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Share aloha, and the road, with bicyclists

Whether your mom, dad, auntie or uncle taught you, or you paid da big bucks to attend a school which specialized in teaching it, everyone who gets behind the wheel of an automobile had to learn the highway code so that they could take their drivers’ test — because here in Hawai‘i, that’s the only way to get a license to drive.

So any time anyone with a driver’s license turns the ignition to start the engine of their vehicle and then pulls out on to the road, they know the rules of the road — the road that belongs to everyone.

But as a bicyclist who was taught those rules while still in school — which included cyclist road rules and adequate arm signaling, and riding as close to a highway’s white line as is safely possible to do without crossing over into the (unsafe) shoulder, lately I have had to wonder if some drivers decide that just because they have a driver’s license, the rules no longer apply to them.

I have experienced multiple incidents of vehicles suddenly pulling out from the curb without operating turn signals, presumably not seeing me in their rear-view mirror, forcing me to slam on the bike brakes or swerve to avoid an accident — an accident which I am well aware could result in serious injury, even death, to me, not them; drivers who honk overly loud and long as they pass me cycling along the side of the highway, indicating that I am a nuisance obliging them to slow down to the speed limit; drivers who see me looking over my left shoulder and sticking out my arm to signal a pending left turn and speed up to pass me quickly before I can, narrowly missing my arm; and drivers who roll down their passenger window to yell at me — or get their passenger to yell at me — “GET OFF THE ROAD!” or “JUST BECAUSE YOU’RE ON A BIKE YOU THINK YOU CAN DO WHAT YOU LIKE!” — and worse.

Kaua‘i is blessed with mostly warm weather, which is perfect for bicycling, and although the municipal path, which will eventually provide a safe surface to travel on around most of the island for both bicyclists and pedestrians, was started over a dozen years ago, at this point in time most parts of the island do not yet have such a path, and so until such time as they do, bicyclists must use the road.

With the price of gas likely to rise in future and the price and maintenance of most electric vehicles still so high, many residents and even some visitors like to bike — and that is their right.

Even if in your personal opinion you think that they are not properly observing road rules, then it is still not your right to try to put them right by yelling at them as you pass, and unless you are a police officer, it is not your job to force them off the road or try to set them straight.

So it may just be time to remind that unless you or your family personally bought that land and built that road, it does not belong to you.

You get to share it with everyone using it, from the humble bicycle to the biggest truck.

And even if you are the one driving that biggest truck, you get to treat the person riding the bike with some basic road-rules respect, because that is what you signed up for when you were issued your driver’s license.

You agreed to drive responsibly and to share the road with others. There was no part of your test which instructed you to bully smaller vehicles off the road if they inconvenienced or annoyed you.

And, just FYI, there is no automobile insurance out there which will adequately cover you for injury to or death of a bicyclist who was so startled by your yelling as you passed by them that they wobbled, swerved and fell off their bike into the road which you did not want to share.

Scaring instead of sharing and caring can cost you a whole lot of money, trouble, as well as your driver’s license.

Which means that you could be left with no option other than to buy a bike and ride it around, so then whenever you ride down the highway you can routinely be on the receiving end of the same kinds of actions which you used to regularly indulge in when you were still allowed to drive.

Think twice before you behave like a big bully next time you pass a bicyclist who dares to share the road with you. Slow down so that they don’t get swept up in your passing slipstream or — worse — side-swiped by your side mirror, and don’t think even once about sliding down your window to yell your personal opinion or scream out the “F” word at them as you pass.

If you cannot play nice, play fair. Even if you no can care and you no like to share, no driver has the right to scare — to take that chance of causing a life-threatening or fatal accident. Mahalo.!

•••

E.J. Hands brought her fancy British Raleigh bicycle to Kaua‘i 15 years ago before any bike paths were built, and quickly found out that she was taking her life in her hands (pun not intended) every time she rode out on the road. So maybe it was a blessing when her bike was stolen. She now drives a basic beach bike, but has found that, 15 years later, when riding along the highway, she is still taking her life in her hands.

11 Comments
  1. Raley Peterson October 19, 2020 7:58 am Reply

    Anybody riding bikes on Kauai must have a death wish!


    1. numilalocal October 19, 2020 5:22 pm Reply

      I can assure you that none of us has a death wish. Our wish is to ride for exercise or to train, and to ride in peace without constant harassment by drivers who feel that their time is so much more important than our lives.


  2. Kauaidoug October 19, 2020 8:13 am Reply

    Our roads are woefully behind in terms of not only bike usage but for 21st century traffic demands.


    1. MisterM October 20, 2020 7:08 am Reply

      I’m a bicyclist but smart enough not to ride on major roads. It isn’t safe and never will be until separate bike lanes are built. Complaining about rednecks cursing you for blocking traffic is like Don Quixote fighting windmills


  3. Ruta Jordans October 19, 2020 9:18 am Reply

    EJ Hands, I totally agree with your article about riding a bicycle on Kauai (where is everyone rushing to? this is paradise) but I do disagree with the statement “the price and maintenance of most electric vehicles still so high.” A one year old EV can be purchased for less than a comparable one year old internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle. As for maintenance, in the last three years it has consisted of rotating the tires every 3000 miles. No oil changes or tune ups needed. Sweet!


  4. Darryl Perry October 19, 2020 9:29 am Reply

    It was a beautiful Sunday morning on wide roads doing a training ride on my bicycle. Very little traffic. Then I woke up in Queens Hospital ICU and stayed there for 3 weeks. I was medivaced in critical condition with 11 broken ribs, fractured collar bone, fractured scapular (shoulder blade), collapse lungs and sternum, severe concussion, and double vision. I had stopped breathing twice so they had to put holes in my chest to inflate my lungs. The doctor told me he only saw my kind of injuries on dead people; that if I wasn’t in good health, I would have died. I was lucky. A car hit me because he wasn’t paying attention. Just a moment of being distracted changed my life completely. I’m still not recovered, and probably will never be, but I’m lucky to be alive. Sometimes I get mad, but that’s life and we move on, so to you drivers out there, pay attention to what you’re doing for your sake and for the safety of others.


  5. no Aloha left October 19, 2020 10:29 am Reply

    the anger you experienced is rampant on this beautiful island.
    so much hate, so much resentment, so little Aloha.

    so sad.


  6. George Ho October 19, 2020 4:22 pm Reply

    Timelines weren’t mentioned but assume the last 10 months. What’s with the damn tourists driving like they’ll be late to the luau . . . oh wait…


  7. Doug October 19, 2020 5:50 pm Reply

    It’s not just bad drivers, it’s the road maintenance too, the County needs to do a better job. Case in point, Kuamo’o road after the waterfall, all those curves and the grass right up on the road along that whole stretch. With the speed that people go down the hill someone (bicyclist or pedestrian) is going to get killed there. Or the winding road up the hill from Hanalei, also a deadly accident waiting to happen. The County needs to step up it’s road side trimming program.


    1. numilalocal October 20, 2020 10:47 am Reply

      Both those roads cited are state roadways. And state and county should step up their shoulder maintenance as their kuleana goes past just the traffic lanes.


  8. james October 20, 2020 8:12 am Reply

    The bike lanes are so narrow in most spots it’s really dangerous to ride. For a progressive State and Island, we need to do better and make bike lanes wider and safer.


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