Last Sunday, Michelle and I were cycling back from a ride up the Natchez Trace on a beautiful afternoon, when a motorist in a white pickup pulled alongside me and said ” You be careful . . . a cyclist was killed on the Trace a few weeks ago.”
A couple of weeks ago, while talking to a local doctor in the examining room, I asked if he knew Dr. Gary Holdiness, the cyclist who was killed on the Trace. With an affirmative answer, the doctor commented on another cyclist he had seen riding on Northshore Parkway one morning, and he asked me “Why that cyclist was riding on the road and not on the adjacent bike trail?”
Now, if these uneducated comments from well meaning people wouldn’t get your back up, you are not a cyclist! Well, it took ten times longer for me to almost get through to the good doctor that the cyclist was riding on Northshore Parkway because he had the “right” too, than it did for him to diagnose a slight torn cartilage in my chest! I tried pointing out that crossing the busy road two or three times was much more dangerous than riding and merging “with” traffic. I had to argue that the roadway was ours as well, just like the trail was his, also!
We don’t always have that ten minutes to formulate the best response to comments from folks like the gentleman in the pickup. In fact, because we are focusing on the important task of operating “our” vehicle in a safe manner, we hardly have time to comment at all! The correct response was more than, “Yes, I knew Dr. Holdiness and it was very sad and tragic”. In fact, after he had slowed to fifteen mph on the busy Trace to make his point to us, and then sped off along his way, we longed for more time to try and educate the motorist a bit. We wanted to point out that it was a distracted “motorist” that killed Gary, and almost every other cyclist fatality! We wanted to remind him that this was “our” road, too! We would have quoted the government statistic that he is over 4000 times more likely to die from a motor vehicle accident than we are from a bicycle accident.
Just like the nice trail along Northshore Parkway is available for the good doctor and the pickup driver to ride their bicycles on, the roads and Trace are available for us all to ride our bikes on. Of course, safety rules and should be the first task. Wear bright shirts and helmets, use lights and reflectors, leave headphones at home and obey traffic laws. Our safety on the roads is all important. More often than not, it is dependent on careful driving by the motorist. So to all you folks driving on our roadways . . . you be careful out there!