The news from Kalamazoo is still filtering in. The motorist who callously ran over nine cyclists before fleeing has a name and a face. He’s 50 year old Charles Pickett Jr. and he has been charged with five counts of second degree murder. A conviction won’t bring back those whose lives were senselessly taken from them, but since motorists who hit cyclists often walk away scot-free, it would be a step in the right direction.
I’m a vehicular cyclist. Maybe you are, too. I ride for fun, but I also ride to get places. Last year, I logged over 8,000 miles on my bicycle…almost all of them on roads. This year, I’m on pace to log a similar number. I ride on city streets, suburban lanes, rural two lane county roads and some state highways. I ride on paved roads. I ride on gravel. I ride on empty roads. I ride on busy streets.
Most of the motorists I encounter are good and decent. If I had to assign a percentage, I’d say north of 90% are great. They slow down and give me a little room when they pass. I think they know my intention is not to delay them. I’m just trying to get where I’m going and I’m extremely aware of who is around me at all times. Oh yeah…I follow traffic laws. Always.
But there’s another group of motorists that I encounter every single time I get on my bicycle. They make my life a living hell. They harass me. They put me in harm’s way. They’re reckless and thoughtless. They buzz me at high speed. They scream at me to get on the sidewalk “where I belong.” I don’t know if Charles Pickett Jr. is one of this type of motorist, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he was.
It’s no secret what this subset of the motoring public is all about. They’re trying to intimidate me so I stay off the road. What I don’t understand is why. What is it in their lives that makes them so miserable? They don’t know me. What is it about the sight of me on a bicycle enrages them and causes them to take foolish risks with my life…and their own?
Any time there’s an online article about a crash involving a cyclist, this second group feels compelled to post. They make themselves known and they’re not bright enough to understand just how obvious they are in revealing themselves. They care, they assure us, and that’s why they really wish we’d stay off the roads. It’s just too dangerous with them out there. Perhaps the best example of this type of person is former Toronto (Canada) mayor Rob Ford. Here…watch.
See what I mean? He just can’t help himself. He sounds ridiculous, and it’s obvious to anyone who cycles that Rob Ford and those who think like him could care less about our safety.
They’re also wrong. Roads are not made for cars, buses and trucks. Roads are made for people. The purpose of a road is to move people and goods, not just vehicles. In fact, the best roads are vehicle agnostic. They are welcoming and equally inviting to people in cars and buses as well as those on bicycles or foot (and virtually all states legally classify bicycles as vehicles). Those are the types of roads we should be building. The fact that most people drive cars today is totally irrelevant. We didn’t always. The first roads in North America were built by cyclists, for cyclists. There were no cars. That may be the case again, maybe sooner than most people realize.So in every sense of the phrase, they’re our roads, too. As cyclists, we need to forcefully exert our claim to them. Prosecuting Charles Pickett Jr. to the fullest extent of the law would be a good first step.