With the latest news of a father killed and his child seriously injured while riding on a paved trail off the main road in New Tampa, one has to at least ask the question. I understand this latest accident (well, apparently not an accident at all, but an intentional act of a deranged person) is different than the “normal” distracted driver accident we have seen so often that we are now becoming numb to such news. Nonetheless, we, as cyclists using our public roads, have to be aware that not only are many drivers distracted (texting, dialing their phone, checking phone messages, eating, putting on makeup, reading, and a myriad of other clearly unsafe acts), but it seems we are regularly having to deal with irate drivers, who can’t wait the five seconds for cyclists to clear, or who just fume that we are not on the sidewalk “where we belong!”
Perhaps it’s a sign of the very polarized times we live in today. Whatever the reasons, the streets are getting “meaner” and the motorists more aggressive (am I the only one who has had a motorist “buzz” me when I’m doing everything right?), and the very act of riding for pleasure becomes less fun.
What can we do about this? Become more vocal with our elected officials and law enforcement. The time for not prosecuting drivers for their criminal behavior is over. Slaps on the wrist for running down, maiming, and even killing cyclists have to stop.
As cyclists, we need to be more proactive on the roads as well: use front and rear strobe lights day and night; go out of our way to be verbal in a positive way to motorists and pedestrians while on your bike. Make an effort to be friendly. Start actually obeying traffic control devices as the law requires, but as very few of us actually follow. Every time you run a stop sign or light when vehicles are already stopped at that intersection makes us one or more new hateful motorists. Why do we think the laws don’t apply to cyclists when we are the violators, but expect the laws to be strictly enforced when motorists do the same thing?
We, as both cyclists and motorists, need to be the example of how to treat others, of how to abide by the laws, even if it means a bit more work starting and stopping our bikes. Aren’t we out there for exercise?
It’s not unusual for me, having just stopped for a red light, to have another club member heading for the same ride blow through the intersection I and vehicles have stopped at. Think, and if you do this, you’ll realize you’ve just made us all another enemy behind the wheel. I implore all, please be the example of how everyone should safely use the roads.