Road cyclists live in a state of perpetual dread, suppressed by a healthy dose of cognitive dissonance. We see the roads differently than non-cycling drivers and know that at any time headlines like this can pop up on our social media feeds, “5 cyclists dead, 4 injured when hit by a truck in Kalamazoo.” But it doesn’t even take the prospect of mass murder to darken the day of a cyclist. Even a quotidian commute can be terrifying, especially when drivers – who have no clue what it is like riding a bike on a road – commit multiple mistakes of misunderstanding. One of the biggest misunderstandings drivers have is the charge that bicyclists are “erratic.” No cyclist wants to be anywhere near a stream of high-velocity tanks of steel, but indeed we do veer from the extreme far right of any roadway.

Why? Well, here’s a partial list of why we may have to move around and adjust our line:

Leaves

Dead snakes

Live snakes

Wet paint

Gravel

Sticks

Metal grates

Fast food cups

Car parts

Thistles

Standing water

Uneven pavement

Potholes

Chunks of concrete

Off-camber pavement

Downed tree limbs

Disappearing shoulders

Rocks

Pebbles

Dead birds

Poo

Storm drains

Beer cans

Sand

Other

The list above is representative of about a half-year of commuting and yes, a cyclist may veer to the left, close to your car, to avoid them. It is your duty to avoid us. California law states that you must provide three feet of clearance – a bit more than an arm’s length – when passing, and to pass only when it is safe to do so.

Drivers never see the hazards on the roadway that cyclists – riding on 23cm tires – do. The very best thing a driver can do is to have simple consideration. Lifting your foot from your accelerator briefly is a tiny thing to ask. It won’t cost you any time at all, and it might just save a live. Or five lives. Pass safely. Better yet, get on a bike and try riding one yourself – you’ll gain a new appreciation of the act of cycling.