Over the past few years we have really gotten into biking. We get on our bikes two or three times a week, on quiet country roads, usually aiming to put on 20km or so. We’ve cycled some long self supported tours as well, where, day after day, we will cover 70 to 120 km . On all of these rides we have generally felt safe and, except for a few incidents, have been treated courteously by those with whom we share the road.
Our last couple of trips have been different. They’ve been rides with a purpose and have put us onto somewhat busier roads. These are still local county roads, main arteries to other places. In these cases we were riding from home to a bigger center. Today it was to do some banking and to spend a few minutes in a coffee shop. Earlier in the week, I rode to the same town for a meeting. The atmosphere on the road was not good, in fact, I’m not even sure it was safe.
It could be, since the bicycle is not a common form of transportation on these roads, drivers of cars and trucks don’t feel the need to give them any respect. It could also be, because there is little respect given, the bike is not catching on. There are certainly more riders than there were when I grew up in the area forty plus years ago, but compared to the number of folks we met on bikes on our latest tour, this area is way behind. On today’s 50 km, middle of the day, ride we did not see even one other person on a bicycle. Part of the problem may the be redneck attitude of drivers toward cyclists. Another piece may be the condition of the roads.
Pictures are worth a thousand words. It seems that drivers think that we should ride to the right of the white line and will snuggle up as closely as possible to push us over it. Today, our unwillingness to try to ride on the broken pavement, earned us a close car, and a one fingered salute. Earlier in the week a garbage truck forced me over there. His wheels were not more than eighteen inches from mine. I was shaking (both from the broken pavement and from fear) by the time the truck went by.
Twice in the past week, oncoming cars have passed a slower vehicle despite the fact that I am in the oncoming lane. They cannot give me a meter of clearance if they are passing another car!
The question is “What can be done about it”. Since biking is not a priority, and there are apparently few cyclists, the county does not fix the road and would not consider widening the roads further to provide bike lanes. As drivers continue to harass and frighten cyclists the numbers will not grow. This area would have a lot to offer in terms of bike tourism but the attitudes and the roads will keep that from happening.
Maybe someone will need to be seriously injured before there is any movement to upgrade the roads and enforce the share the road laws. It’s more likely though, folks will just leave their bikes at home because the injury would just reinforce the risk.
We will continue to ride!!!!