A primer on why bikers do what they do

To the editor:

This letter is for the 1 percent of drivers in the Berkshires who may find the behavior of cyclists odd or annoying. Certainly, based on my 20-plus years experience of biking in the beautiful Berkshires, 99 percent understand us and are unfailingly courteous. So, this is for the one percent who are puzzled.

There are several reasons why bikers do not ride inches from the right-hand side:

— The right edge of the road often has pieces of pavement missing, which can cause a fall.

— Long cracks often appear about a foot-and-a-half from the right edge though elsewhere as well. These cracks can throw a rider so we try to avoid them, often finding smoother and safer riding toward the middle.

— Bikes and bikers are at their most unstable when going slow so they will wander more on a hill than on a flat road. Too close to the right and you can inadvertently go off road. That suggests giving a rider a slightly wider berth on a steep uphill and suggests to a highway department that they might slightly widen a right hand, uphill shoulder or lane. Even half a foot would help.

— When roads intersect from the right, often stones are piled at the edge so we move left a bit — the same for grates and glass on road shoulders.

— We need room to move right if you pass too closely; no need to encourage close passing. Please wait till you can swing out and past safely with room to spare.


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Why bikers ride side by side: OK, we shouldn't and most experienced bikers keep their eyes and ears open for cars behind them, yell "car back" and fall in line. But, bikers are sociable and sometimes get to talking with each other, sometimes conveying route information, or are passing and forget. It happens and is annoying to drivers and we apologize in advance. You might be tempted to honk. Please don't unless it is a true emergency, if you must, honk after you have passed. We'll get it.

Why bikers should not ride with ear buds: Most experienced bikers do not as we ride with our ears open for traffic from behind. Some drivers think they are doing us a favor when coming from behind by honking. All you really do is scare us; a startled response can cause a fall.

Why bikers wear outlandish colors: The main idea is to be seen. If you look svelte and not like a stuffed sausage, so much the better. Most Berkshire residents are used to bikers and used to looking for them but others may be less so. Rushing to a Tanglewood bell is not a good reason to risk an accident, which will in the event slow you down more.

Why we give thanks: Nature has endowed the Berkshires with beautiful landscapes, government has aided with good roads, and towns are peopled with those who are incredibly helpful and considerate of bikers! I have seen strangers provide water for the thirsty, rides to the injured, help for those whose bikes became disabled. I've never been turned away at a restaurant or inn for a pit stop with a "for customers only" sign. And, in one Josh ride, you will receive more good cheer than you can get in a lifetime — even if you are tenth from last on a drizzly day.

Andrew Gold, Stockbridge