So RAGBRAI is coming, like it or not. It’s a big deal and it will affect a lot of people; riders, spectators, helpers and community members alike. I’ve decided to give a little tutorial on bicycling etiquette, both from the standpoint of cyclists, and motorists. I’m hoping this will keep us all happier, healthier and in good spirits as the big event comes and goes.
Most riders train for RAGBRAI. Not everyone, but most cyclists try to get in a little training on the road before July 20. When you ride on the road, you have to deal with traffic, including cars, trucks, tractors and RVs. So keep these simple “rules” in mind…Please!
Drivers – Give the cyclists some room. They have a right to their side of the road, and it’s incredibly frightening and dangerous when cars zoom by without pulling over and giving some space. Think of passing a bike the same as you would when passing a car. No one wants to injure someone. Be just a little patient, and wait till it’s safe to pass.
Cyclists – Get over to the right side of the road! No, you don’t have to ride on the shoulder, but don’t ride down the middle of the lane, don’t ride side by side or in a big wide group, and pay attention to what’s happening behind you. If you stay about two feet or so from the right shoulder, drivers can see you and pass you safely. Ride single file when cars are approaching from the back. There are very good bike mirrors available, that give you an idea when someone is approaching behind you. Get one and use it.
Every cyclist can relate horror stories of someone purposely cutting close to them, yelling out the window at them, or presenting sign language consisting of a single finger. These sad, dangerous people may be beyond help, but let’s not be one of them. Injuring someone (or worse) because you don’t appreciate them enjoying nature and getting some exercise, seems like a very foolish and horrible thing to do. And it’s up to cyclists to not be the cause of accidents by riding unpredictably or weaving around on the road.
Drivers – if you’re approaching a cyclist, and they’re breaking the rules, please don’t punish them by hitting them with your two-ton vehicle. If they are breaking the law, report them. A bicycle is a vehicle, and must follow the same rules and laws as any other vehicle.
Cyclists – Be Seen! Wear bright clothing. Wear a bright colored helmet. (Duh!) Get some lights. People can’t avoid you or pass you safely if they can’t see you. Even in broad daylight, front and rear lights make you 30 percent more visible to drivers. Lights are available now that can be recharged via USB ports, and last a long time. Avoid riding in the dark. I know it can be done, but your chances of having something happen go up considerably when it’s dark. Same goes for heavy rain and fog. They can’t avoid you if they can’t see you. If you’re turning a corner or stopping, signal drivers behind you. Try to make eye contact with drivers, so you know they actually see you.
Drivers and Cyclists – Be civil! In this age of road rage and distracted driving, it is honestly frightening to be out on the road at times, whether you’re in a car or on a bike. So show some restraint, take a deep breath, and we can all get home safely and go on with our life.
I could go on and on with Rules for both drivers and cyclist, but the main thing to focus on is this; we all have busy lives, with lots to do and places to be. That doesn’t mean we can’t pay attention to the road, and treat everyone with respect and kindness. Riding a bike is a great way to enjoy nature, get fit, and see the world, including Iowa, in an up close and personal way. Let’s just let each other do our own thing, without judging, screaming or gesticulating, and know that life is precious for all of us. We all have families and friends that love us, and we all want to be happy and safe.
RAGBRAI is around 24 hours in Atlantic, an afternoon and the next morning. Then it moves on and things return to normal. Enjoy it! It really is quite a show. But the rest of the year, some of us like to ride bicycles, or motorcycles or horses. Sometimes we ride on the roads. If we all pay attention and follow basic rules of human decency and kindness, life will be good! See you out there!
Be WellAhead at Heritage House. Find out about our Community WellAhead membership by calling 243-1850 and asking for Jon, or stop by for a free packet. Perks include attendance to our many educational and entertainment programs each month, discounts at the Gingery Café, opportunities for socializing and travel, and access to fitness classes and equipment.