You all know about the challenges I face as a daily bike rider in Charleston. I've blogged before about the harassment--generally harmless, but sometimes scary, and always very annoying--that is a regular part of my life. For instance, just yesterday as I was biking home, a motorcyclist veered around me very quickly and screamed, "Get off the fucking road!"
This kind of behavior is pretty normal for motorists. So normal, in fact, that one of my previous students (not Taylor, the previous student from the previous post) considered filling her bike basket with wrenches which she could launch at cars that yelled at her or side-swiped her.
So here's the ironic thing that happened today: I got pulled over by a police officer because I turned right onto an on-campus street that cars aren't supposed to turn right onto. I got pulled over on my bike. I was wearing my helmet and everything! To the officer's credit, he was very apologetic, but he pointed out that there's a new bike ordinance in the city of Charleston that requires bikes to follow the laws that motorists have to follow.
All well and good, and I'm happy to do so. But I pointed out to him the extent to which my biking life is filled with car harassment that makes my right turn look pretty inconsequential. I told him that I drive, too, and I promise that cars make life on a bike far harder than bikers make life in a car. I told him about yesterday's motorcyclist. He seemed sort of embarrassed and agreed that yes, he bikes, too, and he experiences the same thing. He promised that they were going to go after the drivers. He pointed out, as well, that the reason the city has this new ordinance is that in the last few months, three bicyclists have been killed...and they were folks following the laws. They were killed by drivers who just weren't paying attention, I guess, or needed to get somewhere faster than the biker was going.
The good news from this is that I learned that
- I can call in the license plate number of someone who sideswipes me, and they'll get cited even if the police officer wasn't there when it happened, and
- As a bicycler, I'm allowed to have a whole lane. Just like a car. This was a high point of my day, actually--maybe even worth getting cited by the police. I don't have to scrunch over as far as possible to the right of the road to make it easier for cars to zoom past me dangerously close. I can sit comfortably in the middle of the lane and bike along, confident that I am following the law. Cars can be irritated behind me, they can honk and yell, but they'll have to be really aggressive and sadistic to decide to pass me without going into another lane. I think this is actually going to be safer!
I hope Biffle's parents don't read this post.