A plea for bicycle season

The Midnight Special, courtesy of Hellgate Cyclery

The Midnight Special, courtesy of Hellgate Cyclery

Bicycle season in Missoula is a long time coming, but when it arrives it’s worth the wait. The former site of a glacial lake, Missoula is remarkably flat with hills on either end of town. Humidity is desert-low all summer, and it’s rarely windy. Best of all, the town has lots of bike trials, which intersect with car traffic only at intervals. All you have to do is pull up to the place where the trail meets the street, stop, and then watch as cross traffic also stops and motions you impatiently ahead. Then fly into a rage.

Now that bicycle season is upon us, I have one message for the drivers of Missoula: If I have come to a complete stop, do not also stop.

I know you are scared of killing me. And I forgive you for the summer of 2014, when you hit me twice—once by turning left through the bike lane and once by backing into me in the grocery store parking lot. It’s okay, despite what I said in those intemperate moments after I was unhorsed.1 While collisions between bicycles and cars are dangerous, they are also uncommon. When you see a bicycle stopped at a stop sign, it’s safe to take your right of way. To stop and wave the cyclist ahead is like stopping at a door held open and saying, “no, after you.”

You can read my desperate plea in this week’s column for the Independent, which contains lots of grisly images of bicycle accidents. Not photographic images, though. That would be unseemly. We’ll be back tomorrow with Friday links!

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  1. I can’t tell you how happy your article in the Indy made me! THank you SO much! I’ve been brainstorming how to get the word to Missoula. I even wrote an article myself but never went anywhere with it. :) You nailed it too. The play metaphor was perfect. We expect a certain traffic flow and that let’s things move smoothly. Can you tackle traffic circle etiquette next?? Any plans on how to announce this “just go on” message to the entire town? Posters? A loud speaker? Thank you again!!!

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