a note for all drivers, from someone who loves her bike, her rights and her life

Dear Driver,

Do you see this? It's a person riding a bicycle.

And this person, along with every other person who rides a bike, does not deserve harassment from you, a person in a vehicle.

Chances are, you are going to encounter someone riding a bike in the city, on the road. Maybe they'll be in a bike lane, like the guy above. Or maybe they won't, if there is no bike lane. And you probably don't like it. But guess what. Every bicyclist has the right to be on that road, just like you have the right to be on that road in your car. Check your laws; I've even printed my city's out and keep them in my purse. In most places, it's illegal for a bicyclist to be on a sidewalk. And it's your responsibility to stay a certain distance from a bicyclist - though that distance varies. In my city, it's three feet.

And honestly, too bad so sad if you don't like bicyclists being on the road. While we're still outnumbered, there are still a good amount of us, and it is our right to ride our bikes for whatever reason. To be environmentally conscious, to get exercise, to enjoy a nice day, to avoid traffic, whatever. You don't have the right to take that away from anyone because you personally don't like it or find it inconveniencing you for three minutes.

I am reading too many stories these days about incidents between drivers and bicyclists. Among so many others, this past weekend in Eunice, a driver hit a bicyclist and left the scene. I read a story on Facebook about a near incident in Lafayette just this morning. Just because a bicyclist is there doesn't mean you have the right to honk or provoke them in any way. They are not in your way, they are where they are supposed to ride. It's your responsibility to go around them. And it doesn't take much to simply go around and leave them behind you. It especially takes less energy than provoking them. If you do something and get a less-than-nice response, don't get mad. You provoked them. Just move on. It is never worth hitting a bicyclist.

A few weeks ago, I participated in Critical Mass and witnessed a similar incident. A car was mad that they could not pass us right away - on a curvy, two-lane road with no-passing lane stripes - because there was a car coming toward us all. Instead of just waiting until there was a safe chance to pass, the driver wedged herself in the middle of the group, and yelled obscenities at us to get on the sidewalk (which there was none.) After we all turned on a different street, the car followed us and the people kept yelling. But when some of us responded, the car slammed on its brakes in the middle of the group and some of the bicyclists weren't able to stop in time and avoid slamming into the back of the car.

Is it necessary? No! Your car goes so much faster than our bikes. When it's safe, pass us. And then we are safely behind you, and you probably will never see us again. We don't want to get hit. And we're sure you don't want to get a ticket or go to jail for causing an accident, or worse, hurting another human being.

Please just remember that bicyclists have the right to be on the road as much as you do. And we ALL have a right to live.

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