‘Dr. Phil’ Raps About Motorists & Cyclists, and the Laws that Bind — Take 3

This is Part 3 of an unintended series regarding state laws pertaining to motorist and cyclist interactions on the road. Part 1 includes the actual statutes, along with a little flavor crackle pop. Part 2 is the first portion of the rebuttal to a motorist/non-cyclist’s complaint that my blog post was biased.

Earlier, I posted a section of the “Missouri State Law for Motorists Interacting with Bicyclist“ for two constructive reasons:

  1. To communicate actual-factual, useful information straight from a government horse’s mouth which could benefit the too-common misunderstanding that occurs between motorists and cyclists on the road
  2. And as an example that is likely similar to statutes across the country, although each state — and at least some cities — have their own laws. (Read up on your area statutes through Mass Bike‘s state-by-state list online.)

Some read that post and selectively seized on certain tidbits, neglecting the rest. Folks, folks, folks. As they say, “You can lead a horse to water, but…”

Among other things, it was suggested that educating the public would do more good than a blog post like the one that kicked off this series.

Motorist and Cyclist Laws Are Educational, Aren’t They?

I posted the laws for civic education.

And there is much education already out in public — road signs, bike lanes, bike lane signs, posters, and bloggers, bloggers, bloggers, and however other many ways that community organizations try to draw awareness and say, “Let’s all get along” — for those who care to receive it.

But who pays attention? Maybe not motorists, who are inclined to be pissed off at anything and everyone on the road as a matter of course, which are most. Yeah, most, even me at times. (I’m a motorist, too, when I’m not a cyclist. Yet I favor the cyclists in this particular discussion; why might that be?)

So let’s not act like motorists are at all peaceful and not self-absorbed or that they aren’t so commonly distracted by any number of other matters — cell phones, mental drifting, makeup, radios, kids, other drivers, dinner menus, etc. — and lose sight of the issue: human safety.

Yes, it is true that cyclists need to know the laws and look out for themselves. Of course. And I absolutely wish they all would, because the more cyclists on the road who are safe and law-abiding, then the safer it is for me to be out there. All I can say is that I do.

Nonetheless, the entire point of motorists and cyclists getting along is: human safety. And more specifically: safety of the one who isn’t protected by tons of auto protection, bumpers, air bags and seat belt.

Even if that means a motorist ends up needing to look out for a someone on a bicycle who isn’t wearing a helmet and is riding on the sidewalk — likely because they fear for their safety in the street, where they lawfully belong — then fine, be the unsung hero and save that person’s life for them when they do something stupid, okay?

You’re Damn Right I’m Biased For Cyclists

In my opinion, again, as a bike commuter, you bet I have a bias that thinks the viewpoint of the cyclist in a motorist-versus-cyclist situation is more crucial. The cyclist’s life is at stake! When that’s me, then MY life is at stake!

My. Life. Is. At. Stake…and in the hands of every single driver who is in the vicinity of me on the road. I hope to God, Buddha and Allah, each of those drivers doesn’t sneeze at the wrong time.

Motorists need to give pause to think about this. Motorists need to stop being defensive and insulted by our presence and think, just for a second, what it means for tons of automobile to even maybe possibly potentially clip any piece of a bicycle or its rider.

It’s quite possible that nothing happens to the motorist. Nothing.

Everything can happen to a cyclist. Every bad thing.

You bump me even slightly, and my wife may lose her husband; my unborn children lose; my parents, my siblings, my nieces and nephews, my friends, my dogs, my work colleagues, my neighbors…. And in the court of law, you’d better hope you don’t lose your life, too, in whatever respect that might mean.

So, for Motorist, who wants to get bent out of shape because someone posted the rules of the road for sharing space with Cyclist, get over your hurt feelings…if for no other reason than because you can.

Once you bang into me while I’m riding my bike, whether it’s because you’re generally too angry as a driver, who thinks everything in the world is in his/her way because the universe is picking on you personally to make you 12 seconds slower to work, I may never recover from your momentary lapse in judgment, or prejudiced lack of interest in my well-being.

Give It a Try — Then Tell Me Not to Be Biased for Cyclists

Another commenter — a cyclist — on that previous post had a great idea: Everyone should get out and try a ride, at least once, just to gain some perspective.

Get an idea of what it feels like when a 10-ton dump truck, caked with so much mud that it alone probably outweighs you and your bike, cuts in front of you, the cyclist, despite you having the right of way — and then he flips you off!

Get an idea what it’s like to be riding in the bike lane and have an 18-wheeler drift into that bike lane, coming within inches of you, dear cyclist, knowing that if he keeps coming, if he keeps coming, if he keeps coming…

Get an idea what it’s like to ride on a nearly deserted city street and have the lone car in motion for blocks drive by with passengers yelling and cursing at you to get off the road — just because they carry that much hostility toward cyclists.

Don’t tell me sob stories, Motorist, about how, “This one time on my way to work…” a buffoon of a cyclist was illegally riding on the sidewalk and shot out into traffic and you narrowly missed killing him, despite his best efforts to break the laws and, seemingly, try to get himself run over by a megaSUV — and you graciously spared his life with your quick reflexes, which he never even showed appreciation for, and then you lived to tell about it as nothing more than an annoying emotional hiccup to your day.

Don’t tell me it’s “incendiary fluff.”

Don’t tell me education is the light. What, because this country’s educational efforts to teach kids the basics of math, English and science is going so well that I should expect the over-worked, over-distracted, self-absorbed adult public to be so cat-like quick in caring about boning up on laws of the road pertaining to cyclists?

Half our country doesn’t even care enough to learn the facts about who they are about to vote into the White House in the midst of incredible turmoil that is drowning our nation.

And Kumbaya is the way I should communicate about the need for bike safety?

My. Life. Is. At. Stake. So I provided the laws and a bit of awareness to the topic that cyclists could use some motorist friends out there. Thank you to those of you who fit that description. My wife thanks you (as do my unborn children, parents, nieces and nephews…)

Related posts:

Dr. Phil’s Take on Motorists & Cyclists, Their Work Commutes and Laws That Bind All

Senator Jeff Klein to Cyclist: Get Out of My F***ing Way!

Driving with Cyclists: Six Rules of the Road to Keep Everyone Safe

World Naked Bike Ride: Is Anything Gained By Protesting Oil Dependence in the Buff?

Dollars and Sense: Calculating Money and Environmental Benefits of Bike Commuting

Moving House Via Bike: Environmental, Friendly Community Fun

  1. Bobby B.

    Adam, I am glad that it was Concetta that tee-teed in your Cheerios this time and not me. BTW, you never responded to my question regarding the laws that apply to cycling during non-daylight hours. Nonetheless, I would like to take this topic in a different direction.

    I spent my first three years of college on a bicycle. I commuted by bicycle on clear days about eight miles each way. I also befriended a former high school athlete who convinced me to ride about fifty miles with him on the weekends. It was risky, but I had never – and have since never been – in better cardiovascular shape. In short, had I been killed by a motorist, I would have had an outstanding corpse. I am in not nearly that kind of shape today, and the bicycle gave way to an indoor elliptical. It is not nearly as fun, but serves its purpose. It also leads me to my point.

    As a young adult, my life was my own. Injury and/or death affected no one but me; and maybe my parents. Now that I am married and raising children, my life is not my own and injury/death would negatively affect my spouse and children on multiple levels. As such, I feel that I have a responsibility not to put myself at too much unnecessary risk. Ergo, I refuse to bicycle, motorcycle, Segway or walk the fifteen miles (one way) to work. It is just not safe, especially since I travel before sunrise and the last two miles require interstate travel. Now, we all make our own choices and you are well within your right to risk life and limb by commuting via bicycle and by making pleas to motorists to be more attentive of cyclists. However, you must realize that you and you alone make that choice. If you get splatter by a dump truck (regardless of fault), you chose to take the risk.

    Now, let’s have some fun. Insurance companies and employers are tacking on punitive fees to insure smokers, the overweight, and individuals who choose risky lifestyles (pilots, motorcyclists, scuba divers, sky divers, etc.). Since you are willing to pit your under 200 pound (assumed) body against vehicles weighing between 2 and 40 tons, should those same companies impose punitive fees on you because of your chosen lifestyle? Sure you can argue that you are a healthier employee and may save them some money on health care, but if your body gets broken while cycling that savings becomes instantly moot. If you end up dead (God forbid), you nullify the company’s investment in your training and cause them to assume the expense of training a new employee. Since that new employee may not reach your production level for years, the costs to your employer continue to compound. So again I ask, would your employer or your insurer be within their rights to charge you a higher rate for insurance because you choose to ride a bicycle to work?

  2. Concetta

    Well, I’m glad I instigated more fiery rhetoric from you, Adam.

    Here’s a starter: I put my 200 lb frame on the line everyday too. You want to know how?

    I ride a scooter every day to work to save gas/dollars/environment. Yes, I DO know what the risk is.


    I was recently in an accident in which I was wearing a helmet, a standard motorcycle jacket with armor, and riding pants.

    It was my own fault. I saw a car coming ahead and put the brakes on too quickly, and skidded in the rain.

    I walked away with a broken arm. It could have been worse. Much worse.

    I talk to people on the road everyday about how much they value their bodies if they’re not wearing a helmet and safety gear.

    YES, Education is the way. I have seen it! Just because our schools don’t necessarily work (for a variety of reasons) doesn’t mean education is not the way!

    When Chicago does the “bike to work” days, and the “bike the drive” days, I see lots of people working in harmony to make things different for both cyclists and motorists. For cyclists, the volunteers teach safety, and for motorists, they educate people to share the road. And each time I see one of those, I see better behavior on the road, at least for a little while.

    After the local paper did an article on scooters, the news coverage of scooters and bicycles lasted for days afterward, with people drilling in the safety laws.

    For several months, I didn’t have to worry about people nearly running into me, people creating a “third” lane by trying to veer to the side of me, and people acting like they weren’t sure what to do about my scooter being on the road with them. Of course, after that things got crazy in the weather…

    The news program and its associated coverage worked. It made people aware of the scooters and how to treat them on the road. That’s what bicyclists are missing.

    Furthermore, I WALK from the train station in the winter. As a pedestrian, my frame is just as much at risk as yours. I see many bike-pedestrian incidents on my walk to work each morning. Each one of them run the risk of causing an accident – a broken foot, a broken leg – from either running over each other or by causing a cyclist to stop so suddenly they fly over the handle bars.

    If every motorist, pedestrian and every cyclist refuses to budge even an inch that there might be room to compromise in the rules of the road, then maybe the argument might get somewhere.

    If you really wanted to make a difference with these posts, I would suggest you try and bring some motorists and some cyclists together and try to figure out some kind of compromise on the road. The more times that both sides are brought to the table, the better it is.

    There’s lots that can be done to make people think better on the road. Let’s get cyclists and motorists together on the news. Let’s get them together in the newspaper. Let’s get them together at meetings in the park. Anything to get people’s attention – but it needs to be done with both sides at the table.

    I’m not going to say there’s never going to be danger for pedestrians or cyclists. But I think there’s a lot that can be done to bring the two sides closer to one another. The more people pull away from the stereotypes, the less problems we’re all going to see.

  3. Concetta

    Further, to clarify…

    To me, education means looking at both sides of the picture without asserting immediately that one or both sides is wrong.

    Your immediate tone says you already have an opinion, and you’re not willing to look at other angles of the problem without a biased eye. Of course, this is a blog, and not a newspaper, so it is not required to have an unbiased eye toward issues, but at the same time, Sustainablog is a great educational product most of the time because of the lightly biased to unbiased eye in which most of the bloggers seem to post here.

    Obviously, I would never suggest that cyclists or motorcyclists are not in danger. They are! Its very true.

    My personal opinion isn’t any better or worse than yours, Adam. I just feel when discussing such incendiary issues, its better to err on the side of involving more than one viewpoint.

    I actually thought your common sense explanations of the law were very good. I didn’t like the rest of the envelope the common-sense part of the post was wrapped in.

    And I’m never going to ask for thanks for anything when I on a rare occasion ride in my car. Aside from thanks to a higher power that I managed to merge properly and get through vicious traffic, nothing I do in a car will ever be so traumatizing to warrant a sob story.

    I will, however, tirelessly tell people about how thankful I am when on my scooter, motorists don’t “box” me in, when motorists do help me turn a traffic light to green because my vehicle is too light, and how very thankful I am that someone invented such great safety equipment.

    Nothing will stop me from telling every scooterist, motorcyclist and cyclist about how my safety gear saved my life. I’ve seen the results. More people on my route to work every day are riding two wheeled vehicles, and innumerable lives are saved by people taking safety courses and wearing safety gear. And I tell them how they should also tell everyone about how their safety skills and gear saved their lives.

    And I’m constantly educating motorists (via my family, friends and coworkers) at how safe you can be with the proper behavior and gear – and common sense ways they can make room on the road, correcting misconceptions like whether or not cycles are allowed on the road, etc.

    Good luck, Adam. I hope your cycling days go well, with no accidents ahead in your future.

  4. Adam Williams

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments, Concetta. Sorry you have been in an accident, but glad you’re okay and back on the “horse.”

    And it is great to know that there has been great success with creating awareness in Chicago.

    Maybe there can be such hope and possibilities here in St. Louis, too, and I can focus on those things and not get caught up on the negative experiences that occasionally happen out on the streets.

    Happy and safe riding.

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