No one commutes on a bike to annoy motorists
Wednesday is Grand Valley and Colorado Bike to Work Day, and as a part-time bicycling commuter and full-time staff writer for the special sections department, I begged for an opportunity to make a plea to fellow drivers and cyclists.
First, to all the drivers who feel like bicyclists don’t belong on the roads because we don’t pay for them, remember that we are you. Most of us have a car at home that’s fully licensed, registered and insured. We buy gas for those cars, so we pay taxes at the pump, too. Many of us also own homes and pay property taxes.
There may be a few people who ride because they can’t afford any other type of transportation, but if that’s the case, I say, “God bless them.” Let’s not make their life more difficult by demanding they license their bikes or pay a usage fee on public roads.
Bicycle commuters ride for many reasons. Some of us enjoy the morning solitude on a bike. Some enjoy the morning thrill of crossing Patterson at Seventh Street. Some do it to save the planet, while others do it to save their waistline. For some, riding home is a time to decompress from work, while others ride because they don’t want to take time out of their busy lives to go to the gym. Some may ride simply because it’s fun.
No one commutes on a bike to annoy passing drivers.
Some drivers want to know why we ride on the street when there’s a perfectly good sidewalk available. Short answer: safety.
Drivers aren’t looking for bicyclists on the sidewalks. There are driveways across sidewalks that lead into residential areas, parking lots and businesses, and neither the drivers on the road turning in nor the drivers turning out into the street are looking up the sidewalk to see if a cyclist is coming.
Sidewalks are also dangerous where there are right-turn only lanes, especially if the cyclist on the sidewalk is going straight, which puts them crossing the street in front of a vehicle in a right-turn only lane. Vehicles turning right don’t look for cyclists on their right who are going straight.
Some drivers want to know why we ride during rush hour.
Our days are as full as yours, and while it might be more enjoyable to go for long, recreational bike rides on the Riverfront Trail on weekends, perhaps the only time we have to ride is to and from work.
To all the bike commuters who are convinced the drivers are out to get you: Remember, we are you. Plenty of drivers also ride bikes and very few drivers are deliberately trying to cut off bicyclists, drive too close or endanger us on our bikes. Too many times, they just don’t see us until they’re practically on top of us.
I have a lime green reflective jacket I wear in the spring, fall and early winter. I wear a lime green reflective mesh vest in the summer. I have lights on my bike, but I’ll bet there are plenty of times when it seems like I appear out of nowhere to nearby cars.
Penny Stine is a staff writer for the Sentinel’s special sections department.