The following are a few of the lessons I’ve learned that allow me to survive riding a bike in Pinellas County, one of the most heavily populated counties in the country:
1. Be courteous, courteous, courteous, even when the driver may not have earned it. Too many times, we cyclists are very willing to give a hand gesture to a motorist who displeases us. Rather, try to cultivate a bicycle culture of civility to all drivers: you will be surprised how many will respond in kind.
2. When group riding, never swarm a motor vehicle. Some may wonder what this means: when a group approaches a stopped vehicle, normally at a controlled intersection, many cyclists will pass on either side of the vehicle to gain a little bit of space. The effect is to virtually surround the stopped car. It can be terrifying to the driver; and it without a doubt will not endear cyclists to that driver in the future.
3. Whenever at a red light, where there is any other vehicle in the area, do not roll or run that light: the driver seeing you do that maneuver may just be one of your jurors if the time ever comes where you are in court for injuries from a vehicle/cycle accident. Even where the accident was clearly not your fault, anyone on that jury with a bad past experience with cyclists will punish you. May not be fair, but it is reality.
4. If in a large group, where the first quarter of the group has passed the intersection when the light turns red, that does not give the other three quarters of the group license to continue through the intersection, blocking drivers with a green light. I know the concerns for stopping by the cyclists; that’s why we all have big voices. Use them. If you think about it, angering drivers of vehicles that weigh 200 times your bicycle makes no sense. While they may not hit you, many will “punish” you in the future with a brush back pass. While not legal, no one should ever want to be “dead right.”
Common sense and courtesy on the road is not only good practice, it could save your life or the life of another cyclist. Even if you are a large, big-voiced, intimidating cyclist (No John S., I’m not referring to you), by your immature actions towards a driver, you may be setting the stage for another cyclist’s nightmare. Let’s work harder to be friends of motorists; let’s work harder to cultivate favor with the motorists with whom we have no choice but to cohabit our streets. We may never win over some motorists, but we must continually try to be good users of our roads and to show others cyclists that we can be safe, law-abiding participants in our society.