We all have our versions of what Oklahoma law says about bicycling on public roads. We learn from friends, email groups and out on the road riding with others. Many of us just operate on our own “good judgment”, evaluating situations and acting according to our perception of what’s safe, laws be damned. I do it and so do you. It could work for a life time or it could get you killed.
On our normal daily rides, it’s pretty easy to get away with loose interpretations of law – rolling through traffic signals, riding more than two abreast, crossing the centerline.
But there’s something about people coming to an organized event and riding in groups that makes me think sometimes they leave common sense at home. It’s like they think all traffic is being diverted to another county and we organizers have somehow magically reserved 100 miles of public roads just for them. What?
In the past 17 years that I’ve been an event organizer, I’ve seen too many close calls to count. I usually see it from a car as a sag driver. It’s surprising how many people cross the centerline to pass slower riders on a hill when they can’t see oncoming traffic. Or riding in big wide groups while cars stack up behind them. This creates a greater hazard to all riders in the group as frustrations mount among the car drivers looking for a place to pass.
I strongly support bicyclists’ right to use the road. I’m also an advocate for sharing the road. But, “sharing” is an equal opportunity action. It means coexisting not dominating. Just because you have the right to ride two abreast, doesn’t mean you have to. What’s wrong with moving into a single file line when it’s safe and letting cars go around you? To do otherwise is arrogant and obnoxious. I’m not talking about abdicating rights or cowering in the gutter. I’m talking about acknowledging that others also have equal rights to the road and exercising some common courtesy.
It’s a lot like moving out of the right lane on the highway to let other drivers merge or holding the door open for a stranger. It’s the art of civility. Maintaining your position just because you can while letting a line of cars stack up looking for narrow opportunities to pass is juvenile and invites hostility. In every human encounter, the bigger person is the one who offers assistance, shares with others, and tries to coexist peacefully.