As with cyclists, drivers are also not the most perfect.
And the blunt reality is that, despite how often some bicyclists break laws or increase annoyance, it is drivers who are provided the vast majority of our public real estate. Add on top of this the fact that drivers handle machines that can be very dangerous, the insularity caused by being in a motor vehicle, and how little of the law they actually know and… Well, we have friction.
Though some of your complaints about cyclists are indeed warranted, dear driver, there is no question that it doesn’t excuse your own behavior.
One of the most amusing things that happened to me on a ride home was a woman passing me on 4th, leaning over her passenger seat to tell me that what I was doing was really dangerous, she sees it all the time, and she doesn’t understand why I’m not on the sidewalk. Meanwhile, I’m looking ahead to make sure I can avoid the oncoming collision she’s about to be a part of since she has not one iota of focus on the road.
Drivers, just… Just stop. Stop, stop, stop. In fact, here is a nifty little pseudo-guide as to what you need to stop doing.
STOP yelling at cyclists—in any capacity unless you are forewarning them of pending doom. Other than that, we don’t deserve nor need to hear your frustrations or philosophy on traffic engineering. Any road is, technically speaking, a bike path. So while it might make sense in your head that a bicyclist should head a mile south to the beach path and then ride her bike north on a sidewalk instead of just using 4th from Downtown eastward, you are mistaken. I understand: you’ve sat in traffic and got off the 710, you’re so happy to be back on Long Beach streets and not facing the rear end of a semi. Nonetheless, don’t get angry because your 10-minute finish-line to home is now 12 thanks to the “slow” bicyclist. We didn’t cause your traffic delay; other cars did that so there’s no need to scream so STAAAHP right there.
STOP honking. Genuinely. There’s just no need unless you are trying to alert a cyclist about something but to hear you honk as you pass me pedaling is just not needed. It’s loud, it’s abrasive, and when you do it out of the blue, it can be really dangerous for cyclists—as in cause them to fly off the road or, worse, right into you. And the revving of your engine as you pass? It does nothing for your masculinity, I assure you. In fact, just STAAAHP.
STOP texting and driving. That’s it. Simple. Easy. Just. STAAAHP.
STOP saying or claiming or acting as if, “I didn’t see you.” This massive misbehavior comes in many forms: passing cyclists and then making an immediate right-hand turn as if the cyclist suddenly disappeared; saying this aloud after hitting a cyclist (Oh, I’m sorry, since when was that a legitimate excuse in a collision? And where were you looking?); pushing a cyclist to the edge or outright off the road; cutting a cyclist off… Just STAAAHP.
STOP having a fear of the double-yellow and go over it if it means providing ample room for you to pass a cyclist. If there is no one on the other side, it is safer to hop over the Wall of China that is the double-yellow, and pass. In fact, I see you do it all the time for pot holes. Surely you can provide the same courtesy to a human being. Laws about passing cyclists are unfortunately very unclear—ultimately a failure of vehicular code—but I would wager that police officers care about the safety of everyone. In fact, they will only care (for the most part, unless they’re just… Well, careless) if the pass actually puts another driver/cyclist/pedestrian at risk.
STOP making assumptions about the rights and needs of bicyclists. Bicyclists don’t belong on the road? Nope: bicyclists are considered drivers of vehicles so… There’s that. Bicyclists aren’t licensed and don’t pay fuel taxes, so shouldn’t be on the road? Yeah, no again. Common law provides any citizen to use public roads; driving a machine that is two tons of metal and can kill people is the reason there’s a license for it. Paying fuel taxes does not provide you special access to public roads (not to mention that many cyclists also drive, especially in SoCal). Bicyclists delay traffic? Nope, that would be you and your fellow motor vehicles surrounding you.
When all is said and done, here is the thing: while bicyclists might be a minority, that doesn’t excuse them behaving unsafely, rudely, or just outright idiotically—and the same exact thing applies even more so to drivers since they take up a vast majority of our public space and are in control of a contraption that is potentially very, very dangerous.
So as I said before, the cheesy mantra of let’s-just-get-along applies. Your weary commute from LA back to LB isn’t any more dreadful than the long day a cyclist just had at work and is now physically exerting herself alongside you to get home. Even more, at least the cyclist isn’t spewing emissions into the already-plagued air so the least you can do is give them a little tip of the hat.
We’re all in this together so put on your Big Boy pants and recognize other humans.