Why Tell Bicyclists to Get Off the Road?

by Chris Little

I heard you calling as you passed my husband and me in your gray Buick as we were riding our bicycles down Center Mills Road this morning, and I thought, “Oh who is this? Must be some friend passing by!” I looked over but I didn’t recognize you, and then I realized you weren’t calling out to say hi—you were yelling at me, and what you were yelling was: “Get off the road!” I wish you’d stopped so we could have talked. 

I would have explained that in Pennsylvania the law allows two bicyclists to ride abreast on the road (bicycle safety and Pennsylvania laws). 

I might have mentioned that in Pennsylvania the law does not require two cyclists riding abreast on the road to “scootch” over into single file when a car approaches, as my husband and I did for you. 

I might have permitted myself to mention that my husband and I—in fact just about all of our cyclist friends—try to move into single file as soon as we hear a car approaching, in part because, yes, we don’t want to get accidentally hit by a passing car—but also because we live in a community, and part of being in a community is acknowledging that each of us has a claim on each other. To be kind. To be patient. To give way to each other. Perhaps not to yell at each other unnecessarily. 

Of course, you’d have had your perspective too. Maybe you’d have explained that you were in a rush to get somewhere, or that passing cyclists on the road is nerve-wracking, or that you were upset about something and weren’t feeling particularly patient toward a couple of Lycra-clad weirdos on bikes, or that despite Pennsylvania law you just don’t feel you should have to share the road with bicyclists. All of those are common complaints, I’m sure, though the last one I’d have had to take issue with—because sharing the road with cyclists is required by Pennsylvania law.

But you didn’t stop, and we didn’t get to explain our respective positions. Instead, you rolled on into the rest of your day, presumably feeling annoyed and angry at my husband and me. And I rolled on into the rest of my day, feeling a little hurt and unhappy.

But what if things had gone differently? What if, instead of yelling “Get off the road!” you’d slowed down a little bit (were you really in that much of a rush?), eased over a little more, and waved as you passed? We’d have waved back and smiled, I’m sure. And we all would have felt a little better, instead of a little worse. Isn’t that the type of community we all want to live in?

Chris Little has lived in Adams County since 2001 and enjoys cycling its beautiful backroads with her husband Tom.”