Louisville Bicycle Club

Louisville Bicycle Club Newsletter — September-October 1997

Asserting Ourselves

by Glenn Todd (Effective Cycling Instructor)

It has happened to every one of us. We are out there on our 25-pound machines and a 2,500-pound machine gets too close and are we mad! Words might be exchanged, maybe even some sign language is used. However it is done, it is not pleasant. We know we have a legal ride to the road and we plan to assert that right. We must remember that with that right comes responsibility.

I am not talking about obeying traffic laws, though that is part of our responsibility. What I am talking about is respect and courtesy. We want respect when we are on the road, and we feel it is part of our being safe on the road. We want courtesy by expecting that people won’t try to push us off the road. To earn that respect, we must give it. To have people be courteous to us, we must be courteous to them.

I realize that there are people out there that we feel got their license in a Cracker Jack box. They come in two- and four-wheeled versions. I also know that the only change we have real control over is the one we make inside ourselves.

I have ridden for over 20+ years and been with the Club for nine. There are a few tactics which I have seen us use that I believe provide us with safety and also show respect to those around us.

First is our bike position on the road. Being too close to the edge of the road is dangerous as is being too far out in the lane. I realize that there are many factors to consider such as the condition of the shoulder of the road or if there is even a shoulder to the road. What I have found is staying about 18 inches from the edge is best. This gives you some room to maneuver if someone does get too close. I have noted that in that position, drivers are less likely to view you as “hogging” the road and give you room when they pass.

We like to ride two abreast; it is fun and efficient. However, some of the double pace lines I have seen have been sloppy at best. If we are going to use a double pace line, we need to look and act like one large smooth machine. A double pace line does not need to take up more than half the road. When there is a car back, we should move into a single pace line, and then back out into a double pace line after the car passes. When we do this as a smooth machine, there is a poetry to it; it is like a dance. People observing this are impressed by this poetry of motion. We look like we know what we are doing and in that, gain respect.

Remembering to watch what we say in the heat of the moment is important to our safety. I will admit I have used both verbal and sign language. Once it almost got me planted in the rear end of a car. I believe we have the right to express ourselves and it is just as important to be able to ride another day. The next time you have a run-in with a “cracker jack driver,” try a little empathy and look at it from their side. If you end up in a conversation with them, you might be surprised at the understanding you get in return. No, it won’t always work, and, like cycling, empathy is a skill that needs to be practiced.

Cars are not going to go away; in fact, with all the development, we will see more cars in our favorite areas. The fact is, we are going to have to learn to work together. To do so is going to require bicycling skill and verbal tact. Let’s remember that the only thing we are in control of is ourselves. In our efforts to assert our rights, we can’t forget our responsibilities.

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Copyright ©1997 Louisville Wheelmen
last updated: 2 September 1997
by Duc M. Do