Thursday, March 6, 2014

On my soapbox - why cyclists make safer (better) automobile drivers ... and also Marathon Monday

I did my long bike ride Sunday.

Not too long 50 miles. But I had plenty of time with my thoughts because I was alone. I don't usually ride totally alone but I also don't mind being totally alone.
documenting my solo ride to pester my training mates who bailed on me Sunday morning. It didn't actually bug me but pestering them is fun.

I have an acquaintance who recently wrote a book about good street design. Which is interesting because we live in Miami where there isn't a lot of good street design and we also lack greatly in the area of communal driver quality. Our drivers are terrrible and our roads are bad. It's not a great combination when it's your turn to be a pedestrian.

But in the end I have one thought. It's perhaps a complicated thought but I think it works. See if you can follow me here. Cyclists (and by extension motorcyclists and probably families of those who "ride") are safer drivers when it comes to pedestrian accidents. This is my theory - it could be a bad one but it's mine.

Here's my explanation. As cyclists we expect to see cyclists and runners in the road. Because we expect it since we are there too we "see" it. If I see a small blinking light off in the distance I think, oh that might be a bike. When I make a turn I look behind me to see if a bike is coming up on the right - I do these things because sometimes that cyclist is me or a friend of mine. It's a natural thought - oh here's a road there might be a bike on it. Oh here's a sidewalk there might be a walker/runner on it.

Those who don't do it. Don't expect it, don't check for it and don't see it.

For example in Miami we have these "sharrow" marks showing up in the street. Recently I showed them to my husband and my father-in-law and neither of them had any idea what they meant. That's probably not too helpful then is it? They are supposed to mark a spot in the road where cars and bikes share the lane. Ergo sharrow. The share arrow. Get it. Nope neither did they.

Therein lies the conundrum ... how can you get people to see something they aren't used to looking for?

Also therein lies the inherant risk. In my opinion it's so very important for cyclists to think like drivers when they are on the bike. Today on my ride I saw several cyclists go around on the left of a car at an intersection. They squeezed into the lane. This is something a car couldn't do. The driver is looking at the traffic light ahead of him and oncoming traffic etc. He's not looking for bikes to his left in his driving lane. The car wasn't expecting them and not totally surprisingly when they appeared in his frontal vision he stopped short. He was surprised. There was a car behind him who almost hit him and I was behind that car. But I had given them a lot of room because I saw the cylcists pull out to the left and I suspected - anticipated what might happen. So I wasn't hurt or caught off guard but that isn't always won't always be the case.  And in true Miami fashion the cyclists totally hazed the driver as they went by.

Thinking like a car in this case would have meant stopping behind the car in the lane and waiting for the light to change. Waiting for lights is something some cyclists hate to do but really ... riding a bike doesn't change the driving rules as much as we might want it to.

We can't make all drivers be cyclists. That's just impossible. We could perhaps lobby for more bike awareness on driving tests perhaps. We can encourage more education in the form of community bike rodeos and things. 

That's the end of my theory. I don't have any real suggestions of how to fix it. But somebody should probably think about this because I'm pretty sure herein lies at least part of the problem that results in pedestrians getting run over at a pretty frequent rate and nobody likes that. 

In other news, my last long run before the Rome Marathon is complete. Last 20 miler. I ran with my friend Doug which was fun. He had plenty to chat about which is always helpful. Now it's time to relax recover ... taper.

 We must be getting close to tri season!
Look, running biking and swimming!

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