I first started riding a bicycle when I was six-years-old. When I was in college, I started riding seriously, but had to tail off when I began working. In my late forties, with my business career well established, I began riding again with a passion! I started competing in criteriums, road races, and time trials.
Now let me tell you, my physical stature is not what one would consider perfect for a cyclist, certainly not for racing. I have fairly broad shoulders, which act like barn doors when riding into the wind. And during my prime, I weighed in the high 160s, low 170s, with legs that honestly impressed people. But I often told them, “They’re all show and no go.” This, of course, was primarily due to my weight, which was certainly an advantage when I went downhill, but a severe detriment when I was going up. And guess what kind of cyclist usually wins races? That’s right … the lite ones!
Anyway, that was my background. Now I ride purely for pleasure and exercise. So when a new California law came about that required motorists to give three-feet of clearance when passing a cyclists, I cheered. I have, as a number of my fellow cyclists, been hit by passing cars. So this new law, along with many municipalities implementing designated bicycle lanes on streets with at least two lanes proceeding in the same direction, allowed us cyclists more room and ease of mind when we ride. What a lot of people don’t know is a bicycle is considered a moving vehicle and, therefore, must follow many of the rules of the vehicle code.
A funny instance happened to me once. An older woman driving by slowed her car, rolled down her window, and told me to get on the sidewalk where bicycles belong. I smiled and informed her that bicycles aren’t really allowed on the sidewalks, but thanked her for her input. This is a prime example of the misunderstanding and confusion that surrounds bicycles. Now there are actually cities that do allow bicycles on the sidewalks, primarily because the streets are not safe for a bicycle to ride on. But the main problem is we all need to understand what rights a cyclist has on the road. And this also requires that cyclists abide by the rules and don’t take advantage of them, which I often see them do. They applaud the three-foot safe zone, and enjoy the bicycle lanes, but then choose not to stop at stop signs, and often ride abreast when on a single lane road, which causes cars to creep along behind them.
If we all want to be safe when driving a car or riding a bicycle, then we must abide by the rules; not decide which ones we will follow and which ones we will ignore. So if you’re driving a car, consider the consequences if you pass a cyclist improperly. And if you’re a cyclist, ride safe, pay attention, and give vehicles the same courtesy you expect of them.