A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of riding with some friends up in the Lehigh Valley. My friend Mike has been telling me how great the riding is up by our buddy George’s house. So I thought, "what the heck?" I haven’t needed to fend off some yahoo trying to kill me because they felt my life wasn’t worth 2 seconds out of their day. So off to George's I went. George lives in Macungie, A small town just south of Trexlertown, which happens to be where the Lehigh Valley Velodrome is. I am primarily a mountain biker, so my road riding as of late has consisted of heading to the store to grab a loaf of bread or some other thing we needed for the house. I felt like a long spin was needed.
It was a beautiful September day at George's; cool enough to need knee warmers, but not arm warmers. You know the type of day: blue skies, cool breeze, no humidity, and just perfect. We started off by meandering through George’s development; past some people on bike paths, some playing ball with the kids, and some just walking. We turned onto a side road and I could feel the stress well up inside me. My fitness was off since I had hip surgery, so I was worried about keeping up. Also, to be honest, the road just scares me anymore. We have motorists texting, speeding, making bad decisions, and just with the sheer volume of cars; its nuts. As we crested a hill, I heard a car coming up from behind. I began to think, “He can’t see over the hill and there might be another car coming." We found him staying behind! "What is this, respect??" Once we cleared the hill and it was safe, he passed us on the other side of the road. "Nice," I thought, "Someone who gets it." Well, that was just the start. All day we had the same experience. No one; and I mean, no one, passed us on a blind corner or on a hill. Most motorists gave us at least 6 to 7 feet of space when passing. It was amazing, 35 miles and not a beep, toot, or a buzz; just wonderful.
I got to thinking about why this was. The next week, I went back to the Lehigh Valley and did another road ride. Same experience! Wow!! This time, I paid attention to the other riders. Trust me when I say that there had to have been 150 or more on just our 40 mile jaunt. What I noticed was: everyone was wearing a helmet, all riders stopped at stop signs, no one ran a red light, and everyone rode on the right side of the road. The riders also used the left turn lane, hand signals, and were as kind to the drivers as the drivers were to them! It was utopia!
So why isn’t it like this down here? We are only 30 miles from there. It just doesn’t make sense. Then as I’m going to work one morning. I saw one of my customers, someone who rides a lot, and what does he do? He rides down the right hand turn lane, passing traffic waiting to turn, and when he gets to the red light; not only does he go straight from the right turn lane, he runs right through the red light! Why doesn’t this happen in the Lehigh Valley, but does down here? My feeling is that up there the Bike Culture demands it! They demand it of the riders, and of the drivers. Rules are put in for a reason; to keep everything in order and safe. If we ALL follow the rules, we will all be happier.
I feel we all need to do something about this. If you are on a ride with some friends, and you see them do something that they shouldn’t… Tell them!! If you are with a driver, and you see them do something unsafe, Tell them!! If we educate everyone on the importance of following the rules, we could have the same thing down here as they have in the Lehigh Valley. Cycling Utopia!