I have been hearing a lot from different people in the bike community lately about how cyclists are getting hassled for riding reckless in Routt County. It is a normal spring routine for letters to the editor and calls to the sheriff about dang Scofflaw cyclists. Having been a road rider for many years, promoted bike races and ridden all over the US, I have a few thoughts on this dilemma of car vs bike…. My view is that an important first step is for everyone who gets on a bike is to consider the question of how they can keep safe and build mutual respect with motorists.
“Responsible Riding” has become a common topic of conversation with people that I regularly ride with. Some are receptive and some take it as personal criticism, but at the end of the day cyclists need to get on the same page to prevent more conflict. At fault are new cyclists as well as old cyclists, racers and recreational riders alike, all needing to reconsider how they operate a bicycle….
What is going to make all cyclists safer and raise mutual respect on the road is an awareness and mindfulness by riders for other road users(Yes, cars). It started for me with the basic act of waving to thank vehicles that yield to pass or give me space when passing. Something so simple as a wave AND moving to the right of the road before a car goes by shows: 1) You are aware that a car is approaching from behind you, 2) You acknowledge the driver with a positive and proactive gesture before they have passed 3) You reinforce the notion that cyclists can be respectful of motorists and appreciate when motorists do the same. I do this daily on rides, even when commuting to work, and a vast majority of drivers wave back giving me plenty of room and certainly appreciating the fact that I am riding with their safety as well as mine as a priority. Anyone who is out for a ride while not paying attention to laws of the road and not constantly aware of the cars around them is putting themselves in danger as well as hurting the reputation of all cyclists. On any road and at any time, safety and courtesy need to be the top priority when stepping onto a bike.
Anyone involved with Steamboat Velo should recognize the importance of Responsible Riding because poor behavior or even one incident will ruin the reputation of everyone involved with the team. There has been a big jump in the number of new road riders in Routt county, so a part of the equation might be reaching those folks through the bike shops in town with some sort of “Responsible Riding” campaign in the paper, etc. It would be different than Share the Road by focusing specifically on how cyclists should operate their bikes and get people thinking about how dangerous riding can be if they are not paying attention.
To the skeptic cyclists who complain of aggressive drivers as the issue, it is fairly simple and equally important to have clear in your mind when someone is breaking the law with a vehicle, what your riding rights are and how you should respond/report them. Is someone honks from behind, don’t assume it is a sign of aggression because it might just be me giving you a heads up that I am passing. I have been riding in Routt County for near five years now and can count all of the serious encounters with motorists on one or maybe two hands. The vast majority who pass me daily in their cars get along just fine, but part of it might be that I am making sure to respect their rights to the road as well as mine, which leads to a peaceful coexistence. If someone crosses the line with their car and threatens me, I know exactly how I am going to react and it is not with a middle finger, but with a cell phone camera and the Colorado state patrol aggressive drive line (*CSP).
Everyone should keep the conversation going and be part of the solution to make the roads of Routt County a safe and respectful place to operate a car and bike. What have your experiences been as a rider in Routt County? What steps would you like to see taken to make road safer and more enjoyable?