In the past two weeks while riding my bike I have:
–Almost got smashed by a car that pulled out of space into the bike lane without looking. Luckily I yelped and extra luckily they heard me. No harm.
–Had a car cut me off by turning left FROM THE RIGHT HAND LANE on a Center City Street. This was such a severe cutting off that even though I slammed on my breaks (once I realized there was you know, a car turning very fast less than a foot from me) I rammed the back quarter panel of the car.
I don’t feel guilty.
My point is this: Cars and bikers in Philly are…at odds. And I drive in this town, so I get it. A lot of bikers are just as big of jerks as the cars. So here, I humbly offer some general pointers:
1. If you’re going to ride your bike on the street* you must obey all the same laws that the other vehicles (cars, mopeds motorcycles etc) have to obey. Full stop, no room for discussion. Some examples:
- You must come to a full stop at stop lights that are red and only start moving again when they are green
- I don’t care if there is a bike lane, if it’s a one way street, you too must ride the correct way down it
- Stop signs are not decorative. You stop at them.
- If you are riding at night, use your lights. If you don’t own lights procure them. They’re like…20 bucks. And you will be much more visible to the cars and other bikers.
2. Wear a helmet. While I’m not certain if it’s the law in PA, but speaking as someone who has had a nasty fall on a bike…you really want to be wearing one.They come in lots of fun colors these days. It’s like a seat belt…even if you’re just going around the block, wear it.
Look, I get where you’re coming from. The bikers aren’t following the law so you have no idea what they’re going to do, so why should you be nice to them?
Well for one, you are surrounded by and traveling in something that has been designed and tested hundreds of times to keep you safe. Bikers? We have…a helmet. And our reflexes. In a fight with a bike, you’re going to come out on top. So be a little extra nice.
1. If we are driving on the road, please don’t honk at us. It’s loud as all get out and scares the crap out of me. There’s almost ALWAYS two lanes. Just pull around us please.
2. Please do not crowd the bike lane (or pull out of (or into) a parking spot without looking to make sure a bike isn’t coming.)
- I guarantee you, however much you hate having us in the road with you (see point 1) we hate it more. It is scary, I’m frequently cursed at, and there are often large potholes. I really want to be in that bike lane. But you know what’s scarier than being on the road with cars? Being in the bike lane and having a car make a wide turn, or hug that side of the road, or park there. If you crowd the bike lane, I usually have nowhere to go but into a parked car, or switch lanes into car traffic This is not good. Please. Respect the bike lane.
3. I get it. I’m slow. That’s mainly because I’m operating a vehicle that’s powered by me, and your operating a vehicle that’s powered by an electrical or combustion engine** As I said earlier…there’s almost always two lanes. Pull around me. If you can’t, because you have to turn, or it’s a one way road–please be a little patient. I swear I am not trying to deliberately make you late. And if I see that you’re going two miles an hour behind me, I will do my level best to pull over or turn or something to let you by.
All of this can be boiled down to two simple rules
1. No matter what you’re driving follow the rules of the road
2. Be patient and a little kinder than you want to be.
Let’s be a little more observant and a lot kinder Philly.
*Which, I’d like to point out to all the drivers who yell at me to get out of the street is the freaking LAW.
**I know nothing about cars.