There is little reason to not share the road with cyclists or runners other than raw selfishness. Even a large crowd of cyclists taking up a lane of country road on a Saturday morning can be passed eventually.
Yet there is evidence that a great impatience exists in this world among those who feel they should never have to share the road with people on bikes. Or on foot. Or on motorcycles. Even other cars.
The reasons for these road-hog mindsets are manifold. Some people are just plain “in a hurry” and get upset when they find cyclists or any other obstacle in the way.
But let’s be real about something: If you’re late to an appointment, it is no one’s fault but your own. And if you’re not late, but your fears of being late are making you angry or upset at a band of cyclists, then you simply did not allow enough time in your schedule to anticipate delays that happen almost every day.
Because it’s not just cyclists that cause delays. Far more time is spent by the average vehicle on the road by sitting at traffic lights than trying to ease around the occasional cycling group. This fact is demonstrated on a regular basis by cars that zoom around cyclists on the open road only to find that the cyclists catch up to them at the next traffic light. The culprit in making someone late, in that case, isn’t the cyclist. It’s the traffic light. So that claim is thoroughly debunked.
Beyond time constraints, there appear to be a fair number of people who simply don’t like the supposed inconvenience of having to navigate around a cyclist on any sort of road. But there’s an art to driving, as well as a science.
Anticipating delays and getting around other traffic on the roads actually has a name. It is taught in driving school, and is called “separating hazards.” That means you try to avoid encountering two vehicles in the same space of the road. When an oncoming vehicle is approaching and there is not enough time to pass the car or bike ahead of you on the road, the appropriate (and legal) thing to do is to “separate” those hazards by adjusting your speed. Typically this is done by slowing down for a short period, then safely passing the slower traffic by using the other lane to get around. In farm country, this happens when you come up behind a tractor going slowly on the highway. In urban or suburban areas, the more typical scenario is a vehicle driving slowly on a tw0-lane side street or highway. The right thing to do to get around is to separate hazards and pass safely.
However, some motorists are too selfish for that. They refuse to wait for the opportunity to pass anyone safely. Instead, they choose to squeeze past cyclists by cutting closer to them within the lane. This is illegal in many states because laws dictate that a three-foot width must be kept between a vehicle and a cyclist.
Those who flaunt this rule often do so with demonstrative flair, gunning their engines as they roar past. The point here seems to be that expressing their frustration is some sort of divine right. As in, “This road is mine and you are slowing me down.” The patented engine roar is a threat intended to strike fear in the minds and hearts of those riding their bikes. It often works.
The greater threat to cyclists may come from the fact that millions of equally selfish drivers are daily distracted by texting. So the rude combination of aggressive, selfish drivers and those paying no attention to the road is more deadly than ever.
The roar that kills
There are thousands of collisions between vehicles and bikes each year. Some people even lose their lives.
Many drivers complain that the Rules of the Road are not being followed by cyclists either. Let’s be honest: that is true in many instances. As a cyclist for more than a decade, I can testify that it can be difficult to control or guide the behavior of the more ignorant or selfish cyclists among us. But we’re working on it. Who is doing the same among selfish drivers?
That is the pressing question, but one that is likely going to be ignored in an era when personal rights have become a turnstyle of selfish aims. It is no longer what President Kennedy said, “Ask now what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for you country.” The cultural meme has, in essence been reversed to satisfy those with selfish concerns about how white people deserve special treatment over minorities in this country, or Christians. Yes, the two most prodigiously favored cultural groups in America over the last 200 years are so, so persecuted these days.
As for the genuinely mistreated Middle Class and blue collar workers put of work by the flow of capital to cheaper labor overseas, somehow those people saw fit to vote against their own interests by believing lies about those jobs “coming back home.”
It is a truly strange world when a selfish vote turns into a vote against one’s own self-interests. Because unless someone also brings back the unions that protected worker rights, negotiated fair pay, invented the American weekend and established the right to overtime (which Trump has just avowed will disappear once he’s in power) then the entire premise of voting for self-interest in Donald Trump is based on hollow promises.
Because it was not men such as Donald Trump that delivered fair working conditions to textile workers in the Southeast, or protected coal miners and oil workers and other laborers from dangerous environmental conditions. That was all the work of liberals, who also worked to pass public laws to rid the country of dangerous air pollution as well as chemical and heavy metals in lakes and rivers. Anyone concerned about general human health and making America great should be concerned about these things, and yet Donald Trump has promised to roll back all these regulations, including perhaps the accords that address global climate change.
His voice indeed may be the Roar That Kills.
The anger behind support of Donald Trump may well be the same rage that drives people who do selfish stupid, dangerous things around cyclists because they hate the notion of sharing the road with cyclists just as they hate the notion of sharing the nation with immigrants, Muslims or anyone else they define as The Other. This the nation we now live in. Trump supporters love to deny this selfishness, but it is there in the signs of everything their Seig Heil leader says. He’s the ultimate selfish asshole who even claims there is no potential conflict of interest between his global business interests and his role as President of the United States. He made the spurious claim that the right to judge these conflicts for himself were included in his victory. But of course, that remains to be seen.
But let’s exhibit some temperance of our own right here. All it takes is one incident to color the image of one side or the other when it comes to use of the roads. A similarly political game is playing out in other arenas as well. This tirade that a Trump voter conducted inside a Starbucks illustrates the selfish perspective some people can develop when they think they’ve somehow earned the right of ownership in any cultural sphere. But let’s face it: selfishness abounds on many fronts. It is not confined to any single political or cultural group.
However, there is a difference in the degree to which selfishness is expressed, and how dangerous it is to society. When a motorist driving a 2000 lb. vehicle feels justified in expressing their selfish anger by running cyclists off the road, or even striking them, that is a threat to human life. By contrast, what threat can a cyclist actually deliver to a person driving a car or truck? Is slowing someone down for a 30-second period truly an act of selfishness or a simple product of the freedoms guaranteed by law in this country? These are the political questions that may soon come to a head in America.
Two seasons ago our group of cyclists was far out in the country southwest of Chicago. It was farm country and we were queuing up to make a left turn when a farmer in his truck came tearing up behind us, crossed into the opposite lane and made a veering turn to cut us off. He stopped his vehicle and raged that he paid taxes for those roads, and that cyclists interfered with his rights to drive them. A few words were also tossed in about maintaining his livelihood and such. Which left us staring out at the bland black fields where corn stalks tipped up by an October plowing session made clear the harvest was long over.
So the issue was really about a sense of ownership. And that farmer very likely had a strong sense of ownership for the roads that cut through his fields. Add in the pressures of taxes paid for that farm property, and how many developments were now threatening to consume fields to the east, driving up property values and assessments as they go, and the league of threats vexing the mind of that farmer all seem quite really, and present.
I’ll admit that I stopped and discussed the situation with that farmer. Told him that we all pay road taxes like the rest of the world. “We all drive,” I pointed out. See, he was pissed at the idea that people riding bikes and using the roads were not paying taxes for that right. Which is absurb. But the argument is used over and again by those who consider themselves an Emperor of the Highway.
There is also institutional frustration with cyclists over the idea that the roads are public property. Up in Southwest Wisconsin in the Driftless Region, thousands of cyclists travel to enjoy the the freedom to ride in a landscape rife with hills and valleys. Yet there have been moves by local communities and counties to prevent organized rides in that territory.
People who believe that local governments should have the authority to make those decisions may be happy for that fact. “Go ahead, ban those cyclists from taking over your roads!”
But one wonders, given the expressed belief by those taking over the reigns of the upcoming administration, whether local control could someday also get out of hand. The incoming Secretary of Education under the President Elect has, for example, stated that her department will support local control of schools. That could directly lead to school districts teaching whatever they want in terms of curriculum. If that happens to include replacing science with religious education and creationism, so be it. In America, it is believed by those on the Right, it is more important what parents want taught to their children than what some government agency might want them to learn.
And so it might go with the roads across this land. If local governments think cyclists are a hazard to the interests and a safety of local residents, why not ban cyclists from using the roads altogether?
Except for those in the way
This would no doubt please those whose selfish view of the roads would exclude cyclists. And it would be no coincidence if that those voters who elected the Selfish One as their Leader to Make America Great Again might be the first to use their local control to vote against cyclists using roads where Real Americans like to drive trucks, tow farm vehicles, race muscle cars and hunt deer from the roadside using headlamps to blind them, if that’s what you feel like doing. Because this is America. Land of the Free. Except for those who get in the way of what you want. Including cyclists.
Because we’re being steered toward an America that claims it wants to be a lot whiter, a lot less diverse, less liberal, less gay, less alien, less Muslim, more Christian, less soccer, more FOOTBALL, less women’s rights, less abortion, less arts and letters, more Holy Scripture, less Democrats and Greens, more coal and oil, less politically correct, more Open Carry, less worry about misogyny, less taxes on the rich, less national forest and parks, more Open Range Clive Bundy free use of public land, less Living Constitution, more Originalism, less tolerance for blacks and Mexicans and Indians and most of all more rights for whites who founded this place, including the roads. Which were never intended for use by cyclists, right?
This may give all new meaning to riding outside the White Line.
That’s where the country may be headed, in which it is fair game to force cyclists off the road. So enjoy the roads while you can. Because when the Selfish take over the wheel, there is no safe place for anyone.