Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Another black eye for cyclists

Kyle Eidson has a letter in today's Idaho Statesman that's typical of many letters written by frustrated motorists, as they observe bicyclists who seem to not be obeying the law.

He says:

Memo to bicyclists, traffic laws pertain to you, too.

My heart goes out to the family that lost their family member. However, the majority of bicyclists that think traffic laws don't apply - think again. We're North Enders, and it's common that bicyclists don't signal, pull out in front of traffic, ride through the crosswalk.

Also, stop signs/lights do apply to you. Scenario, car stops, car goes, bicyclist passes by at 20 mph in front of you then turns around and gives a death glare like "how dare you, didn't you see me?" No we didn't, because you didn't stop. The same can be said at Downtown signals at any various State and (fill-in-the blank) streets.

One last request from Mr. Disrespectful Car Driver Guy, get out of the middle of the road. There are no bike lanes in the North End housing community, and there are a lot of cars parked on the street, understood. This doesn't give you the right to ride down the middle of the street. We would go around you, but you take your half out of the middle.

(He refers to the recent fatal accident where a cyclist was standing still in a bike lane, waiting for a green light, when she was plowed into by an H3 Hummer from behind. The driver of the Hummer has been charged with vehicular manslaughter.)

While I can't envision the scenario he paints, I appreciate his frustration with cyclists who think laws (of the land, and of physics) somehow don't apply to them. In fact, I bet I resent such cyclists more than he does, because they cause motorists to harbor a general feeling of resentment toward all cyclists. (The same way a few rednecks in pickups make me believe that all pickup drivers are idiots, even though a few smart guys drive pickups.)

I hope Mr. Eidson (and all Idaho motorists) understand that by law, cyclists are not required to stop at a stop sign. Although they are required to yield. That seems to be a matter of great confusion and misunderstanding. (Cyclists also have different rules at a red light. They must come to a full stop, but then they can proceed cautiously, once it is safe.)

Also, he should be careful when criticizing a cyclist for riding too far out in the traffic lane. Especially if that cyclist is trying to negotiate narrow residential streets with "a lot of cars parked."

I know people who have spent days in the hospital after being "doored" by somebody getting out of a parked car. I keep a respectful distance from parked cars for that very reason, and because a car could suddenly pull out of a parking space into my path. And the law is on my side. I, as a cyclist, have a legal right to the entire lane width if I need it for safe passage.

The law: "Every person operating a bicycle upon a two-way roadway shall be entitled to use the right-hand lane and shall proceed in the same direction of travel as other vehicles in that lane." It goes on to say that the cyclist should ride as far to the right "as is safe under the conditions then existing," but I reserve the right to make that judgment, since it's my safety or lack thereof. (Boise City Code 10-14-06; I'm pretty sure the law in all 50 states will be similar.)

When Mr. Eidson and other motorists see law-breaking cyclists, I sincerely wish they would call the police and complain. Only when there is a public outcry, will bicycle traffic laws be enforced. As I observed just a few days ago (here), the riding-against-traffic law has been enforced five times in five years!! Yet I see that law being broken every flippin' day! Like 'most everybody else, cops tend to think of bicycles as toys, not transportation, and cyclists do not get the attention (both positive and negative) that they so richly deserve.


Bob T said...

I am under the impression (from this letter and from comments made in relation to a recent hit and run incident near Fairmont Jr High) that the public seems to think that bicycles should not be ridden in crosswalks. However, this is allowed by the Boise City Code:


A. A bicycle may be operated upon a sidewalk and upon and within a crosswalk, except where prohibited by official traffic control devices.

B. Any bicyclist riding upon a sidewalk, or across a road way upon and within a crosswalk, shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible warning before overtaking and passing such pedestrian.

C. A bicyclist riding upon a sidewalk, or across a roadway upon and within a crosswalk, shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances. (Ord. 4406-A, 6-11-79).

Unfortunately, some seem to ride just as fast on sidewalks and crosswalks as they do on the streets. This is very unsafe and adds to the negative impression that many seem to have of bicyclists in general.

Anonymous said...

The problem with riding in the street is that you are defenseless and putting yourself at the mercy of the weakest link - the 1 in 1000: the drunk or sleepy driver, the person on a cell phone who just got news his wife is divorcing him, the criminal sociopath etc. Note how many of the accidents are hit and run. As for taking an entire lane, there used to be an ad campaign from the 70's about safe driving which said "don't be dead right". In many years of riding including places like chicago for a few years, I've learned that, like with motorcycling, the long term odds aren't in your favor. Its my belief that bicycling regularly on normal city streets is more dangerous per mile than motorcycling.