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Weekend Athlete Pleads for Cyclist-Motorist Unity

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If you read the newspapers, you’ve heard that more people are trading in cars for bicycles in order to save gas. I don’t believe it, but hey, that’s what they say. The stark reality is that bicyclists — at least here in Chicago — are getting hit by cars and have been injured or killed. What does that have to do with a car site? Everything.

Full disclosure: I ride my bike to work much more often than I drive. Hey, I’m not a full-time reviewer; I don’t get to commute in whatever luxury/sport/econo car they’re testing this week. What’s interesting during my commute is that I have only one consistent problem with drivers — like our reviewers — and I’ll get to that later. But, bike riders, man? They have issues too. Where to start?

See, the roads really are designed for everybody, but the key is everybody has to follow all the rules. Over at the Chicago Tribune, Kevin Williams summed up what you need to do to be safe on a bike here.

I can’t really improve on what Williams says, but it boils down to this: Everybody has to follow all the rules of the road. Hear me, fellow bike-riders? That means you stop at stop signs. You don’t run red lights. You don’t ride the wrong way down a one-way street. (As Williams says, “You know better.”) It’s just that simple.

And I’ll tell you, as a fellow rider, I’m sick of you stupid riders passing me when I’m stopped at a red light. It’s not cute, it’s not “how it’s done” — it’s unsafe. Period. I can understand why cars have trouble with you if you ride that way because, you know what? I have trouble with you. Learn to ride or get another hobby.

Now, for drivers. The only issue I run into — and it happens only about once a year — is the driver who screams and yells for me to ride in the gutter or too close to parked cars so they can pass. I don’t do that because it’s unsafe. It’s how you get hit by car doors or bang into a curb and wreck (see Williams’ rules above).

Now, I get it, it looks like I’m trying to slow you down, but I’m not. So chill. Chances are you have a radio, air conditioning and various creature comforts. Enjoy them for a sec and before you know it, I’ll be up to 25 mph (the speed limit on the roads I ride) and we’ll all be cruising along just fine.

Here’s the thing: I’m not out to make a statement. I don’t think I’m saving the planet. I don’t judge people who drive cars. I’m doing something that keeps me from getting fatter and is fun, too, in a city where commuting via bike is possible. Like you, I want to get home as safely and quickly as I can. If we all play by the rules, we’ll all have a happy summer.

Photo of Bill Jackson
Former assistant managing editor Bill Jackson manages the Research section, and he enjoys triathlons and cross-country skiing. Email Bill Jackson

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