Happy Motorist-Happy Cyclist

Happy Motorist-Happy Cyclist (first 10.16.12)

Who is happier- the cyclist off the road fixing a flat, or the guy driving a new Mercedes stuck in traffic?

Enough of these philosophical questions.

Onward to the "open road" (what open road?) and our crucial topic of the day: there needs be a certain level of cultural understanding and love between us happy motorists and us happy cyclists.

Think of all the things we have in common.

We both like to move around alot.

And go places.

And sometimes both of us will start early enough to arrive on time, but we both agree that that takes planning. 

Moreover, almost all of us cyclists are also, or have been, and will continue to be, motorists.

So we happy cyclists have a lot of empathy for you happy motorists, and we know that some of you deep down really want to be happy cyclists too, and are perhaps looking for an excuse to join our tribe.  

We also both agree that the most difficult matter for all of us is a left turn across oncoming traffic.

Like I said we have a lot in common.

We cyclists usually ride quite contentedly on the right shoulder of the road but when making a left turn we have to come into the flow of traffic, and then perhaps stop, and or even turn across oncoming traffic.

This often requires the totally unrecompensed cooperation of you, our happy motorist friend.

This is so because while you happy motorists make quick lane changes and come to rapid "pit stop" stops, we bicyclists do these things at a different speed, and yet still have the right to, occasionally anyway, turn left.

So this bike turning left situation, by definition, requires happy motorists to exercise patience (oh I know that sounds so moralistic and value-laden). This is so since bikes are pedal-powered and cars are horse-powered.

Given this fact some of you happy and practical motorists might ask "why don't you happy cyclists just ride on the sidewalk, and trails, and leave the road to us?"

Your invitation to this well practiced but equally frought form of urban "guerilla" cycling is well noted.

Yes, while this is sometimes done by cyclists (but in Connecticut a bicyclist is considered a pedestrian on a sidewalk, and must yield to actual pedestrians), it's totally a last resort type of thing.

Not only is it against the law in many states to ride on the sidewalk, but doing so presents considerable and perhaps even more safety hazards for everyone concerned than riding on the road does- such as lack of visibility to road vehicles exiting, and great surprise and consternation to folks and dogs who thought the sidewalk was theirs alone. 

And sidewalks, in the end, always leave the happy cyclist pressing cross walk buttons to do that thing that so many happy motorists seem to hate to see us happy cyclists do- turn left!

As for motorist visibility of cyclists travelling in the same direction, why does the experienced cyclist often temporarily take a slightly more outward line, more into the middle of the street, which hastens foul language and wordly hand gestures? This is the cyclist way of signalling to the happy motorist behind him (and soon to overtake him before which time the cyclist will again move right) that he or she exists, and that it's time to share the road. What a concept!

This cyclist move is not the favorite of happy motorists but it is the best move for public safety. It says clearly "it's time to stop speeding, eating, texting, emailing, watching videos, perfecting the music, tweaking the grocery list, drifting over the lines, doing your make-up and or anything else besides carefully driving, at least until you pass me by."

Some of you happy motorists might think it would be much better for everybody if we cyclists just stayed way over to the extreme right straddling the curb, or very edge of the road. That's a very good suggestion for all concerned. But as every happy cyclist, after ride number one knows, curbs and pedals don't mix, and the edge of the road is often broken up and strewn with rocks, sand, uneven sewer grates, fallen tree limbs, discarded ewaste, and more of those little plastic dental floss things than you or I care to imagine.

The law in Connecticut requires the happy cyclist to ride as far right as "practible."

I'm sure that many of you happy motorists have your pet peeves against some of us (ie "the middle of the road" thing).

But if I might speak for myself, as a happy cyclist, the main issue for me is speeding up to get around us, as if we are problems, or don't belong on the road, or were somehow interfering with your interstate commerce, or your bad day, or your claimed right to drive as if you in fact owned the road.

This speeding up thing takes several forms, all of which are dangerous for all concerned. The speed up to go round and then take the right turn in front of the cyclist thing is a real doozy, happy motorists often having no idea how fast you have to go to both pass a speeding bike and then take a right turn without striking the cyclist not turning but merely proceeding on his or her merry way. 

But perhaps the motorist speeding up thing is topped by that happy motorist wanting to quickly left turn at a light and failing to yield the intersection to the oncoming and straight through cyclist, having the right of way.

Or even worse, the happy motorist trying to beat a now red left turn signal, but not even being in the intersection yet, as happy cyclist, already in the intersection, and having the right of way, and having made eye contact with said motorist.

Whoa dude, red light equals stop.

These and similar situations are increasingly ending up in criminal as well as civil court.   

It's not like I'm expecting any happy motorist to regularly slow down for us nearby cyclists.  But sometimes this is simply required by reason and common sense.

Nor do I think cyclists should practice any other type of cycling outside of safe and defensive cycling.

But the fact is that cycling becomes safer and safer not primarily because cyclists practice defensive cycling, but when more and more people take to their bikes, and thereby, happy motorists get more and more experience interacting with cyclists, rather than hitting the gas every time they see one.

It's not a matter of competing for the road, but just getting used to each other on it.     

For me as a happy cyclist it boils down to happy motorists at a safe speed, and some distance (at least three feet is the Connecticut law) from cyclists, driving between the lines (what a concept!), and can you belive it, taking one's foot off the gas once in awhile.

As for speeding up to get around the happy cyclist, this doesn't seem like the best individual or public safety choice. It also doesn't work too well when there's considerable two way traffic, on a narrow road, or combined with the many other aforementioned things that happy motorists might also be doing.

This is not to say that even happy cyclists are free of the requirement of safe and prudent operation, but the fact is that negligence by a motorist in a four ton vehicle is usually ripe for far more negative results than that caused by the negligence of a cyclist. A negligent cyclist in the face of a motorist, most likely hurts himself or herself, whereas a negligent motorist most likely hurts someone else, and badly too.

Nascar is very popular in the good ol U.S.A. and these folks are the greatest drivers, better even than even some of us happy motorists and happy cyclists.

But Nascar doesn't allow cyclists on the track.

But thanks be to God, and by law, we cyclists are allowed on most public roads, and try as we might, very few of us can or will ever exceed any posted speed limit.

Most times, absent an occasional flat, we're just happy not to be stuck in traffic.



Preaching Hour TV weekly on Cox PATV Channel 15 in Cheshire, Southington and Meriden CT and on VCAM Channel 15 10pm Fridays in Burlington VT.



Tobin Hitt is the founder of the Zion Pentecost Mission. He is open to gospel partnership with all, and identifies with Paul's description of our mission as ambassadors for our king, Jesus, urging all to reconcile with God (2Cor.20-21). He resides in Cheshire, Connecticut.