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September 7, 2013

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Pack Mentality

We all have our versions of what Oklahoma law says about bicycling on public roads. We learn from friends, email groups and out on the road riding with others. Many of us just operate on our own “good judgment”, evaluating situations and acting according to our perception of what’s safe, laws be damned. I do it and so do you. It could work for a life time or it could get you killed.

On our normal daily rides, it’s pretty easy to get away with loose interpretations of law – rolling through traffic signals, riding more than two abreast, crossing the centerline.

But there’s something about people coming to an organized event and riding in groups that makes me think sometimes they leave common sense at home. It’s like they think all traffic is being diverted to another county and we organizers have somehow magically reserved 100 miles of public roads just for them. What?

In the past 17 years that I’ve been an event organizer, I’ve seen too many close calls to count. I usually see it from a car as a sag driver. It’s surprising how many people cross the centerline to pass slower riders on a hill when they can’t see oncoming traffic. Or riding in big wide groups while cars stack up behind them. This creates a greater hazard to all riders in the group as frustrations mount among the car drivers looking for a place to pass.

I strongly support bicyclists’ right to use the road. I’m also an advocate for sharing the road. But, “sharing” is an equal opportunity action. It means coexisting not dominating. Just because you have the right to ride two abreast, doesn’t mean you have to. What’s wrong with moving into a single file line when it’s safe and letting cars go around you? To do otherwise is arrogant and obnoxious. I’m not talking about abdicating rights or cowering in the gutter. I’m talking about acknowledging that others also have equal rights to the road and exercising some common courtesy.

It’s a lot like moving out of the right lane on the highway to let other drivers merge or holding the door open for a stranger. It’s the art of civility. Maintaining your position just because you can while letting a line of cars stack up looking for narrow opportunities to pass is juvenile and invites hostility. In every human encounter, the bigger person is the one who offers assistance, shares with others, and tries to coexist peacefully.

9 comments to Pack Mentality

  • Up With Bikes

    Perhaps the organized events organizers are too complacent themselves and need to step up with some bike driving ed? Naaaaaaaaah. BE the change YOU want YOUR world to be.

  • ginger

    DamJamJim – thanks for the friendly reminder to “Share the Road” and all your hard work organizing cycling events. You are the type of cyclist I want representing our sport!

  • Jim –

    Thanks for ALL YOU DO in support of the cycling community and especially Dam JAM and Tulsa Tough!

    Your student-

    cooksey

  • Buck

    I wish you would tell this to the Wednesday night assholes

  • Jim

    You must be referring to the a**holes who object to bicyclists riding on roads in the Sand Springs area every Wednesday evening in the summer. This is a ritual that has been going on in the Tulsa area since the 70′s and it isn’t going away. Save yourself some stress and accept their presence. You might even try getting on a bicycle yourself and joining them. There’s plenty of love to go around in the bicycling community and you’d be welcome.

  • Buck

    You’re right, you guys have been riding our roads for several years and it has never been a problem. EXCEPT for the last TWO years. It seems that the riders have gotten more and more arrogant with the “pack” mentality. I have witnessed them run stop signs and make oncoming traffic brake hard to avoid hitting a rider. I have seen on several occasions the pack riding 4, 5 and 6 abreast. We would not have a problem with you guys if you would also return the respect that you demand.

  • Buck

    what you stated in the article is why we dont want you riding in our area here is your quote
    “On our normal daily rides, it’s pretty easy to get away with loose interpretations of law – rolling through traffic signals, riding more than two abreast, crossing the centerline.

    try tightening up your interpretations and just maybe you would have less opposition from the people who live in the area.

  • Jim

    Buck, you’ve hit squarely on the point of my article. We bicyclists have been known to preach sharing the road and then turn right around and act like a pack of undisciplined children. That happens sometimes when people of like minds of any activity get together and do their thing.

    If you read further, I say, “Sharing is an equal opportunity action. It means coexisting not dominating.” I also say, “I’m talking about acknowledging that others also have equal rights to the road and exercising some common courtesy.”

    The whole point of the article is in the last paragraph where I suggest that we should all work harder to practice the “art of civility.”

    But you and I both know that neither of us can change the behavior of others. All we can do is try to find constructive ways to let our opinions be known and continue to function together in community.

  • Buck

    My question is, why do you want to ride in an area where you know the locals dont want you there? You are on the narrow 2 lane curvy road, where it is dangerous to try to pass you, at a time when we are trying to get home and pick our families up to go to Church without being late. As I stated in an earlier post 3-4 years ago you guys werent a problem, you would ride to the side , you would leave us room to get around you and you were courteous. But in the last 3 years that has changed DRAMATICALLY. The cyclist are rude to the locals, its as if you dare us to hit you. Just because you have a right to be on that narrow, curvy , unsafe road full of blindspots, doesnt mean that it is the safe or the right thing to do.

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