To the Cyclist who Almost Hit Me

September is here. National Courtesy Month. And today I was almost hit by a cyclist who ran a stop sign in front of a school. Those white street crossing lines are there for a reason. They mean STOP for pedestrians, especially during school hours. I guess hitting a grandmother walking a child to school would have been better than hitting a small child. But really, biker, this is not the place to lean forward and race on through.

Photo by Andy Rothwell

Photo by Andy Rothwell

I applaud folks who ride their bikes. They take cars off the road, which is good for the environment. They promote exercise, which is good for everyone. I just wish they also promoted courtesy and respect for the rules of the road.

It is rare to see a cyclist stop for a stop sign or red light. Since I know they keep going regardless of traffic signals, I don’t understand how bike lanes are supposed to work when I have to make a right turn. The lane seems to disappear at the intersection, but I fear the biker I passed a few blocks earlier may be coming up on my right as I turn. I know that biker has no intention of stopping. An informal survey of my friends reveals the same confusion. Who yields to whom? And what if we can’t see the cyclist coming up in the right lane when we turn?

Sharing the road with bikers can be frustrating, especially when they ride side by side blocking all vehicles or in front of cars on a narrow street. I can’t safely pass them, so I’m forced to drive at their pace. I have seen bikers cause traffic jams on major streets like Sheridan Road this summer. I worry an impatient driver will try to pass, causing a major accident. And I wonder why they are cycling on this street when there is a beautiful bike path along the lake just one-half block to the east.

Bah, humbug. It’s hot and humid out and I’m still upset about almost being hit, so I may as well continue this rant. It may be politically correct to put bike lanes all over my city of Evanston, but can anyone tell me how to parallel park when there is a bike lane to my right? I have a hard enough time doing this well when I have the curb to guide me. Now, all I have is a yellow line I can’t see and the anxiety that I could hit a biker in my effort to park. It is yet another incentive to shop elsewhere. My apologies to the merchants on Davis and Church streets.

Here’s another gripe: The traffic was already a challenge on these streets with bike lanes. Squeezing the cars into fewer or narrower lanes to accommodate cyclists creates pretty bad traffic jams that can gridlock the intersections. I guess that’s not a problem for bikers, as most of them breeze through the traffic signals anyhow.

There is a reasonable solution to all of this. It may even raise revenue for my city so it can stop using my tax dollars to create more bike lanes. How about creating a “Rules for the Road” for bikers? And why not have them pass a test on these rules (this could be done online) and purchase a cycling license to display on their bikes? That way, offenders like the cyclist who almost ran me down at a school crossing with a stop sign could be identified and even ticketed. Think of all of those fines pouring into the city’s coffers.

In fact, since I’m feeling especially crabby today, why not shift some of the personnel issuing parking tickets for a meter that expired 30 seconds ago to my proposed bike safety task force? If all of us – pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists – learn to share the roads by demonstrating courtesy and following traffic laws, it would be much safer all around.

In the meantime, be careful out there.

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