Monday, August 31, 2009

Pass With Care

Roads can be a scary place for a cyclist.  When training for long-distance triathlons, it can be a challenge to find a good and safe route for cycling:  Where can one go on a 4-hour bike ride without encountering heavy traffic, or roads with no shoulders, or even vicious animals (a friend of mine once encountered a black bear!)?  On more than one occasion, I've been on a ride where cars have passed by much too close for my comfort, whether the driver was simply not paying attention or was frustrated at having to slow down because I was in his way.  I've had one man in a truck honk at me as he approached from behind, and then pass by me as close as possible even though no one was coming from the opposite direction.  I felt wronged and violated.  As I rode the rest of the way home, I came up with a new design idea for a cycling jersey:  it would be road-construction-sign-orange, and on the back there would be a black-and-white image of the road sign that reads, "Pass With Care."  Yet, the truth of the matter is that many drivers simply don't care, making it a dangerous place for those of us on bikes.  It doesn't seem fair, but then again, few things are.

It's much like life, actually.  For example, the world practically runs over people with physical or mental disabilities.  I've spent time with people with mental retardation or other special needs, and keeping up with the pace of life is overwhelming and often impossible.  They have to learn how to navigate the same twists and turns as everyone else, only at a much slower and harder pace, all the while getting passed by people who aren't paying attention, or worse, people who get frustrated because they have to slow their own pace down.  It is a sad truth, indeed.  But if people with disabilities are given the space they need to succeed, it is amazing the things they can do.  Just watch the Paralympics!

There are plenty of other examples, too, including but not limited to those who are elderly, or poor, or mourning the loss of a loved one.  When we encounter people in situations such as these, we should remember to pass with care, because life is not fair.


  1. Sometimes you hear people say that life is not fair as a sort of excuse for being unfair themselves, or to justify their own lack of compassion. Life is not fair, but people should always strive to make if more fair!

  2. I agree the roads are often unsafe for cyclists. I've had teenagers yell at me out their car windows just to scare me. And I too have had trucks drive close on purpose when they could give space very easily.

    I've read many an opinion online about the whole drivers vs. bikes conflict. Makes me sad to be honest. I can understand both sides of this issue, however, and can see why the conflict exists, but it would be better if it didn't.

    Certain car drivers give drivers a bad rep, and certain cyclists give cyclists a bad rep. I know drivers who HATE bikers. Hate them w/ a vengence b/c enough bikers they've encountered don't follow the rules of the road, endanger pedestrians, ride foolishly, etc. There are bikers like that who make it worse for the rest of us who are trying to share the road legally and safely. And of course there just as many rude car drivers.

    I was joking w/ R recently that I think drivers give my DOG more space when I walk her on the roadside than bikers ever get. That is a whole 'nother discussion about NW "values" however. ;) I told R that I'm going to train Holly to run next to my bike. Her presence would bring me more space cushion than anything else I wear or warn people with.

    An amusing factoid: If drivers know for sure you're a female cyclist, they will statistically give you more space than they will give a male rider. Apparently drivers think female riders are less competent. This makes me chuckle. But I make sure to wear girly gear whether on my bike or motorcycle. If I can get space from the public's general misconceptions, so be it. I'll take it. ;)


    Nice blog by the way. You are a good writer.

  3. Brad - I hadn't thought of the fact that most people say "life isn't fair" to make excuses, but you're right. I guess it's all a matter of perspective.

    bm - Thanks for the insight! Kind of funny in a sad way about the NW attitude that values dogs more than people. And I'll have to start getting more feminine bike gear...a friend of mine just gave me her old bike jersey that's almost neon pink. I've never really been into pink before, bu maybe I'll have to wear that one more often :)