Fellow bike buffs, use some common sense when riding along highways
Jeff Ward email@example.com June 23, 2012 10:52PM
Updated: July 26, 2012 6:10AM
Whenever a local police chief asks you to write a column it’s usually a good bet to go along with it. Especially if the topic is something as near and dear to your heart as this one is.
You see, both Campton Hills Police Chief Dan Hoffman and I share a vast affinity for riding our road bikes through picturesque western Kane County. And we’re not nearly the only ones who long to ply the rolling tree-lined thoroughfares that grace his grand municipality which, of course, is why the chief is at his wits end.
Thankfully, most of our road-biking brethren understand the manifest concept that we won’t come out on top from a confrontation with 2,000 pounds of rolling steel, but there is a minority who believe they will. And it’s that kind of callous disregard for their fellow four-wheeled human beings, especially on larger group rides, that’s getting on some Campton Hillians’ last good nerve.
Chief Hoffman told me he’s fielded so many frustrated phone calls that he’s considering some serious steps to reduce the number of cyclist-related complaints. Despite my proud two-wheeled heritage, I don’t blame him one bit!
But before we continue, let’s set the record straight. First, as I’ve boldly stated before, Campton Hillians are a generally copacetic bunch who treat me with the utmost respect while I’m riding to points west.
After a year layoff due to coaching travel soccer, I was struggling up one of those Campton hills last week while an empathetic driver patiently waited for me to make it to the top. At the crest, we waved at each other and he drove on.
If anybody is deserving of our utmost road-biking respect, it’s the fine citizens of Campton Hills.
Preserved by the pack
Let me also stipulate that, while I almost always ride solo, I understand why some cycling compatriots, who have the legal right to any roadway, choose to ride in groups. Despite my best efforts to send drivers quickly on their way, there are some who feel it’s a game of survival of the fittest.
To wit, Chief Hoffman recounted the story of a recent truck driver who took similar unsolicited offense and nearly forced him off the road.
Once faced with the real prospect of their own mortality, some riders opt for the pack solely for self-preservatory purposes which creates an endless frustration feedback loop between cyclists and motorists as those groups get larger.
The sad thing is, as it always is in this existence, a belligerent minority on both sides tend to cause all the problems.
But back to Chief Hoffman and his pressing problem. The reason he called me was not to bring the hammer down, but out of a “concern for the safety of riders and drivers alike.”
“Maybe if we keep putting this message out there, both sides will use our roadways with the appropriate respect,” he said, “I really don’t want to have to be a jerk, but if this situation doesn’t improve, the Campton Hills Police Department will have to take strict enforcement measures.”
For those group road bikers who insist upon unnecessarily holding up traffic, these enforcement options range from a simple traffic ticket up to having your $5,000 road bike impounded.
And if it gets worse, Campton Hills may be forced to go the way of Barrington Hills (perhaps the problem is towns with the word “hills” in their name), which enacted a strict single-file-rider-only statute.
The cool thing is that Chief Hoffman doesn’t want to have to resort to any of that. He understands that two cyclists riding tightly abreast is preferable to a strung-out single-file line that causes even more problems.
What really frosts my cookies is the Tuesday/Thursday pro speed group ride that’s causing the most consternation consists of quite a few of my friends. Considering they’ve ignored my previous pleas for better behavior, I told the chief I didn’t hold out much hope for them seeing the error of their way this time.
But since I’m used to tilting at windmills, I’ll give it a shot.
C’mon road bikers! Dan Hoffman is a fellow rider and an all-around good guy! We’re talking about a police chief here who not only understands our plight, but is sympathetic to it. So don’t screw it up! If you’re participating in a group ride and you see something that’s bound to aggravate every motorist for miles, do what I do and call the rider out!
Because if some of you continue to refuse to peacefully coexist with motorists, then don’t come running to me (as you have in the past) when you have to post bail to get your bike back.
You can reach Jeff at firstname.lastname@example.org