Let Us Ride Our Bikes in Peace

18 Aug

Very sadly, we have had three cyclists killed here in recent weeks by inattentive drivers; consequently Mark and I have decided to take some time off from biking on public roads during the work week.

All three of these cyclists were killed doing what they love – bicycling – and doing it legally – supposedly protected by law.

Unfairly and unfortunately, it didn’t matter.  It affords a cyclist little or no safety that they ride legally and responsibly.  All it takes is one negligent driver – reaching for coffee, their cell phone – or whatever – to take any cyclist’s life.  It makes me angry and incredibly sad that it is this way, but it is.  Until the laws are changed and drivers accept that cyclists have every legal right to be on the road with them it will continue to be dangerous.

There is only one rule on the open road that counts when it comes to bikes and cars:  Cars always win.

Regardless of how safely a cyclist rides or how carefully they follow every applicable law – a cyclist is still at the mercy of every passing motorist.

As I wrote about some months ago, all you have to do to realize just how dangerous biking is on public roads is to Google “cyclist injured” or “cyclist killed”. Actually, I know from personal experience that it is dangerous – in 1995 a car hit me. I was one of the fortunate few, suffering relatively minor injuries.
Another factor in our decision to ride the trails at Oklahoma City’s Lake Hefner rather than the country roads near where we live, have been the very hot temperatures this summer.  Because of the 100+ degree weather we have had to get out and ride early – early when people are trying to get to work.  Cycling is dangerous enough with your typical run of the mill distracted driver – add to that a mix of aggression and impatience and you have a situation ripe for disaster.

We do have to drive about 30 minutes each way to get to Lake Hefner, but for greater peace of mind it’s worth it. With school getting started and people resuming their harried schedules, there have been even more impatient drivers on the road – and driving more erratically than normal. When things quiet down we will probably go back to riding on the road during the week part of the time – but for now Monday – Friday you will find us on the trail. Our weekend rides, we plan to continue with our regular route either west or east of Edmond.

There is still risk because you do have to cross city streets in places, but it is safer than the open road. We are able to go out early and ride while people are on their way to work – and we can see them from our “protected trail” and smile to ourselves that not only are we not on our way to work – we are riding our bikes safely out of their reach.

Both today and Monday, we rode on the paved trail around Lake Hefner It is only 9.5 miles around so we have to ride it three times to equal our normal ride, but that’s okay.

One thing we have noticed this week is our average speed is 1-2 mph higher than when we ride on public streets. Reason being – we don’t have to stop and go as much. Riding on the open road there are frequent stop signs and some traffic lights that cause us to stop every mile for a good part of the ride – which doesn’t happen on the Hefner trail as much.

It would be nice to be able to leave our house on our bikes and ride in our community safely.  Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, but for now, here, it is.

Please, when you drive, DRIVE. Don’t talk on the phone, eat, put on make-up, watch a movie, text, clean your car, read, primp, discipline your kids or pet your dog.
Just drive and watch out for all cyclists (children ride bikes too – remember?) and pedestrians. And, when you do encounter them on the road, drive like it was your son or daughter or husband or wife. They, and their families, will appreciate it!


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For the Love of Bikes Blog by Susan Lash (2009 - 2014) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
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