Friday, May 29, 2009

Ride of Silence

About a week ago, I took part in my first "Ride of Silence," an event where bicyclists get together and ride to honor the people who have been hurt or killed by motorists while cycling. In Lansing this event starts at Michigan State University and ends at the State Capitol building. There was a good turnout of people, and most there sadly had a story to tell about a confrontation with a motorist on the roads. You can see some photos here.

I'm not sure what I feel about the Ride of Silence, and associated Critical Mass, to be honest. I like to ride with groups of people so I go to these things, but I don't think a mass of cyclists riding down Michigan Ave gets any kind of point across at all. Most of the comments I heard from passing motorists were derogatory, from the snide "Nice bike Lance," to the ubiquitous "Get out of the road!" It's hard not to be struck by the sheer amount of people out there who believe a bike has no place on the road, and unfortunately the people who hold these opinions are the ones behind the wheel of 2-ton vehicles "bearing down on you," to quote a famous State News writer.

We belong on the roads, and we're not going anywhere. What can we do to get the point across? I don't think huge masses of cyclists does much other than anger people behind the wheel, which I can understand. The few times I've driven lately I've begun to notice just how aggravating it is to be stuck inside a car in traffic. I certainly don't want to make a motorist any angrier. I really think the best way to make drivers understand our situation is to "drive the bike" as I've heard many say. But that's the big predicament. Do we ride our bikes in the way we would want a car to drive? Or do we ride in the way that motorists actually drive - turning when they shouldn't without signaling, rolling through stop signs, stopping in the middle of intersections, and disregarding the right of way? I'll be honest, I don't stop for every red light or stop sign on the bike, and I don't always "drive the bike," so to speak. I'd consider my commute "aggressively defensive." I ride in a way that will keep me alive, because there are already too many dead cyclists.

1 comment:

dottie said...

Wow, sad to hear about the mean comments from motorists. We didn't get any of that in Chicago. The most heckling we got was people cheering and yelling "happy friday!" apparently confused as to why we were so silent (no, folks, this is not critical mass).