“I rode to work again today. The weather was perfect. Loads of riders, runners, and walkers were already out and about. Some were hitting-up the Farmers Market on the Square or just enjoying the cooler temperatures. As usual, my first half of the ride is on the Greenway. When I hit the Square, I take to the roads to continue on to work on the roads designated as a shared road. That’s when it all went wrong.
This isn’t the first time I’ve nearly been hit. But, lately it’s been getting worse. Driver’s are getting deliberate and aggressive. As I passed the elementary school near the track, I extended my left arm, signaling that I would be turning left. Prepping for that left turn I’d already “taken the lane” and as I went to turn I heard the revving of a car engine behind me. I slammed on my brakes just in time so that he didn’t hit me. Surprisingly, he stopped as well, barely in time and I was able to continue the turn. Before he fumed off, he took the time to lower his window and shout: “stay on the f!&*ing sidewalk!”
I’d like to say I let this roll off my shoulders, but that’d be a lie. He tried to hit me and my dog, or at least tried to “scare” us. I’m not scared. I’m furious. Furious for my dog; furious for all the other cyclists out there. Furious about people too stupid to realize that when they’re screaming at me, they’re the ones who are actually at fault. Bentonville’s streets are getting dangerous and it’s us cycling commuters who are paying the price . . . sometimes with our lives. I won’t be scared off though. Now I’m determined. Determined to keep riding and work to make our streets safe.” - Mal
Sounds dramatic? This is a true story and I’ve experienced many similar ones in the last 7 months, since living and commuting in Bentonville. Why is this? What can we do to stay safe? Should the roadies and commuters just “throw in the towel”? Before you give in to the aggressive drivers, let’s take a deep breath and think it out.
What’s with this seemingly new surge of aggressive driving endangering cyclists (and runners too)? Here in NWA, we’ve got a good network of Greenway–shared use–paved trails, for cyclists to use. They don’t lead everywhere though. Bentonville is still working to build a secure infrastructure to make for safe, shared roads. The town, itself, is continuing to grow, with no sign of slowing down. New apartments are being built. New businesses are starting. Known businesses are expanding. Walmart is building a new home office and Crystal Bridges museum is expanding. All of this mass expansion is causing an influx of construction on what seems to be every corner. The streets are getting more congested, with yet more people visiting or moving into town.
We’re being encouraged to commute via bike as part of the solution towards combating climate change. This can also help alleviate the traffic quagmire already overwhelming the town. Drivers and cyclists are not educating themselves regarding the laws regarding road cycling. Aggression takes hold as drivers are delayed between constant construction, traffic, and school zones; so when they meet up with a cyclist, they’ve had it. Sadly, this risks the lives and safety of those riders.
Should we just give up then? Short answer is, no. I certainly won’t give up. Change doesn’t happen overnight. If we simply give up, then any change will stop. If cyclists put up their bikes and hop back in their vehicles, then the aggressive drivers win. (Our climate also continues to suffer.) Instead, we need to work together to provide opportunities for safe spaces for cycling and education for those sharing the streets. This is important even for all the mountain bikers out there. Our network of mountain biking trails weave throughout the towns from Bella Vista to Fayetteville. You don’t have to get in your car to get to the trail. Often just to jump from one trail to another you have to ride on a street. If you don’t know the laws, then you're part of the problem, not the solution. Let’s all–drivers, runners, cyclists, mountain bikers, walkers, and Onewheelers–work together to make our roads safe and shared by all. - Mal