This last week I have really been struck by the fear people have of making use of their right to the road. It came to head when I took my three boys to pick up a movie. The two younger ones have been riding with me a lot and are getting increasingly confident and conscious about road rules. The eldest, however, usually only rides when he has to. We road through a neighborhood on the street, then turned onto a more major street to complete our journey. Since it was well after rush our, the traffic was light and the middle turn lane gives motorists plenty of room to go around us. All the same, a motorcyclist headed the opposite direction hollared, "get on the sidewalk!" We just kept peddling.
When we arrived at our turn, I noticed my eldest son had taken to the sidewalk while the younger two had carefully followed as we practice. At the video store, my eldest sort of freaked out on me and said, "You should just ride the sidewalk." I responded that at the speed a bike travels, sidewalks are very unsafe, especially on roads where motorists are making lots of right turns. Moreover, sidewalks are for pedestrians, who don't want me zipping by on my bike. I then finished with the mention that by law the I have a right to the roads just like any motorist. He loudly retorted that it wasn't worth the right if a driver got mad, then said he didn't want to talk about it any more. I couldn't resist the last word, and reminded him that rights not used will disappear.
Couple of days after that, I ran into a professor wheeling his bike out of the building. I exclaimed, "cool bike, I didn't know you were a commuter." He said he had been for some time, then added, "and I never ride on the roads if I can help it, but I have problems getting here because the trail doesn't go through." I told him my route and reminded him that the roads belong to us too, but I was most struck by how much fear has been instilled and wondered how it had happened, especially to my kids.
I don't know what the real stats are, but I know I ride every day and rarely encounter a rude motorist, let alone one who might be serious about running me off the road. I know we've had some bicycle/car accidents that killed the cyclist, but we have car wreck deaths almost every day. Why aren't people scared to death to get in their cars?
Anyway, do you all have folks in your lives who either are scared to take up your bicycling ways as their own, or who fear for your safety? If so, what are some of the ways you gently put their minds at ease?