In the short time that I have been cycling to work, I have realized that there is a great deal of confusion about the best way for cars and bikes to share the prized tarmac.

There have been efforts to promote the concept of ‘Share the Road’.  This entreaty has made some inroads in making drivers more aware of the presence of bikes and the need to accommodate them.  But the slogan also has emboldened some cyclists to imagine that ‘share the road’ means ‘we have the exact same rights as cars’, a mindset that may be legally valid but when taken literally will only increase long-term hostility between drivers and riders.

The best way to interpret ‘Share the Road’ is a framework in which roads are understood to be the principle domain of cars (the roads were built and designed for cars, after all), but one where bikes have visitor rights.  Visitor rights are important: bikes are not intruders, bikes are not hazards.  Aside from the Red Wedding, the Rule #1 for how to treat visitors to your home is: Try to keep your visitors’ blood and central organs inside their bodies.

At the same time, bikes should recognize that Rule #1 for visitors is that they should be respectful and grateful of their host’s hospitality.  A cyclist who treats the road like its his own dominion is akin to the guest that starts clipping his toenails on his host’s coffee table.

A Few Specific Clarifications for Cars and Cyclists:

(1) Cars: do not pass a cyclist around a blind turn.  This happens all the time, and the problem is that if a car happens to be coming the other way, the cyclist is no longer alive.

(2) Cars: if you are stopped behind a cyclist at a red light and you would like to turn right, do not speed in front of the cyclist and swipe around them to make your right turn.  Most cyclists get up to speed quickly, and it will just be a couple seconds before the cyclist is gone and you can safely make your right turn.

(3) Cyclists: you know those ambiguous sidewalks without traffic lights?  the ones where you technically have right of way, but where the chances that a car will actually stop is a game of roulette?  assuming that a car will stop is like dipping Little Red Riding Hood into the wolf’s mouth.


One Response to The Marmot’s Guide to Civilization

  1. […] A reasonable approach to how cars and cyclists can share the road. […]

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