Bike vs Car

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I’ve seen it time and time again—a group of cyclists blow right through a red light or stop sign at a busy intersection. On more than one occasion, awestruck by what I was seeing, I’ve felt a sense of responsibility as the self-designated “bike police” to rescue these cyclists from themselves. I’ve pedaled feverishly to catch them screaming at the top of my voice, “What in the ‘heck’ were you thinking? Don’t you know it’s riders like you that give us all a bad name!” Only to be scorned for my efforts as if I’d lost my mind.

Some might say, rarely, if ever, “I hold my mud,” but, on this occasion, rather than pursuing further, I was so dumfounded that I simply turned around and pedaled home thinking, “If they want to die, it’s on them. Idiots.” I found out a few days later, one of them was hit by a car later in their ride.

Unfortunately, this scenario is all too common. Spend any time biking on the road in the Bay Area, and chances are you’ll see or experience a dangerous scenario of bike vs car. It both frustrates me and makes me sad because in the end, someone pays the price. It’s dangerous for the cyclists and the motorist. Whether cyclists are aware of it or not, the fact is that many Bay Area motorists are fed up with cycle traffic on the road. Frankly, given scenarios like the one above, who can blame them? Unsafe and inexperienced riders are all too common making things even worse. The same goes for motorists. We are a highly congested area; lots of people equals lots of traffic and lots of bikes.

The number of serious injuries and fatalities in car vs bike “accidents” has escalated dramatically over the past five years. Especially in the Bay Area. We live in an amazing place. We have beautiful terrain that allows us to ride up hillsides, mountain sides, around lakes, and every kind of scenery and topography you can imagine. Avid cyclists and triathletes view many parts of the Bay Area as “hallowed ground” for training—Mt. Diablo, Mt. Tamalpais, Three Bears, Redwood, Skyline, Grizzly Peak, Mines Road, just to name a few. All these locations are fed through a few main thoroughfares which are riddled with gobs of cyclists on any given weekend morning regardless of weather, time of year, etc.  Just drive your car down Danville Blvd on a Saturday morning in the summer and you will see hundreds of cyclists. Riders riding solo, couples on townies, pelotons of riders out for a group ride, and everything in between.

The bottom line is that no matter how experienced a rider is, they will lose the fight against a motorist in a car. Period. Common sense tells us that a 2000 lb piece of metal going 35 plus MPH on four wheels has a distinct advantage over a two wheeled bicycle weighing 15-22lbs with a rider wearing spandex (basically underwear) and a Styrofoam helmet. Yet, some neglect this principle.

Do cyclists have the right to ride on the road shared by cars? YES! The law even says so. After all, we even have our own lanes to use—some recently made safer by highlighted green paint and signage for which the cyclist community has fought hard for years. However, that doesn’t change the fact that we will still lose a confrontation with a car, regardless of who’s at fault. 

At the end of the day, it is up to us as cyclists and motorists to be safe, look out for ourselves, and look out for each other. After all, who wants to die because they lost a fight with a car in a fit of self-righteousness? Ride safely, drive safely.

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