Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Long-distance rider appalled by fellow cyclists

A few days ago, Albert Melvin returned home from riding the length of Florida on the East Coast Greenway. Because the Greenway isn't complete yet, a substantial part of his 1,060-mile ride was done on streets and roads. To his surprise, cars were not much of a problem for him. Here's part of his report:
Al Melvin on the South Dade Trail
My greatest concern that came out of this trip was a safety issue -- not motorists versus cyclists -- but rather cyclist versus cyclist. I will be a strong proponent of cycling organizations encouraging and fostering safety training and certification. Over the course of 1060 miles cycled, I was passed too closely by only a few vehicles out of thousands that passed me. Out of dozens and dozens of faster cyclists that passed me only three announced their presence and called out, "On the left", etc.! You would think that cyclists would have the greatest concern about unsafe passing and be more courteous to each other. But that is not the case. I became conditioned to distrust other cyclists much more than motorists. As you know, you can hear an auto approaching from a great distance; but other cycles a practically silent until it is too late to react.
This squares with my own experience riding in Miami. I can't remember the last time any cyclist overtaking me on the M-Path or the South Dade Trail called out or used a bell to let me know he was about to pass.

My friends, we have a problem here. As much as we want to see bicycling increase, I can't imagine it will grow very far until we look out for each other better than we have been doing. How much trouble is it to sound off -- "Passing on your left" -- when you overtake a walker or another cyclist? You know you can do it. And Al and I are counting on you.
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Al has written more about his trip at Florida Biking Adventures.


Eddie Suarez - Kpeste99 said...

I could not agree more! I call it out and HATE it when I am startled by a passing cyclist. I am so fed up with it. I scream at them as they pass, "ON YOUR LEFT NEXT TIME!"

Gwen said...

You guys are right: We can lead by example. If each person who reads this calls out when they are passing even ONE time over the weekend, we can effect positive change.

Herb Hiller said...

We cyclists exist in a still early stage of bicycling activity that's likely to surge as more people more often leave their cars in the garage especially for short-distance commutes and also as families start cycling more for affordable recreation together. Off-road paved trails will proliferate for fun, safety and fitness. As FBA Executive Director Laura Hallam points out in the current FBA Messenger, roads work for some, trails for others. Florida cycling lacks an overarching rationale. I suspect that will come not in how we might expect, e.g., in terms of transportation or of lowering our carbon impact, but possibly in terms of how we re-evaluate the quality of "place" in our Florida lives. Meanwhile, cyclists need to recharacterize our image from rogue to responsible. It's a challenge to everyone associated with Florida cycling. Good work, Al, for speaking out, even if the roads still remain full of loutish motorists -- Herb Hiller, Southeast Florida Program Consultant, East Coast Greenway Alliance

Angel W said...

Thanks for a good article highlighting our responsibilities as cyclists. Too often I see cyclists riding without lights at night; extremely dangerous and puts a bigger responsibility on car drivers to try to see them emerging from a dark area. We really need to improve in this safety area in addition to all the other safety steps (helmets, signaling, etc.).

Jacob O said...

Interesting stuff. Keep us these nice posts!

YaniCan said...

I never call "on your left" anymore, more often than not, it just leads to the person looking back or to the left and veering to the left as I'm passing. I just pass with a safe distance between me and the other rider and everything goes more smoothly.