I don’t care how nice you are, if you stop unexpectedly on a busy street to let me cross, I won’t be surprised at all when someone rear-ends you and I probably won’t even feel bad. You’re putting everyone’s safety at risk, including mine, when you do that.
Let me start by saying that I know people are not perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and if you think you are immune to that well you’re wrong. I know my road rage can get the better of me sometimes and fully realize I get upset with people for things that I have done myself. That’s why we try to develop values like compassion and grace.
With that as our mindset going into this topic, there are still some laws that we should all be aware of and try to follow for the overall safety of everyone on the road.
I’ve come to really enjoy riding bike in to work and home at the end of the day for several reasons. It saves me money on gas. I get a large amount of fresh air and get to move my body. It relieves stress. It prevents extra wear and tear on my vehicle. The perks go on and on. The one “perk” I’ve come to despise however is the North Dakota Nice Wave.
Let me explain what I mean. As all of us locals know, the people of this fine state have been described as “North Dakota Nice.” A generally positive description of how we treat people around here, no doubt. However, there comes a point when ND Nice starts to become unsafe.
My commute starts one block away from Washington Street and I have to cross it at some point in order to get to work. So I like to get it over with right away. This puts me at a stop sign on Arikara Avenue. I don’t care how nice you are, if you stop unexpectedly on a busy street to let me cross, I won’t be surprised at all when someone rear-ends you and I probably won’t even feel bad. You’re putting everyone’s safety at risk, including mine, when you do that.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve almost witnessed a 4+ car pile-up on the start of my ride because people think they are being nice by letting me cut through traffic on my bike. This whole problem has a simple solution in one fact, cyclists are NOT pedestrians. It all boils down to that.
Here are a couple of other rules that we as cyclists are told to abide by:
-Sidewalks are illegal to use for bicycles unless otherwise marked. That doesn’t mean bike paths.
-Crosswalks are for pedestrians, NOT cyclists. In fact, if someone driving were to hit a cyclist riding over a crosswalk, they would not be at fault. (Cyclists are NOT pedestrians.)
-Go with the flow of traffic.
-If you are cycling on any road, you must obey all traffic laws and use hand signals to let people know you’re turning. Stay as far to the right side of the road as safely possible unless turning left.
-You are allowed to ride with two-riders abreast. That means you are not required by law to ride single-file.
If you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of someone getting in trouble for riding bike on the sidewalk, I’m with you. My best guess is that Police Officers have sympathy and understand a cyclist’s refusal to ride on the road around here. We have all heard too many horror stories of people being hit by cars on the road while riding bike. I can’t blame anyone for wanting to ride on the sidewalk. This very real fear we have riding on the road usually leads me to finding alternate routes with less traffic or bike paths that connect my destinations. I honestly enjoy that part of commuting by bike but it is still frustrating.
Side-note: cyclists were the first to push for paved roads to make riding more enjoyable. At the time that paved roads were first made, vehicles weren’t even a thing. It might not have been a very noble endeavor but it is a fact most people don’t know. Read about it here.
I hope I’m not making it sound like I wish everyone was less nice and drove more like New Yorkers. I very much appreciate the fact that the people in this state have gained such a good reputation by treating others with kindness and respect, for the most part. In fact, without the wonderful community we have here in this state I really don’t know why all of us wouldn’t want to move out of this frozen tundra. But I do think we could all benefit from a little more knowledge of the rules of the road, giving people more grace and some fresh air.
Do I think that ranting about this topic on a blog will solve anything? Not really, but it sure does feel better than not saying nothing at all. I know there are plenty of people out there working hard at creating a safer road system through education, bills and advocacy. Kudos to all of you and I truly appreciate all your hard work. I would be lying if I said that cycling in ND hasn’t gotten any better in the past decade.
So if you are a frustrated cyclist or even a frustrated motorist, please feel free to share my thoughts within your world. I will also include a few links where you can find our local and state laws for cyclists on the road along with some groups who are working to improve the safety of everyone on the road.