My Code For Riding – Part 4 – What Kind Of Rider Am I
I’m not sure how to classify myself because I don’t fit in any of the typical, sport cycle categories. I also dislike the term ‘casual rider’ because I feel my riding has become more than just casual. For now, I just call myself a bicyclist – plain, simple and right to the point.
As you may have read in Part 2, I’m not new to cycling. However, cross-town street riding is a type of cycling that I typically avoided. Why? From my perspective (and I’m sure for most who are new to street riding) it appeared to be too dangerous. There are too many variables to consider when sharing the road with cars – including basic physics. Putting my slow, little bike up against huge, speeding SUVs seemed like a no win situation.
When I started, my plan was to keep to neighborhood streets and bike trails. This grew to neighboring roads, and eventually, across large parts of north Dallas. I learned that cycling around town has become one of the best ways for me to enjoy my bike. Through my explorations, I’ve discovered a new perspective of the world around me. I’ve witnessed sights, sounds and smells that I would normally miss driving my car. Yet, even though the range of my rides has increased and my confidence in my commute has strengthened, I’m far from being what one would consider a true road warrior.
There are veteran cyclists who swear that sharing the road is the safest way to cycle around town. I’ve read countless points that identify how vehicular cycling should be practiced by anybody who street cycles. I tend to believe that these riders, who have thousands of miles and years of experience, have got to be right. So why do I fear some busy roads? Well, it’s all about perspective and experience. There are things that lead me to have reservations about jumping in and swimming with the sharks. For the most part, it’s my view of drivers.
I Drive A Car As Well:
I’ve driven a car for most of my adult life. Being a driver, I’m aware of our failings as commuters. Speed and self-entitlement have caused drivers to become reckless and less aware of their surroundings. Drivers assume, time and time again, that roads were built for cars and that anything else is just an obstacle. This is why, as a bicyclist, I fear sharing some busy, high-speed roads.
On the flip side, since I’ve been cycling more, I’ve learned a new perspective for when I’m behind the wheel of my car. I now strive to be more responsible when I drive. If anything, that alone should be the reason more folks should ride a bike. It puts driving in a whole new light.
I’d like to break down my perspective on the evolution into street cycling to clearly articulate for Part 5 what I think are the hurtles for bicycle advocacy.
Phase 1: Starting Out – This is one of the more important phases. We all have different reasons for getting on a bike. We all share similar fears and concerns about sharing the road, which make getting past this point the biggest step. I’ll go more into this in Part 5 – my perspective of bike advocacy and getting more folks started.
Phase 2: Breaking Some Habits – As we cycle more, we discover what we’re doing wrong. For instance, wearing headphones. It seems like a nice way to enjoy a ride until you realize you can’t hear the traffic around you. Among many other things, we learn that taking short cuts and riding against traffic (on sidewalks) isn’t the best way to get to our destinations. Most importantly, we learn to stop assuming that drivers are watching out for us.
Phase 3: Building Confidence – This only comes with time and experience. Stay safe, and take steps to become familiar with your routes and traffic around you.
Phase 4: Becoming Aware – Riding Defensively – This is the phase I’m in right now. I’ve decided to take more control of my riding situation and practice being more aware, at all times, of all my surroundings. I feel this stage is another one of the more important phases. Even with a vast wealth of cycling knowledge and experience, nothing beats good ol’ fashion common sense.
Phase 5 through 99: Achieve and Practice Cycling Knowledge – I’m practicing a few things that I’ve learned, but there are still so many more I’ll need to know to ride safely and confidently. Proper hand signals, proper lane position, proper maneuvers are just a few of the skills you need to utilize. I’ll post links to some great sites that have some of this information.
Phase 100: Road Warrior – After years of experience, hopefully, you’ll have the confidence you need.