Denver Bike to Work Day 2011: Don't be a dickhead
Used to be, the only adults who rode bikes were either weird fitness freaks or those with multiple DUIs. Times have changed, however, and more bicyclists than ever are taking to the pedals and jockeying for road space against drivers in an atmosphere of barely contained and increasing animosity. And the problem isn't going to go away -- last year's Denver Bike to Work Day drew out some 30,000 riders, and this year's event (coming up on June 22) is expected to attract even more -- meaning the only question is, in the immortal words of Rodney King, "why can't we all just get along?" Answer: because a lot of people are being real dickheads about it.
Don't be that guy.
As a daily bike commuter myself, I tend to sympathize with the terrifying, irritating and sometimes just downright confusing situations bicyclists get put into every day -- but I also own a car and drive in the city, so I'm well familiar with how annoying bicyclist's frequent habits can be on the other end. So in the interest of fostering a community of peace and empathy where riders and drivers alike can hold hands and sing songs about harmony and shit, here are a few guidelines for cooperative behavior that people need to start observing immediately, whether their vehicle has two wheels or four.
Use your turn signal
This thing has an excellent use!
Here's the thing: When I am riding a bike, I'm not occupying an actual lane of traffic; rather, have a few feet of lateral space toward the side of the road. What that means is that, when you're turning right, you're crossing directly into my path. The moral: I really need to know if you're about to turn right. It is imperative. It's nice to know if you're turning left or going straight, too, so I can avoid having to adjust my trajectory.
Don't wantonly run red lights/stop signs
But let's be honest: When you're stopped at an intersection and I'm coming up on your right, there's a good chance I'm doing that because I'm about to run a red light or a stop sign. And it's totally a bullshit habit, I know. There's nothing more nerve-wracking for me as a driver than having a dude on a bike dart out in front of me, so please: I know we don't want to lose that precious momentum and everything, but let's all agree that blowing red lights -- even on a bike -- is bad.
Look out for the bike lane
This is not a parking space.
There are precious few lanes just for bicyclists, so it's extra infuriating when cars not only take up the six lanes they're already allotted, but feel the need to take up ours, too -- particularly when it seems it hasn't even occurred to them that bicyclists may be using it. Be aware: Check your mirror before you pull out. Better yet, check your mirror before you open your door, too, because a door-check will fuck up your car just as bad as it will probably fuck up the bicyclist -- neither of which you want. And for God's sake, don't park there.
Don't ride two abreast in traffic
Oh look at me! I'm having a stupid-ass race!
Yeah, yeah, I know it's legal now for cyclists to ride two abreast, but for the sake of maintaining modestly civil relations between the two factions, don't be an ass about it. The same as we want our bike lanes to be for us, regular lanes of traffic are for, you know, traffic moving at the speed of traffic. Bicyclists are slower than cars, and (particularly if there's only one lane in either direction) it's seriously infuriating to get caught behind a couple of leisurely turds on B-cycles when you're in a hurry. Move over and let the car pass, lest you be tailgated.