It’s heartwrenching that I even have to try to give this hashtag momentum. I just can’t get it through my skull why drivers of motorized vehicles are so damn impatient to pass cyclists safely when a slight brake or mere pause before stepping on the gas could prevent accidents at the best, or in the least reduce animosity. It’s a matter of a handful of moments, the time of a deep breath and release, a small gift to someone who happens to share the road at the same time with you. #7seconds is all we’re asking for.
I have a story to demonstrate the mentality of some drivers. On a group ride of about 12 women, we were stopped at a construction intersection alongside cars, waiting for the oncoming lane of traffic to pass before we got the signal to go. As we waited, the woman in a pickup next to us rolled down her window and proceeded to explain that she was not about to inconvenience herself when using the same road as cyclists. To wit, she said that if there are cyclists to her right with oncoming traffic to her left, she and her horse trailer were not going to get in the way of oncoming vehicles. She said it with a matter-of-fact shrug of her shoulders. Granted, this woman didn’t seem to among the best and brightest of the local mountain folk, she was pretty rough around the edges. Regardless of her background, she held the power in the vehicle versus bike scenario. Slowing to wait for the oncoming car to pass before passing cyclists didn’t register as an option for her. Making the cyclists move, if by force, was. It’s a terrifying proposition.
In the game of car versus bike, the bike will always lose. Cyclists are the ones thrown off the bike into a ditch, sidewalk, or traffic. Cyclists have no metal exoskeleton to absorb impact. Cyclists face assault to the three most basic tiers within Maslow’s hierarchy of needs: physiological intactness, safety, and a sense of belonging. When we get closely buzzed by a car it not only shocks our self-preservation into acute awareness, but I attest to feeling emotional hurt. “Why would they intentionally try to hurt me? I never did anything to them. Don’t they realize I’m a good person with 2 kids who don’t deserve to be orphans and a husband who shouldn’t be a widower this young?” I want to have a restorative justice conversation with unsafe drivers and explain a few things:
- If there’s room in the bicycle lane, I have legal right to ride 2 abreast if it’s safe. And in Colorado drivers must give 3 feet of space to cyclists.
- Self-preservation is a human instinct, so if how I’m riding seems unsafe to ME, I won’t do it. As long as I can predict how you’ll drive, we’re both good. I’m not out to harm myself nor impair your safety.
- If I’m descending in the middle of the road, it’s because it’s the safest line around corners. I’m not trying to hog the road just to slow you down.
- If I’m on a fast descent or it’s windy, I simply cannot hear your car approach me from behind. I check back over my shoulder occasionally to see what’s approaching from the rear…give me a little leeway to cast a glance and then move over.
- I’m a driver too. I hate driving behind entitled testosterone dudes who ride three or four abreast on narrow road, don’t use common courtesy – or worse are intentionally rude – or cross the center line against traffic (what I like to call survival of the smartest test). Yet it’s not worth swerving toward them or assuming all cyclists are assholes and need to be taught a lesson. Let karma set them straight, it’s not your job.
- By waiting #7seconds for an oncoming car to pass you can give the legal 3 feet of space due to cyclists by pulling a bit to the left
- By waiting #7seconds for a cyclist travelling parallel to go straight when you want to turn right, you’re not creating a T-bone situation in which said cyclist splats against the side of your car
- Another #7seconds will not make you late to where ever you’re going
- #7seconds is nothing compared to the hours it would take waiting for emergency response, filling out accident reports, and potential legal proceedings should an accident occur
I propose cyclists ask for something concrete from drivers, like #7seconds. Post it on every awful news post that tells of yet another bike accident. Tag it on a rant from an impatient driver. Use it to kindly ask for another day to walk or roll on this earth. All we ask is 7 little seconds. Is it too much to ask?