Member-At-Large On The Road - August 2017

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

“Be the Change You Want to See”

by Mary Ann Breunig

On this summer’s Bike Virginia 2017 we spent seven days riding in the beautiful, peaceful southern Virginia countryside. The route was well-marked and while the roads did not have much of a shoulder, there was only a random car or truck passing the riders. As vehicles approached, there was usually a call “Car Back.” This was followed by cyclists moving over to the right and re-grouping into a single-file line of riders. Often as the vehicle passed there was a friendly tap on the horn or wave from the driver. 

In preparing for Bike Virginia 2017, the event organizers required every rider to review a safety video and sign a pledge to follow the traffic laws. They also posted signs advising drivers of cyclists ahead. Every day the cyclists sported jerseys reminding vehicles to “Share the Road” and “Three Feet It’s the Law.”   The event and cyclists took safety seriously and were proactive about promoting a good outcome for all.

When vehicles and bikes share the road, we all win. The challenge is when cars and bikes are involved in either negligent or dangerous behavior. Drivers pass within inches of cyclists. Cyclists ride side by side impeding traffic. Drivers gesture and shout “Get off my road!” Cyclists ignore traffic signals and speed through stop signs and red lights. How do we change this?

To “Be the change you want to see in the world,” speaker and author Joseph Ranseth, reminds us, “This notion … does 3 powerful things when we adopt it:

  1.   It stops us from judging others;
  2.   It replaces complaining about others with reflection on self;
  3.   It stirs us to taking action within the only thing in the world over which we have any control, ourselves.” 

Researching the topic of cyclist safety brought to light some alarming statistics from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). For the year 2015, NHTSA reported 818 cyclists died in traffic accidents (that’s over two people every day):

  • (11) Maryland, (15) Virginia, and (1) DC
  • Average age was over 45
  • Most were in urban areas; 45% involved light trucks
  • 37% were alcohol related

To reduce traffic related cycling fatalities, the NHTSA ( recommends the following actions to improve cyclist safety:

  • Wear a helmet
  • Follow the rules of the road and ride with the flow of traffic
  • Increase your visibility with lighting, reflective tape and bright clothing
  • Drivers:  Share the road, allow 3 feet between your vehicle and the bike, look before opening your door, yield to bikes at intersections, and watch for bikes when turning either left or right

What can we do to promote a safe environment where we all win? Be the change by reflecting on your riding practices. Do you wear a helmet? Do you have front and rear lighting? Do you follow traffic laws? 

Check your helmet for proper fit; consider replacing it with  MIPs rated helmet;

Check your bike front and rear lighting; replace batteries or consider adding high intensity lighting;

Simply pledge to be more mindful of “being the example” and following traffic laws. This applies to both your actions as a driver and a cyclist.

Be the change by acting to promoting bike safety in your community. By your ACTION you contribute to the change we aspire to — Bikes and Vehicles Sharing the Road!

  • Donate a new helmet or lights;
  • Promote bike safety messages on your FaceBook page or Tweet or Blog!;
  • Advocate for bike safety, additional recreational bike paths and bike lanes;
  • Press local police and prosecutors to follow-up and enforce the laws relating to passing cyclists and especially related to intentionally forcing cyclists off the road.  Support cyclists in pursuing these incidents and visibility into the issue within the communities where they occur.

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