Close your eyes and picture this all too familiar situation with me: You’re driving down a road you travel daily, 4 lanes of traffic two in your direction and two for the opposite flow. You notice a biker (pedal) in the distance, snugged up to the curb trying to avoid having his handlebars clipped by the side mirrors of the passing vehicles. So far no issue right? As a biker myself I know how intimidating it can be biking along busy streets hoping somebody’s mirror doesn’t hit your handlebars and sent you head over heels into traffic.
Being an avid biker has given me an inherent respect and sympathy for my fellow riders, especially true when I’m the one in the car whizzing by on my way to and from work. My complaint is not with the aforementioned roadside biker, it’s with the drivers. More specifically, the ones who seem to think their vehicles are insanely wide. The other day I was on my way to work and found myself in a situation much like I described at the beginning of this article. I was behind a Toyota Echo and there was a biker in the distance. We are all in the right hand lane the Echo, biker and myself and as we approached the biker I completed the same mental assessment I make when approaching any slow-moving transport sharing my road space; Is this person a danger? I judge this mostly by the stability of the person on the bike. If they are swerving around well, obviously not stable, but if their riding is solid and without sudden movements then all is well. This person was stable and I thought to myself, “cool, routine bike pass coming up”….The driver of the Echo in front of me, different story all together.
I’m sure you know where I’m headed here but the driver in front of me did not have the same thought process when assessing the upcoming biker. Despite having a completely clear lane to our left, the driver of the echo proceeded to heavily apply his brakes and slow to a pace somewhere around 30km/h…**side note: the road we’re on… is a 60. Now here is where I start making assumptions, The driver swung out until his echo straddled both lanes and continued this way for a good 100 meters after we had passed the bike. WHAT IS UP WITH THIS!!!!????
Did he swerve that far out of respect for the biker? did he maintain this odd distancing just to be sure his “giant Echo” didn’t clip the environmentally friendly commuter? My thoughts…No, not at all. I believe this driver like so many others panicked when he saw the biker as if we bikers are just a bunch of suicidal maniacs on the brink of veering into traffic without warning. There is nothing to be afraid of when you see a stable biker calmly rolling along in your lane. There is no reason to slow to this degree. Do these people not realize that if you slow down it will take you longer to pass the person you’re so afraid of hitting? Why not just continue on at the standard rate of traffic and pass the guy or gal in the blink of an eye?
My point is this: Folks, if you are afraid of pedal powered pedestrians as you pilot your vehicles from point A to point B… make a note to change lanes when you see one, don’t panic and cause the world around you all this frustration. In my opinion if you don’t know how big your car is, you probably shouldn’t be driving it. Know your vehicle, have respect for the other drivers around you, and for the love of god, It’s a person on a bike, what are you so damn afraid of?
I realize that this post could be read as me “complaining” about drivers giving more room than is needed when passing a person on a bike. Granted that it is a luxury we as bikers all enjoy but I thought I’d post this anyway despite that. I’m not advocating for drivers to skim past us with reckless abandon, But rather just to be more aware in general to bikers and other drivers alike. We all share the roads and this one just bugs me.