggle to establish peace and harmony between cyclists and motorists. During the past five years in particular, the pages of this newspaper have been filled with letters to the editor, news articles and op-eds from readers on both sides of the issue.
I drive a car, and I ride a bike. Often I do both on the same day. But the truth is, I’m behind the wheel much more than I’m in the saddle. It’s from the vantage point of the driver’s seat of my pickup that I’ve come to resent the cavalier approach of some cyclists to following the rules of the road. As a driver, I know it takes only a couple of bad experiences with a careless cyclist before you stereotype the whole lot of ’em.
It’s precisely those driving experiences that have motivated me to be a by-the-books cyclist. I guess my hope has been that my actions while on two wheels can influence others to follow suit — using hand signals to indicate turns, for example, or riding to the far right of the road, even when riding two abreast is both safe and legal. Similarly, I’ve always thought being a responsible cyclist can help change the perception — and sometimes outright resentment — some motorists have for their biking neighbors.
Just how far we still have to go as a community struck me like a slap across the face last week. I was riding my mountain bike back to the Mad Creek parking lot, having just completed the descent of the Red Dirt trail. A buddy and I were riding single file as far to the side of Elk River Road as possible; I was taking up the couple of narrow inches of pavement to the right of the white fog line, intentionally trying to stay out of the way of the occasional passing vehicle.
It’s barely a mile from the Red Dirt trailhead to the Mad Creek parking lot. There were probably a half-dozen southbound cars that passed us on that short stretch. All of them, save one, gave us the courtesy of moving a few extra feet to the left while they passed. Despite being on a straightaway, the driver of a large white pickup blew past us as close as possible without actually making contact — an impact that very well could have cost us our lives. The driver casually looked back at us through his rearview mirror after he passed. There was no doubt in my mind that his actions were intentional.
The incident was jarring, and a week later, I’m still struggling to comprehend the driver’s motivation. Was it to send a message? Was it the result of years of built-up anger from dealing with cyclists whose actions can add to the stress and challenges of driving our winding mountain roads?
The result of that chance encounter could have been tragic. I’m obviously thrilled it wasn’t. But I’m disappointed that in a community of residents with only one degree of separation from one another, we can’t figure out how to share our roads with the respect and safety of all users in mind. I shudder to think of the day when a road-rage incident between a cyclist and a motorist here in Routt County ends with life-changing repercussions for both.
Let’s not let it get to that point. Cyclists, follow the law when riding on roadways and be thoughtful of the drivers who use those roads to commute to and from work, haul horses and hay and who, like you, simply want to make it safely to their destination. Motorists, give a few extra feet to cyclists, and remember that hitting the brakes to wait for a better place to pass a short distance ahead always is OK if it means a safer outcome for you and your two-wheeled neighbors.
To reach Brent Boyer, call 970-871-4221 or email bboyer@SteamboatToday.com