In Germany, bike lanes parallel many of the bigger roads and some drivers do think that cyclists are required to use them. * Alas, they are not. There have been court rulings that state very clearly that the roads are there to be shared (with the exception of the Autobahn and some other high-speed roads, of course) but that doesn’t save you from road rage.
I’m guessing that every cyclist who’s out and about a lot experiences these drivers once in a while. Even here, where I am out of the city within minutes, where the roads are wide enough to pass me easily in traffic, some people choose to annoy me – or in some cases, endanger me.
Take, for example, this past Tuesday. I’m cycling on the hard shoulder, there isn’t much traffic at all. The bike lane doesn’t start for another couple hundred meters and it is on the left side of the road, meaning I’ll have to turn. Now, I’m still on the hard shoulder, not even indicating that I’ll be swinging into the center in a while, when a car passes me by centimeters, blaring its horn the whole time. This was a small car which fit into the lane with tons of space to spare. The driver, a young guy, was clearly not happy about having to share one second with a cyclist on the same road.
Obviously my adrenalin kicked in when he passed me this close, had I swerved even a tiny bit in this moment, it could have been a serious accident as I was going about 30km/h. When he had finally passed me, I motioned my anger and carried on. This prompted the guy to pull over. Lucky for me, I was finally at the turn-off for the bike lane and proceeded to the other side of the road. There’s no telling what he would have done if I had passed him. Would he have pushed me off the road? Yelled at me? Flipped me the bird? No idea. There was no reason for him to be upset as I didn’t hinder him in any way.
In less extreme ways, this happens quite a lot. I happily chose the bike lanes as long as they are wide, flat and don’t go up and down the sidewalk. However, fall brings a new set of problems: leaves and harvest debris. Corn fields are being harvested right now, and the bike lanes next to them are full of pieces of corn, leaves and dirt from the truck tires. This is dangerous when you’re on 23C wheels and going fast. Same story on tree-lined roads: while the road itself is usually free of leaves and branches, the bike lane is full of it. Not fun! Luckily, I just saw the road service cleaning one of the worst offenders, so here’s to hoping that they’ll stay on top of things as fall progresses. Otherwise, I’ll just keep on annoying cars with my incessant hard shoulder-riding. (really big trucks to have to wait until they can pass me sometimes, even though they tend to be happy with doing a really close pass if they’re in a hurry, too…)
Considering that I will be riding on roads most of the way around the world, I am building up both calm and ignorance on the road. I always stick to the rules that apply to cars, signal for turns super-early and very visibly, use the bike lanes whenever possible and safe for me, and I don’t swerve into the lane. This makes me confident that even when someone honks and yells at me, it’s not because I am doing something wrong, it is because that person is, pardon, an idiot.
* Another popular error is that “cyclists aren’t allowed to listen to music”. False. In Germany at least, you’re allowed to have earplugs in, so long as the music isn’t too loud to hear traffic and sirens.