+ Angry encounter shocks teen cyclist
My eyes lay fixed on the road as it moved quickly beneath my bike. I was tired, focused and thirsty, finishing up the last leg of my quick afternoon ride.
I was speeding through the Country Club of Lakewood Ranch, when a loud car horn came from behind me, nearly knocking me off of my bike from the jolt I received. To my left, I was greeted by an elderly couple: a woman in the driver’s seat, glaring at me as her husband probably yelled obscenities at me.
Needless to say, I was livid. I did what most naïve, stupid teenagers do: I acted on impulse and performed a certain inappropriate gesture with my free hand in his direction. I thought to myself as he sped off, soon to be slowed by a crossing golf cart, “Why is it that he was so irritated by my riding on the side of the road, when a golf cart is actually slowing this poor sap down.” I ignored this man and continued my exercise.
About two minutes later, I met up with him at a Country Club entrance and waved to him as I sarcastically yelled, “Thank you, sir! That was extremely kind of you!” I waited as he struggled opening his car window — I think his better half locked the window on him — and eventually opened the car door as he exclaimed that I should not have been riding on this road; I was not allowed, because those roads are private, and it’s not permitted for one to ride his or her bike on those roads. As I heard these words spew from his mouth, I was extremely shocked: It seems this man knew more about my bicycling rights than I did.
Florida law states every car must give a bicyclist three feet of leeway on any public road. It also seems to be that many people in the Country Club believe the roads they live on are private. They are not. The Lake Club, adjacent to the Country Club, is private, and I do respect the rights of those residents. The roads of the Country Club are paid for, and maintained by, the Manatee County government. Everybody who lives in Manatee County and pays taxes owns a piece of Arnold Palmer Green.
I realize that as a 17-year-old, I don’t pay taxes, but my parents do. I know my rights as a bicyclist and I feel that many people in Manatee don’t respect these rights. I also believe that many people in the Country Club feel that they live in an extremely exclusive, private community. Just because there’s a gate on the border doesn’t mean the roads that lie behind it are private.
Matthew Vaadi, 17
Lakewood Ranch High School