As I sit here in a city that has more bikes than cars, I wonder how there can be such a division between the two. Although biking in Madison is much friendlier than let's say Georgia or Connecticut, where I've had cans thrown at me, we still have a LONG way to go. Thanks to the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin and several of our fantastic politicians there is hope that we can live up to what others around the nation think of us. Don't get me wrong, I've never lived anywhere with better road riding options, however, over the past few years I've seen an enormous increase in road rage against cyclists.
So my question is why? After spending hours upon hours thinking about this and talking with other cyclists, I've come to the realization that it's partly our (as cyclists) fault.
Thank God only a few of my friends read this because I can only imagine the hate mail I'd receive but I feel like this is something that needs to be openly discussed. So let's dissect the issues a bit. Most near misses and accidents I see between cars and bikes are due to drivers talking on their cell phones, going to fast or not giving the legal 3 foot passing zone. Notice that I said "most". Now for the other side. In the past few years I've seen more and more cyclists riding while talking on cell phones, riding at night without any lights, riding 2-3 abreast even in traffic and blowing through every stop light/sign. To these cyclists I say "If you want to be treated with respect, start acting respectful". Yes, you can "legally" ride two abreast but if there's traffic PLEASE drop to single file. Also, be predictable. Hold your line and obey traffic signs. How can we get angry at drivers for not doing these things if we aren't as well? Finally, farm fields and roads are not trash cans. Your jersey pockets are meant to hold banana peels and GU wrappers!
For the drivers I have to say that by law you must give us 3 feet of passing room from your mirror. We are just trying to enjoy the great outdoors or better yet cut fossil fuels by commuting by bike. We are not trying to slow you down so please be patient and only pass when it's safe. Remember that if a cyclist rides recklessly, chances are that they will only hurt themselves. If you drive recklessly, there's a good chance a cyclist or pedestrian could be killed.
So where does this bring us? Really, I think it's time for all of us to work together. We all need to slow down and be more aware of our surroundings but most importantly we all need to show each other more respect.