One thing I think is true of most cyclists, we are very aware of how many drivers do not know the law when it comes to bikes and cars sharing the road. I also think that many motorists also don’t realize that in their rush to get somewhere, catastrophic consequences may result.
Case in point are some very recent occurrences. Recently a friend of mine was cycling downhill at 42 mph when he hit a car that make a u-turn in front of him. My friend had the right of way! Thankfully he will recover, however he spent 18 days in the hospital and is now in a rehab center learning to walk again. He was fortunate, however not everyone is that lucky.
Last week, a cyclist from Annapolis, MD was struck and killed by a car. According to the Washington Post article as she “neared the shaded top of that hill on her bicycle Wednesday evening, she was hit from behind by a Honda van whose driver was eager to get around the lone cyclist.” Passing on a hill never makes sense – you can’t see what’s coming towards you. In addition, apparently this stretch of road doesn’t have a shoulder. According to some friends who know the area, if the driver had been patient the accident would have been averted as the road widens over the top of the hill and would have given the car plenty of room to safely pass.
I’d love to say that these are isolated occurrences, but they’re not. And they took on a different meaning to me over the last two days. I was out biking in Columbia, MD yesterday. I was on Gov. Warfield Road heading towards Little Paxtuxtent Parkway. In their hurry not to get trapped behind me, several cars passed very close to my left shoulder. The stupid thing is they got stopped at the light less than a block away anyway and caught up to them in short order. They didn’t save any time!! I was able to get around them onto the sidewalk at the corner. I really had no desire to been on Little Pax Pky with all of the traffic. Then today, as I commuted to work by bike, 3 cars passed me in Rock Creek with oncoming traffic coming the other direction, They were barely over the yellow line, which means they were incredibly close to my bike. All they had to do was wait 2 (!) cars and they would have had a clear path around me. Seriously people, you would have had to slow down less than 30 seconds!!! If you’re so worried about being late let me throw this concept at you. If you have to wait for the police following an accident, you’re going to be even later. My advice, leave earlier and slow down!
Seriously people. I’m obeying the traffic laws. I ride to the right of the street, I keep a steady pace, and I signal when making turns. I would love to ride on the bike paths and sidewalks, however most of them aren’t maintained; have roots, potholes, and other dangerous protrusions; and you also have the runners and walkers who are tuned out with their headphones. I’m a runner and I’m very careful about staying to the right when I run. If I’m with a friend and we’re running 2-abreast, I try to get an eye out for bikers.
Maryland law says “the driver of a vehicle passing a cyclist must provide 3′ of space between the car and cyclist. The driver should be able to see the passed vehicle in the rear view mirror before returning to the original lane. After passing you must make sure you are clear of the bicyclist before making any turns” [Source: Potomac Pedalers]. But this doesn’t always happen. Throw a distracted driver into the mix and it’s a recipe for disaster.
I really wish I could do something about this situation, but I understand from some people (cyclists) that they’ve gotten grief from the police when they were in the right and the motorist was wrong. How do you combat so much misinformation?
The final report isn’t out on the Annapolis cyclist’s accident, but it doesn’t look like it was malicious. I have heard of incidents where motorist have throw bottles and other objects at cyclists, as well as buzzing them with their cars. It’s not a game, particularly when it could be “game over” for the cyclist.
So this post isn’t just to complain, but to bring awareness to this situation. It has to change, not just for cyclists’ benefit. Careless and distracted driving is dangerous. I’m hoping to find ways to become more active in publicizing bike laws. Maybe the state will do a PSA in concert with the “It Can Wait” campaign. Maybe the Federal government can get involved. I don’t know what yet, but I know that something needs to happen and it starts with one person.
I’m willing to stand up and fight. Will you join me?