A Baltimore Bicyclist’s Manifesto

By Julie Gabrielli 
For The Baltimore Sun
March 22, 2011

Dear fellow Baltimore driver:

Now that spring is in the air, I’ve begun riding my bike a couple of times a week. Nothing too ambitious. It’s great for short trips — the gym is 3.7 miles from home and Saturday yoga class is 1.6. I’ll be getting sweaty anyway, so why not?

I also drive in my car, plenty, and I’ve noticed something. When we are driving, we tend only to pay attention to other cars. When we do see a bike, we can be surprised or even resentful. Why is that recreation-seeker getting in my way? Don’t they know how dangerous it is to ride a bike in the street?

This morning on my ride, I decided to let you in on some of the reasons why I choose to ride my bike and my promise to those who share the road with me.

Reasons why I ride:

  • I’m a multi-tasker. I like being able to get somewhere while at the same time burning off some of that winter-stored fat.
  • It’s fun — really.
  • I can hear the birds singing while I ride and say hello to people who are out.
  • It saves me money – have you seen the price of gas lately?
  • My car is overdue for its 105,000-mile checkup, so I’m trying to drive it as little as possible.

Not reasons why I ride:

  • I like climbing hills on Greenspring Ave.
  • I’m addicted to the adrenaline rush of a very loud car horn, as it sweeps past me with inches to spare.
  • I want a new bike, but I have to get rid of this one first.
  • I want to test how low my co-pay will be for an extended hospital stay.

What I will not do while riding my bike near you:

  • Listen to my iPod
  • Talk or text on my cellphone
  • Change lanes right in front of you
  • Run red lights
  • Ride on the sidewalk (this is actually illegal)

What I will do:

  • Watch traffic in my rear-view mirror (yes, I do have one, and yes, I can also hear you coming, so you really do not have to honk)
  • Go around parked cars (so if you see me in the parking lane and you happen to notice a parked car up ahead, you can safely assume I’ll be in your lane in short order)
  • Ride as far to the right as possible and/or in the paint-marked bike lane.
  • Go around road hazards (OK — it’s Baltimore and we just finished winter. You know and I know the roads are in sorry shape, so, yes, I will go around potholes, gravel patches, big cracks and those deadly storm grates with the bars going parallel to my tires. Rest assured that I’m not pulling into your lane just to tick you off, hear your car horn up close, or draw you into some sort of altercation).
  • Stay upright and moving (this is why I will go around road hazards, the alternative being my becoming suddenly horizontal in the road right in front of your tires).
  • Signal lane changes and turns.
  • Continue to pay my taxes, which gives me every right to be on the roads, whether in my car or on my bike.
  • Expect you to honor the three-foot rule. When you see me, give me a berth of three feet, and I promise to make it as easy as possible for you (I won’t push you into oncoming traffic; don’t worry).
  • Invite you to join me at any time, so you can experience the joys and benefits of self-propelled movement on two wheels.

From The Baltimore Sun

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