By: Graham Dewart, Bicycle Friendly Campus Intern
The cycling culture at Indiana University is one of a kind. The school is a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly University and is home to the largest intramural bike race in the United States. The wide range of cyclists at IU strengthens the alternative transportation movement and adds diversity to the streets. Unfortunately, irresponsible behaviors while riding hinder the work of bicycle advocates and create tensions between drivers and cyclists. In order to create a safer and more bike friendly community in Bloomington, racers and commuters must form an alliance to ride responsibly.
On any given day, you will see bicyclists in the street. Many of these riders will follow the rules of the road. Many will not. We’ve all seen it. They blow through the red lights and they disregard the stop signs. They ride down the one-way streets and they fail to signal properly when turning. I don’t want to generalize, but these are typically the “racer” types of riders. They are often the strong and fearless and they are used to high speeds. While they might narrowly miss a car when weaving through traffic, their actions cause a ripple effect on the cycling community as a whole.
The time is now for dangerous riders to act on advocacy. Irresponsible riding behavior must end. Bicycle racers and bike advocates must join forces and collaborate to create a friendlier cycling environment in our town. All cyclists, whether Little 500 riders or commuters, will benefit from civil streets and a safer riding environment. Whatever kind of riding you do, we are all in this together. When you ride responsibly, you reduce the tensions between cars and cyclists. When you stop at the red lights, you make it easier for advocates to argue for more bike lanes. When you follow the rules of the road, the streets become safer for you and me.
If you disobey this alliance, shame on you. When you disregard the law, you make the city streets more hostile for cyclists. Every rider needs to acknowledge that we have a duty to one another whenever we mount our bikes. Whether you’re a racer, a commuter, a delivery worker, or an enthusiast, from the perspective of a driver, we are all cyclists. So next time you head out for a ride, please ride responsibly.
Here are 10 tips to follow as a rider:
1. Be courteous and share the road. Being courteous gains respect and helps make the roads safer for all cyclists.
2. The law allows you to ride two abreast, but it may not be the courteous or safe option. If you hear a vehicle approaching from behind, ride single file. Don’t ride three abreast.
3. If you’re blocking a whole line of cars and there’s a place to safely pull off be courteous and stop.
4. Don’t wander all over the road. Try to ride predictably and as far right as safely as you can. This does not mean to ride in an area that is littered with road debris or places you at risk.
5. Stop at stop signs and signals. By law, cyclists must obey all traffic control devices.
6. Signal your intentions if you can safely do so. If you are turning, point in the direction you plan on going. If you are slowing, put your hand out behind you.
7. If you’re in a group, take leadership, set a good example and do your best to make everyone ride courteously.
8. Pay attention! While it is the responsibility of drivers to avoid hitting you, ride defensively to minimize risk!
9. Remember the 5% rule. 5% of drivers are jerks. Don’t let that 5% get to you. Take a deep breath and move on.
10. Be friendly. If someone is courteous to you and does the right thing, wave and smile. Everyone likes to be acknowledged for doing the right thing.