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Casting stones at drivers & cyclists

The Summit Daily: McAbee: Casting stones at drivers & cyclists

By Jeff McAbee
special to the daily

When I left the house last week for a ride on my bicycle, I felt a renewed sense of responsibility to obey the rules of the road and essentially be invisible to motorists everywhere.

Dirk Friel's video of James Ernst's excessive display of disdain made me hyperconscious of motorist's perception of my ride, especially the drivers who looked like they haven't ridden a bike since they stopped putting ketchup on their eggs.

Was that guy looking at me?

I also wondered if Andy Peter's guest commentary in the Denver Post titled “Traffic Laws aren't for cyclists” played a part in this negative interaction that has received so much play.

Even when I read the article, which for the most part I agreed with, I thought “geesh, Andy. Shhh…” I mean, I don't always obey the traffic laws when I am on a ride, so what can I say to critics of this mentality except, please don't kill me?

My official public stance on the matter has always been that every cyclist should obey the law without exception. The fact that I live a slightly different way is like the preacher who drinks too much wine or the politician on the take. My buddy Dan always used to remind me that the more crooked you are, the straighter you have to appear. Got it, Andy?

Earlier this summer, I was riding home in a quiet neighborhood adjacent to mine when a guy in a car passed me then turned sharply toward the curb and slammed on his brakes, cutting off my path and forcing me to brake hard to avoid hitting his fender. Talk about an endorphin buzz-kill.

While all cyclists have had experiences with cars that nearly caused a coronary, there is a certain mindset that develops from being constantly exposed to moving vehicles capable of crushing them. This makes road cyclists a very tough if not defensive group, especially compared to other amateur athletes. Road cycling is hard and people like Dirk Friel who can ride a bicycle 25 miles in an hour over hill and dale have accomplished something that could be, if you are willing to admit it, admired.

Yet this doesn't really give cyclists the right to vilify the 75-year-old Mr. Ernst.

I have a buddy, Jace, who, when I asked him about being a parent and knowing how to go about it, he said, “Jeff, I do the best I can in any given situation and sometimes I get it right. When I get it wrong, and I often do, I just hope no one captures it on video.”

The point is, Mr. Ernst's behavior, deplorable as it may have been, might not be a totally accurate picture of who he is. He's been cited. I don't know the man from Adam but criticizing him and further defining the gap existing between motorists and cyclists will not do any good.

I'll admit that I do not know the law pertaining to cyclists to the letter. I am unclear on several issues; the three-foot law, double line passing, and riding single file, for example. I've heard lots of conflicting and mutually exclusive information from friends and other drivers. Perhaps it is time for adding these types of laws to the drivers tests in counties where share-the-road situations are inevitable.

In the meantime, my official stance remains complete obedience of traffic laws. <wink> If you see me in non-compliance mode, try to resist the urge to kill me. But if you must, please do it on camera.