Sharing the road means sharing the road

The other day I was driving into work at about 6:15 a.m. like I do most days. Although the sun is coming out earlier and earlier, this day it was still a little dusky out, with that light that is sort of there but not quite, making seeing accurately tricky. To make matters worse, the whole town was covered in a thick layer of fog. I doubt I could have seen ten feet in front of me.

So I was taking some precautions. I had my lights on – I always have my lights on, a habit some other drivers around the Copper Country could stand to pick up – and was moving a bit more slowly than I might have otherwise. Most other drivers were doing the same.

Then I started crossing the bridge. The fog was, if anything, thicker here and I was just thankful I knew my way to work because I don’t think I would have been able to see the turn in that weather. Then I saw the biker. Barely.

This biker had decided to take no precautions while riding on the road – most of the road, I had to completely switch lanes to avoid an accident. Luckily there were no other cars near me. The biker had no reflective gear, much less the lights which are easily available and would have made it possible to detect his or her presence at more than a few feet away. He or she was biking well into the middle of the lane and made no effort to move closer to the curb when I drove by.

Share the road? Sure, but only if you share it too.

I enjoy biking. When I was in college in Madison, I didn’t have a car and biked everywhere. Madison was a great biking town – there were bike lanes on almost every street, bikers knew how to use hand signals and locks and lights were for sale everywhere.

It was still dangerous.

A lot of people I know have been hit by cars while biking. Sure, maybe it was just a nick of a tire, but when the object doing the nicking is a car, it’s going to hurt. I came close a couple of times and sometimes it was my fault, sometimes it was the driver’s. Even in Madison, Wisconsin – named America’s seventh most bike-friendly city by “Bicycling” magazine – a biker had to take precautions to stay safe.

It seems pretty obvious to me. Wear a helmet, wear a light, keep both hands on the handlebars – no smoking cigarettes while biking, a friend in a stationary car was actually struck by a man on a bicycle who was doing just that – and keep your ears peeled for incoming cars.

If we’re sharing the road, let’s really share it – both the physical space and the responsibility.

For some safety tips, ride locations and state laws about biking, visit the Michigan Department of Transportation at Michigan.gov/mdot and select “Roads and Travel,” then click “Bicycling.”