The conversation began innocently enough.
It was casual chatter on the front porch of Buckley’s Tavern with a couple I hadn’t seen in a while. As we talked, the traffic streaming past in both directions was disruptive, and the conversation segued to the riskiness of crossing the street in front of this popular Centreville watering hole.
Unwittingly, I mentioned that as a cyclist I was keenly aware of the hazard this location presents. It was then that the conversation veered sidewise, like a bike tire that had just hit a patch of gravel.
“Oh, you’re one of those guys,” she said, dismissively.
“One of what guys?” I responded, already annoyed.
“One of those guys all decked out in Spandex that thinks he’s in the Tour de France,” she fired. “They’re all over the place out here…holding up traffic. It’s dangerous. They belong on bike paths, not on the roads with cars. Don’t you think it’s dangerous?”
Well, ah, yes…to the cyclist. And mostly because of people like you, I thought to myself. But I’ll come back to that.
First, yes, I am a cyclist. No, I do not think I’m in the Tour de France. The reason for the tight-fitting outfit? Practicality.
I’ll be the first to admit that when I began riding about 15 years ago I was not a fan of wearing bike shorts. And the chuckles from my wife and kids didn’t persuade me otherwise. But after a couple of rides where I flapped around like a flag on a breezy day, I recognized the prudence in eliminating things that create wind resistance while riding a bike. Trust me, few middle-age men are choosing to wear bike shorts as a style statement.
But a lot of us are choosing to ride bikes. Women, too. And for many good reasons. Let me list a few:
• You can ride when your schedule permits
• You don’t need to be on a team or find a partner
• You don’t have to rent time
• You dictate the pace, the distance, the time
• It’s a great cardio workout without punishing your feet or knees
• After the initial investment in a bike and gear, it’s basically free
• It’s actually great stress relief, except for the more-often-than-reasonable buzzing by a car
Bear in mind, the points above are strictly benefits from the recreational side. I didn’t even touch upon bicycling as an environmentally-friendly, alternative mode of transportation in this age of climate change. Not to mention the positive economic impact enjoyed by towns, cities and even countries that are bike friendly.
Did you know that more than two million people ride a bike once a week in Great Britain? And that nearly 50 million people in the U.S. went for at least one bike ride last year? I am not talking about outlier behavior here.
But back to my conversation at Buckley’s. I am sorry for the seconds of inconvenience my cycling may cause motorists. Please get over it. I have every right to ride my bike on the road. When there are bike paths, I use them. When there are not, I stay as far to the right as I can.
However, riding my bike on the road is legal. Coming within three feet of me in a car is not.
It’s not my rule, it’s Delaware law (in Pennsylvania, the legal distance is four feet). For the record, here is that law:
The driver of a motor vehicle, when approaching a bicyclist traveling in the same direction, shall ensure the safety and protection of the bicyclist by:
a. Proceeding with caution and yielding the right-of-way by making a lane change into a lane not adjacent to that of the bicyclist, if possible, with due regard to safety and traffic conditions, if on a roadway having at least 4 lanes with not less than 2 lanes proceeding in the same direction as the approaching vehicle; or,
b. Proceeding with caution and reducing the speed of the vehicle to a safe speed and leaving a reasonable and prudent distance by providing a minimum of 3 feet of clearance while passing such bicyclist, if changing lanes would be impossible or unsafe.
For some eye-opening statistics on the societal benefits of bicycling, visit PeopleForBikes.com. For some personal benefits, hop on a bike.