"It never gets any easier. You just go faster." ---Greg Lemond
"Don't buy upgrades. Ride up grades." --- Eddy Merckx
"You drive like shit." ---The Car Whisperer

27.9.07

Open Letter

The following is related to the Hit & Run my bicycle team was involved in last Saturday on St. Mary's road just south of Libertyville, IL.

At the link posted above, there are several comments and a rather lively, yet civil, discussion of cyclists and the right-of-way on public roads, including. The comments were closed as it seemed the misconceptions a poster was expressing were leading to a dead end, and that the discussion could go rapidly south from there.

So, I emailed the commenter who posted as Richard with a simple, "Please share the road, and have a nice day," in the hopes that I might be able to continue a one-on-one discussion regarding his thoughts on the matter. Sure enough, Richard responded with a very civil letter which restated his earlier comments on the chicagobikeracing.com article of the incident.

I guess I would say a good chunk of my readers are Chicago-area cyclists, but for those that aren't, I am posting my reply to Richard here today. Some of his questions are the opinions held by many drivers, I am sure, and I want to address the issues of cyclist right-of-way, and why this hit-and-run incident deserves the vociferous response it is getting.

Hi Brian,

I received your email...fair enough.

But I am confused on an issue...I have checked out the internet and there are dozens and dozens of bike trails and ovals around the area. Cyclsts of the past lobbied and lobbied for more places for them to cycle, so the state built these ovals and trails.

Why do cyclists use roads when they are so many other alternatives?

One could argue that if these cyclists were not allowed on a streets and if they were on an oval or trail that this accident would not have happened.

You have to agree that cyclists do cause road rage, not all cyclists adhere to road rules...in fact I would say the majority do not follow traffic laws whatsoever. Hard to find sympathy for anything that happens to cyclists on the street knowing that there are many alternatives.

With regards,

Richard

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Hi Richard,

Thanks for your well-thought out email. But you have some misconceptions that I want to address.

Not sure where to really begin, so I will say first that I sympathize with your frustration at cyclists who ride dangerously in traffic and then get mad or worse when they are nearly hit. And when they are hit...eek. I don't know if you heard about the messenger who was killed on the Southside about a month ago. He was traveling west in the east bound lane of 18th street and then turned south - on a red light - into the northbound lane of Clark street. He was immediately hit by a truck and instantly killed. I am just as frustrated as you. Everyone must use the roads and the rules are there for that exact reason. But what can you do?

We all have to deal with it. Especially other cyclists who ride within the law and have to deal with driver's frustration at all the others who don't.

However, just as you called us out for stereotyping SUV drivers, I can assure you, there is nobody who rides like that on our team. We love cycling, our team is a top priority, and every driver out on the streets who sees our uniform we want to have a positive impression of us. Even out of our "kits" as we say in the sport, we believe in karma - and swimming with the big steel sharks you had better believe - and we give in hope that we get it back.

Yes, cycling advocacy groups have lobbied for more paths (not ovals - there hasn't been a new track installed in years in this country - and the track is a completely other story - I hope you're not talking about a running track at a local high school? :) ). And those paths are FULL of people. Mom's, kids, joggers, dogs, recreation bikers. And the cycling community is greatful for them. As all of us on Triple X. When we want a fun recreation ride, we use them all the time.

But, as I said, we are a cycling team. We race. We go FAST. Very FAST. Too fast to ride on the bike paths. The paths are for the moms, the kids, the dogs, the rollerbladers, the wanna-be triathletes. We ride road bikes. And road bikes, well, they belong on the road. We take our passion for riding fast to a completely different level, with techniques and riding ettiquette that surpass anything you can imagine. It's more beautiful than you ever dreamed. It's art.


And we all pay taxes. And the law says we have just as much a right to all the road that you do, with in safe limits, such as limitations from dangerous sections (and are clearly marked) or the interstate. This is a free country Richard. Why should we be limited to using the roads for transportation only? Cars use the roads for far more than transportation. And for the most part, those cars peacefully coexist with cyclists every single day. We should be able to express ourselves physically, through our sport on those very roads. And it's perfectly within our legal right to do so, as long as we obey the law.

I have ridden that section of St. Mary's nearly every weekend in that very paceline this season. And ,most drivers don't mind that they might be 10 seconds late to the next light. Most drivers pass without any hindrance or annoyance in the least. Most drivers don't see a single or group of cyclists as something weaker, as an enragement (to coin a term), as something to be "dealt with."

I did see your comment that you didn't understand what the big deal was. That there have been dozens of cyclists hit by cars this summer alone. Probably every day. Of course. And they were accidents. Lots of times due to lack of communication, impatience, or poor riding by the cyclist.

But what happened last Saturday morning on St. Mary's was on a different level. That man, Thomas Lynch, attacked us with his car. Two other drivers testified on our behalf that we did nothing to provoke him, or "cause any road rage" as you say. (No matter how much any cyclist pisses off a driver - he shouldn't pay for it with his or her body as actual retribution via justified road rage.)

He attacked us with malice without any thought of the consequences his actions might cause, and then knowingly fled the scene of an accident. A display of anti-social intent, 100%. To argue if we had been on a path that the accident wouldn't have happened is completely off topic. It wasn't an accident.

I hope you can now see the reason the sport cycling community is up in arms over this event.

The weekend after next, Sunday, Oct 14th is the annual Dick Herron Ride, produced by the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation - the nation's largest cycling advocacy group. The ride is in remembrance of every cyclist killed by traffic. Not all of us ride like shit, Richard. I urge you to come out and ride with us, hear some of the stories, and see why it's so important to Share the Road.

Thanks for your time, Richard. Ride well.

2 comments:

Matt said...

You're a much more patient man than I. I can't understand these hateful attitudes towards cyclists.

The Car Whisperer said...

The sense of drivers' entitlement is directly proportionate to the amount of horsepower or volume of the vehicle, which naturally is indirectly proportionate to the size of their penis.