Call me a recreational cyclist. I enjoy getting out on my bike on the weekends in the summer to ride up to Georgetown, down to Chatfield or along the Cherry Creek bike path from Confluence Park to Cherry Creek Reservoir. Some days, I bike to school with my son or go out on a ride with my daughter to take in the scenery or explore new territory.
Living in Germany for eight years, I rode my bike everywhere. It was my main form of transportation, since I did not own a car. I used it to go to the grocery story, to commute to work or to ride to a beer garden to meet friends. It was good exercise and got me around the city quickly without having to take public transportation all the time.
I felt very safe as a bicyclist riding on bike trails and, even, on city streets. Drivers in Germany are definitely more aware, understanding and patient with cyclists. In part, I think that is because riding a bike is a much more common and accepted method of transportation than here in the US.
In 2014, to celebrate my dad’s 75th birthday, a group of family members rode about 255 miles from Lindau, Germany to Kufstein, Austria over the course of eight days. It was one of the most memorable trips I have ever been on. Being outside every day, riding through incredible scenery with my family and using my legs and strength to get from one place to the next was very gratifying. I really started enjoying cycling!
I have never given too much thought to bicycle safety other than making sure my kids and I always wear a helmet. I taught them to be aware of their surroundings, especially cars, when they are out riding. When I ride up to Georgetown, I am in the bike lane on the frontage road and feel safe for the most part.
As a driver, I am aware of cyclists and give them plenty of room when passing. I look over my shoulder when I make a turn so that I don’t cut them off.
Over the last few months, there has been a noticeable change to my “bicycling mentality” since I started working for The Cyclist Lawyer. I have transitioned from being largely unaware of issues bicyclists deal with, to becoming far more informed and sensitive to a bicyclist’s rights and obligations. Every day, I am learning what I can do to ride (and drive!) safely, skillfully and legally and how I can advocate for the cycling community.
That might mean putting a bumper sticker on my car to educate drivers about giving a bicyclist at least three feet of clearance when passing. It might mean talking to family members and friends about the rules of the road. It could even mean standing up for cyclists when angry drivers leave nasty comments on social media about a story of an injured cyclist. Yes, I felt compelled to respond to the haters online, and point out that it was a human being injured by a hit-and-run driver and to get upset with the driver who left a cyclist on the side of the road.
Why does it matter to me? Why have I become an advocate?
It might just save a life!
It might teach my kids not be distracted drivers.
It might help change the impression drivers have of cyclists.
It might make cycling safer for everyone…even a recreational cyclist like me.
There are just so many reasons. What are yours?