Bike to Work Month is great! Bike to Work Day is great! These encouragement events increase bicycle ridership and illustrate the potential for every month to be bike to work month and every day to be bike to work day.
Bike to work month ended May 31st and here in Seattle summer is upon us. The seasonal uptick in bicycle ridership in Seattle is in full swing. While more bicycle riders on the road make the roads safer for bicycle riders, more bicycle riders sharing the same marginalized urban spaces require an extra measure of care and cooperation by and on behalf of bicycle riders.
Commuting by bicycle is a highly utilitarian form of bicycling, an everyday expression of mobility, autonomy, play and perhaps most importantly, inter-dependence. In the realm of utility cycling safety always trumps marginal improvements in speed—prudence beats haste every time when it comes to everyday bicycling. Hasty passing and maneuvering in the context of a busy bike lane or roadway is risky and reckless behavior. Anyone who rides a bicycle on the road knows that there is a special type of vulnerability that bicycle riders experience in traffic which points to the importance of minimizing risk for oneself and other bicycle riders. Bicycle commuting should be playful and cooperative, not competitive. A cooperative attitude encourages the safety of all road users. Shaving a few micro-seconds off of your commute does not rationalize or justify endangering or disrespecting other bicycle riders.
Hazards of urban bicycling that are created by bicycle riders include tailgating, dangerous passing and other commute-racer behaviors—DON’T be one of the hazards to other bicycle riders. To see the hazards generated by bicycle riders from a diversity of perspectives, I polled my co-workers about their least favorite bad behaviors by cyclists and I have listed them below. This is a partial list, including some of the worst offenses, but it is certainly not exhaustive:
- running red lights
- splitting lanes
- splitting two cyclists
- jockeying up to the front at a red light (passing those who are already queued up)
- riding the wrong way (against traffic)
- tailgating cars or other bikes
- sneaking through 4-way stops out of sequence
- passing pedestrians and other bicycles without warning (neither bell nor voice)
- ringing the bell excessively or aggressively at pedestrians and other bicycle riders
- riding with headphones or earbuds
- squirelly and unpredictable riding
- silent drafting (and slingshot passing)
- passing on the right (especially without warning)
- wearing too much lycra, especially racing uniforms (nurtures an exclusive rather than inclusive environment)
- switching from “vehicular mode” to “pedestrian mode” at will
Being considerate to fellow road users is not only good for others around you, whether they be travelling by bicycle, car or bus, but it is also good for you. The commute is not a race and fully embodying that reality will reduce your stress levels and improve your commute.
Everyday year-round bicycle commuting is not practical or feasible for everyone. Being hard-to-the-core as a bike commuter is commendable and if you are hardcore about your bike commuting, great, but don’t beat up on the fair weather riders too much. In regards to the benefits of bicycling for the greater good, it is most productive to take the seasonal gains in bicycle ridership from fair weather riders in stride and continue to encourage bicycle commuting and utility riding.
It is high time we forget the embittered attitude of the dreary and wet winter commute and celebrate the dry weather and corresponding increase in bicycle traffic; it is time to leave behind the exclusive and competitive attitude and embrace an inclusive and tolerant attitude towards your fellow bicycle commuters. Riding on the streets involves sharing space with other vehicles, both motorized and human powered. In the good humor and good spirit of springtime cheer, let us be patient with our fellow road-users and remember that Bike to Work Month is really just the opening of the floodgates for bicycle commuters in Seattle. So play nice, won’t you?