Yesterday was the "Ride of Silence". It's an international ride in memory of fallen cyclists and as a statement to motorists to share the road with cyclists. But for me, the event has the opposite effect.
I get it.
Last night I rode my tour bike. Practically, it's more comfortable on a slow roll but also it's set up to be seen. I have a reflective flag and some VERY bright lights on the back. I also wore the most bright and obnoxious jersey / shorts combo I own with the knowledge that he upright position of my tour bike makes my silhouette more visible. Also the stickers on the back of my helmet glow in the dark AND reflect "cat eye" style along with the other hyper-reflective stickers on there. In twilight conditions I'm a freaking laser light show to a headlight. I stayed in the back knowing that I was probably the most visible rider in the pack and drivers would see me.
My position allowed me see the whole group. Something about my background is I spent 20+ years part-timing where my job was to keep irresponsible people safe in spite of their best efforts to not be, so I notice things. And a few things I noticed can be seen in the pic I've attached to this post. In our group of about 15-20, several people were riding damn near the center line most of the ride. Many were riding 2-3 across, holding hands (romantic, ok...) or otherwise taking up the whole road.
What the picture DOESN'T show is behind us, where there were 3-4 vehicles backed up terrified to pass the group. This isn't the first year I've seen this happen, last year I routinely broke the "ride of silence" rule by screaming "CAR BACK" so we didn't cause a major incident.
Let me address one other concern. "This is on a suburban street." This is where I felt safest to get the gopro out to get a pic or two. One segment had us on a pothole infested 45 MPH main road. We caused a traffic jam behind us, and several cars roared past us by going over the double yellow line. Frankly, circumstance and luck prevented major injury last night.
And I get it. I get why motorists hate cyclists. We're a slow moving object on the roads, and a lot of cyclists do just this. They don't leave room for the vehicles to pass, and if they choose to they break the law by jumping double lines or having to pass too close. And a lot of these people are ignorant, or they know better and just flaunt it.
I'm debating what, if anything, I can do. Last night I was too busy trying to keep the group safe by keeping my head on a swivel, signaling to drivers, and doing a LOT of catchup when my being in the back of the pack meant I missed a green light the leader made. I also know from experience that pointing out these problems when they happen never end well, because the reaction is defensive not progressive. (The "I do what I want" defense is common, as is the "Ok MOM." reaction) Group rides like last night are the exception, not the rule, but I can see why the friction exists because of these anomaly rides.
The best solution I can think of is making videos about road safety, because that's what I do. the hope being that they get spotted, and shared in the void of youtube. I find that people are more receptive to ideas when they're not in the moment, and they don't feel threatened that their fun is at stake. It's also possible to be a LOT more diplomatic outside of the moment and you're not trying to save them from being run over by a truck.
But I get it, I get the hate. But I also get that it can be changed. Drivers could learn that cyclists are just "slow cars", cyclists could learn now to share the road. I also get that the point of the event is to make a statement to drivers that we belong on roads too, but there's a difference between making a statement and making an unnecessary disruption.