Biking on the Road of Rage
If you bike to campus, you understand the struggles: having to wildly wave at drivers that would otherwise fail to look both ways before turning; braking as hard as possible when a car randomly pulls over into the bike lane and painfully stops 10 feet in front of you; getting cut off by drivers who believe it is essential to hug the curb in order to successfully execute a right turn; and the list goes on. And that’s just on the way to school.
If you make it to campus, the battle is only half won. The next challenge is to travel up the hill at, like, 80 degrees to make it to lecture in PSLH on time — and that without hitting the moving obstructions (students). To all you oblivious freshmen that make it your goal in life to walk in the bike lane as much as possible on the way to class, I hope you appreciate us everyday for not running you over. We are ninjas on wheels, stealthily maneuvering around flocks of you as you all cut leisurely through our path, staring at the sky, headphones on and without a care in the world. By the time we enter class our cortisol levels are peaking; while you are settling down from your comfortable shuttle ride to your lecture classroom seat we are trying to catch our breath from the dangerous journey just undertaken.
It may seem amusing to view it as an ordeal, but to cyclists, sharing the road is no joke. The risk of biking is monumental — even when the rider consistently takes precautions and remains vigilant. Earlier this month, 21-year-old Joseph Robinson lost his life to a teenage drunk driver on his early morning ride near Loma Ridge, Irvine. Unfortunately, his tragic story is not unique — roughly one cyclist is killed in a car accident per month in Orange County.
Countless columns have been dedicated to drawing awareness to the dangers of cycling alongside motorists and yet the number of injuries and deaths has not decreased. If an effective means of making the road a safer place for cyclists is to be established, it will require mutual effort from cyclists, drivers, and lawmakers.
A primary initiative to prevent bicycle-automobile collisions is to create awareness about the rules of the road. Some streets display “Share the Road” signs, but it wouldn’t hurt to put up many more, especially on roads where bicycle traffic is prevalent. It’s kind of like that card game, “Spoon.” The first person to get four of a kind slyly takes the first spoon, which initially goes unnoticed by most but by the time the next few people take away spoons, the whole room’s focus has turned to grabbing the remaining spoons. In parallel, installing signs at a higher frequency along a long stretch of road achieves the purpose of being read and followed. This measure might surely increase respect for cyclists and reduce numbers of accidents on main roads as well as streets lining UCI and other colleges, where many drivers are new students unaccustomed to the area. In conjunction, cracking down on cyclists who fail to follow the rules by sentencing them to something akin to a “bicycle school” instead of handing out tickets would be immensely more beneficial in two ways: one, it would force riders to pay more attention to safety ordinances, including turning bike lights on at sunset and removing headphones while driving; and two, they could be taught defensive techniques to maneuver around parked cars and within traffic lanes, thus making them more adept at riding and wary of surrounding traffic. It is what you would call a win-win situation for riders and drivers alike.
Another plausible measure would be to stop letting drivers treat bike lanes like a joke. Just like the underclassmen of UCI, motorists often casually cut into the bike lane and treat it as an extension of their designated traffic lane. The presence of cars in bike lanes is the leading cause of bike-car crashes and injuries to bikers. Therefore, adding subsistence to the bikers’ path is the best way to increase its impact. Two ways this could be accomplished are expanding the lane where it runs too narrow and adding safety reflectors all along the divider, as starters. Who knows how many injuries could be prevented and how many lives saved simply by creating awareness of the situation? Perhaps, at least one.
Implementations of safety measures should not begin the day after another biker has lost his life on the road; rather, they should begin now.
Seema Wadhwani is a fourth- year biological sciences major and can be reached at email@example.com