Cyclists are a tight-knit community. To be a member, you need not join a club or participate in large group events. You need only have experienced being a cyclist among motor vehicles. It takes someone very dedicated to mount a bicycle, devoid of any life-saving safety features, and ride beside cars. Those who take that risk share a bond.
As every seasoned cyclist is aware, riding in traffic can be dangerous. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration releases a report each fall which summarizes the previous year’s traffic fatalities. In 2016, motor vehicles killed 840 cyclists: a 1.3% increase from 2015 and the highest number of deaths since 1991. When a cyclist is killed anywhere in the U.S., their community feels the loss.
A cyclist’s memorial
In Washington D.C. this past July, a cyclist, riding in a bike lane, was struck by a delivery truck and died from his injuries the next day. About a week later, rush-hour traffic stopped at the accident’s intersection when more than 100 bicyclists peddled over and dropped their bikes in a moment of silence.
Bystanders, moved to tears, observed the memorial commonly associated with fallen cyclists: a bike, painted white and chained to a post. Affixed to the memorial were pictures of the cyclist, Jeffrey Hammond Long.
Colorado bike lane debate
Many states are grappling with ways to improve safety conditions for cyclists. In Colorado, the development of bike lanes is hotly debated. The goal of a bike lane is to separate cars and bikes, but in practice, they don’t guarantee the needed separation.
In March of 2018, Bicycle Colorado launched their “Things in the Bike Lane” campaign, asking the public to send in photos of, well, things that shouldn’t be in a bike lane that cause cyclists to merge into traffic. Even in a clear lane, a cyclist can never be confident that a car won’t collide with them.
While many people argue for more public awareness of bike lanes, as well as further bike lane development, others feel that permanently removing a lane of traffic for a somewhat seasonal form of transportation increases congestion and road rage.
An increasing number of Americans are concerned about their health and the health of the environment. For this reason, it’s unlikely that the growth of the cycling movement – and the resultant “war” between cyclists and motor vehicles – will go away any time soon. The solution to this problem will likely be a grassroots effort from those who use the bike lane.