Friday, March 19, 2010

Milestone

Today marks my 50th straight work day of bike commuting.  My estimated total mileage for commuting is about 500 miles.  I thought that this little personal milestone would be one that I could celebrate with my own little festival of one, but recent events have sobered that.

On Wednesday, Adam Little of Charlotte, was struck and killed in a hit-and-run accident by a car traveling 60 mph as he rode to work.  I sent this email to my co-workers yesterday:
Dear HHS staff,

Yesterday in Charlotte, Adam Little, husband and father of two small children, was struck and killed while riding his bicycle to work.  Adam was struck from behind by a car traveling 60 mph. The vehicle then left the scene in a hit-and-run accident.  By all witness accounts, Adam was killed instantly.  The driver was apprehended within a very short time thanks to the diligence of the Law Enforcement officers on duty at the time.

I did not know Adam, but this hits very close to home for me.  Many of you know that I ride to school every day, good weather or bad and this Friday will mark my 50th straight commuting day to school (a total of 500 miles since the beginning of this year’s return to school).  While we good-naturedly think that I am a little “crazy”, I don’t think that my riding to work should constitute a life or death decision on my part, any more than your choosing to drive should.  Please take a moment to think about and talk about the rights AND responsibilities of cyclists on our roadways today as a way of honoring the memory of someone that none of us knew, but whose death was a tragedy nonetheless.

Rights AND Responsibilities of cyclists on roadways in NC:

Bicycles are legal vehicles under NC law and must comply with all traffic laws: traffic signals, stop signs, signaling for turns.

Bicycles must travel in the roadway (to the left of the white line, NOT the shoulder), in the same direction as other vehicle traffic.

Bicycles should stay to the right of the roadway as far as is reasonable and safe, but may occupy the ENTIRE lane if necessary.

Cars must pass vehicles (including bicycles) with a minimum safe distance of 2 ft.

A cyclist will only delay you a few seconds, if at all, so please be prudent and safe.  Remember that the life you risk is NOT your own!

Thank you,

Shawn Moore
I received several very positive and supportive responses from coworkers.  I also had a conversation with a coworker who travels on Hwy. 268 who remarked about how "dangerous" that road was and how cyclists "stay all grouped up" and how when she goes around curves that cyclists are "across the yellow line" in the oncoming traffic lane a lot.  I stayed calm and tried to explain to her some of the things that groups of cyclists do to maintain safety while riding with cars.  She wouldn't hear of it.  She steadfastly maintained a cars vs. bikes attitude and said that she knew that one day there wouldn't be anything she could do to avoid hitting a cyclist.

On an ESPN radio show, correspondent Tony Kornheiser recently exhorted his listeners to hit cyclists to show them that the roads are for cars.  "Don't run them down, but just tap 'em." were his words.  Unfortunately, we live in time where might makes right, and despite how despicable his words were, his co hosts laughed and threw out their cliched stereotypes as well in support.

As I explained to my coworker, if you see a cyclist do something like run a stop sign or a red light, that no more means that ALL cyclists are doing that than when a car does it and you extrapolate that ALL drivers do that.  We have to use our heads, each and every one of us, despite our living in a thinking optional, gut reaction is primary society.  We all bear responsibility in maintaining a positive relationship with the public as we ride in this area.  We are easily stereotyped and categorized as we are so recognizably different on the road.  Be vigilant and be lawful in what you do. 

I often get asked by coworkers and students why I ride to school every day.  There always seems to be some effort on their part to ascribe some deeper philosophical or political meaning behind the decision.  I always reply with "have you ever done something just because it was fun?"  That is what I feel every time I get on a bike - fun, as well as freedom; a sense of boundless freedom.

Every morning I strap on my Road ID, pause, and think about the real reason I am wearing it.  It is their for if I am injured while commuting to work, plain and simple.  Sobering to think that something as simple as riding a bicycle to get to where you want to go is a life or death decision.  It shouldn't be that way.  None of us deserves to be the lifelong regret of someone that results from their moment of inattentiveness, rudeness or impatience.

Many of you have come in to the shop and talked to me about commuting.  I want to encourage you again to get out there and do it.  The more of us out there, the more accepted we will be on the roads.
Stay safe out there, spread the word among all of your non-cycling family, friends and coworkers of our rights and responsibilities on the road, and always act like an ambassador of goodwill every time you are on the road.  And give me a wave if you see me out on the roads on my morning and afternoon commute - I'm the guy rockin' the jacket and tie on the sweet Globe Haul or the equally awesome Xtracycle (that is probably loaded down with groceries!).
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