I have been thinking a lot about bike safety lately. Those of us that choose to do road cycling understand the dangers involved. We understand that if we tangle with an automobile, we are likely going to be on the losing end. For me, I take the risk because I love the bike and the mind-clearing medicine that it gives me.
If you ride long enough, the odds are that you will have an accident, and if you do, it will more likely than not involve an automobile. I had only been riding for about a year when it happened to me. I was riding on a country two-lane road, and a driver (I’ll call him a cyclist hater) decided to try and brush me off the road while laying on his horn. I swerved and crashed – the driver kept going. I ended up with some serious “road rash” and a cracked helmet but no broken bones. I was lucky.
The dangers of cycling hit home for me a few months ago when I was out for a weekend ride with a few friends. We were doing one of the popular loops just outside of Austin in what we call the Hill Country. As our group came over a little rise, we saw police cars and flashing lights – not good. As I passed by, there was a mangled bike on the side of the road. The ambulance had already come and gone. We learned later that the rider was a 60 year old man that was struck from behind while riding on the large shoulder of the road. The gentleman died from his injuries.
By no means do I put all of the blame for accidents and the lack of bike safety on the cars and their drivers. I often see my cyclist brethren breaking laws including running red lights and stop signs, and general recklessness. I am not one of those riders. The way I see it, the drivers will never respect me as a cyclist if I am not obeying the same rules that I expect them to obey. A great read on this subject can be found in the March 2015 issue of Outside Magazine: “Bikes vs Cars: The Deadly War Nobody’s Winning,” by Andrew Tilin (@atilin). For me the takeaway from the article is a good one: There is clearly an inequity and many times cyclists are not treated fairly; however, as cyclists we have to be ambassadors and not antagonists.
Which brings me to the Butler Brothers Wave project, wewave.org. Have you seen this website? If not, you should definitely check out the site and the video. The message is pretty simple: “Let’s get along with a wave.” I came across the website a couple of months ago and I have been trying it out. I actually started keeping score during my rides and runs – I count how many reciprocal waves I can get. And guess what? I’m actually getting a pretty good ratio. I think I have hit as high as an 80% wave return rate a couple of times.
Most importantly, I am definitely noticing a difference in drivers’ behavior when I make eye contact and give them a wave. They generally seem friendlier and they allow me the space and freedoms of the road that I am entitled to. Maybe this wave thing really will make a difference in improving bike safety. Let’s be ambassadors. And for all of the cyclists, runners, and drivers out there, as they say at Wave, let’s “roll nice y’all.”