Monday, October 29, 2007

Motorist sets Danielo straight

On October 7, a letter written by Danielo appeared in the local newspaper. Since it was about bicycling, I noticed... and commented here. (Danielo's letter can be read there, too.)

Danielo was pointing out that if we all - cyclists and motorists alike - behave predictably when we're using the roadway, we'll all be better off.

Well, motorist and newspaper reader/writer Marsha Bowe sets Danielo straight in today's edition. (Click here for the online version; look for "Bicyclists.")

Here's what she says:

Riders' carelessness frustrating to drivers

To Daniel Foster (letter, Oct. 7): I commend you for being so environmentally and health-conscious but I also feel the frustration of those you directed your ire to. Countless times while driving in my car, I have encountered bicyclists who seem to have no regard for anyone's safety let alone their own.

This is to all bicyclists: Idaho has no law requiring bicyclists to come to a complete stop at intersections with traffic signals or stop signs, so feel free to just zip through those intersections without looking for a vehicle that out-weighs you and could smash you like a bug.

Riding the fog line between the road-way intended for cars and the bike lane does not seem real smart to me. And riding three abreast outside the bike lane on narrow winding roads and bringing traffic to a standstill because they cannot safely pass is insane from a motorist's point of view.

While driving a motor vehicle it is difficult to judge what someone on a bike will do because most of them are not as attentive as you claim to be, Mr. Foster. Not all motorists are as kind as the one you encountered.

Marsha Bowe, Boise

Ms. Bowe has some interesting (and not always correct) observations. Here's what I disagree with:

First, Idaho law does require cyclists to stop at a (red) traffic signal. And cyclists must yield at stop signs. If they're breaking the rules, they deserve a ticket - and arguably to get smashed like a bug.

Second, "riding the fog line" is frequently a very smart practice, IMO.* As a cyclist, my belief is that I'm much more likely to get hit by a motorist who doesn't notice me, than by a motorist who does. So, I try to dress in bright colors and ride close to the edge of the traffic lane (fog line), to increase the likelihood of being noticed. Besides... the closer you are to the physical edge of the pavement, the more debris, goat heads, gravel and sand, etc., you will encounter.

I agree 100% with Ms. Bowe when she complains about inattentive and rude cyclists. (The boneheads who ride against traffic, and at night without lights, and "blowing through red lights," and 2 or 3 abreast in the traffic lane, seemingly oblivious to the disruption they are causing.) They are no friends of mine, and I resent their presence on the road at least as much as she, and probably more. Because they give motorists plenty of reason to resent people on bicycles.

* More about where cyclists belong on the roadway:

We're all familiar with "Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway ... shall ride as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway..."

That's the law in all 50 states, worded almost exactly the same.

But... what's the "roadway"?

I've always just assumed it to be the full width of the pavement... and cyclists belong close to the right-hand edge. But that ain't so!

An attorney friend, who's also an avid cyclist, pointed this definition out to me. It's right in the Idaho Code:

Idaho State Code, Title 49 (Motor Vehicles), Chapter 1 (Definitions - R)
(19) "Roadway" means that portion of a highway improved, designed or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of sidewalks, shoulders, berms and rights-of-way.

So, technically, the "roadway" is the part to the left of the fog line, where vehicles typically travel. If you want to obey "the letter of the law" when bicycling, you ride your bike in the right-most traffic lane, as far to the right as you can get, but without using the shoulder or crossing over that fog line. And I'm confident it would stand up in any court in Idaho. (I'm more a "spirit of the law" guy; I'll always gladly use the shoulder, if it's safe to do so.)


Anonymous said...

At least she is somewhat aware that bicycle rider, do operate under a different set of laws. Now we just need to get everyone to realize that.

OT but relevent. I do ride the sidewalks when biking with my kids. But we go fairly slow and stop at all intersections. I try to get them on the roads when possible and safe. On the roads, I will say "formation" and that means get up close on my right hand side -FAST.

Bikeboy said...

I like your "formation!" command, Clancy.

I went with my boy scouts on Saturday - they completed a 52-mile ride! (Awesome!)

Since I have a rearview mirror on my helmet, I was able to see from-the-rear cars long before we could hear them. And I instructed them that "Six O'Clock!" meant vehicles from behind.

They caught on pretty quick... except one little guy thought he had to look behind every time. (I guess he was checking to see if I was telling the truth.) Without fail, every time he glanced over his left shoulder, he swerved out into the middle of the lane. Fortunately it didn't cause any problems, beyond a bit of angst.

db said...

Glad the Scout ride went well. Meant to ask this morning and just forgot.