I began cycling on the Bloomington roads in the past two weeks. Thus far, I have experienced harassment from drivers on nearly every single one of my rides. Middle fingers, aggressive honking, shouting and drivers who pass as close and fast as possible are commonplace, and experienced cyclists seem disturbingly used to this behavior.
Bloomington is labeled a Gold-level “Bicycle Friendly Community” by the League of American Bicyclists. But hearing, “get off the road!” from a driver coming down the other side of the road does not make me feel safe or comfortable biking in Bloomington.
Within a week this August, three Little 500 cyclists were hit by cars in Bloomington. Suffering serious injury from being hit by massive amounts of force should be anything but normal, especially in a city where we want to be proud of being safe and welcoming for bikers.
This example is not to criticize Bloomington as a whole, and I have certainly found a vibrant and widespread community of cyclists here. But it is disappointing to experience unfriendly and unsafe behavior from drivers who express disgust at sharing the road with others.
While it seems to be an especially American idea that driving large trucks and speeding are some of the most significant ways we can manifest our freedom, this could not be a more perverted view of the concept. Our notion of freedom should have nothing to do with the space we can take up on roads, speed we can travel at or the physical capability of our vehicle, and everything to do with having care and compassion for the community — with varying needs, abilities and interests — around us.
While I have taken up cycling for sport, many people rely on it as a form of transportation to and from school and work. Some people cannot afford cars or prefer to cycle for exercise and convenience. Those who count on this mode of transportation to go about their daily lives should not feel unwelcome or intimidated on our roads simply because some people feel more entitled to the space.
Bikers and motorcyclists have the same rights as drivers of cars, per federal law, and drivers should be diligent on roads and consider that cyclists and pedestrians may be less visible — making them uniquely vulnerable to accidents. According to Indiana state law, cyclists are permitted to ride two people wide on any road. Drivers should be as willing to accommodate the existence of cyclists as any other vehicle that shares the road.
It’s not just cyclists who have reason to worry, either. An all time high of 40 pedestrians were killed last year in Indianapolis. We should strive for a city, state, and country that makes everyone feel safe choosing their preferred mode of transportation.
Last year, when I almost exclusively walked around campus, I often felt drivers were annoyed with me simply for trying to cross at a crosswalk where I had the right of way. It was not uncommon to see people in cars run stop signs and red lights, drive at wildly high speeds on campus roads with heavy pedestrian traffic, and honk at pedestrians for crossing the road — even when they did so completely legally.
If you feel frustrated that a cyclist is delaying your arrival somewhere, I recommend leaving earlier next time. We all have the same 24 hours in a day and may use them how we like — a cyclist’s time and life is not worth less than a driver’s.
Leila Faraday (she/her) is a sophomore studying policy analysis with minors in geography and urban planning.