Share the road
In a rare bit of good news, an unexpected windfall will allow the state Department of Transportation to build wider-than-planned shoulders on a stretch of Colorado Highway 340 popular with road cyclists.
Thanks to a low bid from a contractor on a resurfacing project near the west entrance to Colorado National Monument, CDOT’s budget can now accommodate shoulders wider than 2 feet, which should make for safer riding conditions.
The widening project will occur at the spot where a Grand Junction cyclist was hit from behind by a vehicle last fall. The rider survived but suffered serious injuries, including numerous broken bones.
So conditions in a dangerous spot will improve, but that’s only half the equation. The bigger problem is a growing animosity between cyclists and motorists, with each side viewing the other as the problem.
Too many motorists view cyclists as second-class citizens with a dubious claim on the right to use roadways. One of the arguments is that they don’t pay taxes to support road infrastructure. That’s silly. Demographics suggest that road cycling is the darling of affluent professionals who likely have several vehicles in the garage at home.
Unfortunately that feeds the notion of a class struggle, which doesn’t help ease tensions. But this isn’t a one-way problem. Cyclists — who will always lose in a collision with motorists — can be defensive, bordering on belligerent, when their space is encroached.
If we’re going to fulfill the promise that comes with branding the Grand Valley as an outdoor recreation destination/mecca, we have to find a way to be more civil to each other.
There are laws on the books that protect cyclists and prevent them from holding up traffic. But the laws themselves obviously don’t magically inspire mutual respect. Things will improve when both motorists and cyclists make a conscious effort to earn each other’s respect.
If motorists stop crowding bikes (drivers must give cyclists 3 feet, including mirrors or other projections, according to state law), or “coal rolling” bikes by stomping on the gas pedal of a diesel engine or honking their horns as they pass, maybe cyclists would be more amenable to doing their level-best to not impede traffic.
Similarly, just because the law allows for cyclists to ride two abreast on a roadway doesn’t mean they should. Extending the courtesy of riding single file shows an appreciation for other people’s time, which should dismantle perceptions of cyclists as self-absorbed or entitled.
We encourage both sides to try courtesy first. When you see a cyclist or a motorist making an effort to be safe and accommodating, let them know you appreciate it with a thumbs up or a wave. And let’s remember that one bad apple shouldn’t spoil the bushel. Don’t write off all motorists or cyclists based on a single bad encounter.
Persistence pays off. If we want to improve the relationship, we all have to do our part — consistently and conscientiously.