Own your car, not the road

(Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times/MCT)

US_NEWS_GHOSTBIKES_1_LABy Cameron Wisdom | Staff Writer

The first time I was hit by a car still replays in my mind every time I get on my bike.

I was riding in the flow of traffic when the driver decided she needed to make an abrupt change of lanes. Rather than slow down, she decided to speed up, get around me and slam on her brakes at the next light.

The faster she sped up, the quicker she ran out of time and space to stop her car. It was not long before she realized that she was going to slam into the rear of the car already stopped at the light if she did not switch over to my lane. I will never be sure if she forgot about me or if she just didn’t care. I was too busy flying through the air to know the truth.

I was miraculously unscathed save for a few scrapes and bruises, yet somehow she found the courtesy to show me the one-finger salute as she sped off. My front wheel was bent so badly I was forced to walk the rest of the way to work.

I did not become statistic that day, but I easily could have if I was not aware of the situation unfolding around me. There are far too many cyclists who exhibit poor riding behaviors whom put themselves at the mercy of impossibly impatient motorists.

Motor vehicles comprise most of the traffic volume on our streets, so it is easy to see why many drivers commute with a sense of entitlement and arrogance all in one dangerous package. Advancements in mobile technology allow people to stay connected wherever they are, even if it distracts them behind the wheel of a half-ton vehicle hurtling down the road at 40 miles an hour.

A person’s character can change once they turn the key in the ignition. Often times some of the nicest people become sociopathic maniacs who believe that everyone else on the road needs to just get out of their way.

Unbeknownst to most commuters, motor vehicles do not retain special privilege to use of the streets. Many local cities also have laws that prohibit cyclists from riding on sidewalks, which harbor a completely unique set of dangers on their own. Cyclists are often forced to share lanes with regular traffic when designated bike lanes are not present.

Due in large part to this overwhelming lack of awareness, more than 100 cyclists are killed in California every year according to the state’s department of motor vehicles.

Ghost bikes (the all-white painted bikes historically used as memorials of fallen riders) are popping up in our neighborhoods at an unacceptable rate. The riders they commemorate had every right to the road as a motorist, yet all too often they are run down as a result of lack of attention or impatience.

If we are ever to find a common ground, cyclists need to follow the rules of the road as well.

Stop at stop signs and red lights, move over for faster moving traffic and utilize front and rear lights when riding at night. Ride with the flow of traffic and always remember that people making right-hand turns are the biggest threat to your well-being.

The more you ride with respect for others on the road the less likely you will be to become a hood ornament.

Is putting someone else’s life in danger worth saving few seconds in your commute?

Was that selfie you took on the drive to school worth taking your eyes off the road, rendering everyone around you at risk of serious injury?