Bikes on Roads

When I mentioned that pushing myself out of my comfort zone mainly consisted of riding on roads “not meant for bikes” I wasn’t quite expecting such a lively response. As I dive into a bit of that conversation, I speak as someone who has really only been bike riding seriously for about six months, not a life-long follower of road user issues.

Someone asked a question, “Why do bicyclists ride on roads with no shoulders?” Let’s break this down shall we? This was coming from a perfectly nice lady, who, so far as I know, was only speaking as a driver of a 1 ton or more metal vehicle, designed for speed and safety…for her as a driver. Asking why another user group feels entitled to use the publicly funded, publicly available road system lacks a certain understanding of the word “public”.


One of the more tired arguments against both horses and bikers on roads is that “they don’t pay taxes, so they are not entitled to use this system.” The equally tired but also true rebuttal is that the great majority of those people are also drivers, which means they do pay taxes for that system, they are just choosing to enjoy them a different way at different times. Speaking of myself, my partner and I own two vehicles, which means we do pay the assorted vehicle registration fees and gas taxes which fund road maintenance in Oregon. In all my circle of friends and coworkers, many of whom are also bikers, only one of them doesn’t own a car.


“With no shoulders?” This breaks down to “as a driver, this puts other slower user groups in my lane of travel, and anything that impedes me in my way is frustrating/annoying/not legal/unwelcome/how dare they”. This is just a silly concept, really, as it applies to more than just bikers; road workers, slower vehicles, lost pets-roads are public settings and as such pretty much anything could be in the road at any given time. Just this winter, I drove over a tree that a particularly nasty winter storm had dumped in the road, and ripped a giant hole in my gas tank. Once road maintenance season started back up, there was a rash of construction workers killed by speeding or inattentive drivers.


As a driver in most states, you bear more responsibility for your control and care of your vehicle and it’s impact on other people than do people not ensconced in a car. Another friend pointed out in response to my call for a study on time saved by speeding and inconsiderate driving had been done, and the average time saved versus driving slower and more politely was under five minutes. To me, that comes down to empathy; are those five minutes of your time to be more considerate of other people around you really so inconvenient? At one point I researched and considered going back to school to become a paramedic, and it seems the most horrific cases they deal with are motor vehicle accidents.

Another argument against bikers on roads is “they don’t follow the rules.” Although a study did show this was true (self-reported), the motivation behind the majority was staying safe…from drivers. “But some bicyclists are dicks!” Yes this is true, because they are human. But so are other drivers; ever been tailgated driving a horse trailer? Ever sped up to pass a semi truck you didn’t want to be stuck behind? But in the frustration between “people are impacting my life by being in my way/making me go slower” and a cyclist or rider trying to train or enjoy their day, the construction workers trying to do their job, a pedestrian trying to get home…anyone outside will always loose, as they are not in a vehicle designed to protect them in the event of an impact.


So, next time you are driving along and encounter any one who impacts your path, be it construction workers, an equestrian or a bunch of cyclists, take a deep breath, acknowledge their humanity and pass as carefully as possible, even if this means waiting a little bit. At the end of the day, all the above arguments and your frustration don’t matter; what matters is everyone getting home safe and unscarred for life, and that should be worth a few moments of care and consideration on your part.


Learning lessons

Sunday was a normal day for us, as in I bashed heads with my dad, got a new car (Possible codename: Emerald Queen), & nearly lost my child in Target (trying to find accessories for said new car). Wait, did I just admit that in public? Lost my child? For five minutes in a busy box store, I didn’t know where my child was. Pause a bit before you call CPS on me; a few good things came out of this, past the near heart attack & tears.

This incident more clearly defines my personal parenting struggle between two types. I could be a helicopter which people seem to expect these days, which goes against my basically lazy inner Cali girl. More & more I lean on my own hazy memories of slipping the bounds of my supervision when I was Kade’s age & wandering the Arizona desert with only a probably confused, definitely long suffering dog named Major for company.
As Tom & I stood a few feet away & watched Kade search the aisles for us, we waited for him to turn his head two inches & spy us, I was in a way testing him. Could he figure it out, how to seek us? How much tether to give him, considering the huge, wild ride of kindergarten poised to jump us at the end of this summer?

Kade didn’t see us (or there would have been no tale to tell), instead he headed off uncertainly down a different aisle. I shook my head as I headed out to collect him, but the panic only set in when he wasn’t there. No matter what the statistics say, I watch too much Criminal Minds. I understand the potentials in this situation, but there’s still the struggle. How much do I protect, from everything, & how much can I start teaching him now to fend for himself, to engage the brain resting in that pretty blonde head? What is appropriate for this child at this age, compared to his desert wandering mother, farm wandering with two older bothers’ father, or Tom with two older sisters in a sleepy farm town?
In that five frantic minutes with the worst trotting through my mind’s eye, & I can say this now with pride since the panic has (mostly) passed, Kade proved he does listen to me, & remember. I have two main rules for when we go out-don’t leave a place unless you’re holding the hand of whoever you went in with, & if you can’t find us, find an employee or cop & tell them you’re lost. It was the second one he put into use on Sunday. He found a women with a red Target shirt on, clearly an employee & not a random Joe Schmoe, & informed her he couldn’t find his Mommy.
Thankfully the tale ends there, as Tom overheard her calling a code yellow & found him that way, & then here came Mommy to scoop him up with no panic evident on her face.
So there’s the good news out of all this; he can handle himself fairly well in such a situation. But I’m going to teach him how to do a proper search, or just stay in place, for god’s sake child!