Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Trail-Street intersection etiquette

I ride like nobody else is paying attention, because they aren't. I have to pay attention to motorists or I become street pizza.

It happens every single day: I pull up to the intersection of Essex Road and the Rock Island Trail, put a foot down and take a hand off the handlebar and maybe take a swig from my bottle if I have it with me, all as subtle ways of showing motorists that I am stopped and that they can proceed.

I do so because I have a stop sign and I've seen motorists within a block of the intersection. (If I see no motorists, I will only slow down.)

It never fails: one of the motorists stops and waves me through.

When you're driving on a busy street and you see another car waiting at a stop sign to cross or enter the busy street, you don't stop to let them through, do you?

So why do you do it when there's a cyclist on the bike path who should be obeying the stop sign?

I appreciate the courtesy, but I'm not going to accept it.

I love the dumbfounded looks these folks have on their faces when I wave back. When they wave me through again, I reach over and grab the stop sign, maybe give it a little shake.

There's the what. Here's the why:
  1. First and foremost, if there's a motorist coming from the other direction, chances are they are not interested in stopping to let me through. KER SPLAT!
  2. You're emboldening newbies to completely ignore the trail stop signs. That doesn't bother you? Okay: your children are newbies, sitting in the back seat watching you and learning that "this is how drivers act". The second they get on a bike, they expect all drivers to act like you at the intersection. KER SPLAT!
  3. I have the stop sign. Not you. KER SPLAT!

I live near a street level crossing of the MoPac trail, which also has stop signs for trail users. Twice in the last eight years I have witnessed ambulances at this intersection. I don't need to guess what happened, I know before I even see the twisted bike frame and tacoed wheels: a cyclist ran the stop sign. I hear the screeching tires of a car suddenly stopping at least 4 times every summer.

Cyclists: ride like motorists don't see you. Half of them don't. If you need to stop, stop. Maintaining your momentum is not as important as maintaining your life. Two tons of Taurus hurts when it hits you at 25mph.

Motorists: please don't completely ignore the street-trail intersection, but don't encourage bad cyclist behavior, either.

We both have rules to follow.

11.7 miles today.

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