In road mishaps, both drivers, bicyclists can share the blame

Clay Olsen

Who is right — the driver or the cyclist? Well, it depends. We’ve all seen it: a situation in which a cyclist gets cut off by a car and demands an apology. Perhaps the cyclist, in his or her anger, is right to yell and scream at the person within the vehicle blasting music and being completely oblivious to the outside world. Alternatively, perhaps the cyclist needs to take a step back and understand the moving parts in this sort of situation.

One morning last week, I went to fill up my car at the Chevron station across from Ken’s Donuts. At the pump, as the numbers adjacent to “sale” were regrettably moving a lot faster than those adjacent to “gallons,” I witnessed one of these battles of the machines. 

A Ken’s customer had just exited the store. She got into her SUV, paused and began to back up. If you have ever driven to Ken’s, you know that it is not the easiest place to safely back out of. Guadalupe Street curves right after the store, making it difficult to view oncoming traffic. Nevertheless, the SUV reversed and almost hit a cyclist; it cut off another. The cyclist that was cut off began screaming words at the car that The Daily Texan might not like to print. Who was in the wrong here, and how should we address the overall problem of the coexistence of drivers and cyclists on the road?

In this instance, it could probably be best argued that the SUV committed the offense. Although the bicycles were moving fast around the blind corner, the driver should have taken more care to check her surroundings. Of course, incidents like this are not representative of the typical driver or cyclist. However, tussles like this one are very common around campus. Who has the rightful claim to the road? It isn’t black and white.

According to Texas bicycle law, “bicyclists have the rights and duties of other vehicle operators.” Driving relies on trust and the respect of the law. It is a dangerous place, but you expect other vehicles not to kill you. Things run smoothly when people understand their role on the road and have a mutual respect for other drivers. I would argue that this needs to also apply to the relationship between drivers and cyclists. 

In this complex relationship, there are distinct roles for the two sides that must be recognized. First, the driver of the large vehicle clearly has the power to defy the cyclist. The driver needs to understand this power and use it responsibly. Cyclists may be annoying to work with, but that doesn’t mean they don’t deserve respect on the road. Secondly, the cyclist’s role is one of understanding and submission. You play chicken with two bikes, not a car and a bike. Nobody wants to run you off the road. It can just be difficult to deal with a cyclist on an already busy road.

Drivers have their lanes, and now cyclists have their own protected lanes on Guadalupe. When we encounter each other on the road, let’s be courteous and show mutual respect. Drivers, understand your power and don’t abuse it. Cyclists, hang in there and remember that the driver probably can’t hear you when you’re yelling at them. Oh, and remember that the kumbaya circle meets on the south mall tonight. Hope to see y’all there.

Olsen is a finance senior from Argyle.