The late 80s is when I got my first bike. It was a gift from my parents. Their only rules were that I had to stay on the sidewalks and be home before dark. Now, not every road in my home town of Gridley, Kansas had a sidewalk in those days, but I had friends who knew how to single to cars that you were slowing down or turning. They taught me those rules so that I could use them anytime that I found myself on a road without a sidewalk.
Eventually my family and I moved from the little farming community of Gridley to the bigger town of Anacortes, Washington. When I turned 18, I got my drivers license. I remember studying for my drivers test with the materials that were given to me by the local Department of Motor Vehicles. The little booklets had a section on bicyclists. It showed the different singles that bicyclists use. These were the same that my friends taught me back in Gridley. The booklets also said that for safety reasons bicyclists have the “Right of way”. Which to me makes sense. If there are no sidewalks a bicyclist would have to be on the road with vehicles and vehicles should watch out for them. No problem with that.
The reality of having driven for the last 15 years or so is different. I have learned, rather rudely that, it is not legal in every state for a bicyclist to use a sidewalk. This is a great vain of frustration for me as an auto driver and a law that every cyclist should break in my opinion.
I can’t fathom how many times I have had to slow down and ride into the opposite lane just to avoid hitting a bicyclist who is riding on the same road as my vehicle. Worse yet, a sidewalk is almost always right there! With no pedestrians on it either!
Its hard to tell what is worse. When you’re trying to pass a someone on a bike in full sport racing cyclists gear, or the family of 5 who are always stopping and the youngest member of the group is weaving wildly. The sport cyclist will almost always ride the white line that indicates the road’s shoulder forcing vehicles to weave around putting themselves in danger of oncoming traffic. A sport cyclist clearly has a death wish riding this way. But the family of 5 is worse in a lot of ways. They will take the whole family out on a bike ride with the 4 or 5 year old who just got her training wheels off. She is weaving so wildly that cars trying to pass feel the need to take a far wider berth than necessary just to be safe and not hit the little Darwin experiment.
The thing that really grinds my gears is that these bicyclists can’t be this stupid. Can they? I mean what part of any of their brains tells them that riding on the same road as a heavy vehicle is even remotely a good idea? If they get hit by one of these rolling boxes of metal it’s all over for them. Don’t they see that? No do over. No play again. It’s just over. Their done.
Let me tell you a story. The other day I went for a walk. The sun was out and I had just about enough of sitting in front of my computer. So, I went out for an evening constitutional. As I was crossing the street from my home over to the lake, I see a mother bike riding with her three small children in front of her, Yup, you guessed it. They were all on the shoulder of the road with a perfectly unused sidewalk right next to them. The youngest lead the family while the mother brought up the rear. To say she was bike riding would be disingenuous here because the mother was so worried about her wobbly, slow moving children in front of her, that she was off of her bike WALKING IT BEHIND THEM. You could hear her yelling out commands to the the child in front to not swerve so much. I could see that the child was not swerving because he was goofing off, which would be equally as bad on a road with cars, but he was swerving just from inexperience of riding at his age. This was all taking place on a low visibility inclined turn mind you.
Now, this parent supposedly loves her children. Wouldn’t you think she would just say ‘Screw It’ to the twenty dollar ticket she might get for riding your bike on the sidewalk and have her children ride their bikes on the sidewalk just for safety sake? All I could do was shake my head in frustration as I walked past.
My wife loves to bike ride. On a sunny day it’s a fun thing to do. But every time she goes out she makes sure to carry enough cash with her to pay off any ticketed she might get for riding on the sidewalk. She and I have had this conversation several times. If she gets a ticket while she is riding her bike on the sidewalk, she can pay it off right there and walk her bike on down till the cop is out of sight.