@postaday 151; #postaday2011.
Last week many bicycling enthusiasts demonstrated along the Waialae Avenue corridor in Kaimuki to bring attention to bicycle safety and community development. Unfortunately, rarely do the two mesh well in Hawaii. The city’s plan to repave Waialae Avenue without painting in lines for bicycle lanes was the motivation for last week’s rally. I applaud the Hawaii Bicycling League and Cycle Manoa for their persistent efforts to gain recognition for the growing bicycling community. This demonstration also emphasized pedestrian safety, big issues for AARP Hawaii and for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD Hawaii). It’s important that everyone be clear about the rights of bicyclists and pedestrians, what’s legal and what isn’t, and where the line is painted on the road. For the record, I count on bicycle lanes and wish there were more. Bicycle paths are a different lifestyle altogether: Young parents with jogger strollers, pet walkers, walkers and joggers, and slow bicyclists with flowered baskets and loads of groceries.
On the road, respect between bicyclists and drivers is an invisible force that I believe in. It is with a leap of faith that I get on my bicycle each weekend for a ride through East Oahu, a lot of it spent on its busiest roads. I do what I can to stay legal and out of the way, I respect traffic signals and traffic flow, I think riding side by side is asking for trouble. Most of the time I ride alone, but sometimes I ride with my husband. Although there is support in numbers, I’m one of those people who finds it more desirable to go my own way at my own pace.
When you’re riding along a road where tour buses, tour vans, white service vans and taxis careen by or use the bicycle lane to park, forcing a bicyclist like me into the busy traffic lane, that’s a lack of understanding and a lack of respect for the bicyclists and runners who share those lanes. When you throw your beer bottles, dirty diapers, and fast-food wrappers out at bicyclists or pedestrians, that’s not only a lack of respect for your fellow man or the ‘aina, but it also indicates a lack of class. When you scream or beep at someone who is on a bicycle, you can quite possibly kill them.
Although I see broken glass and garbage every weekend, I rarely get hassled by drivers who scream or beep their horns. I am, however, often frightened by fleet drivers who ride too close to me. Tour buses practically shave the hair off my arms when they fly by. Tour vans, the ones with the big mirrors that jut out quite a distance, come way too close to me. I can just imagine losing my head to one of those vehicles. There really needs to be an educational effort to address Hawaii’s vehicle fleets and to meet with companies that employ professional drivers. And what about requiring that questions on driver’s license tests, including for commercial driver’s licenses, address the presence of bicyclists and pedestrians? It would be awesome if Hawaii’s Legislature actually passed instead of shelve a three-foot distance rule, similar to that other states now have in effect. Maybe next year.
I want to give credit where it’s due. Many of Oahu Transit Authority’s drivers of theBus recognize that there are bicyclists who know what they are doing and that there are bicyclists who are oblivious to their surroundings. They share their pull-out lane by bus stops with we cyclists who understand they’re on a schedule, are transporting quite a few people, and shouldn’t have to play leap frog with something powered by two legs. I always give them the room they need. I also give them a wave and a smile. You have no idea how far that will get you! The same applies to Oahu’s ‘opala truck drivers. I have been so grateful for those guys who are in East Oahu on Saturday mornings and look out for me on my bicycle. They get it.
We should all get it. Cyclists shouldn’t expect respect unless they use it on the road. Sure, there will always be the occasional driver in a beat-up white van who will get their thrills when they nearly kill you. Fortunately, they’re in the minority. The next time it happens to me, rather than give them a middle-finger salute (which I know I should NEVER do), I’ll try to remember their license plate and call 911. These are the kind of people who pull wings off flies.