An Open Letter From a Cyclist to People On the Road

It’s been quite a while since I’ve blogged. I had a major change in my living situation. This was welcome and a long time coming, but it was still some work and required some adjustment. I also started some new work, and summer finally came to Berlin. Both of these things changed my schedule quite a bit.

Now that I’m back to blogging, I’d like to write about something very close to my heart: road safety for cyclists. I realize that some people bring danger upon themselves (I will address that), but I think the road would be safer if everyone just used a little bit of common sense and awareness. I’ve been meaning to post this for a while, and I think about it almost every time I get on the road. I’m sure the real version won’t be half as passionate as it is in my head while I’m getting cut off by aggressive drivers, but here I go….

Dear…

Drivers,

Please look where you are going. When they say “eyes on the road,” they don’t just mean right in front of you. If you turn right, look right, f you change lanes or pull over, make sure no one is beside you, and so on and so forth. If you hit another car, you can cause some serious damage in some cases, but if you hit a cyclist or a pedestrian, it often means death. Berliners, last year, you may have noticed white bicycles chained to sign posts at intersections around the city. Each of these was a memorial placed by the ADFC to remember cyclists who died while they had the right of way. In each case, they were hit by cars making turns onto side roads or off of them. As a cyclist, I always watch where I’m going, and the practice has served me well. Still, responsibility shouldn’t lie entirely on cyclists’ shoulders, and you should look where you’re going.

The bike lane is not any of the following: a loading zone, a passing lane, a parking place, or a chance to get a few centimetres further while you wait to turn onto the road. Treat it as you would a lane; you’re supposed to. If you’re using it to pull over, it’s not even wide enough to let traffic go in the car lane around you in most cases. When you do so, you effectively block two lanes. Either find a side road with less traffic, or do what professional truck drivers seem to do all the time: pull over in the car lane and leave the bike lane free.

If you honk at me while you’re waiting to turn and I’m riding straight in the bike lane with a green light, I have nothing but contempt for you. Look, there is a crosswalk and a bike lane there. Both have green lights. I know it might seem like a chore to wait a few minutes longer, but you’ll just have to do so. If you can’t, you shouldn’t be driving. Park your car, take an anger management course, and don’t get back in until you can exercise some patience. Sometimes, I see this with drivers waiting to turn behind someone else waiting for cyclists and pedestrians. All I have to say is: what do you think they’re waiting for, moron?

Don’t be aggressive with me when I have the right of way just because I’m slower than a car and you’re impatient. See above.

Traffic in Berlin isn’t heavy. I know it is for Germany, but take a drive sometime in any good sized North American city. You’ll think Berlin is a dream.

Other Cyclists,

When you’re reckless, it gives us all a bad name. I know we all make mistakes, but I think some of you really have a death wish. If you must run red lights, do so with caution. Don’t do it because you can’t wait.

In Berlin, there are some circumstances where it’s really safer to ride on the sidewalk. Some people condemn this, but I’m not one of them. If you must do so, do so. It’s better than getting hit because you had a narrow pass through a construction zone, or getting your tires stuck in cobblestones. However, do so carefully. Remember that the sidewalk is for walking, and if people are on it, they shouldn’t have to get out of your way. If it’s crowded, you’ll just have to get off and walk. It won’t kill you.

On the road, we are equal. We are subject to the same rules as cars (sometimes regrettably, but still). Don’t mouth me off because I didn’t stop for you at a crosswalk. Your road has a yield sign, and mine does not. You are to wait until I have passed, then you can cross. That’s what a yield sign means. If you want the right of way as a pedestrian, get off your bike and walk across the crosswalk (*note* this actually happened. I was really miffed about it).

If you ride the wrong way down a bike lane, don’t be surprised when people are coming up the right way, and get out of their path. Treat it like going the wrong way down a road. Bike lanes move with traffic unless there’s clearly only one of them.

Berliners, I don’t know why you can’t stop at lights like normal people. When I used to work in an office and biked to work every day during rush hour, it drove me crazy. You should stop at the light in the order that you got there. It does nothing for you to be an extra meter ahead. Every time you do this, you force people to pass you who already passed you, and it annoys the hell out of them (trust me). I always felt some conflict when stopping at lights during rush hour. I wanted to follow the rules and order of the road and stop when I got there, but I also didn’t want to pass slow cyclists who just had to be at the front of the line for some inexplicable reason. And for some reason, it is mostly the slowest cyclists who do this. I always ended up following the rules, but hating myself and everyone else for it. On an extra note, it really drives me crazy as a pedestrian when cyclists do this and fill up the crosswalk. People shouldn’t have to walk around you because you like to be at the front.

Pedestrians,

Some of you seem to think that a bike is a magic invisibility cloak. If you’re going to jaywalk, make sure there are no cyclists coming! We are vehicles too, and we have the right of way. If you want the right of way, wait for the light to change, go to a light, or find a crosswalk. If you don’t give me enough time, I may even hit you. Do us both a favour and use your eyes.

If you use a crosswalk, make sure you look like you actually want to cross. If you walk straight down the sidewalk and just veer onto the crosswalk without looking or pausing, you put yourself and others in danger. Yes, you have the right of way, but you still have to let everyone else on the road know that you want to cross.

Don’t stand at the edge of a crosswalk, looking across the road, and then get annoyed at me when I stop for you. You looked like you wanted to cross the road. I suggest you stand elsewhere to smoke your cigarette (true story).

Taxis,

I hate almost all of you, and at least 75% of you are terrible drivers.

City Buses,

You used to scare the living daylights out of me, due to your size. However, I’ve learned that almost all of you are great drivers, and amazingly good at driving a large vehicle that has to stop in heavy traffic all the time, and still sharing the road. Keep up the good work!

Tour Buses,

You scare me.

Sincerely,

Danielle

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