Utemark: Bicyclists have right to share road

ReAnne Utemark

Often, on Friday afternoons, a group of bicycling Washburn students get together to ride around Topeka in an effort to increase awareness of bicycles on the road. Of course, human power is no match for the nearly 120 break horsepower of the average Honda Civic.

Consequently, motorists are often annoyed at these students who want to ride their bikes for a variety of reasons. Reasons that include lessening their carbon footprint, exercise and, frankly, getting around faster. One doesn’t often have to spend 10 minutes looking for a parking place for a bike and then walking another 10 minutes to class. Bicyclists just have to make sure their lock is around both their bike and the rack – the rack that is right next to any given building on campus.

However, now that the weather is nice, those average Honda Civic or SUV drivers have something to say and their windows are down. These drivers also have no problem shouting their displeasure at bicyclists on the road. If bicyclists follow the traffic laws properly, they have every right to share that road with motorists. Peppered with expletives, which is sadly hilarious because there are often children in the car, these motorists shout a variety of commands at the bicyclists, including to get back on the sidewalk. This might seem like a good idea at first glance, but while a bicycle is no match for an internal combustion engine, someone walking on a sidewalk would be no match for a speeding bicycle.

It is understandable that these motorists would be unhappy with this slow impediment on the roads. However, with the rate at which Topeka drivers drive, which is often five to 10 miles under the speed limit, it is amazing that they have the gall to get annoyed at all.

Last Friday, I found it amazing that a mother in a minivan shouted rude comments, that drivers will work to cut off a bicyclist and that some drivers will even drive slowly behind the bicycles, rather than carefully switching lanes and going around.

This is not just a problem for Topeka, but in most major cities when drivers are too wrapped up in themselves to take a moment and think about what it takes to go carless or go “car light,” which is to drive your car less than 12,000 miles a year.

Sure, it is not a viable solution for everyone. Nevertheless, for those who can make it work, they should be commended, not shouted at.

I absolutely understand running late to something and having one more thing stand as an obstacle to your end point – red lights, traffic jams, slow drivers, etc. That should not mean drivers are allowed to yell things at other human beings who are trying to make the world a better place. If you want to yell at someone, yell at those drivers who sit at green lights or who refuse to go the speed limit. Also, where would one be going that they would be justified in endangering the life of another human being just to get there on time?

Admittedly, I am still rather car heavy, but I am trying to ride my bike and walk more because, frankly, I care about the environment. Have some common decency and respect for those on their bicycles, they are making up for some lost time in emissions disregard.