In America, the month of May is also known as bike month. If you didn’t know that, join the club. While its purpose is to get people riding, I think it is a good time to raise awareness around the dark side of cycling.
Cyclists come in different flavors. All over America people are biking to class or work. In neighborhoods, you see families on beach cruisers enjoying a sunny day. Bike lanes and paths are cropping up in cities to give folks a safe place to ride. Proponents tout the beneficial exercise and the positive effect on greenhouse gas emissions and traffic congestion.
But it is not all training wheels and pink baskets folks. While socially and environmentally conscious citizens got drunk on altruism, a dark force peddled in. A dark force clad in spandex, Velcro shoes, and sleek helmets. They race down the road at a breakneck pace without regard to stop signs, cross walks, or pedestrians. These cyclists don’t let you know that they are behind you, and they don’t signal where they are turning. Not every person on a road bike is guilty of this arrogance, but there are enough out there that I noticed.
This menace is in full force on the Washington & Old Dominion Trail1. The trail is an old railroad track, running through Northern Virginia, that was paved over. It is wide, well-marked, and stretches for 45 miles. Both bikes and pedestrians are welcome, but many of the cyclists don’t want to share the road.
I have pretty good hearing. I grew up using a Walkman with a tape deck, and I really only used it to listen to Led Zeppelin when I was supposed to be doing homework. The volume was low enough that I could hear my mom coming down the hall to check on me. I never got into the ipod & earbuds thing and probably never will. When I am on the trail, I stay on the far right like a good little pedestrian. But even with decent hearing and no music to run to, I can’t hear a cyclist until they are about to pass me. Some of them are really great about calling out, but a lot of them are not.
Getting hit by a car could be fatal, but getting hit by a bike wouldn’t be pretty either. Driving an SUV doesn’t make you the king of the road and neither does riding expensive bikes in tight garments. Let’s make May about sharing.
Featured Image by Keep Me Curly, all rights reserved.
1. The Wikipedia entry about the beautiful Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Trail