Make room for cyclists

Published 10:39 pm Tuesday, April 3, 2018

To the editor:

We are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters. We are brothers, sisters, wives, husbands and friends. We see you in the carpool lanes at school. We’ve shared stories at barbecues, in church, and when we see each other at the grocery store. We have kids who might be on the same team, have had sleepovers or been in Scouts together. And we are also cyclists.

We are the Lycra-clad athletes who emerge onto our local roads in abundance when spring finally arrives (and the brave ride all year-long). We ride for exercise, for camaraderie, for the fresh air and for the challenge and love of the sport. We ride because it feels like flying. We ride together, we ride alone, we ride simply for the joy of it.

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But (there’s always a but), we always ride with fear. We ride in fear of the approaching cars who may be in a bit of a hurry; fear they may not give us the space we need to safely stay on the road. We ride in fear of the driver who just received a text or phone call and may not notice us on the road until it’s too late. We ride in fear of an angry driver who refuses to share the road, or the one who throws things from their window at us or shout as they pass, often much too fast or close. We ride with our identification and emergency contacts on our wristbands just in case one of these cars hits us and leaves us where we land, so emergency crews or a passersby can call for help. Our mothers, our fathers, our children, our siblings and our friends wait in fear that they will get the news we’ve been injured or killed by a vehicle while riding.

So we ask you, we beg you, please be aware. Please understand there will be cyclists legally sharing your road, especially on fair weather days. Please understand cyclists are all humans; spandex- and padded-short-wearing, pedal-pushing, vulnerable humans, who have families that love us and would be devastated if we did not return.

All state laws are different, but here in Virginia, the law says give us at least a 3-foot gap when passing. It adds just seconds to your trip, but saves lives. In return, you’ll get a wave, a smile or a peace sign, and most assuredly our gratitude for helping make both of our rides safe.

For those who would say cyclists have a responsibility on the road also, you are absolutely right. Local bike shops, cycling clubs, online forums and cycling groups all work diligently to make sure cyclists new and old are educated about rules of sharing the road. Bikes are not going away, nor are cars, so we must work together to make sure we all arrive at our destinations joyfully and safely.

Cristin Emrick

Smithfield