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My Turn: The view from the other side of the road

I have joined a subculture. I am now one of the people I used to scoff at on the side of the road for wearing skin-tight, rainbow-hued outfits. I have joined the ranks of the people I used to deride for taking up too much room on the road, causing me to swerve out of their way and purposely slowing down the flow of traffic. Those damn arrogant bikers, I’d mumble.

That’s right, I have joined the other side, and like any convert or any victim of Stockholm syndrome I now wholeheartedly endorse what once I maligned because I know now that I did not understand.

Now I understand that I wear the rainbow-hued outfits because I want to stand out in a crowd – because being seen is the best way not to get hit accidentally by a car’s fender squeezing me against the curb or beside the parked cars or getting clothes-lined by a car door swung open by an innocent driver who is in a hurry to get to their job or shop and honestly didn’t see me coming. And shamefacedly, I admit I worked hard to lose a lot of poundage, and I’m proud of how I look in those tight clothes.

I sometimes take up too much room because there are no paved shoulders on the side of the road, just dirt – which for my bike is the equivalent of quicksand. Sometimes there is a shoulder on the road, but it’s full of gravel or a pothole or a drain sunk deep below grade, all the equivalent of death traps for me. I avoid them and have no choice but swerve closer to you than either of us would like.

Look closer next time. Don’t assume, like I used to, that the bikers are thoughtless or careless. When you weigh the vulnerability of a cyclist vs. a car or hard pavement, there is no contest. We take our lives in our hands every time we go out on the road. We think and care about our safety, and yours, very much. That’s why we are begging you to consider us in the Concord Complete Street design process and give us a bicycle-friendly down town. We need your help and expertise in designing a people friendly down town that includes space for bikers, who, honestly, I have sometimes found to be just a tad bit arrogant.

(Diane O’Callaghan lives in Concord.)

Legacy Comments2

I usually don't agree with most things you write but I could not have made the argument as eloquently as you did here, Jim. I think we have to understand that cyclists are a militant bunch with the attitude that they have as much right to the roads and streets as cars do. They may be right but they want to change the entire paradigm of transportation. In NYC bikes rule and god forbid if you don't see one. My college student in Providence was broadsided by a cyclist who raced through an intersection and it dented her car pretty badly. He jumped up, waved and said: "my fault" and raced off. Cycling is enjoyable, cycling is healthy; I own a nice Trek bike and enjoy it but when I want to ride it I go to the South end streets of Concord, the parks, the bike path up at the Audubon or the beach, mountains, etc. If I ride it on the highway, I stay way over in the breakdown lane and if on a dirt road I dismount and wait for the traffic go by. Most cyclists assume that the driver will yield, not always the case. Your points are well stated, Jim.

I think the title of the article should be “why we need dedicated bike baths away from traffic”. Article points out all the reasons it is not safe for the biker and the car to be on “most” roadways together. Bike tire hits a hole, rock or dirt and can be thrown into traffic in a split second. This means the car driver has to swerve into the other lane, off the road or decide to hit the bike rider. As far as a main street bike lane – why would any rider want to ride up and down main street? Why would they want to ride where 75 yards or less they have to stop at a traffic light, go a half mile down the road and turn around and do it over again. Put the bike lane in front of parked cars and you have to worry about hitting a person or child walking to curb. The argument that I will ride my bike downtown to go shopping is foolish, will they have snow tires in the winter or do the tires not slip on snow and ice??? Certainly not my idea of a pleasant bike ride. These groups would get far better response by asking (and helping to raise funds) for a dedicated bike path around a few state parks.

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