I ride because of the immense sense of freedom and independence it gives me. Sometimes I ride on the road, sometimes on the bike path and sometimes on the trails or completely separated infrastructure. Getting to work doesn’t leave a whole lot of options, though I do try to be as careful as I can about the route I take. To be fair, 80% of the time I am not worried for my safety when I ride. That seems like a lot (well, it’s the majority), but 20% is a hell of a lot of time to feel vulnerable (ranging from uneasy to downright frightened).
Here are the 6 things I wish motorists knew about me while I’m riding my bike.
1) I drive too.
Just because I’m on my bike, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a car too. In fact, I often use my car when I’m too lazy to ride or it’s wet and I can’t be bothered getting dirty. I wish you knew that I am a motorist too – I am just choosing to use my bike at this moment for whatever reason (convenient, cheap, enjoyable, exercise). That doesn’t mean I think I’m better than you. It is simply a choice I make every time I plan on how to get to various events during my week.
2) A metre is more than you think
I often get asked why I ride my dutch-style bike with a basket on the front to work as opposed to my road or mountain bike. Truth be told, it’s because not only is it more practical putting my handbag in the basket rather than wearing a sweaty backpack, it’s because you tend to give me a wider berth. Every cyclist has had a close pass causing some serious anxiety and I’ve seen cyclists lash out by banging their fists on the car. I’m not condoning violence here, but I wish you knew that if I can touch your car, you are way too close. Give me more room than you think I need.
3) I hate the things some cyclists do too.
Guess what? Just because I ride a bike, it doesn’t mean I agree with everything other cyclists do. I’ve seen cyclists run red lights, ride 3 abreast and deliberately take up more room than they need to to ‘prove a point’. It drives me nuts. I wish I could chase them down and tell them to stop giving other cyclists a bad name and – yes – I wish you knew that I agree that cyclists should pay fines for breaking traffic laws.
4) I am wearing what I am because it’s comfortable.
Before I started riding a bike for sport, I rode in regular clothes (ie dresses, shorts and tshirts etc). Now, I have a wardrobe of padded shorts and cycle jerseys which I prefer to wear because a) they cushion my bottom b) they are a sweat-friendly material and c) they have reflective parts on them so I am more visible.
I still wear day clothes if I’m going a short distance, but I wish you understood that I’m wearing these clothes because it’s the most appropriate choice for bike riding – not because I just can’t get enough lycra.
5) If I’m not riding in the bike lane, there is a good reason.
Unless you have ridden a bike you wouldn’t know this, but bike lanes (where they exist) are normally just an extension of the gutter. Which is fine, I’d rather have a bike lane than nothing at all, but the gutter is where gravel, litter, shrapnel and glass from motor vehicle collisions gets swept. If I ride over it, I can get a flat tyre at best or fall off at worst, which is bad for everyone.
I wish you knew that when I am riding in your lane, it means I don’t think it’s safe for me to ride in the bike path but I’m constantly looking to see when I can get back in there. Trust me, I prefer it!
6) I’m appreciative that you waited
See point 1. I’m a motorist too. I know how frustrating it is to be behind slow-moving vehicles. I know how frustrating it is to be stuck in traffic. I wish you knew that I’m not deliberately trying to impact your commute to work. I’m trying my very best to make as little of a nuisance of myself as possible while being visible and trying to ensure I don’t get clipped, cut off or run over. I appreciate it when you dig deep and find patience and empathy for me. It’s only a moment or two, but I want you to know it means the world to me that you waited. Please accept my wave as genuine and heartfelt thanks for helping me get home in one piece.