I was driving the same route I commute to work by bike yesterday when I came too close to hitting a fellow cyclist. Itís not that I nearly hit the guy, rather, we simply came closer to tagging one another than was ever necessary. If youíre in the L.A. area you might be familiar with San Fernando Rd. south bound through the Newhall pass - riding from Santa Clarita to the San Fernando Valley. If you arenít, this route involves a fairly strenuous two mile climb. It starts out as a nice wide 4 lane road that eventually narrows to a skinny 2 lanes at the summit.
So anyway, there I am driving in the right hand lane (on the nice, wide 4 lane section). I could be cruising at a faster clip, but visibility is lousy, the sun is just coming over the hills and in my face. Itís making it hard on anyone behind a windshield. Coming out from under the freeway I see a dark form in the lane. Could be a person... could be something else. In the end it wasnít THAT close. About fifty feet away I see itís a bike, wobbling up the incline in the lane, and steer clear.
So what was my cause for concern - and the reason for this thread? Well along this particular section of the road there is a really nice, 6 to 8 ft. wide, paved, perfectly smooth shoulder that I would kill to have all the way to work. I didnít stop to ask, but if I had, Iím fairly certain I would have gotten the olí ďI have every right to be here in the laneĒ speech. Well, you can sit up there in heaven, strumming your harp and singing about how you technically had the right of way, and were well within your legal rights to stand your ground and occupy your lane (instead of wisely maintaining maximum distance by utilizing what is basically a quasi bike lane) but youíll still be DEAD!
Like I said, I ride this same road, at the same time of day, so this isnít the raving of someone who doesnít understand the other side. As a cyclist, I believe I see bikes a lot sooner than most people I might carpol with. And I am so aware of the difficulty people have driving into the sun on this stretch, that I dress bright, turn on my rear blinkers and yes, even ride on the shoulder wherever possible in order to keep my distance from traffic passing at 50+ mph. This guy was doing none of that and he stands a pretty good chance of getting tagged. Itís not weak, itís wise. Itís not capitulation, itís self preservation. I just donít understand this fanatical ďI dare you to hit meĒ attitude. Are you really willing to Ďfall on your swordí when there is a perfectly reasonable alternative?
Of course there are times when we must assert our right of way, simply because there is no other place to ride but in the lane. As I get closer to the summit on the very same climb in question I have to do exactly that. But itís just silly and dangerous to Ďtake the laneí all the time, no matter what. Iím not suggesting that cyclists ride on dangerous road shoulders or duck behind every parked car only to come swerving back out into traffic a few yards on down the road. But I am suggesting we actually use our heads instead of adopting a radical in your face attitude. Most drivers simply see it as inconsiderate and rude - and often they are right. Just like some cyclist believe that all drivers should have to ride a bike in traffic in order to gain a different perspective, I think some cyclists could benefit from being stuck behind some misguided nitwit whoís holding up traffic for no good reason.