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  • Writer's pictureMo Awesome

I'm Giving Up On Road Cycling in California. Here is Why...

My road bike has been sitting untouched for the last few weeks and I’m embarrassed to admit why. It’s not because I find road riding boring, quite the contrary, I love riding my road bike. In fact, I just returned from a 3 month trip of riding my road bike all over Asia, a trip I do multiple times a year. Riding my road bike in Thailand is actually one of my favorite things to do, and in all honesty if I could retire tomorrow, that is probably where you would find me. Long days in the saddle with no destination in mind and only my consistent cadence to keep me company. That is my favorite moment of cycling. Pushing my body to the absolute limits and sometimes past them, then trying to find a way to make it home. That is my happy place. 

So why would my road bike be sitting in storage if I truly loved road cycling? Well it's simple. I lost. I lost the game of chicken to the selfish drivers that exist in the USA. Not all of them, but a select few that have changed the lives of entire families by their selfish action to strike a cyclist while driving to and from wherever they deemed more important than human life. If you are close at all to the cycling community you either know someone or have heard a story of a cyclist getting hit by a driver while out on a road ride. Most recently for me it was the story of Derek Teel

Derek was out on a road ride one day when he was struck by a driver who fled the scene, leaving him to die. Luckily for him he was rushed to a hospital where he would undergo multiple surgeries to get to a point of relative stability. He still has an insanely long road to recovery ahead of him, but luckily he is still here with us. 

So why was this one different for me? Afterall, it was this exact story that has made me reluctant to reach for my road bike for the last few weeks. Well for starters, Derek made me realize that no matter how fit you are, none of us stands a chance against a car. Derek is actually a cycling coach and probably one of the fittest guys I have seen. I didn't know of him before he got hit, but just looking at his videos makes me realize this guy took fitness very seriously and yet he still was taken to the doors of death by a simple act of a car driving into him. Luckily for him I'm sure his fitness  most likely played some part in the injuries not being life altering, although I'm sure the memories and fear will stay with him forever. 

But what about that driver who fled? Luckily he was caught eventually, but what is that going to do? Will he get 5-10 years in jail after almost killing someone and then fleeing the scene? Or will he be another one of those cases that just gets off scotch-free with a little bit of probation? Too many times have we seen the justice system seem to actually treat cyclists as motor vehicles, letting off drivers who strike cyclists as if they just got into another car accident. And if you ever read the comments on most viral road cycling crash videos, a lot of them are ignorant people who think joking about hitting cyclists is funny. 

What about our cities' planning divisions? Surely, trying to create a safe space to ride your bike is something they can get behind right? After all, people seem to be all about the environment when it comes to electric cars and making sure we don't have any V8’s on the road? California is even trying to ban gas cars in favor of electric vehicles. But who is using those electric cars? Most likely short distance commuters as the range on an electric car is nowhere what is needed for long, consistent, road trips. And if that is the case, wouldn't encouraging more people to ride their bike to work be the more environmentally friendly thing to do? I mean sure, it most likely is not as profitable as slinging battery powered vehicles and I am sure the auto industry has some form of lobbying going on to prevent bike infrastructure. I just don't think it takes a rocket scientist, or Elon Musk in this case, to realize the answer is not electric cars. The answer is bicycles and making people feel safe to use them to get to work as well as running errands. Isn’t a bicycle way less harmful for the environment than an electric vehicle? 

And why is it that I don’t feel safe riding my road bike in California but I do in Asia? Well for starters, drivers in Asia are more on the defensive, as in most of Asia scooters are a part of traffic, weaving in and out of lanes. Drivers are already more aware and paying attention in order to not hit scooters, which in turn leads to a safer environment for road cyclists. But it seems like most drivers in Southern California are so deep into their tik-tok live stream about what pair of apple vision pro goggles they will be asking Siri to order for them that they couldn't care less to check to see if they are now driving in the bike lane. 

But honestly I don’t feel like this is where the problem ends and these drivers are not who I am most scared of. The drivers that have made me put my road bike away for now are the ones that think because you are slowing them down by a few minutes, that they now are entitled to take years off of your life and cause a lifetime of suffering for your family members. These selfish, arrogant drivers seem like they have no value on human life, something I have never experienced in Asia. It’s the drivers where when the bike lane ends, and you are forced into a car lane who aggressively accelerates to pass you, cutting you off moments later to make a right turn that have made me question whether I want to be out there. 

Cities carry a lot of the blame for this as well. Too often I hear BS claims that a city is bike friendly or bike safe, only to see all that really means is a few sections of green painted bike lanes. Are you as a city protecting cyclists? Is the driver that struck Derek going to be shut in a prison for the rest of their life? Who is protecting cyclists? Afterall, it can't be us, because if you were to retaliate against someone who tries to play with your life while on a ride, you most likely would end up arrested yourself, a thought that crosses my mind every time a car tries to scare me by swerving into my lane or “roaling coal” while passing. The self restraint for me to not chuck my C02 at their windshield was shrinking with every ride, and I do not know what the answer is there. 

So am I done road cycling forever? I don't think so. I look forward to all of my Asia adventures and one day riding my road bike in Europe. I probably will also ride my road bike again in the US at some point. But after recently getting married, my perspective on life has shifted. As much as I want to never give in and ride on what I have a right to ride on, I also have to admit that I'm terrified. I value my life way to much to get run over by some lazy, entitled, selfish prick who thinks he or she owns the roads. I honestly enjoy living my life too much to have this be the way I go out. In my opinion, the person who hit Derek and left him for dead, isn't a one off case and more people just like that drive on our roads daily. I think its time we spend less energy forcing everyone to get an electric car and instead start trying to figure out how we can make riding your bicycle on a road safe again in the US. Because it clearly isn't. 

-Mo Awesome 


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