Many of the things we have taken for granted before the health crisis will change forever. One of the great consequences has been the explosion of people turning to cycling as a form of exercise and recreation. Our bike shops are swamped with people pulling the old 10 speed or cruiser out of the garage and getting it road worthy. Hopefully they will get serious and migrate to our wonderful bike clubs. That is the good news.
The bad news is that, in the meantime, many of these people want to share the same roads, trails and bicycle lane with you. Unfortunately, many of them haven’t a clue about the rules of the road or safety. You will recognize them right away. They will be the ones riding without a helmet, wearing casual clothes, with underinflated tires with their seat much too low for comfort.
They will be the ones who will slow or stop without giving any signal or clue to those behind them. They will change lanes or direction suddenly and unpredictably. This is particularly true on our shared trails. When you try to give them the courtesy shout out of “on your left“ they won’t hear you because they have ear buds in both ears listening to their “exercise” playlist. You’ll also see them doing dangerous and unpredictable things; like riding against traffic in the road or, perhaps worse, in the bike lane. To make matters worse, some of them are actually in shape and doing this at a pretty rapid pace.
We had a case in central Florida last year which involved a very experienced, safety conscious cyclist in a closed residential community. He rode the same route multiple times a week without incident. On one particular day there was a guest riding a bike who precisely fit my description above. He was young, fit, dangerously fast and clueless. He was riding much faster than our client and overtook him in a cul-de-sac. Without giving any notice or shout out he pulled immediately behind and to the left just as our client was making the gradual turn required in a cul-de-sac. The resulting crash required surgery and hospitalization.
This past week on Gulf Boulevard, near Clearwater, during a Saturday ride, an experienced cyclist I see each week collided head-on with one of these riders; he was approaching from the opposite direction against traffic in the bike lane. He fit my description above to a T. The place where the collision occurred was a section of Gulf Boulevard where the bike lane is immediately next to the traffic lane. There was little room to maneuver out of the bike lane safely. My acquaintance had slowed almost to a stop in order to avoid impact. When I came upon him he was bloodied and angry as hell. The offending rider continued on going the wrong direction in the bike lane, apparently having learned nothing from the encounter.
I hope this is a reminder for each of us to be particularly alert and observant. I’d like to say we can help educate these riders, but I’m fearful many of them have no desire to learn. Remember, if one of these crashes occurs, call the police and get a report to identify the other person. There is a potential claim to recover for your injuries if they are a homeowner, but you need their identity to pursue them.