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.