Here's another post inspired by Forester's Effective Cycling, seventh edition for our National Bike to Work Week series! Doug Sery, Senior Acquisitions Editor, discusses the need for cyclists and automobile drivers to reach a happy medium when it comes to sharing the road.
As an avid cyclist, I can’t yet decide whether this is a book I’d wish I’d known about 20 years earlier or not. At that time, I was a bicycle messenger in Washington, D.C., and I can’t remember any of us using official bike lanes or, for that matter, whether there were even bike lanes. We ran stop signs and red lights, bunny-hopped curbs, split lanes and played tag with taxis. The more aggressive riders were known to use their u-locks or LifeHammers if they felt a car or bus was crowding them. There was definitely a philosophy of offensive biking for safety. Unlike Europeans, Americans, generally speaking, don’t know how to handle bikes in “their” automobile lanes and the best way to get people in cars to back off was to show them that you were present, obnoxiously so if it was warranted. At the same time, though, I did get “doored” more than once and threatened a number of times by drivers while attending Critical Mass events in San Francisco and Boston. There has to be some sort of happy medium, a medium that’s probably not going to be reached until America gets rid of its fixation on cars ruling the road. I live in Sweden now, just across from Copenhagen, and while there are still plenty of cars, there seem to be just as many bicycles, seemingly the preferred mode of transportation in the city. There are a plethora of bike lanes, but at the same time I can take my bike out onto the roads and feel completely safe knowing that the people in their cars have become acclimated to bikes. Perhaps, in reality, it’s the bicyclists that have become acclimated to the cars. Whatever your level of expertise might be -- beginner, riding centuries every weekend, or just commuting -- Effective Cycling is a superb resource to have next to your bike pump, tire levers and truing stand.