Yesterday during our Boca Hawaii Summer Triathlon Training workout three of my teammates were in accidents with motor vehicles while we were riding our bicycles. No one was fatally injured, all are on the mend, and to the best of my knowledge, each was a victim of hit-and-run rudeness. It is illegal and morally wrong to leave the scene of an accident or to not assist people who are hurt.
In 2012 Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie signed the Vulnerable Users Law, designed to protect bicyclists, pedestrians and people who work on crews such as those who groom road landscaping, etc. It isn’t a snare net to capture and punish drivers. It’s to make drivers aware that they have to look out for everyone who isn’t in a steel capsule hurtling down the highway.
I live in East Oahu, and that’s where these accidents involving my teammates occurred yesterday. This part of the Island is chock full of Type-A captains of industry and their high-maintenance Rogue- or Cayenne- or Lexus SUV-driving wives in their yoga pants, phones illegally at their ears, kids set to ignore in the backseat. One woman in her Mercedes coupe got very close and then told me to get out of the way because she was in a hurry to get to her tennis match at Koko Head District Park. I was completely unaware of her importance.
The point is, people out here need a refresher course on sharing the road with bicyclists. We get the lane. We get the whole ENTIRE lane. Do we take the entire lane? Not unless the shoulder is junk. Most of us ride on the shoulder and we’re OK with that. Sometimes I see riders doubled up to shoot the breeze while we are out there on Kalanianaole Highway and I am not OK with that. I have a little mirror clipped to my sunglasses so I can see what’s coming up from behind me, so I can see that a city bus is about to pull up to the bus stop, or a car or delivery truck wants to turn right. The mirror is very helpful to me, but not everyone uses them or needs to.
East Oahu gets its share of tourist drivers, and I suspect it was a tourist who caused my two women teammates to crash by Hanauma Bay yesterday. I do not know how this person is enjoying their Hawaii vacation. One woman has a dislocated shoulder and the other one has a broken collar bone. Needless to say their bicycles are totalled.
Those of us who ride road bikes and triathlon bicycles have a healthy respect for the road and for the vehicles with which we share it. Most of us obey the laws to the letter. Some of us will roll through a red light if there is nothing going on. Most of us will help each other out if we’re on the side of the road changing out a punctured tube.
I make a point of making eye contact with drivers while riding. I always say thank you with a big smile and an Island-style shakka wave to convey my gratitude to those of you who are getting a chance to pass me because finally I have a shoulder to ride on. Believe me, if it were up to me all of our roads would have broad, clean shoulders for those of us who ride bike or who like to run along the highways.
I have a theory: Bicyclists make excellent drivers because we have the perspective of being both the vulnerable and the infallible user. We ride in the heat, the rain and the wind. These elements add to the challenge of navigating along the shoulder and sometimes in the path of traffic. We know we’re not as fast as you in your big truck or little sports car or your tourist bus or your delivery truck or mom mobile. But do you know that as a driver on Oahu’s roads, you must protect the rest of us who are considered by law vulnerable users? Awareness. We just ask that you have AWARENESS.