When I ride my bicycle on the road, as much as possible I try to ride from the perspective of the drivers around me. My philosophy is that if I show I am making a conscious effort to ride in a way that minimizes disruptions in their movement, they will recognize that effort and work with me as we travel the road together.
I understand that many of my cycling friends disagree. Some would make the point that you must assert your right to the road to protect yourself. Well, so far my way has worked out pretty well. In 7 years of riding on the road, I can only think of two times when I have had a “run in” with a driver. Well, make that three.
Yesterday I headed out for a quick one hour ride. My plan was to head out to the Vulcan quarry out near the Greenville/Anderson County line. I knew that it would be an interesting traffic situation because of the time of day. However, I planned my ride out so that there would be only one problematic stretch of road. The rest were either less traveled or the lanes allowed for easy coexistence between me as a cyclist and the other traffic around me.
The questionable stretch of road would be Augusta Street between Jones Avenue and Grove Road. I had been on bike lanes, in the park and in neighborhoods up to that point. Once I got on Grove Road, I knew that there wouldn’t be as much traffic.
I waited for a break in the traffic and turned right into the near lane. The road in front of me was pretty open. There were a couple of cars in the left lane that were signaling that they were turning left across the oncoming traffic. I knew that if I could get past those vehicles I would have the left lane to myself to prepare for my own left turn at the traffic light.
The entire length of this section could not be more than 100 yards. It is also slightly downhill. Knowing that I would have to “own the road” in order to make a safe transition to the left lane, I punched it. In front of me was an ambulance about 20 yards ahead. I was gaining on him and passing the cars to my left.
Looking back I see I averaged over 30 mph with a peak of 35 mph. About halfway, I came around the left-turning cars and had no near traffic behind me until I slowed to approach the traffic light which was now red. I reached the light alone. Then a single car pulled up beside me. I was congratulating myself on a successful execution of my plan.
Then I heard the down shifting of a motorcycle to my right rear. I then heard a voice from that direction, “Hey, use the sidewalk.” I turned and looked to see a black leather clad, full-faced helmet wearing guy on a crotch rocket. I just glanced at him. He repeated, “Use the sidewalk. You don’t have a motor.”
Well, several things swirled in my mind… 1) should I point at my legs and say, “Here’s my motor, punk.” 2) should I just ask, “Why don’t YOU use the sidewalk?” 3) should I point out that I wasn’t supposed to be on the sidewalk? I figured none of those would help matters.
I simply replied, “Cyclist have the same rights as cars.” He quickly replied, “No, you don’t. Get on the sidewalk.” I stated again, “We have the same rights as cars.” He was a little exasperated at this, “You need to get off the road. Cars can’t get around you.”
Now, I have explained to you how we arrived at this spot. I can assure you that I was NOT holding up traffic. Even if there was a vehicle behind me, I was traveling within a reasonable range of the speed of the limit on that road. It was pretty obvious that his issue was that he was not able to travel at a speed above the limit. I can also assume that I was getting blamed for some of the bottle neck being caused by the turning traffic behind me.
I wanted to get smart again and say something like, “Dude, you need to go back to drivers ed.” Instead, I once again repeated, “We have the same rights as cars.” He replied as the light turned green, “Well, **** you.” I ignored him and got my shoe on the pedal. He flipped his visor down and rolled forward as the car in front of him left the line.
As I was turning left, I heard his engine rev and caught out of the corner of my eye the biker popping a wheelie as he headed toward downtown. I could be wrong, but had a policeman observed between the actions of the two of us, I don’t think I would be the one ticketed. I know for certain I would not have. As for wheelie-man, I guess it would depend on the policeman. I’m guessing a wheelie in traffic could be considered reckless driving.
Even so, on my way back, I looked to see if there was a way to cut through neighborhoods to avoid this section. I didn’t find it then. However, looking at a map afterward, I can see that it would be possible to take a turn earlier on McDaniel and avoid that section. I’ll be doing that on my next ride out that way.
Sure, I was within my rights. However, just because you are right doesn’t mean it is the smart thing to do. There are always idiots like Mr. Wheelie-man. I don’t mind finding a secondary route to avoid them.