Spoke Talk: Confronting our own worst enemy
May 11, 2012
It's surprising to me how unpopular cyclists are to some people given how low impact bicycling can be.
The complaints start to roll in as soon as bikes appear back on the roads after winter. It's typically other road users who have a beef with cyclists, rather than the other way around. In many cases, cyclists have themselves to blame.
We take liberties on our bikes that we never would dream of taking in a car — running a red light, turning without signaling and riding two abreast and holding up traffic. Sometimes, we are our own worst enemy.
I shared my concerns with Corey Piscopo, of local cycling team Steamboat Velo. He's also an employee of Moots Cycles. He offered a great perspective:
"Having been a road and mountain biker for many years, what is going to make all cyclists safer and raise mutual respect on the road is an awareness and mindfulness by riders for other road users," Piscopo said. "It started for me with the basic act of waving to thank vehicles that yield to pass or give me space when passing."
Something so simple as a wave and moving to the right of the road before a car goes by shows:
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■ You are aware that a car is approaching from behind.
■ You acknowledge the driver with a positive gesture before they have passed.
■ You reinforce the notion that cyclists can be respectful of motorists and appreciate when motorists do the same.
I do this daily on rides, and a vast majority of drivers wave back, give me plenty of room and certainly appreciate the fact that I am riding with their safety and mine in mind. Anyone who is out for a ride while not paying attention to the laws of the road and unaware of the cars around them is putting themselves in danger as well as hurting the reputation of all cyclists. As a driver, I have no problem yielding to a cyclist before passing, but it is hard to not get frustrated when a rider is erratic and unpredictable as it puts everyone in danger and leaves drivers with no idea what your next move is going to be.
There are many cyclists who ride the right way, but there certainly are offenders, too. Sadly, the mistakes made by others add up to the increasing wrath that some feel toward all cyclists. We need to be aware of the trickle-down effect of our actions.
The latest example comes from a neighborhood on the south side of town with some of the smoothest, low-traffic paved private roads around. It's a beautiful scenic route through this neighborhood on the way out to Stagecoach. Unfortunately, residents don't see all cyclists as low impact. Complaints about excessive speeds, unfriendly or even aggressive behavior, concern for the safety of pedestrians or the risk of an accident with a car when riders push their limits too far are revamping talks of excluding bikes there.
What cyclists may not realize is that the perfect pleasure of riding in this private neighborhood is a privilege and not a right. It's a private road. The residents legitimately can close the door on access at any time and remove another section of beautiful road riding because we didn't show the respect that we should have.
So this is a plea to cyclists to remember what we are teaching the kids in our community. We need to share, and we need to show respect. Please remember while riding in a private neighborhood to give a friendly wave or, better still, a smile to a local resident and slow down a little so as not to cause alarm.
These residents need to know that we care, or we will be shut out. If that happens, we will have only ourselves to blame.
Robin Craigen is vice president of the Routt County Riders cycling club and owner of Moving Mountains Chalets.