Gini Dietrich

Rules of the Road

By: Gini Dietrich | June 28, 2011 | 
196

My very first two-person time trial

This is not a blog post about PR or marketing. It’s not a blog post about social media. It’s not even a blog post about entrepreneurship or leadership.

But it’s a post about something I care deeply about so I hope you’ll grant me a little leeway today.

Family History

My dad rode his bike my entire life. Mostly because we only had one car and he had two jobs and there was only one way for him to get to work. But he was always on that bike and it didn’t matter if it was sunny or snowing. He rode.

We all fought cycling because of this. I took up running in my 20s and ran a few marathons and countless races. My little (younger, he’s way bigger than me) brother, Austin, had a running scholarship in college, where he raced nearly every weekend.

And then we both woke up (me because I’d had too many scopes on my knee and him because he was bored) and started cycling.

I’ve only been cycling for about six years (I think this is my seventh season, actually), but it’s my true love. I probably wouldn’t have loved it as much had I started from pressure from my dad. But I love it now. It’s like brushing my teeth. I can’t really go a day without a ride.

Cyclists On the Road

I don’t ride to annoy people driving in their cars. I don’t ride to hog the road. I certainly don’t ride because I have a death wish.

But there are many, many, many people who get behind the wheel of a car and become different personas of themselves. They think cyclists are there as moving targets. They think we ride just to annoy drivers.

For instance, on Saturday, I rode 43 miles. In that 43 miles, I had a woman open her door into the bike lane, nearly taking me out. I had a woman turning left into the bike lane so she could turn right a few blocks down. I had a mailman speed past me, only to brake hard so he could turn right in front of me. I had a convertible go around me as the guy behind the wheel flipped me off. I had a guy tap my back wheel WITH HIS CAR because he thought I was going too slowly and he wanted me out of the way.

Mind you. I was in the bike lane for all of this. And this was only one day. Also keep in mind that, for most of the riding, the speed limit is 25 mph. I averaged 19.85 mph on Saturday, which meant, in some cases I was riding the speed limit or even speeding with the cars around me.

Rules Of the Road

There are rules of the road. If the bike lane is blocked or impaired, cyclists have a right to be on the road. If there isn’t a bike lane, cyclists have a right to be on the road. Cyclists can ride two across. It’s the law. But we also have to obey traffic rules, which I know isn’t the case for all of us. It makes me angry when I see a cyclist running a light or moving through traffic against the flow. He makes it bad for all of us.

But the fact of the matter is, no matter how you feel about it, cyclists have as much right to be on the road as cars.

So, the next time you have to make a split decision about making that turn before the cyclist crosses your path, wait the extra three seconds and don’t risk his or her life. I thank you on behalf of the cycling community around the world.

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About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks,Β co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She alsoΒ is the lead blogger atΒ Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

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196 Comments on "Rules of the Road"

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John_Trader1
John_Trader1
5 years 1 month ago

Thanks for sharing this Gini, we can always use a reminder on proper respect for the biking community. It also ruffles my feathers to see bikers disobeying the rules of the road because I think that it feeds the fire for motorists to further ignore ALL bikers and disregard their right of way.

I saw your headline in my feed and thought….hmmm, how will Gini spin this headline into a marketing/pr/social media post, I’m excited to find out! Happy to see that the content was something dear to you and lessons that all of us can learn from.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@John_Trader1 It’s definitely straying from the norm, but by Sunday, I was really upset. I agree there are some bag eggs that make it rough for all of us, but jeez. If someone hits a cyclist, not because they’ve disobeyed the traffic laws, but because they’re just mad about them on the road? Big, big trouble. As in jail time trouble.

faybiz
5 years 1 month ago

Don’t apologize for talking about something you want to talk about- this is your show. We’ll come to watch. markwschaefer had his brag day you can have your bike day!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@faybiz I really thought about it and decided that it’s important enough. If I can raise awareness with a handful of people, that’s a part of why I do this blogging thing.

kamkansas
kamkansas
5 years 1 month ago

Gini, you are so right! It’s scary how some drivers refuse to share the road, and that has to change! Here’s a link to a blog post I wrote about this issue. I thought you might find it interesting. Have a great day, and be safe out there, cyclists! http://bit.ly/lFDpW4

kamkansas
kamkansas
5 years 1 month ago

Great post! (My two cents in comments) RT @ginidietrich Rules of the Road via @spinsucks http://t.co/biX6eeB

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@kamkansas Oh goodie! Headed over there now to read it. Thanks for the link!

faybiz
5 years 1 month ago

@ginidietrich True dat!

as a lapsed biker, I can definitely empathize and like John below was expecting something else but thats cool!

CristerDelaCruz
CristerDelaCruz
5 years 1 month ago

Thank you. Sometimes I get so angry at drivers and “path sharers” that I think the health benefits of cycling are offset by the high-blood-pressure I get just *by* cycling. But you’re right… even though I don’t love it as much as you… there’s no other feeling like it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@CristerDelaCruz LOL! You’re right – your heart rate goes up and then you’ve defeated the purpose! Don’t get me started on the bike path. I avoid it at all costs. People just don’t get it.

CristerDelaCruz
CristerDelaCruz
5 years 1 month ago

Ok, I’ve got my blood pressure a bit elevated just thinking about the stupidity out there πŸ™‚ But I have to add, cyclists (or better defined as those who ride bikes, and there IS a difference, right?) are sometimes just as bone-headed.

I can see why some drivers can clump everyone who rides the two-wheeled-things and get antagonistic. How about “Rules of the Road, Part II: For Those Who Ride Bikes” (Yes, those of you who don’t think that a red light at an intersection applies to you). LOL!

CristerDelaCruz
CristerDelaCruz
5 years 1 month ago
Ok, I’ve got my blood pressure a bit elevated just thinking about the stupidity out there πŸ™‚ But I have to add, cyclists (or better defined as those who ride bikes, and there IS a difference, right?) are sometimes just as bone-headed. I can see why some drivers can clump everyone who rides the two-wheeled-things and get antagonistic. How about “Rules of the Road, Part II: For Those Who Ride Bikes” (Yes, those who don’t think that a red light at an intersection applies). *sigh* I miss Napa Valley roads. I’m turning into an “angry biker chick” as lisagerber called… Read more »
davevandewalle
davevandewalle
5 years 1 month ago
I am all for it – I am extra mindful of the bike lane, and I am respectful of bike traffic. But this is a quid pro quo – I demand that bikers treat the road with the same respect. Where I live, a Chicago suburb, I don’t know how many times I see a biker run a red light or blow through a stop sign; I get the feeling that, because they are in what looks like a professional cycling outfit, they think they can get away with it. I know YOU obey the traffic laws, and I know… Read more »
plgraham
plgraham
5 years 1 month ago

it goes both ways to be sure, but i like this: RT @ginidietrich For my cycling and running friends, this is for you http://bit.ly/jRyv56

CristerDelaCruz
CristerDelaCruz
5 years 1 month ago

@davevandewalle I totally agree with you (see my little rant below πŸ™‚ It’s worse in the city where (mostly) it’s not the cyclists, but the recreational person-on-a-bike who doesn’t realize that not wearing a helmet and zooming through a red light can get them killed. Which in turn makes drivers want to intentionally do so (I say that jokingly, but actually, I’m pretty sure some do).

TheJackB
5 years 1 month ago

@davevandewalle There is a guy that lives in my neighborhood that is militant about cyclist rights. At at red lights he will stop his bike in front of cars and only start cycling again when the light turns green.

I normally don’t mind sharing the road but this makes me crazy because the only time that I get stuck behind him is when I am late. Though he is fast, he doesn’t move off the “starting line” that quickly.

ElizabethWeiland
ElizabethWeiland
5 years 1 month ago
And as a cyclist it is equally important to play by the rules of the road. I was out on a ride on Sunday and was startled by the screech of tires and a loud horn honking. A biker was crossing against a red light and a car, who had the green, had to screech to a stop to avoid hitting her. After she backed up and he went by, She Did It Again! Cyclists and Cars share the road and both need to look, pay attention for the other, follow the rules of the road, and be respectful.
jennwhinnem
jennwhinnem
5 years 1 month ago

I only get mad at cyclists who ride on the sidewalk and nearly take me out (as a pedestrian). Typically that’s not a Serious Cyclist like you Gini – typically that’s the casual DC bike rider. RRrr

Otherwise, respect, even though you’ll never catch me doing something that requires coordination.

RichBurghgraef
RichBurghgraef
5 years 1 month ago
I agree completely Gini! I run every other morning (for me, it was the opposite, I used to ride all the time but I found running is actually better for my back) and on pretty much every run I have to dodge people who decide stop signs are optional or in other ways just figure that I don’t have any rights and I should just get out of their way. I can understand somewhat when I was out running at 6AM in February when it was still dark and people were probably still asleep; but it is late June, the… Read more »
Ari Herzog
5 years 1 month ago

It’s intriguing you use the term cyclists whereas I say bikers. Yeah yeah I know that conjures images of Laconia and Sturgis, but I have also ridden my bike since I was in my single digits and I haven’t looked back. During my post-college years I also entered some 20-30-mile rides just for the heck of it. Maybe it’s the different geographies we live, but I blink when you write cyclist because I say you’re a biker.

rustyspeidel
rustyspeidel
5 years 1 month ago
Impatience, pride, ignorance and uncertainty drive most of this. Impatience, because we cyclists are riding slower than they want and are impeding their precious progress. This makes them antsy and then they start pulling all those ugly stunts like accelerating vindictively and then slamming brakes to “send us a message.” Or accelerating to pass, then slamming on the brakes to turn right. Or my favorite, accelerating through the ride start zone while we are all sitting there getting organized, scaring the shit out of everyone. Boy, that showed US! Pride, because neither side is willing to give in. These damn… Read more »
ElizabethWeiland
ElizabethWeiland
5 years 1 month ago

@RichBurghgraef This happens to me all the time as a pedestrian. Cars just sideswipe me to keep rushing past, even when I have the light and am in the crosswalk. “King of the Road”, indeed!

LauraPetrolino
5 years 1 month ago
Thank you so much for this! I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been run off the road, nearly hit, actually hit, yelled at by cars for no apparent reason and suffered injury after injury because the choice was often flip over into the (lake, bramble, swamp, fill in your medium here) or be hit by a motorist. I went from living in an extremely bike friendly community (Portland, Oregon), to an extremely unfriendly one (Florida)…..it was a huge culture shock and I’m surprised I lived through those first few months of it. That being said, I’d like… Read more »
KatieFassl
5 years 1 month ago

Two of my friends have been hit by cars (one of them was hit by a cab), in Chicago. One of them was in the hospital with a brain injury. Thankfully, he’s okay (I just went to his wedding, this past weekend), but wow, it was a really scary experience.

I’m not sure what the answer is, but the driver-cyclist relationship needs some help.

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 1 month ago
That is why I mountain bike. Drivers can suck. people can suck. (btw @joey_strawn I am sending you your royalty money for using your trademarked term). and with a mountain bike I can jump curbs ride on people’s lawns or even over people if needed 8) But in reality give me a dirt road in the backwoods or some single track where there aren’t people or vehicles. I loved riding down in the beach cities in Los Angeles (Venice was my favorite) but still nothing beats nature. I once had a car turn in front of me in Manhattan Beach… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@Ari Herzog I guess it’s semantics, Ari. Bikers are seen as people who ride motorcycles. That I am not.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@CristerDelaCruz Totally agree, which is why it makes me angry to see (usually guys) cyclists playing with destiny or not obeying the traffic laws. I’ve been known to stop my bike in front of the car and ask them what they’d like to do. I definitely get angry, but I obey the laws (most of the time – sometimes I do ride through four way stops).

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 1 month ago

@ginidietrich @Ari Herzog Gini you could definitely be a biker. But Type AA’s often ride Crotch Rockets vs Harley Cruiser types. That would require a bright leather jumpsuit. Do you have one?

HowieSPM
HowieSPM
5 years 1 month ago

@jennwhinnem aren’t you the one who drove up on the sidewalk to hit me on my bike Jenn? Then you got out…looked down at me mockingly…blew your vuvuzela and drove off laughing?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@davevandewalle I agree and if you do that and get hit, it’s your fault. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about riding in the bike lane and some jerk wanting to turn right so he taps my wheel. HE TAPPED MY WHEEL! I was doing everything by the book. He was behind me. He was impatient. What would have happened if I hadn’t caught myself and fallen into traffic? Unfortunately this kind of stuff happens all the time…when cyclists ARE following the law.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@TheJackB @davevandewalle It’s hard to move off the starting line, but I do the same thing if the person in the car has made some aggressive move at me. If I’m just at a light, I’ll move over so the cars can pass.

Lisa Gerber
5 years 1 month ago

@ginidietrich @CristerDelaCruz that is exactly it!!! I get so worked up, flipping people off, knocking on their cars, yelling at people, there is no relaxation in it. I just rode in this morning and did lots of educating on my way. πŸ™‚

NancyD68
5 years 1 month ago
I relate, but as a pedestrian. I cannot tell you how many times I have nearly been run over by people not paying attention (I am very good about crossing in crosswalks too) and you would think that “she lives in a small town. It should be safe there.” You would be wrong. I live next door to a bar one the busiest street in my small town. A drunk hopped the curb, and crashed into my front stairs. This was two weeks ago. Very scary stuff. Thankfully I was not home, or my son would have been terrified. It… Read more »
ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@ElizabethWeiland I agree, but that’s not what this is about. I obey the traffic laws. There is only one person I can control. And that’s me. I can’t control what other cyclists do, though I’m militant about making them obey the laws when they ride with me. I also can raise awareness of how dangerous it is when a car, a lethal weapon, cuts me off while I’m riding in the bike lane, to save him or herself three seconds.

DannyBrown
5 years 1 month ago

If the bike lane is being abused by drivers, they’re asshats. But I see plenty of cyclists abusing the road too (yes, asshole, red lights mean you too). It’s a bit of six of one and half a dozen of the other, it seems.

And I still think cyclists should pay some form of road tax if they want to complain about the lack of cycling lanes, too… πŸ˜‰

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@jennwhinnem And they shouldn’t be on the sidewalk. They should be on the road. It’s against the law in Chicago to ride on the sidewalk.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@ElizabethWeiland @RichBurghgraef Our office is at Grand and Clark, with a two lane turn that turns right off of Grand onto Clark. You would not believe how many near misses I’ve seen of people who are crossing with the light, in the crosswalk, and cars just decide to turn anyway.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@HowieSPM I think I’ll have to buy one. What color?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@rustyspeidel I think you just wrote your next song.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@DannyBrown In Chicago, we DO pay a road tax. And we’re required to carry a membership in the U.S. Cycling Association if we want to do any team riding. Yet the roads still suck, the bike lanes have huge holes in them, or there aren’t lanes at all. Our new Mayor wants to change all of that. We’ll see how he does.

Lisa Gerber
5 years 1 month ago

@jennwhinnem bikes do NOT belong on the sidewalk. completely agree.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@LauraPetrolino Why would anyone even want to ride on the sidewalk? You’d be constantly starting and stopping. What a huge pain.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@KatieFassl We’ll see what Rahm does in the city for this relationship. He has big plans!

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@HowieSPM A funny story that is related, only because you mentioned mountain bikes. The first time I went mountain biking was in Cabo San Lucas. We had guides because I guess it’s really dangerous to ride there alone. They gave me three rules: Don’t fall off your bike, don’t fall in a crack (which really were craters), and don’t bleed…we just washed the fan. I did all three.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich
5 years 1 month ago

@NancyD68 I think it’s easier in Manhattan because of the sheer number of people who are in the crosswalks at one time. I would kill myself if I had to drive there.

NancyD68
5 years 1 month ago

@ginidietrich Nobody drives in Manhattan! That is why God invented the subway!

LauraPetrolino
5 years 1 month ago

@ginidietrich I have no flipping idea, but I am ashamed to admit the irrational anger that arises in me when I’m walking my dog and…..DING, DING, DING….some dork decked out in neon green cycling gear…on a cruiser….is alerting me of his presence. It takes all my composure to not chase these idiots down and…..

I’m going to stop now πŸ™‚

rachaelseda
5 years 1 month ago
Great post. I think everyone needs to slow down, take a deep breath and remember what’s important. There’s no need to risk anyone’s life or safety only to get somewhere a couple minutes faster. As a runner, I can semi sympathize with you. Although my dad is a cyclist and ever since he explained to me what a cyclist has to deal with on the road I have always been much more cognizant. Actually just recently a car hit me because I was yielding for a cyclist and they were clearly not paying attention. The other driver was irrate and… Read more »
Marcus_Sheridan
5 years 1 month ago

So I’m thinking a biking/bloggers tour across North America…Hmmmmm

wabbitoid
5 years 1 month ago

I think that this does have a lot to do with social media. People interact with machines differently than they do with other people, whether the machine is a car or a computer. it’s very easy to forget that at the wheel or keyboard of the other machine is a human because the main interaction is human on machine.

It’s one of my pet theories, and I wrote about it some time ago:

http://erikhare.wordpress.com/2007/06/28/ex-machina/

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