On Saturday afternoon, I went out for a bike ride and nearly lost my life.
That might be a slight exaggeration, as I don’t know that I could have died, but it felt like I could have, had I gone down.
You see, a man in his big tan Lexus SUV, with his wife and toddler in tow, decided he owned the road and didn’t want me out there with him.
I was in the bike lane, riding with the flow of traffic, and he thought it’d be a fun game to box me in.
Imagine, if you will, a great big car to my left, me in the bike lane, and parked cars directly to my right.
There is plenty of space…as long as no one opens their parked car door without looking.
Which is exactly what happened with a cab as Mr. Road Owner got closer and closer to my left.
When I swerved to miss the open car door, I hit the side of his car. He rolled down the window, reached across his wife, flipped me the bird and said, “Get the *&!&* off the road.”
He sped away and, try as I did, I couldn’t catch up with him to get his license plate number.
Which leads me to my annual bike safety blog post.
Share the Road
No matter where you live, bikes are allowed on the road.
If you live in a place like Chicago, bikes are not allowed on the sidewalk so the only place they can go is the road. And, for many of us, it is our form of transportation.
While laws vary state-by-state, following are a few things to consider everywhere.
- Helmets. There is an article floating around that says it’s safer to ride without a helmet because studies show people in cars are more cautious around you. While that may be true, if you fall and hit your head, it doesn’t matter how cautious drivers are around you. You will screw up your brain. Last summer, I had a pretty bad accident that gave me a concussion…and I was wearing a helmet. Imagine what would have happened had I not been.
- Vehicle Operators. Bicycles are considered vehicle operators, which means they must obey the same laws as cars. They must stop at stop signs and wait for green lights before continuing on their way. This also means, if there is debris or parked cars with open doors, they can move into the lane of traffic.
- Three Feet. This is the amount of space you must give a bicycle on the road. That means that Mr. Road Owner mentioned above was breaking the law and, had I gotten his license plate number, he would have been ticketed.
- Turning Right. This is when riding your bike on the road becomes precarious. In Chicago, the bike lanes in most parts of the city are to the right of moving traffic. Which means, if you’re stopped at a light, meaning to turn right, I will be directly on your side in the bike lane…and it’s rare you will have seen me. Always, always, always turn around and look before turning right. In Chicago, turning left or right in front of a cyclist is illegal.
- Parked Cars. My biggest fear about riding my bike outside is that I am going to get doored. This means someone is going to park their car and get out of it without looking. They don’t see me, open the door, and I fly over it. It happens a lot. It happens so much, the cabs in Chicago now have signs on their windows asking customers to look before opening their doors.
Depending on where you are, cyclists are also allowed to ride two across and they are allowed to ride in the road, particularly if there isn’t a bike lane.
I know there are many cyclists who don’t obey the laws. This is wrong. It is also wrong to take the attitude that if they don’t obey the laws, you don’t have to, either.
There are plenty of us who aren’t jerks on our bikes. We’re out there either getting exercise or running errands.
Think about it this way: Would you rather wait the extra three seconds to give the cyclist some room or risk hitting them and killing them?
Be careful out there. Inform yourself. And share the road.