Mind the gap!

Sharing the road is to everyone's benefit.

Dear Motorist:

With the arrival of nicer weather, you have probably noticed an uptick in the number of people out riding their bicycles. Everybody just wants to be outdoors after a long, cold winter. And that's why I'm writing to you.

We, as cyclists, are back sharing the roads with you. Please be patient as we "find" our legs once again. The season of spring usually brings with it strong, gusty winds, so our wheels may wobble a bit from time to time. And that same howling breeze makes it hard to hear you as your vehicle approaches from behind.

I guess what I'm really asking for is that you give us some space as you pass by. Regardless of the fact that Maine, along with many other states, has laws that stipulate such a requirement, when it comes right down to it, a 25-pound bike and its rider are no match for a two-ton car or truck.

I completely understand with such a request comes the responsibility that pedal pushers also must follow the rules of the road. In order to minimize the risks, it is important that we do things like ride our bikes "with" the flow of traffic and make the effort to use hand signals to let you know what we're up to; after all, you aren't a mind reader. Granted, if I'm out in the middle of nowhere, I will probably roll through a stop sign. But if I see you coming, I will definitely apply my brakes.

I, and I hope other cyclists, will do my best to make myself visible to you. This will entail the wearing of bright-colored clothing, even at the cost of any kind of a fashion statement. Also, I'm a big believer in flashing lights, so on my helmet I have a white one facing forward and another one that's red pointing in the opposite direction. I'm always preaching to my fellow comrades as to the importance of such devices.

If there is a problem, or if you want to give a little warning, please don't lay on your horn. Just a couple of quick taps should be sufficient. Startling me could trigger a more dangerous situation.

In closing, let's promise to work together to keep you and me — and everyone else — safe. Without pointing fingers or assigning any blame, just know this: According to available statistics, 871 bicyclists were killed in the United States in 2018, the deadliest year for bike riders since 1990. In 2019, there were 846 deaths, and in 2020, it was 675 — possibly lower because of the pandemic.

I know many cyclists who have switched to gravel or mountain bike riding, no longer comfortable amid speeding vehicles. So what, if it takes a few more seconds to get to the store or work. Please slow down and give us plenty of room. A pretty simple wish that would be greatly appreciated and, better still, no one's day — or life — would be ruined. Thank you for your time and attention.

Sincerely yours,

A cyclist ... who wants to keep sharing the road!


For the foreseeable future, I'll be ending my Friday postings with a sort of "thought for the day" that you can ponder as you prepare for your next bike ride. They are taken from "Words To Ride By ... Thoughts on Bicycling" by Michael Carabetta (Chronicle Books, 2017). Here's today's offering:

"The Bicycle is a curious vehicle. Its passenger is its engine." — John Howard

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