If you want to lose your faith in humanity, read the comments on any news article ever. People insult the subjects of tragic news stories like it’s a game and the prize is a trophy that says, “World’s Biggest Jackass”. Then imagine the subject of that news article is someone in your family, or a friend, or a member of your church and they post that they have a family member who has had a tragic accident that has resulted in an injury to the brain and that because it wasn’t their fault they’ve had to contact some California brain injury lawyers to see if they are intitled to make a claim, you’d feel awful wouldn’t you…then read those same comments and feel your heart break a million times over. Now…make the subject of the tragedy a cyclist. Those comments become a million times worse. Commenters on news sites seem to HATE cyclists with a passion of 1000 suns. Any time a cyclist gets injured in a traffic accident, you get tons of people out of the woodwork shouting, “Good riddance!” and if those people injured were people you knew? In your community? You want to find those people writing those comments and punch them a million times. Trust me. I felt this yesterday as news spread in our triathlon community that two of our own had be involved in an accident yesterday.
So, I’m asking you to do me a favor. Especially if you’re not a cyclist/triathlete or if you know a lot of people who are not cyclists/triathletes…will you talk about my husband and I? Maybe just casually reference your friend (me) who has a husband (him) who does 100+ mile bike rides training for his Ironman. Or maybe talk about that cool bike race/time trial your friend’s husband did where they LITERALLY pushed him off a ramp to get him going. Or maybe tell the story of the time your friend’s husband’s phone fell out of the back pocket of his cycling jersey when he was speeding down a hill, so he used “find my iPhone” to track it down and discovered it smashed (of course) on the side of the road. But the weird part was there was another smashed phone right next to it!
Why should you tell those stories around your friends who aren’t cyclists?
Because we need to put humanity on the road with our loved ones. We need everyone to know someone who is a cyclist, even if it’s a few degrees of separation. We need people to want to share the road because that girl on that bike might be their friend’s wife. Or their neighbor’s husband. Or in your case – their friend’s, friend’s husband. They need to be seen as HUMAN.
It’s different for Donnie and I. We were very much an antisocial homebodies before we discovered running and triathlons, so all of our friends are the humans on the road on their bikes. If they’re not on the road on their bikes, they’re on the roads on their feet so they know plenty of cyclists. None of us see a cyclist when driving and think about anything other than the safety of both parties because that could be our friend, our spouse, or our brother. Most of the time it is someone we know. That’s how tight this community is.
But I think a lot of people see a cyclist on the road and see one thing and one thing only: FRUSTRATING INCONVENIENCE.
Do you know how people care for frustrating inconveniences? They don’t.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because a few months ago, someone shared out a photo from a local person who had taken a picture of the cyclist on the road in front of her (legally on the road, following the law and being safe, unlike the person taking the picture) and was complaining about the cyclist. Since she was local I checked to make sure we had no overalapping Facebook friends. We did not. THANK GOD. But her message was: “Look at this guy! How annoying! He’s on the road! GRR! I hate cyclists!” And what was the response of her friends? “I know! I hate cyclists! They’re so rude! Why aren’t they on the sidewalk?”
And then worse? There were several “jokes” about running him off the road.
That could have been my husband. My brother. My friend. A Mom. An aunt. A sister. A grandmother.
Here’s the thing…every city/state can/does have their own traffic laws. But cyclists always have a right to the road and – in most cases I believe – it’s illegal for the ones like my husband to be on sidewalks and greenways. They’re going too fast. Not only would they injure pedestrians, but they would inevitably get hit by a car because drivers are not accustomed to checking sidewalks at every turn, especially not for a cyclist going 20 miles an hour.
So, it’s illegal here and in most places for VERY GOOD REASONS.
Is it inconvenient for you if you are stuck behind them? Possibly. But so is getting behind a school bus at a train track. Or a piece of farm equipment. Or mail trucks. Or a driver like me who makes sure the traffic is clear for 14 miles before I turn. There are tons of inconveniences on the road. Do we wish them ill will? Well…I know people wish me ill will because I get yelled at all the time for being a Grandma Driver. But do we wish school buses or tractors ill will? No.
Are some cyclist assholes? Yep. I have had one cyclist be an asshole to me. One. Do you know how many asshole drivers I’ve encountered? Hundreds? Thousands?
Do some cyclists ignore traffic rules? Yes. My husband and I see it often and it angers us as much as it angers you. Do some cyclists do their rides on unpassable roads at rush hour? Yes. BUT STILL…not representative of all cyclists. And STILL, not an indicator that they are not someone’s sister, or someone’s grandfather. They are still PEOPLE. Just because a cyclist is not a GOOD cyclist doesn’t mean they deserve to get hit, and definitely does not mean that every cyclist ignores the law. As a matter of fact, the cyclists I know are VERY quick to correct someone doing it wrong, because they know it gives us all a bad name.
I just want everyone to get to know a cyclist. Or get to know someone who is a cyclist. It would change their perspective greatly. Legally, they are allowed the road, that’s not going to change. I’m sorry if that’s an inconvenience to you (and it can’t be THAT bad of an inconvenience, they’re not everywhere at all times) but it’s a fact of life. Get over it. But can we at least try to spread stories and knowledge about cyclists so that everyone at least knows someone who knows a cyclist? Make your friends and family think of you when they see a cyclist. Maybe they’ll think, “Hmmm…I remember that story Susan told about her friend’s husband who lost his phone on a bike ride once. That was a crazy story.” and they’ll remember the person in front of them is a human being with friends and family.
In my small community alone, before yesterday, I knew of several people who had been hurt while riding and even some that had been killed. And my community is small. But yesterday? It hit closer to home. Two people from my husband’s Tri Team were hit. And now it’s all I can think about. How dangerous this hobby is, even though it shouldn’t be. There is one thing we can start to do to try and prevent these accidents from happening. People not only need to be more considerate, but after reading this guide from Intelligent Car Leasing, it may open peoples eyes to just what can be done to prevent these accidents happening so often.
So…will you just tell our stories to your friends? To your family? Especially if you don’t know any cyclists in your community. Then probably neither do your friends or family. Talk about us so that your friends and your family will think of YOU when they see a cyclist. Remind everyone those are real people on the road. Don’t stand for anyone you know bashing cyclists. Remind them that there are asshole drivers too, but that doesn’t mean they all are. Look up the laws in your area. Remind them that it’s illegal (I’m assuming everywhere, because it would be so unsafe, but I’m not certain) for fast cyclists to be on the sidewalk or greenways. (If I’m seriously training, I’m even too fast for the sidewalk and greenway, and I’m the slowest of all of my friends.)
And think of our two friends who were hurt yesterday. One with minor injuries, but another with more serious injuries that required surgery and a hospital stay. These women are experienced cyclists/Ironmen. This accident will put them out of work for months meaning they have little or no form of income. We are planning to do a fundraiser, as well as claiming compensation. We are currently looking (and for those of you that have been through a similar experience to us) we have found that there are so many companies about that offer help to get compensation specifically for bicycle accidents such as: https://smithjonessolicitors.co.uk/road-traffic-accidents/bicycle-accident-claims/
Its going to be a long road to recovery for them, and the fact that they were involved in an accident gave me nightmares last night because I tend to use my husband’s experience as a reason to relax more about his safety. Instead, last night, I dreamt of him being hit. I woke up terrified and sick. This accident yesterday hit too close to home. And seeing the comments on the local news stories basically celebrating this? Fuels a rage I never knew I had.