After just completely 800 miles cycling thru Germany, I was so extremely grateful for the consideration and respect that drivers gave me that I felt compelled to reply to the news report that a German cyclist had been killed by an American driver in San Francisco.
I just wish that my fellow American drivers could have shown the late Mr Linke the same respect that thousands of German drivers gave me. Here was my reply:
I am deeply saddened by Mr Linke’s tragic and senseless death. German tourists here have the dangerous impression that American drivers are as skilled, professional, and considerate of cyclists as German drivers are. I just finished an 800 mile bike tour of Germany and with my helmet and blinding bright taillight I felt like a paranoid idiot. The difference between German and American drivers is amazing. In Germany I often traveled on the “B” roads, our equivalent of highways and even when there was no shoulder I felt completely safe. They would pass me as if I were a car by slowing down and waiting until it was safe to pass, in America, drivers just squeeze on by at full speed while yelling obscenities. The Germans seem to take pride in their driving, its a skill to be honed. In America we seem to pride ourselves in being able to eat or hamburger, talk on the phone, change the radio station and wipe the drool off our toddlers chin all at the same time. Perhaps driving should be a privilege rather than a virtual right.
Next to walking, biking is one of the most basic, natural, and healthy activities. Its too bad that so our civic planners cant view bikes as a legitimate mode of transportation and make European style provisions for their safe use. Bikes for transportation could solve so many of our problems simultaneously: global warming, dependence on foreign oil, and our obesity epidemic.
I’ve been a bicycle commuter for two decades and there is only one thing that’s kept me alive, its my attitude. Every time I get on my bike, I pretend that I’m in a video game and all the drivers are trying to kill me – I’m serious! I use a helmet rear view mirror so I know where all the cars are at all times. The mirror is critical for safety because 95% of the time, its the car behind you thats going to kill you, not the ones to your front and sides that you can see. The moment you assume that a driver will make a legal stop at that stoplight or stop sign is the day you die. Just pretend they are trying to kill you and you will live to play the game another day. I also find that imagining you are in a video game completely eliminates the anger too. Yes, the driver didnt signal AND ran the red light but wasnt that cool, they still didnt get 3 points for killing you – ya!