Be Nice to your Neighbors, Please

A friend wrote this at my request after he told me this story. (bolding mine)

I have ridden the roads of Albemarle County on and off for more than 30 years since I was in school here. I have been fortunate enough to ride them again after moving back to the area 2 1/2 years ago. It is clearly one of the most beautiful and enjoyable cycling areas on the east coast and a joy to ride in every day.

So it was last Sunday afternoon despite the ominous weather looming. My family, my wife, my teen age son and I went for a ride hoping to enjoy some of the gravel roads in the White Hall area. Gravel riding has become much more popular in the US in the last 5 years or so and has led to special types of bikes and efforts by cyclists to get off the busy more traveled roads, stay clear of traffic and see areas less traveled enjoying the countryside even more.

It was to my great chagrin then that, after we came off 810 and survived the rolling storm that came through the area as we went up the first hill on Slam Gate, we hit a lot of traffic surprisingly on Slam Gate Road.

Whereas only one vehicle passed us the miles we were on 810, suddenly we had 8 vehicles pass us in the short few miles we were on the gravel section of Slam Gate. But most disarming was the last vehicle.

A (car with distinctive) logo license plates whose owner somehow thought that, despite their distinctive vehicle and plates, they would be anonymous as they incessantly honked their horn from a quarter mile back and continued to honk repeatedly as they passed my wife, my teenager and I all riding in single file, properly spaced out on plenty wide gravel road. Not only was it disappointing to hear the angry honking of the driver but, all the more so to see the shocking anger of their elementary school age child screaming out the front window at these cyclists that somehow were ruining their day by riding on the same road that they were on.

These cyclists pay the same taxes that they do. And yet for some reason, even though the vehicle didn’t have to slow at all, we see all this anger and frustration pouring out of the horn of the vehicle and again out of their younger child.

You are not anonymous when you drive in a vehicle. People can trace license plates. People remember who goes by, who’s polite and especially who’s not. Crozet is still a small enough area that we know vehicles and are all the more shocked and disappointed when we find that they have children that go to our children’s school, that they live close by.

Cyclists need to do what we try to do all the time in Crozet. That is ride single file when a vehicle’s behind, follow traffic laws, wear lights and helmets. Pull off the road if we’re slowing an excessive amount of traffic on a long climb. But people who drive cars also need to remember that people who ride bicycles are their neighbors. Cyclists could be a brother, a sister, a spouse, a son or a daughter, a friend. They are other people in their community trying to enjoy the beauty of Western Albemarle County just like everyone else.




Jim’s note: The vehicle he described had a distinctive license plate that resonated with me. A couple days later when driving my daughter to school, I saw what looked to be the referenced vehicle, we took pictures, sent to my friend, he confirmed, and I figured out who the person is. This isn’t a post to publicly shame someone, but to remind us all that we share the same spaces.

Notably, this person was born in Albemarle –  long enough to know that “sharing the road” isn’t a foreign concept.

We are a small community. We are neighbors, whether that’s next door, next road, or next neighborhood. Many of us shop at the same grocery stores and get coffee at the same places. 

I said last year

“This area’s hard to beat. It’s gorgeous. We stop to take pictures,” said Duncan. “We take time to appreciate where we are. Morning commuters know us because of our headlight power. We stick together as a group. We’re extremely conscientious about safety and sharing the road. We live here and we don’t want to piss off our neighbors.

Also: There is a Close Call Database for cyclists to report dangerous people who drive cars.

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