September-October 2002 Newsletter
Ambassadors — Be All That You Can Be!
by Cheryl Brawner
This summer has been eventful, with Critical Mass making the front page
and police showing up at our Tuesday night rides. Who is right? Who is at
fault? How do these incidents affect us in the long run? Will the bad
behavior of a few ruin it for all of us?
There seems to be turmoil among the road-using masses. More cars on the
road with drivers in a frenzy to reach their destination. More cyclists
taking up more space on the road at a slower pace than motorized traffic.
These things up to mounting anger and frustration. What can we do about it?
How can we make a difference?
More and more often the executive committee of the LBC is sought out for
answers to these important issues. Governmental agencies and political
candidates come to us, knowing that cycling as transportation and recreation
is an integral part of the livability of our community. We want safer
streets and more bicycling facilities. But what if “we” aren’t good,
law-abiding citizens? Should we demand respect if we don’t give it? Should
“they” fund our bicycling facilities?
As a cycling advocate, I have learned that leading by example is a
good start (albeit I am not without sin). I realize that many of the folks
who are causing problems are not members of our organization, but they do
often look like “us.” We avid cyclists and members of the largest bicycle
club in Kentucky need to work harder at being the best cyclist we can be.
Now more than ever, we as an organization must lead by example. That being
said, where do we — individually — begin?
We can start on the bike —
- Be courteous. I know — sometimes it’s hard, but let’s make
friends, not enemies, of drivers — I may be next up the road in his path,
and I don’t want him to already have an attitude about us cyclists! For
instance, don’t make a car pass you more than once. Think before making
hand gestures or shouting colorful metaphors at frustrated or discourteous
motorists. Make eye contact and smile at an intersection. Yield to “cars
back” when it is safe to do so. Thank motorists who allow you a moment of
courtesy — a wave and a “thank you” will go a long way in promoting
cycling advocacy. Also, if you see another cyclist being unsafe or
discourteous, let them know you noticed. They might not be aware that
their actions are setting us back.
- Be predictable — use hand signals and obey traffic laws (not
just when it is convenient). Don’t dodge in and out of traffic or blow
through stop signs. Don’t ride on the sidewalk — it’s against city
ordinance. A bicycle is a vehicle, not a toy, and we need to act like one
in order to demand and receive respect from other road users. Remember, we
have both the rights and responsibilities of any other vehicle on the road.
Let’s not act like children.
Off the bike, we can
- Educate the non-cycling public. When others make derogatory
remarks about us cyclists as a whole, analyze their concerns and give them
knowledgeable answers. Make them aware of the laws regarding cyclists, but
don’t force the issue of our rights to the road. For instance, if someone
complains that cyclists don’t yield, you might want to explain that there
are in fact “bad apple” cyclists, just as there are motorists who don’t obey
traffic laws. You might also interject that a good cyclist will yield when
it is safe for passing, and explain why we sometimes do “take the lane” for
our own safety. Don’t just say the law allows us to ride two abreast.
Give-and-take is the key.
- Make a personal connection. Volunteer for community organizations
to promote their causes, such as the Brain Injury Association of Kentucky,
Kosair Charities, the Red Cross or your church or synagogue. Make it known
that you are a cyclist and that you are a member of the LBC. Give them a
hand, and they will appreciate us. The contacts you make will think better of
us when they see us on the road — that person they are about to pass might be
If we can’t depend on cyclists who are not members of our club to do the
right thing, we must represent ourselves — members of the LBC, the local voice
of cyclists — in the best possible light. You can be the voice of reason by
being the bicycling community’s “ambassador.”
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web posted: 9 September 2002
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