You know how when somebody prefaces a statement with “some of my best friends are fill-in-the-blank” what follows is almost certainly offensive to those fill-in-the-blankers?
Well, some of my best friends are cyclists.
In fact, a buddy I grew up with, right across the street for the first 18 years of our lives, is an IronMan triathlete. He takes 100-mile rides regularly. I marvel at his dedication.
But I wouldn’t hesitate to say to him what I feel compelled to say here:
Be smarter. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.
I guess what I mean is, Share The Road.
This doesn’t come from an arrogant belief that motorists alone own the highways (though I doubt we’d have the public roadway system we have if it weren’t for the automobile). It comes from a place of equal parts terror, frustration and genuine concern.
If you’ve ever had a near-miss with a cyclist through no fault of your own — not because you were distracted or careless, but because there was another road user straddling the shoulder and traveling well below the speed of regular traffic flow — you know the terror.
The braking, the skidding, the fear that you’re about to cause serious injury to a total stranger for which you’ll no doubt be held legally accountable. How were you supposed to know when you rounded that curve that there would be somebody there, laboring to make it up a hill at 15 mph.
I understand the affinity for physical activity. A healthy lifestyle is to be admired.
But riding 30 mph below the posted speed limit on curvy mountain roads with limited visibility isn’t a healthy choice. In fact, it’s downright hazardous to one’s health — and inconsiderate to others.
Let’s make this clear: Under Georgia law, cyclists have every right to be there. Just as much as John Q. Chevy does.
But here’s where the frustration comes in: The cycling we’re talking about here is a hobby, not truly transportation. For the guy or gal who’s pedaling from point A to point B under the July Georgia sun, I’ve got nothing but sympathy and support.
For the hobbyist, not so much.
There are plenty of places safe for that kind of cycling. Curvy mountain roads with no shoulder to speak of are not among them, yet they remain a favorite of our bike-riding brothers and sisters for the challenge and natural beauty they present.
That’s understandable, until you consider the inherent risk.
Then there’s the concern.
No one wants to see accidents occur. There are stories of crazed motorists and overt aggression, but surely we can agree that these are the exception — just as we can agree that open flouting of traffic laws by cyclists leading to accidents is also the exception.
But accidents can occur and they will occur even when all involved are following the letter of the law. And when they do, lives can be ruined. Not just the cyclist’s, but the law-abiding driver’s as well. All for the sake of a hobby.
And that’s simply not fair.
If that amounts to blaming the victim, I’d ask that we reassess our definition of the word.
In a perfect world, there would be plenty of money in the public coffers to fund expansion of our roads to include wide shoulders and ample bicycle lanes as there are in other cities and states around the country. Unfortunately, there is not. Until there is, we must make the best — read: wisest — use of what we have.
To be sure, a large part of that includes safe and defensive driving by motorists. An equal part should fall to cyclists choosing the byways more carefully.
Yes, you have the right to use any road you choose. But that doesn’t mean you should.
Brent Holloway is the sports editor for The Times. Follow him at twitter.com/gtimesbholloway.