A week ago Sunday, two cyclists Kristy Gough and Matt Peterson, were killed in the San Francisco Bay Area when an on-duty Santa Clara County Sheriff failed to negotiate a right hand bend on a twisty road and came across a double yellow line and struck the riders. Cyclists dying in car crashes is, unfortunately, an all-to-common occurrence these days, but dying because a law enforcement vehicle crossed a double yellow line for no apparent reason elevated the tragedy. Add to that the fact that both cyclists had, the weekend before, won their categories at the Merco Cycling Classic and you had an event that rocked the entire Bay Area cycling community.
The accident made front page news across Northern California and was covered by the local TV crews as well with daily updates from both the print and broadcast media. A tragedy of this magnitude brings out the whole spectrum of emotions and while cyclists grieved the loss of their compatriots, it also opened the door for the renewal of the timeless banter between cars and bicyclist as to proper road etiquette.
Frankly, I am saddened and tired of all the anti-cyclist tirades from car drivers who feel that bicycles have no place being on the roadway. But, I am also disappointed by the cyclists who feel that guerrilla tactics and confrontation are the only way to resolve the conflicts. Why can't we all just get along? At the very least, cyclists can go a long way in helping the cause by acting like a vehicle while on the road and obeying all traffic laws that doing such entails. Car drivers can learn to be more tolerant and share the road even if it means you have to slow down to pass.
A memorial ride was held on Saturday to remember two special people who will never again turn a pedal. I was blown away when over 1000 cyclists, many of whom had ridden down from San Francisco and Oakland and parts even further north came to pay their respects. I met a guy who hadn't ridden his bike in 30 years, but was so touched by the accident that on that very morning he had gotten his old Nishiki down from the attic in his garage, taken it to his local bike shop to put on some new tires just so he could take part. It was a procession of unfathomable significance and showed just how deeply we cyclists feel when the road(maybe that's a nice way to say 'a car') claims more victims.
Clearly, there needs to be a lot of healing in the Bay Area cycling community and remembering those who left us is the first step. I don't know what comes next, but clearly tensions are hot and hopefully everyone can take a deep breath, relax and try to get along. While this was a truly tragic event, hopefully positive things can come from it. Judging by the support from the majority of the car drivers who witnessed the procession, I hope so.
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